I think I’m getting a case of deja vu, because I’m feeling pretty negative about my course and it’s the fourth week of this year. Last year I became demoralized on what was the fourth working week of my course (I think) because I felt like I didn’t really belong on the course because I wasn’t making “art” per se. This year I’m not completely demoralized by this point, but I feel as though I’m hitting a real low point in terms of how I feel for a few other reasons.
In one of the modules, I’m having to collaborate with the animation students on a module oriented around learning about production. I joined up with a group of animation students who were working on what was originally a project about humans, demons, and the boundaries between their world. Before you get the wrong idea, I didn’t come up with it; another animation student did, but he chose not to participate in the project for some reason. I wanted to generate something based around that initial premise, but eventually the others in my group wanted to change the idea because of their own perceptions of their own skills, and the pressure to make something nice and polished over the course of seven weeks. I tried to convince them that this module we’re doing is not about the product, but the practice, it’s about planning, documenting, and justifying what we do when we do it, and I tried to throw up suggestions for how we could still do the idea we have. But eventually, my stubborn defense of the idea did not prevail, and we settled on a garage with a post-apocalyptic setting instead. This was partly because we had been on discussion for two days and doing no work yet, and partly because they wanted it too badly and there was no chance of me resisting their suggestion forever. I went with it, and even I feel like I’m taking some kind of a charge in creating organization for the group, I do not hold much passion doing it because it’s just the idea that my group-mates came up with and because they killed an idea I would have loved to get behind because they are more concerned with getting good marks than their own growth and creativity, and for a while I felt bitter, defeated, and filled with a sense of having lost influence.
When it came to this morning, my production team had a group member missing and we had a small number of references to show for our project. I intended to show more, but for some reason it just didn’t show, and I wasn’t logged on to the Drive where our other stuff is. And that’s when the lecturers became convinced that we weren’t passionate about our project (I can’t speak for anyone else in my group, but they aren’t entirely wrong in my case), and one of them made the suggestion that we need way more references than the eight reference images we had, which meant consuming tons of movies and comic books and other media. We were told that pre-production is the best phase of the project, and it was better the all acted like it was awesome, but I felt cynical (and I guess still a bit tired; it was only morning and I had to get up quite early for it), I felt like people were just trying to force some kind of passion and excitement out of us, when I can’t invest a lot of passion into anything that I feel like I’ve just settled with as part of a group. Whenever I thought about it, I thought about fine art, like the kind I used to in art college as opposed to design and applied art, and I pined for it because of how purely selfish it was. I mean, all things have a selfish motivation and all, but in fine art there was only pure individual interpretation and putting your own imagination and soul into it, without the sense that you were contributing it to a group and trying to make it part of a vision shared by a group of people. Back when I was an art student I almost never worked in groups and almost never collaborated with others, certainly never in large groups, because I didn’t have to. My progress was principally individual, based on individual art-making, not based on group-work, so it was almost as though I just did what I pleased for lack of a better way of describing it; I did follow briefs during college, but it never seemed to feel like I was following a brief, it just felt like I was doing artwork, and although sometimes I really did have to follow criteria for what I made, it was easier to work around it (and some of the briefs were agreeable enough for me that there was no need to), and afterwards I was basically allowed to do what I pleased anyway.
To be fair, I do still feel interested in growing on my course and improving my abilities, and one of the things keeping me comfortable was the fact that in our academic setting you had a kind of freedom to fail: you can make something that sucks, you can fail to do something right, and you can even fail to meet deadlines, but even though none of that is advisable, that’s sort of OK because you’ve still got some room to learn from your mistakes and make right, whereas in the industry you don’t have that freedom to fail because in industry that would cost you your job. But at the same time, I fear that I will risk losing that reassurance in the production module because of the pressure to do more to create what is ultimately just a finely-polished still image (that’s all the garage project is). And sometimes I feel a little auxiliary in other modules: everyone else is doing good concept work, and mine isn’t up to the same level so it would seem, and my concepts for enemies aren’t integrated, like the others don’t think much of my design direction. I do feel like I was important in designing one of our characters, but I sucked at creating the actual models for the protagonist. I felt like my best role was simply creating environmental assets for the game level. It’s not entirely unimportant, and it does add up to the game level as a whole, but it did feel like that wasn’t how I saw myself.
Don’t be confused, I see little point in quitting yet and I’m still not demoralized just yet. I just wanted to get out that sense of being in the state of a disillusionment and turmoil drawing from working in groups in game design, and missing the days of purely individualistic art-making. I get that way sometimes, and I think the conflict I feel between being an artist and being an designer is still very much raging on. Where, I wonder, does my future as a creative person lie?