What 2015 taught me about 2016

This year was a rough year for me. I had mounting depression that peaked sometime in the summer (and if you compare the timeline to my streaming frequency, you can tell.) There were weeks where I felt like I was barely treading water, unable to move forward.

All I wanted in the world was to paint and to stream, but all my mental capacity was expended at my day job. I did my best, I streamed as much as possible. I continued to paint, slowly, but I felt blocked and stuck.

So, for most of the year, I felt like a failure.

It was easy to ignore all the art I made in the beginning of the year, to write that off as a fluke. It was easy to ignore accomplishments like joining the Adobe channel as an official streamer–I kept telling myself I was only in the right place at the right time.

In 2015, I learned tons about what doesn’t work

I was having a conversation with an artist the other day. She told me felt like she hadn’t accomplished anything in 2015. Despite having made a ton of art, she still felt like a failure. I felt a familiar twinge. That’s how I felt.

If you hang out in my stream or follow me on twitter, you may have heard me talking about the studies I want to do next year. I’m constantly searching for art challenges and study methods to help me grow. Everywhere I look, artists are proving that hard work really does pay off. I’ve been watching inspiring artist streamers like JohnSilvaArt, SamPetersonArt, and JohnDerekMurphy, learning about their art journeys. I’ve been reading Noah Bradley’s blog, following Crimson Daggers artist interviews, and watching Peter Mohrbacher support himself without freelancing.

I talk a lot about my big goals. Let’s shoot for becoming a Magic artist, because why not? (I say this in a lighthearted tone, but for me this is the mark of “making it” to the talent level I’m striving toward.)

In the end, growth and goals always come down to the day-to-day. The day-to-day simply didn’t work for me this year. On the positive side, I was able to pay my bills because of my salaried position, but I struggled with mental fatigue and burnout. Weeks started passing without anything but meaningless doodles.

It wasn’t until Inktober that I started to get myself out of the funk. So, here’s what I learned:

1. Don’t ignore what makes you happy

raytorI’m really lucky. Many people struggle to know what makes them happy or gives them a sense of purpose. (And for many people, the question fundamentally detracts from their ability to live day-to-day and enjoy their lives.) For me, I know what makes me happy. It’s making art and making friends on twitch.

In 2015, I was forced to set these things aside for my mental health. In 2016, I plan to make organizational changes so that I can prioritize art time in my life.

If you are lucky enough to know what brings you bliss, be sure you can structure your time to make room for it–who knows, it may even be able to bring in money.

2. Money isn’t happiness

This might sound really basic, but it’s something I keep having to remind myself. We all need to eat and pay rent (and student loans, sometimes). I count myself very lucky to have a job that pays well.

However, most of the artists who I researched talked about “taking the leap”. Taking the leap is going from living with a job, to living as only an artist–quitting your job with no promise that art can actually feed you. It’s always a risk to go all in.

Earlier in 2015 I read No More Harvard Debt and I got inspired to find ways to scrape money from the corners of my life. This has really opened up a lot of opportunities for me. I find that I can make decisions based on real happiness and not my perception of what would be fiscally responsible.

3. Don’t worry about growing your darn Twitch channel

jalloraLike, come on 2015 Stevie. It’s going to be fine. Sometimes it grows fast, sometimes it grows slow. But you’ve got to do what you love. Are you sensing a theme yet? Basically, because of depression and my personality, I spent a lot of 2015 worrying and stressing. I looked at everything in terms of the epic success or failure of my channel and myself as an artist.

Real success comes from patience.

In the end, I went from 269 Twitch followers on 1/1/2015 to 1286 on 12/31/2015. That’s an increase of more than 1000 followers! Not only that, but my art has improved tremendously. After I did Inktober, I felt a “level up” in my art. So I made some repaints of my first digital paintings ever. I also participated in International Self Portrait day–so next year we can compare!

My 2016 resolutions

I’m planning to go through a New Years resolutions exercise for artists from MuddyColors. But I’m going to give it a whole post of its own, so be sure to check back for more! If you want updates about my streaming and blog, be sure to follow me on twitter!