Monday, December 12, 2011

Structure and chaos and mobility

As I've gotten closer and closer to graduation, I've gotten a lot of inquiries re: my future plans. Mostly they come from friends and family, but often they also come from curious teachers or classmates. Whoever it is, when they ask and I think they mean in the immediate future, I can say travel, and if I think they mean more long term I say grad school. For most people that's enough. They may ask for more specifics with either one of those, and I am happy to provide details. There was one classmate, though, who was more interested (and though I say interested, the word insistent would also apply; there was no way to escape the conversation) in my plans even after that.

Even though I know it's a question that I'm likely to be asked in an interview, either for a job or for school, I was a bit stymied. It felt kind of strange; it's not like I don't have plans or possibilities, but rather that I have too many. In years past, I have been able to plan out my future in a way that almost felt minute by minute, regulated and linear. There was a lot of emphasis put on this sort of thing when I was in high school. Before that, even: I remember that people started asking me about career plans and what colleges I wanted to go to even in middle school. While all of that ended up being marginally helpful, it created a lot of systematic stress, most of which ended up being to no purpose. I did not go to the school I thought I was going to. I am not studying the subject I had intended back then. My life looks nothing like I would have expected it to even a year ago, and it is all the better for it.

Although I am in no way a performer, I like the way that people who do improv think about things. 'Yes, and...' has a lot going for it. It validates the current moment and opens up the future for further investigation.

So when people ask me about my long term plans, this is kind of what's tripping me up. If something new and interesting comes along (that doesn't conflict with current obligations, obviously) I'm likely to try it. Do I want to teach? Yes, I'd love the opportunity. Do I want to work alone in a studio full time? Of course, that sounds fantastic. What about a studio with a few other people? Or even a lot of people? Those have advantages too, and are even more appealing than working alone. Do you want to illustrate? Design? Paint? Do comics? Animate? Well, that's where it gets tricky.

Where I am right now, I can't see myself not painting. It just isn't something I can see myself giving up. Ever. But all those other things? I would love to do them too. And not just for a paycheck, but actually devoting myself to them. Things that allow me to work with other people are especially appealing: I'm not always (ever) the most outgoing person, but I've always found my own work to be the best when it has been influenced by knowledgeable, impassioned people with whom I share space. People seem to have come to this weird conclusion that art is about the final product, the still image, the tangible object, but it's really really not. It's about the dialog. Whether that's between creators or between a creator and her audience doesn't matter.

But perhaps that is a discussion for another time.

Right now, what matters the most to me is finding an environment in which I can produce the best work that I am able to and then put it in front of peoples' eyeballs. Every place that I'm applying to meets that criteria. After that? Well, chances are I'll want to find an environment in which I can produce the best work that I am able to and then put it in front of peoples' eyeballs; it's just that the circumstances will have changed slightly.

This article about how Valve organizes it self is pretty interesting and helped clarify a few things for me (and not just because I think that working at Valve would be one of the most insanely intense and awesome experiences in the history of ever.) It lines up with a lot of things I've heard about Google, about Pixar, about places my dad has worked (some like this, some rather than antithesis.) Stefan Sagmeister's policy of  shutting the studio down for a year every...what? seven? I think seven years lines up with it.

Structure and chaos and mobility!

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