Monday, January 9, 2023

2022 - Okay, Now What?

I found my voice on this blog when I did the first year in review post in January of 2010 when I reflected on the events of 2009 - and everything that led up to that critical year—after that, doing a yearly review of my main takeaways and lessons learned became the norm. I have been very late in posting them a time or two, but throughout all the ups and downs, they have been an overview of my career. It is that time again; frankly, I do not know where to begin.

A World of Stories
This is one of the large pieces I completed in 2022 and is part of book two of the Grand Bazaar series.

The Ghosts of the Past Still Linger

I have spoken and written at length regarding everything that has transpired from early 2020 through 2022. It has been an unprecedented upheaval in life, art, career, safety, peace of mind, and on and on, and some of us have weathered these turbulent seas better than others. I believe I physically managed this time well, but mentally, emotionally, and artistically I have not. It has taken a lot of work to return to a shadow of my productivity at the end of 2019. Granted, I was finishing up my first book of the Grand Bazaar series, and I had completely cleared my schedule and was focused on getting it finished with 110% of my time and energy. I am a couple of years away from being in that position again. So it is premature to expect that I maintain that level of commitment, especially with all the changes in my life over the past three years. Things are very, very different now, for me, than they were in 2019. I am reasonably confident many of you out there feel the same. But that does not change the fact that no matter how much I work to the contrary, I feel like I am two years behind and slipping ever more behind.

The first thing I should point out is that I am 100% working on my schedule for my work. I make the deadlines, and I move them as needed. I set my workload and determine what has priority. I am in charge, and I am the client and the artist. This alone is one of the main reasons I have weathered as best as I have. If I were wholly reliant on client work these days, I would have had multiple major burnout crises over the past two to three years. Thankfully I have a day career that supports me and my art life, and in these past three years, I have absolutely looked to it to get me through uncertain artistic times.

My studio/office is in all its glory!

The Studio

With all that has been going on, I continue to make art. In 2022 I completed a pair of large pieces, several smaller pieces, and many tiny pieces for the second book of the Grand Bazaar. But more importantly, I now have a dedicated studio to make art. I knew that moving work spaces would affect my ability to make art, but I was not prepared for how much impact it would have. For years I have followed the adventures of other artists who moved their studios and had always been shocked by how long it seemed to take. Surely, there were other factors, other reasons, and things unknown to the outside world that caused these moves to take so long and be disruptive. Nope. A studio move takes forever and dramatically impacts your ability to make art. It was around a six-month process from the contractors starting the work until I moved in and started making art.

In the end, though, it is like magic when it is all done and set up again. Since starting to work in the studio, I have been able to create more, faster than I have in a while. I have completed one of my favorite pieces and can't wait to share it with you in the coming weeks. I have also begun finding new ways to get work done when I am not in the studio (there are many reasons I have done this and not simply to be constantly working), and those efforts are paying off. Simply put, I am more focused and productive than I have been in a couple of years, which is nice - to say the least. I am still figuring out a way to balance my time, make the most of my work time, and learn how to be happy with the amount of work I can complete, no matter how much or little. It is the start of something new, something big, and I can not wait to see what I can create in my studio.

 Lizardman to Lizardfolk
The results of twenty years of time and practice.

The Elephant in the Room

I have not publicly spoken about the rise in image-generating AIs that are unethically built on the illegal wholesale theft of millions of pieces of art and artists' entire careers. Add to that copyright violations, IP theft, and on and on. It has already harmed artists and the art world. But what troubles me more than the theft of our art and work is the anger, hatred, and weaponized ignorance toward the artists. We are being portrayed as money-grabbing elites hell-bent on gatekeeping the knowledge of making art a secret because we, and we alone, have all the arcane power to make art. Well, I am here to share that arcane power. I am breaking the artist code, and I will now tell you all what it takes to be an artist...


That is it. That is what I was told and what I did. And I got better. Nothing anyone does that is worth anything has come from zero work or effort. Do you want to play the guitar? Time and practice. Do you want to be a doctor? Time and practice. Do you want to be a plumber? Time and practice. Do you want to be an artist? Guess what? Being an artist is no different, and it takes time and practice. I am sorry, that is it. That is the big secret. We all can be artists. We only need to put in the time and work to get better, just like EVERY OTHER thing in the world. And before you think that artists are rolling in money, you should really look into how badly we are paid and how the rates haven't changed in about a hundred and fifty years. The kicker is, of course, the army of angry men that haven't drawn anything since kindergarten who want to tell the artist community how artists think, learn, and where our inspiration comes from. Dunning-Kruger would be so proud to see their theories playing out in horrific real-time.

The evolution of Ethra VanDalia.
Also, the results of nearly twenty years of time and practice.

I plan to share some thoughts and insight on how I think about making art and where my inspiration comes from in the coming weeks (hopefully). In the meantime, since artists are now gatekeepers as well,  you can peruse hundreds of posts about my career, making art, process breakdowns, and much much more here on the blog that I have freely taken the time to share with anyone out there. The one thing I have been trying to teach here on the blog since 2009 is that we all can do this. We all have a voice to share; it only takes time and practice. I am not the artist I was in 2009 when I started this blog. Look! Look at my posts from the start of the blog till now. I have worked my ass off over the last fifteen years to be where I am now—effort plus time. There is no magic. Like all the other artists out there, I was too stubborn to give up and kept pushing.

Not to beat a dead horse, but here are MORE examples of what time and practice lead to. No magic, no quick and easy tricks. It is all about having a stylus in hand and working to be better. It is not always fun, it is work, and you must do it if you want to be an artist. Draw more. Draw daily.

Looking Ahead

I feel like this post was shorter than others in the past. Maybe it is, maybe not. I said what I needed to, and I could write another blog post if I missed anything. I think the core of my takeaway this year was that I am still living in two times, the past of 2020/21 and the present. I need to let go of the past and live and work in the present, at least a bit more than I already do. As horrible as 2020 was, some of my artistic life's most important, most significant moments took place that year. I need to focus on that, remember that, and take that energy into tomorrow. Book two of the Grand Bazaar is wholly planned. I know what I need to do, what to make, and what to write, and I only need to be at the table working to make it a reality. So moving forward, I need to be in my chair working. I have a dedicated space for it now, which feels like magic. 

That's all for another exciting Monday on the blog. I will be taking a little break here on the blog, but I will be back very soon! Until then...

For more samples of my work or to contact me regarding my availability, head over to my website:

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