I believe in sharing. No, I’m not talking about sharing your French fries at dinner, I mean sharing the really important things. I’m talking about sharing your knowledge. People as a whole, including myself, are covetous of the unique things they know, and being such are reluctant to share anything with others for fear that if they are no longer the only person that knows a thing, that thing or they themselves will somehow become less special.
We want people to know that we know, because it appeals to our vanity, but frequently the idea of sharing the knowledge itself is foreign. As an illustrator, I’ve had to train myself very carefully to do the work that I do. Of course, this process has not been without its delays. I had the opportunity once a while ago to have my portfolio reviewed by a comic book artist named Brian Stelfreeze. I remember going up to him with the strongest piece I could pull out of my then very lacking portfolio (being 17 at the time, I was a far cry from professional) and being desperately afraid of what he might say. I remember Brian taking me aside at that convention and sitting with me for three hours going over a single piece of mine. In the years since it’s very hard for me to point out a similar time span in which I have learned more.
What this man said affected me in ways that I’ll never fully appreciate. The key to it though was that he was not merely telling me what was wrong with my work. So often critiques are a checklist of ways you’ve screwed up. Not here. He covered everything from technical issues to work mentality, giving me little insights, anecdotes, and pointers. He wasn’t telling me why I wouldn’t succeed, he was actively telling me why and how I would. He would point out a weakness, follow it up with a strength, and then immediately segue into a slight modification, a technique that would eliminate the weakness, bolster the strength, and help me thrive. What he shared was more than his time, it was his experience. What he shared, with eagerness, was his way to achieve the success he had. He gave it away so casually, knowing that if I ever became that talented artist he said I had the potential to become we might be competing for the same positions. He shared his wisdom, when doing so was not only unnecessary but unexpected. Since that time I’ve gone to see Brian about once a year, always receiving a critique of my work. He, knowingly or not, has been a career coach for the better part of 6 years, and I’ve never been given anything less than his undivided attention and respect.
I’m pleased to report that sometime within the next year or so I will be a published illustrator. Thanks Brian; thanks for sharing.
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