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Recently I have been struggling a bit with my art. Not exactly with actually making something (I completed a difficult commission just yesterday) but with my overall attitude to making stuff. You may call it an artist’s block but I decided to call it vector stress. Let me explain:

Not so long ago I finished all my big projects: my “Tokyo Storefronts” book, “Yuragi” comic, a short animated movie and the “Tokyo at Night” illustration series. I had a blank, long-term schedule, with nothing I could just go and do. Gradually I became weirdly stressed and “touchy” about my work. I could not complete a thing without stressing out few times on the way.

I started to think about things like my motivation and the directions of my creative drive. I thought and analyzed hard. And here is what I discovered:

For me there are two main aspects that drive me when I’m doing something creative:

① THE IMPATIENCE This is the part of my brain that constantly checks if I have not been slacking off. It always wants the next thing to be done NOW and uploaded NOW and finished AS FAST AS IT CAN BE DONE. It also makes me feel really bad about myself when I (according to it) should be working but done something else instead - rested, read a book, practiced or just done anything that does not produce the next illustration or video.

② THE AMBITION This part always tries to make the thing I’m making the best quality. It always compares my art to my ideal image of how my art SHOULD look like and to great art of people I look up to. It also makes me feel bad about myself whenever I choose a simple, less demanding path to finishing a piece because it COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER if only I did put in that extra thinking time, sketches, practice, or just the effort to fix the things that needed fixing.

pressure vectors

So on their own, these two forces are not bad exactly ① tells me to get a move on and make something while ② keeps the quality of my work high.

But what’s been happening recently was that my ① IMPATIENT side started to be VERY loud in my head making any extra effort difficult and annoying even. When someone (mostly Kana) pointed out a thing I should fix I got annoyed and defensive. Making a bigger project, like a next comic which will require a lot of preparation with no immediate result was getting harder and harder. At the same time I did not do everything to produce my best work and while knowing I’m not doing it I felt guilty and angry at myself because of ② THE AMBITION.

I was feeling down and annoyed and guilty about not doing my art as good and as fast as I should be able to. Making art is not fun when you have two evil twins shouting at you all the time: YOU CALL THIS GOOD WORK!?? YOU ARE GOING EASY ON YOURSELF AGAIN??!! SLACKING AGAIN??!! Not happy art times.

I don’t know exactly where did this come from. I think that the Internet and the urge to upload something NOW also had a role in this. The insecurity about my freelance artist position is also a thing I guess. When you open Instagram and see all the awesome stuff people uploaded in the last HOUR you get scared and ① THE IMPATIENCE kicks in harder.

OK! So now I know what is happening I will try to actively fight ① THE IMPATIENCE down to a manageable level. This should get ② THE AMBITION more space to make me do better, more thought through, meaningful art. Let’s hope it goes this way ;)

And if you feel that you have an art block or that you are annoyed with what you make try to identify what drives your art. Check if those things do not clash and try to decide which one is the most important of you and which one’s voice should you listen to the most.