Learning to Find Your Path
When describing the journey we take to better ourselves as artists, we talk about a “career path”. Sometimes this is envisioned like a walk through a forest or scaling a mountain trail. These metaphors fail us too often because it supposes that there is an intended goal to achieve, a peak to conquer. The problem is that conquering a career goal often leads to a dead end. Each time we can no longer move forwards, whether it's because our goals have been met or because they've been cut short, will inevitably require significant backtracking to find new routes. Doing this over and over again, it's easy to see how twisted these paths really are. This world we're navigating is a maze. A huge and daunting maze without a clear goal or solution.
The most straightforward way to learn the maze is to walk it yourself. Understanding its twists comes naturally as you move back and forth, over and over again. But you’re not doing doing this alone. There are people who have walked these paths further than you and many of them are eager to compare their journeys. Stopping to learn about the paths they’ve taken can give insight into the mazes many tricks. Taking time to learn from the most well traveled offers another gift, the opportunity to learn how far the maze even goes.
At a challenging intersection of my life, I asked for advice from one of the most well traveled artists I know. Allen Williams and I sat down for coffee while I told him about my big plans. I had just been fired from the game company where we had both been working and I had ideas on how to make money attaching myself to some popular Kickstarter projects. He wasn’t impressed, he wanted me to chase my own projects. I hold Allen’s wisdom and experience in high regard, so his disapproval made an impact on me but I'm stubborn and decided bowl ahead with my bad idea anyways. It took an entire year see the dead end for myself, but when I did, I realized the importance of what he was trying to tell me.
Allen is hard to beat in terms of total area of maze covered. I worked with him at a company where we were making graphics for Facebook games. This was a new career for him after he redefined his entire body of work under a new name. He had already had a previous life working in publishing, selling at renaissance festivals and illustrating some of the earliest cards for Magic: The Gathering. After we both departed from games, he pivoted to work in film, collaborating with some of Hollywood’s top directors. Now he’s making paintings independently, selling them straight to collectors and sharing his process through a successful Patreon campaign. He’s also a blackbelt, a cancer survivor, a family man, a published author and the closest thing to a real life Yoda I’ve ever encountered.
To really understand the nature of the maze, we have to walk it ourselves. It’s not a thing to be conquered or completed but there are destinations we want to reach. Having someone point us back towards the center every once in awhile can make the difference between having a hard trek and getting totally lost. Allen is a great person for that. We invited him to come and hang out at our workshop last year hoping that he might bring with him an aura of wisdom. This year he's agreed to come out as a full fledged instructor.
If you want to join us for a 4 day, 4 night workshop to help learn about your own personal creative journey, you can read info about it here: www.1fantasticweek.com/info
Also, here’s a link to his Patreon campaign. I recommend it: https://www.patreon.com/AllenWilliams