Chronicles in Ordinary Time 101: Reinventing Oneself


Society 6, the company that hosts my retail store has ads floating all over the Internet—you’ve probably seen them—for a terrific artist that has created a bunch of comic-book-nouveau images. Unfortunately, that artist isn’t me. The company tells me that a few of my images are in their catalog [something like 1000 images of the 10,000 images in their ‘warehouse’; I haven’t seen them published in their advertising. So, acting upon the “I can do that,” message that floated through my brain, I fabricated the above from some images in my stockpile.

I watched Chappie a couple of weeks ago, a sci-fi story that takes place in a future Johannesburg, where no person in their right mind would want to live—unless going somewhere else wasn’t an option. To solve their crime problem, they bring in an army of robot droids. The lead designer of the police droids, in his off-hours, is attempting to create a computer program that will become conscious—a sentient robot that can think for itself. The experiment gets hijacked by some gang bangers, and the experiment goes seriously awry. However, Chappie is born—a computer with the mind of a child; a mind that can learn exponentially.

What caught my attention was the fluid grace of Chappie’s movements—a robot that moves exactly like a human. Motion Capture has grown exponentially, as well.

There was a moment—certainly not much more than a moment—when I felt like I could see the front of the digital art pack—we commercial artists who are running a marathon with no fixed end. I was at an SCBWI Conference in Seattle, wandering around some hotel, drinking a $7 glass of Guinness [I kept the glass]. I passed by a guy who was working in 3-D [early 3-D], who was explaining how one needs to draw all sides of a character, not just from one viewpoint. I had realized then one of the shortcomings of my illustration career—that moment when I realize the character needs to be in a different spot in the frame, and because of that, the character can’t be facing the viewer. Do I do the ‘correct’ image, even though it means I have to do a lot more drawing? Or do I live with the original idea, even though it’s ‘wrong’? It would be so much better to have the character in 3-D, so I could ‘simply’ rotate the character…I have 3-D software I’ve never used.

I wandered by another conversation that night, where the [presumed] art buyer was saying, ‘I like that character, but can you make it digital?’ At that time, when the last dinosaurs were dying off, ‘digital’ characters were easy to spot—they all had a ‘look’. By that time, I had learned that I could digitize my hand-drawn illustrations and manipulate them digitally. The conversation was about a cartoon image, and I really don’t do cartoons. My brain doesn’t think in ‘cartoon;’ my brain doesn’t think in ‘whimsy’—the reason I’ve largely quit marketing my work in Children’s Book venues with the expectation that I’ll get hired. The Art Buyers I was running into at SCBWI events wanted ‘whimsy’. And my work ‘wasn’t photographic enough’, ‘it wasn’t accurate enough’—yet they loved Nightmare Before Christmas—go figure.

Then the rest of the pack came running past me; and I’m now among the slower-moving of the digital art world [as I am in the real world]. I’m a member of a CGI website, but feel like I’m too ancient/too unskilled to participate much…I did just enter some stuff of mine into a Competition—attempting to boost my ego.


I decided a long time ago that I didn’t want my blog to be about stuff I didn’t know about. One can find any kind of advice all over the Internet on ‘reinventing oneself’. I can provide input as well, but I have to make the disclaimer that I don’t necessarily feel successful in my reinvention. The experiment is still running…

My father reinvented himself throughout his adult life; business ventures failing through unexpected disaster or unexpected lack of ability on his part. He ended his working life in a settle-for career; he might not have used that language. His last career was fairly successful—just unexpected, and nothing like the one he wanted when he was making dreams for his life.

I’ve mirrored his efforts to some degree; the ‘success’ of this present life is more by the Grace of God than by my efforts. I nearly killed myself by working as a Public Servant rather than as a City Employee, and I now get paid for breathing. I got older, and again get paid for breathing. For all this breathing I ‘bring home’ less than half of what I would be earning if I had continued to work for the City. Because I’ve borrowed so much, in order to adapt our life to that ‘half-income’, I still need to bring in money; it just isn’t the main goal of my life anymore.

So what can I share of value?

  1. You are what you think you are.
    You will never improve your circumstances while keeping the same old thoughts in your head. You have to learn to think in better ways, ways that will enlarge your self-image, before you begin to experience more favorable circumstances. Through a sales organization [I only had modest success in sales—I didn’t want to be ‘that guy’], I took a five-year ‘course’ in possibility thinking. I read books about imagining a new life, and listened to taped [dinosaur] seminars all the time; tapes by people who had changed their lives.
  1. You can never ‘fake it ‘til you make it’.
    You can ‘fake it’ in order to get through the door; but you’ll have to actually become someone different in order to survive in that situation. I faked my way into my job with the City. I ‘exaggerated my skill set’ [lied about my abilities] in order to get my job; and at the same time knew that I was replacing someone who hadn’t made it through their probation.   So I began studying the Building Code in the same manner that I made it through my Structural Engineering courses—I took notes, and I took-on the job no one else wanted—answering Building Code questions over the phone. In that way I could look up the answers [‘let me call you back in five minutes’] in the book; and I started highlighting the sections that people often asked about. In time I had a color-coded Code book; one that kept getting revised every three years. I found myself having to copy all of color-coding because I have a visual memory [‘the answer to that question is on the page with three yellow stripes and a green one’].
    I had to become good at my job just to keep my job.
  1. The job has to become a job about the people you serve.
    Everyone has a job that involves customers in some fashion. Every business has to have repeat customers in some fashion. No one will come back if they receive crappy service—unless your job is with the Government—people ‘come back’ because they have to. The Government has a monopoly on some business functions; people have to deal with the Government, and only the Government, in order to get something done. We had awful clerical people working for the Bureau where I worked [not always, just often], and they were able to keep their jobs simply because they met the minimum standards. In Real Life, one doesn’t continue with a job by meeting minimum standards. In today’s economy, there are PhDs working at fast-food joints because it’s the only job in town. There’s always someone who can do your job better, waiting to take your job. You have to become better than average; and you can become better than average—but it requires work on your part.
  1. The Law of Sowing and Reaping.
    It’s found all through the Bible, because it’s found all over the world. You reap what you sow, later than you sow, and more than you sow. Put a kernel of [uncooked] corn in a good patch of ground, water it, tend the shoot that grows into a stalk of corn, and when the corn is ripe you’ll reap hundreds of kernels of corn. Great example of how banking and interest worked, generations back.
    Not all ground is equal, not all corn is equal. Droughts and flooding and freezing occur; sometimes tornadoes. There are a bunch of fables that used to be taught in school, about humanized insects and animals who save for winter, and exemplify ‘sowing and reaping’. The teaching used to be hard to avoid. Boring… and I bet it doesn’t happen in today’s world.
  1. “Be so good that they can’t ignore you.”
    My favorite Steve Martin quotation. Not-being-ignored doesn’t automatically mean success. If you are so good that you can’t be ignored, someone will mention you to someone else. Possibilities.

the universe in his hands_1






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