I was in Hobby Lobby the other day looking for a new calligraphy pen. As I walked through the aisles, it reminded me of when I was a little boy. I would have been in heaven.
Living in a small town, we didn’t have specialty art supply stores like Hobby Lobby or Michaels. All we had was a small Wal-Mart in the next town over. As a single-digit-age kid, my world is incredibly small so a trip to the next town felt like a huge adventure. And a trip to Wal-Mart was like Walt Disney World. ‘Cause that meant I could get a toy. And also some new crayons.
I was happy with my one aisle of arts and crafts our Wal-Mart provided. Over the years, I did outgrow the space as I eventually purchased just about every piece of charcoal, fine-tipped drawing pen, pastel, and watercolor set available. But at first, I was mesmerized by all the different tools and techniques I wanted to master.
I loved drawing when I was a kid. And coloring. And painting. And building. And creating in general. It was fun for me and the more I did it, the better I got at it. Not only did I enjoy the creative process but took great satisfaction at the outcome, felt genuine pride over that final polished piece.
Art was all I knew and that’s all my peers began to associate me with. I was “that chubby artist guy.” And while I was better than average, I was no Picasso. But everyone acted like I was. And I found that kind of reputation hard to live up to. I started developing art anxiety that compounded my general anxiety. I wasn’t as good as people thought and I started to feel like a fraud. I put a lot of pressure on myself to be as amazing as others expected. And the art that I enjoyed so much began to feel more like a chore.
But I thought college would help me catch up to the expectations people had for me. I would learn the craft, refine my techniques, and learn to fall in love with art again. Unfortunately, attending an art school only reinforced my fears that I was not good enough. My classmates were lightyears ahead of me and wildly talented. But again, art was all I knew. God knows I’m not good at math. I’m not really good at anything, actually. So I stuck with it, got my degree, then promptly moved back home and “retired” from art.
I didn’t want to deal with my insecurities, didn’t want to face the possibility of failure, so I just stopped trying. One of the biggest mistakes I could have made.
Since graduating college nearly ten years ago, I’ve only occasionally done something creative. I’ve drawn a picture here or there. I’ve made a couple of videos. But for the most part, I’ve just not been artistically active. But I still think about it. I still want to learn more about drawing, photography, calligraphy, design, and animation, which was my major in college. Yes, ya boy knows how to do cartoons. I could have worked for Nickelodeon if I wasn’t such a knucklehead.
Back then, I had no expectations. I did art for fun, not for fame or recognition or validation. It was for me and me alone. And the mistake I made was trying to associate my art with my value.
I still feel the pull to be creative. I still get excited about stationary. Still feel the pinpricks of possibilities from pens and pencils. It’s bittersweet and it almost hurts a little bit because I think of the time I wasted and think that I could actually be talented if I would have just kept practicing. Now I’m very behind. But that doesn’t mean I’m totally done.
I almost want to start over completely. Rebuild a foundation first. Start small. And go back to my roots of doing art just for the fun of it. Just for me. It used to be soothing and enjoyable and I want to have that back because I could sure use some soothing these days.
There are so many resources out there. It blows my mind. The Internet is an amazing place and offers so much knowledge. Youtube alone has so many free videos that can teach you to do just about anything you’d ever be interested in. There are also great places like Lynda, Udemy, and Skillshare. And although you do have to pay for those, some of the classes might be worth it.
So that’s what I want to focus on. I’ve had good intentions before and they never panned out. But this time I really do want to get back into it. And I want to take it easy on myself. I’m no professional and I’m not going to try to be one. I just need to do something creative and productive instead of just being lazy all the time. I want to feel proud of the work I do, like I used to be.
I’ve been gone for a while. My computer messed up a few months ago and I prolonged getting it fixed out of the fear of the cost. I had just started to do well with saving my money and using any extra I had to pay down my student loans. And naturally when I’ve got a little extra in the bank, something breaks. But I knew I eventually had to get it fixed and I did and it actually wasn’t as expensive as I had anticipated.
Now that everything is up and running again, I want to get back into drawing and animating.
I bought this computer a little while after I graduated from college back in 2009. I wanted to continue learning about art and animation and so I had this machine custom built and bought an Adobe package and a Wacom Cintiq and spent a load of money on software and hardware to continue creating cartoons. Thousands of dollars spent and that desire to continue learning lasted approximately a month (and that’s being generous).
Animation is much harder than you’d think. It’s time consuming and requires a ton of concentration. And that’s just for traditional pencil on paper 2D animation. When you throw in computer animation, you have a whole host of new problems, including technical glitches, RAM and memory and other computer terms I know nothing about.
After an initial excitement period of having shiny new software, I got bogged down in the aspect ratios and compression details and also realized I had no one to help me be a better animator. In college, I had my professors and classmates to tell me when something wasn’t quite right. Even when I thought I’d done my best, someone would come along and point out a bad ease in or wonky arc. But, sitting here by myself, I could be creating crappy cartoons and not even realize it because I think it’s good. How would I grow? How could I get better when I was on my own?
Aside from my lame excuses, I was burned out on art and I didn’t think I was talented and I wasn’t even sure I wanted to pursue art anymore. By the time I’d graduated, my focus had shifted to writing and I wanted to explore that. I was confused. I was disillusioned. I was bummed. I was dead.
Download it here!
My book Scab is a memoir of college and crisis. You can get the book for FREE today through Wednesday.
Here’s a few excerpts of reviews from my book’s Amazon page:
“Jackson’s style is crisp and clear. He has an uncanny talent for meshing pathos with humor in a way that is both deeply moving as well as just plain fun.”
