Obligatory forewarning that I will not be talking about COVID in this post. I’m sure we’re all fatigued from hearing about it, so this is the only time you’ll see it mentioned here. Let’s just focus on that good good.
It’s been nearly 5? months since I’ve last posted. I visit this forsaken place every day and have the urge to write but don’t have the energy. This last year has really just been a trying and grinding time for me. I’m busy with family and trying to use all of my energy to focus on them when I’m not drawing or working on jtooned stuff. It’s true what they say – side hustles are not easy and they’re not something you can just dedicate less than 100% of yourself to if you expect good results. I can directly attest to that statement – whenever I decide to put less than everything into jtooned, the flame dwindles, but burns bright when I commit. The sacrifice is your time and mental and physical capacity to do it all. If my heart isn’t in it, the end result shows and people are perceptive to it. It’s draining but it’s worth it if you can stay afloat.
“I’m going to work on myself this year”.
“I’m going to focus on my heart and self-appreciation”
“I’m going to cut negativity out of my life from now on”
Everyone has said that at least one point in their life and usually at the start of the new year. You’ve said it, but ask yourself if you’ve followed through with it a month from then, 6 months from then, a year from then – did you, really? This last year was one of those years for me – not by personal choice… It just kind of happened naturally. I think that point in your life will come to you eventually but never because you said it will or because you want it to. Usually it comes because your life needs it to. This last year, I’ve been so focused on me (myself and my family as a collective) so hard and so aggressively that I just didn’t have time to worry about everything else going on around me – no time to compare myself to others, no time to beat myself down because someone had more cars than me or more talent than me, no time to worry about what other people were doing so that I could do it better. And it wasn’t until I “had no time” that I realized how free “no time” actually felt. I admit that I was bound by social media and trying to keep up with everyone’s lives that I had no time to really love my own. Maybe you are too and you just don’t realize it yet. That’s fine, too. When you learn to truly focus on yourself and making yourself better through your own needs and not by comparison, it’s like a huge weight lifted off of your shoulders.
I think the girls helped me on this front too. We’re talking about a 5 year old and a 2 year old – both with such different personalities and needing love and attention in very different ways. For us, Aria and Rin were like the two constants we didn’t know we needed and it took us a long time to realize it. This last year has been challenging because they’re no longer babies that just take and do whatever you want them to do. They have personalities, they know what they want and don’t want, they eat when they want to and they influence each other in good and bad ways and it’s like a big hurricane right in the middle of a life that you’ve worked so hard to build and maintain that they just have no conception of – and why should they? It’s not their problem.
It’s hard, guys. It’s hard being a parent and it’s hard because you want to teach them to grow up to be strong and independent and smart and everything good but you want them to listen and to know boundaries and to understand everything that took us 34 years to learn in one day. It’s hard to understand why they can’t realize it in the moment or in the heat of things. And it isn’t until the end of each day that you finally get to slow down and say “they can’t understand. It takes time” and the days repeat themselves. Slowly, though – things start to click and that hurricane starts to slow down a bit and that structure you’ve worked so hard to build starts to crumble a bit less and the order feels restored a bit more.
That paragraph is our whole 2021 and we’re quickly realizing that while we control one hurricane, there’s a different one on the horizon and we have to figure out how to settle that one down – we just don’t know what it looks like yet.
jtooned. Man oh man, what a ride jtooned has been this last year. It’s evolved into something so much more than I had expected or envisioned and I think that my failure to plan is the result of that. Not that it’s a bad thing at all – it ended up being a good surprise. Maybe you know, maybe you don’t… But the start of all of this was really because I wanted to draw something original to print on a shirt – for myself. I had no concept of how to use Adobe illustrator and I didn’t know how to use Photoshop to create original artwork. I ended up buying an iPad Pro convincing myself that I wanted to draw – I just didn’t know what I wanted to draw. It was a tough sell, given I had no actual business model but I did it. Let me tell you – the amount of times I opened a canvas and stared blankly at it, only to close it a little while later with no progress was frustrating as hell.
I didn’t know what to draw, I didn’t know how to draw properly and I had no foundation to build upon. I was literally floating around in a blank creative space with no where to go. Alas, inspiration comes in many forms and after a few months of “artists’ block”, I experimented with a few things on cars and learned about transforming and going outside the lines and here we are today. At first, I was drawing for free and then shortly after, I charged a minimal fee for hours of work. But that’s OK because all of those free or cheap hours were put towards a greater cause – it always is even though you might not think it is. And it wasn’t without my awesome friends and their support that I am where I am today. These guys believed in me at my worst and they continue to believe in me today and that’s truly where my thanks go. Whether it was for the art that I drew for them or stickers they knew they wouldn’t use but purchased anyway… It all led to this.
There are days where I feel like I’ve done enough. Where I’m not sure if I want to continue or that maybe I’ve drawn all that I could draw and I’ve come to the end of my run. As I write this – The BLUEPRNT Vol 2 coloring books are still in production, we’re finalizing two hoodie designs and I’ve closed commissions for almost a month now. After that’s over – then what? And the downtime has made me complacent and uninspired. At this very moment of striking these keys, I wonder if this is it. Lack of inspiration can do that to a person. LOL
Whatever the case is – I’m thankful for everyone that has supported jtooned in one way or another – be it through purchasing a toon or merchandise, reposting my work and liking it or even just following along. It counts for something! I’ve learned so much from this and have met so many really awesome people that just enjoy cool ass art as much as I do. I’m thankful for taking the plunge almost 2 years ago to just get an iPad to play around with because I never would’ve guessed it help get me here.
Anyway, I just want to circle back to my first point about not having time for anything other than myself. The birth of jtooned is really the one thing responsible for this enlightening past year – it forced me to buckle down and spend time doing things that were important to me and provided small wins and values that sum up to become really big and meaningful interactions and experiences. It pulled me away from the grips of social media and had me focus on “doing” rather than just “being” and that’s important.
My advice – if people even take advice anymore – is to challenge yourself, to take the baby steps towards things you want to do. You don’t have to leap into dreams head first if you don’t want to. Be respectfully hard on yourself so that you can improve through internal criticism. Be forgiving when you’ve done too much and realize that sometimes you need to take 2 steps back to take 3 steps forward. I don’t know who needs to hear this but truly work on yourself this time, not for the followers or the likes, not for the clout or recognition. Make sure that every time you work on “you”, you are developing yourself for personal growth because that’s when it feels real. Throughout my jtooned endeavours, I’ve met so many people asking how to get started and where to learn to draw and the only advice I have is to put the pen to the canvas. Whether it takes you 10 lines or 10,000 – by the time you’ve gone through enough of them, each line will be better than the one before it. Don’t compare your lines to my lines or anyone else just like you shouldn’t compare your life to my life or anyone else’s life.
Find the thing that will buckle you down and help you focus on you this year. Make that your goal instead. It can be as little as learning a skill or mastering an existing skill but make it personal. Because if it isn’t personal, then it isn’t truly for you.
Happy late New Year! Here’s to another great year!