Overcoming My Fears As A Designer

Been away for a while!I know, I know. Been updating sister site. Still a few kinks there, but if you feel like taking a look at the work in progress, feel free to scroll down this page. You will notice a widget leading to My Other Parking Spots. So go there and check it out.

Today, I’d like to touch on a subject that is never covered as a curriculum by any major design school and yet, every bit as important. It’s a long one, so print it out if you must and read over the porcelain throne.

Self Doubt:
The biggest challenge to every designer out there.


It’s been several years since I heard any good commentary from total strangers about my designs, coming mostly from loved ones recently. I was one of those people who would always get praise in school with minimal effort, but when later faced with tougher competition for the first time ever, made me grow doubt in myself.

It happens to everyone from every end of the spectrum. But I’m discussing it in depth from a designer’s point-of-view…

See, I was warned by caring teachers on what to expect when going off to art school, but they never tell you how to handle yourself.

No one does; we life in a Darwinian society where Sink Or Swim is the norm. It’s why they say if you can make it in this town, you can make it anywhere. When teachers told me college life was gonna be hard, I never imagined in a million years I’d be faced with the following:

Real-life worries such as,

  1. never being able to finish college due to money concerns,
  2. scraping up loan money to finish up each semester,
  3. parents health beginning to fail while I was in school,
  4. being surrounded by junkies/ ass-kissers/ traitors/ envious project-sabotaging freaks,
  5. low-gratifiying internships with no room for more responsibilities,
  6. barely paying my utitlites because damn loan check didn’t come in weeks sooner,
  7. getting fucked in the ass by the Bursar’s Office
  8. getting fucked in the ass by the office that handles curriculum scheduling
  9. signing up for certain world-renowned professor only to be told they quit and hey, here’s a brand new experimental professor who’s never taught shit before!
  10. getting ripped off for aforementioned courses
  11. having my tools stolen from my fucking studio space. Tools I paid out of pocket for
  12. having professors try to convince me to quit because in their chauvinistic inferior minds, they don’t get that I’m here not for them but for myself so shove it!

All this mental abuse took it’s toll on me. My last internship I finished up shaking with fear and insecurity. I was quite literally trembling, and it showed. Made my boss nervous! Ultimately I moved out of my beloved apartment in Brooklyn because I couldn’t find any entry-level work within city-limits; everything else required moving out of state and I did not have the funds for relocation. Also, my self-confidence was at an all-time low.

Because of all the lingering pressure, my mind was tricking me into believing ghosts that did not exist. Hell, it was the ultimate mind-fuck and it was all my doing! For the first time in my life, I actually believed that I couldn’t draw; a gift I was born with. That the automatic reflex of perfectly drawing anything I could eyeball, never existed. I actually began believing this nonsense!

In the immediate months thereafter, I didn’t pick up the phone, see my friends, gave up looking for work within the state, began applying as far as Savannah, Georgia (to no avail) stopped cold in my tracks working on my portfolio, didn’t see my new boyfriend as much, and to top off the fecal cake that represented my current state of affairs, I got an all-over body rash the likes of the Book Of Job.

It was from nerves, although to play it safe got tested at Planned Parenthood. Negative for everything, (whew!) but the rash kept branching out and now, with bloody boils. Again, Job. My mom calmed me the fuck down telling me it was from anxiety and that it once happened to her after she suffered a traumatic car accident. Wouldn’t you know, the next day it began dissappearing faster than prom panties!

But my mind was still completely shut down. It actually took 1 1/2 yrs. since my last semester for me to put pencil to paper. When I’m depressed, I can’t draw. This has been afflicting me since my college days. It made me realize that before college, I never had to really worry about anything. Like keeping a roof over my head, or where my next meal came from…There was even a time when I had to stretch $60.00 to last longer than a week for groceries and I never want to revisit those days again!

Nay, if I was ever to make it in this world, then I don’t have to have the most talent. I don’t need to be the biggest bookworm. I don’t even have to enlist as the sleaziest ass-kisser or sleep my way to the top. No, I have to be clever.

Clever people get ahead; clever like the fox. I lament how long it took me to wake up to this conclusion. There are always loopholes we can take advantage of, doors of opportunity waiting to be opened. But easier said than done, of course!

I knew what I had to do, but I was pathologically paralyzed.

My mind was locked up for years. What made it worse was keeping the company of similarly stuck, negative-minded people. Why some friends poo-pooed this inexplicable mental phenomena and downgraded it as “It’s all in your mind”. No shit sherlock! Now how do you overcome it? “Just do it”. Yea, brilliant.
Now go write a dissertation on it for the Nobel Peace Prize.

The widely accepted perception that this pretense of psychosomatic proportions was regarded as a weakness was finally coming into light.