“I love Brannon’s attitude about it all. As difficult as it was at times, his sense of humor, humility and outlook on life are uplifting.”
“By the end of this book, you will see the resilience of the human soul and psyche. No matter what depression may visit, a person springs back into life, even if unwilling at points, and goes on about his business. Brannon has done a tremendous job of conveying this concept, all with a candid, darkly humorous recollection.”
“Scab took me on an emotional roller coaster of emotions that I didn’t want to end.”
“I think anyone whose ever moved away from the safety of home to pursue a dream will find something to relate to here. I honestly couldn’t put it down.”
Click here to read the synopsis, check out the full reviews, and grab your copy of the book so you can go deep inside my head. You will laugh. You will cry. And by the end of the book, you will feel triumphant.
It took a long time to get my book published.
I ran into several obstacles along the way. I went through two broken computers, a word processing program that crashed, a keyboard that stopped working, an editor who flaked on me, friends who flaked on me, and worse, my own crippling insecurity that held me back from finishing my book for well over six years.
I wanted to give up several times. What if my writing wasn’t good enough? What if my story wasn’t good enough? What if no one cared? Despite my fears, I kept going because I felt the book had potential. I knew going in that it wouldn’t be a book for everyone and I never intended to write it for the biggest audience possible. In fact, toward the end, I realized I needed to write the book for me. It’s been a scab that I’ve picked at for the longest time and I knew it would never heal if I didn’t find a way to finish it. It’s been a therapeutic experience and I’ve actually learned quite a lot about myself and other people through writing this book. And if someone else can laugh or cry or relate in any way, then that’s great as well.
And the relating thing is why I didn’t want to change my book around to appeal to the widest demographic. I wanted the story to be as personal and authentic as I could make it and if I were to tinker with facts, to make it more dramatic or action-oriented, then it wouldn’t be my story anymore and that connection through a similar experience would no longer exist.
So, with that in mind, I kept going. Sure, the book could flop. But it could also do amazing things and if I just kept it to myself, I would never know.
Is it a perfect book? No, not at all. But it’s the best I could do and I think despite some of the flaws, it’s a damn good story. And in retrospect, I’m almost glad it’s taken these six plus years to write the book because I do feel I’ve become a better writer in that time. I look back on some of my earlier drafts and they are not good at all. I thought they were at the time but if I were to have published the book then, I wouldn’t be as proud of it as I am this version. And I might not be proud of this version in the next few years but I just have to take a step back and realize that this was the best I could in this moment. We all continue to grow as we work on our craft. Perfection doesn’t exist. Only full utilization of one’s ability at the time of production. It’s a hard lesson for a perfectionist like me to learn but I’m getting there. The book wouldn’t be published otherwise.
And that’s how my book, Scab, came to be. Now it’s a scar on the world, a mark that will never go away. It’s in the actual hands of other people now. My words are penetrating and I hope, in some small way, they are transforming.
If you haven’t picked up a copy of my book, please do so. It’s a memoir of college and crisis packed with commentary on relationships, romance, faith, friendships, God, food, starvation, anxiety, loneliness, mania, people, art, culture, death, and a whole lot of dick jokes. It’ll make you laugh. It’ll make you cry. And by the end of the book, it’ll make you feel triumphant.
It’s only 99 cents, less than the price of a Redbox. And you don’t even have to put on any pants to obtain it. You can read more about it and buy it here.
Thank you to those who have already purchased your copy. I am so thankful for your support.
It’s almost here!
Did anyone watch Town of the Living Dead on the SyFy Channel? If not, it was a docu-series about a film crew in Jasper, AL who were struggling to make a full-length zombie movie.
I was excited to watch this show because 1)zombies and 2)I actually chased a girl to Jasper and that’s where I had my first kiss. So I have a special attachment to that city.
The show chronicled this group of amateurs as they struggled to put together scenes with no money, no special makeup effects, and no idea what they were doing. It was funny and endearing. It almost felt like I knew these people because I recognized their accents and southern colloquialisms.
Usually I cringe at southern representation on television because the shows always make the people seem like uneducated hicks. Maybe I’m in the minority on this one but I never felt the cast of the show were put in a bad light or made to look like white trash. Sure, they were country but that was a part of the charm.
But instead of showing these people farting in each other’s mouths or filling up the bed of a truck with water and using it as a redneck hot tub like you’d find on Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, Town of the Living Dead actually showed people with aspirations beyond drinking beer and mud riding. They were creative and passionate about their project.
One cast member, John, was the writer and director of the zombie movie. I related to him the most. He was a creative guy who dreamed of making a film but was stuck in a small town with very little artistic opportunities. While he worked on the film in his spare time, he earned money by working at RadioShack. Here I am, also a writer and also stuck in my own retail hell. I feel ya, brother.
When I was a child, I came home from school and went straight to my room and did my homework. It just made sense to get it out of the way so I could watch Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers uninterrupted.
As I got older, the Internet took precedence over algebraic equations. There was just so many other interesting things to do and the fact that I hated math didn’t help my procrastination. When I was in a chat room or downloading music on Napster, I always told myself those word problems were waiting. It was like getting your teeth cleaned or taxes done, an activity you know is necessary but one you put off for as long as possible. It always stayed in the back of my mind and I always felt guilty for not getting it done right away but that didn’t stop me from waiting until the last minute.
When I graduated from college, I felt free from the burden of homework. I could get a job, put in my 8 hours and then go home and be lazy without the worry of another deadline weighing me down.
But that was before I decided to write a book.