Over the years I’ve been told that my art has a lot of emotion to it. (As an aside, pay special attention when you get certain compliments or suggestions over and over again in relation to your work. Ignore the trolls of course, but when you see patterns emerge of what people like about the work you do, take special note because it can work in your favor in setting you apart from the competition.)
But I digress.
As an artist, introvert, and a man who scored a 97% on an “How neurotic am I?” quiz, I have a certain understanding how the internal world of artists can be a bit… turbulent.
I walk around way too much inside my head, and I think a lot with my emotions. I process most of life through the grid of being an artist. Honestly I’m kind of a mess most days, but I want to share with you how I put that mess to good use.
So this article will address How to harness the power of your inner neurotic world to add more emotion to your work.
But first a story.
It was the summer of 1990, right before my freshman year of high school. I was at the skate park with my bro, Jay, and two girls we'll call Amy, and Tiffany. I had spent the better part of the summer trying to win the affections of Tiffany. (My first mistake was making the “George Constanza error of allowing worlds to collide,” and introducing Jay to these girls.)
I was too young to know that at the time though.
It was the end of the summer. Everything was supposed to come together that night. At least in my mind it was supposed to.
Alas, there was a certain unsettling tension in the air that I felt. Things weren’t going as planned. In my mind, Tiffany, the girl I was trying to win, would see me dominate the skate park, ollie onto the picnic table, realize what a freaking alpha skate stud I was, and come falling into my arms.
That was not happening.
Tiffany seemed a little too wide eyed and friendly with my boy, Jay.
“It’s all in my mind,” I kept telling myself.
So I skated harder, pulling out every trick I knew, attempting to capture the attention of that girl. I remember ollieing onto that picnic table, then riding off expecting to see said girl fawning at me.
So I started hitting the launch ramp hard. I did a couple airs and then like an anvil falling out of the sky, it hit me.
Where was Jay?
Where was Tiffany?
Where was the other girl?
Then I saw them.
Tiffany, Amy, and Jay were off in the distance, walking up a trail to a nearby plaza. I hadn’t been invited.
Tiffany was walking next to Jay.
This 14 year old Tim Baron was having an internal meltdown. At that moment, I realized there was only one thing I could do.
Channel that rage into massive “balls out” skate session for the next 45 minutes.
Oh the agony and the ecstasy!
I skated harder than I had in my entire life. It was a rad session. I remember hitting that launch ramp super freaking hard. I remember going particularly fast and and getting the biggest air of my life. (At least that’s how I remember.)
I’m sure it’d look a lot different if I watched an old VHS of the night.
I learned something important that night. While I couldn’t do anything about what was going on (I found out later Jay had totally made out with Tiffany), I could take my emotions and channel them into something much more productive. In this case it was skateboarding. In the following year years I would have plenty of other existential crises.
I wasn't good with the ladies, I’m disorganized, ADHD, and overly sensitive. I have a massive, bleeding inferiority complex that flares up now and again, periodically struggle with depression and anxiety and I'm probably a pain in the neck to live with sometimes.
I don’t let them go to waste. If you’d open up my artist's gas tank, you’d find that it’s filled with all of the aforementioned baggage. But the visceral fecal matter of existential horror is combustible. When I harness it the right way, it helps add a layer of emotional depth and feeling to my art that I wouldn’t have without it.
So I try to use that baggage to my advantage and push my work as an artist to new heights and hurl myself into new skill levels. So the next time life hurls you in to a full blown existential crisis, put it in your gas tank, let it give your art new life. Let it affect your quality of line, your color pallet, the marks you make, how you handle your brush, how you handle your pen, how you splatter paint and ink on your paper or canvas.
Make art from your soul. Channel that morbidity to good use.