No one talks about it, yet we all know it’s there and it happens to the best of us. It’s taboo and everyone fears it. After all, who wants to admit weakness on any level? I suppose in my naivete I looked to my college buds for advice on this. But how could they, if they hadn’t crossed to this stage?
Or, we all studied the same subject so could it be that their careless remarks was an attempt to snuff the competition?

Or, I’d receive mixed advice, with good intentions. Sadly, it was all my loved ones.

  • Papi told me to keep looking and there will be something eventually.
  • Mami told me to pray to God and windows will open for me.
  • My brother who came to visit from California told me to go flip burgers at McDonalds’ and why was I being selfish that I wouldn’t find work? (Right on the heels of 9/11 no less)
  • My newest boyfriend at the time had no advice as he had just moved to NY and was trying to combat his anxiety of large crowds. I spent more time comforting him instead.
  • My former roommate moved in with my old friend. This especially hurt my ego because I was supposed to move in with them. Together, they did a great job of focusing on their social lives and ignoring me while I sank to the depths of despair. No phone calls; great.
  • Majority of other college friends moved away so this added to the frustration.

Feeling the brunt fear of stalling progress was something I dreaded and could not avoid.

One of my biggest weaknesses I realized, is that as I matured I strictly made art for someone else, always. I made art for that contest my teacher so desperately wanted me to enter. I made a charcoal drawing of my friends’ little siblings at her request. I made a watercolor drawing for my teacher who submitted it to another contest and somehow made it to Washington, D.C. Made an ink drawing for a poster for some library at another teacher’s request and won the prize.

I suppose I was programmed to expect requests by that point. And in college, no one was asking. Got involuntarily set up for the rudest awakening of my life!

In college, if you didn’t kiss ass (and I never did) you didn’t get ahead (and I never did).
Of course, I speak from my own experience becaseu I went to art school so I don’t know how Ivy League/ state schools/ community colleges operate.

I have never regreted placing integrity before opportunity. Don’t get me wrong, you do what you can to survive but, there is a fine line here. Asking yourself if doing this is more for survival rather than a mere shortcut is always prudent. I can’t even begin to tell you the stories I’ve been told/ witnessed. About people trading sex for glossy office jobs, jobs in famous art galleries, and completely by-passing realtors for apartments in the trendy East Village (which have 10yr waiting lists). And the nerve, of showing up to class and pretending it was gained by merit alone – you fucking kidding me? And of course, rumors always DO get around and obscure people like me always end up knowing about it! More than I wanted to – including a disgusting story involving a sculpting major, a job with some world-renowned artist, and herpes -eeww!

I put that out of my mind and forced myself to just, forget everything they confused me- I mean- taught me (sic) and regressed back to what I already knew. The skillz I had before all that art school nonsense. That seriously helped me get back my mojo. In coming years, bitter harships to endure continously set back this tiny bit of progress. That is until recently.

And you know what I realized after a whole decade of stalwart progress?

I need to make art for myself again.

Stop wasting time waiting for requests! Shove that shit right into people’s faces! Good or bad! Art is objective, not subjective! There is no right or wrong to art!

So all those coke-head professors can go suck a big dick and how dare they tell me there is a right way to do art! Don’t ever take a junkies’ advice! FUCK THOSE DRUG-ADDICTED ASSHOLES! And fuck the robotic sheep that follow them! You seriously think I’m gonna take advice from some washed-up designer who needs to teach to support themselves? Real designers teach for fun, not to supplement their income! Phony has-beens!

Yea, a little late to come to terms with this info, but I’m putting it out there for anybody else who is currently attending college and is getting more mixed up rather than learning relevant, expen$ive skills. Trust your gut, always. Trust in yourself.

If you know in your heart of hearts that they’re is something hideously wrong with their advice, do your research first. Ask upper-classmen if their dept. is in top shape before signing on to that school. Such a financial commitment is hard to get out of so do your homework and ask around. Worse comes to worse, bail as fast as you can. Get valuable training wheresoever it exists; don’t feel you just have to stay in once place.

Unfortunately for me, what I majored in was not really taught at any other school in the state as is nowadays so my options were limited. And if you have to trek across the country or globe to get proper training, do it. It’ll be worth the loan money if your chances of securing a job are greatly heightened as a result of a properly run career services dept.

I now make art for myself again. Got a big ‘ol cache of artwork ready for showcasing. I’m almost done setting it up ready to open my online store. I don’t even care if people like it or not, hell it’s all for me really. My only concern at this point is getting ripped off. I suppose it’s flattery if your work gets duplicated without your permission, but I’ll cross that bridge later.

I will not fear criticism, for if we don’t ever receive bad crits, then we are clearly doing it wrong. Why, the very nature of art is to evoke feelings in the viewer. Bad press is also good press. Use it to your advantage! Use it for freely-gained publicity!

And most importantly, I have stopped altogether waiting for anybody to ask me to ever do it for them again. Now I finally begin to move forward.

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