Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Creative Block and me

Hey all! Creative block hits all kinds of areas, from writers, artists, animators, musicians and so forth. It's a shame when you really want to just make something and you have no inspiration or drive. It happens to me a lot, either I lose interest in my personal projects because I have no drive, or I just can't bring myself to actually start one. Right now, I have an idea for a Lore-Breaking Fallout video based around Cats and Deathclaws. I know what I want to do with it, I just can't find that push to do it. It's a shame, because I really think it would be a funny short, and would be instantly hated by the Fallout community, or loved by them for poking fun at the game we all like.
I have another project I'm slowly chipping away on which Alnwick North fans would enjoy, the successor to A Week In Barresdale, which I have created an Establishing shot for. I've got the episode planned out with sketches and everything, it's just sitting down to make them.
Then there is wanting to learn Toon Boom...

I've found that there are ways to get yourself into "the zone" through different methods. Sometimes just doing some exercise helps. It clears your mind for a while, lets you think solely on certain areas, like, if I'm on a treadmill or exercise bike, I tend to think about the progression of story in 30-60 second sketches so they don't drag on or end before you can grasp what's happening in the scene.
But on the flip side, I walk 2 miles to work, making a round trip of 4 miles, plus being on my feet for 8 hours. When I get home, I'm physically drained and just want to sit down for a while. Animating may not be physically demanding, but when you're tired, you feel mentally drained, too. I don't always feel like drawing. Sometimes I can, sometimes I can't. It's tough sometimes.

Music! I listen to a wide variety of music. From metal and rock to pop. Recently, I've been listening to a bit Hayley Orrantia (you may recognise her from The Goldbergs). When really getting into animation, I like to get some metal on. Epic guitar riffs like in Iron Maiden are great for keeping you going. Lighter stuff like Hayley Orrantia and a-ha work well when you're already under way. At least, that's how it works for me.

TV! Sometimes not animating and watching some TV works well. For A Week In Barresdale, I would watch The League of Gentlemen a lot, now I have that and the Scottish comedy Burnistoun, shows which are based around characters in the same town which rarely interact with characters from outside of their sketches, save for perhaps mentions in passing.

Even just cleaning your room can help. A tidy area leads to a tidy mind. Or play with your pets. It's a fun distraction which gives you mind a break, so when you come back to working on your project, you can feel a little refreshed.

I'll leave you with a little sneak peak at the establishing shot I mentioned earlier. It's a throwback to an old cartoon, so, can anyone guess which cartoon? It was towards the end of Alnwick North's run, so some of you may still remember it.

Be sure to follow the blog to keep up to date with what I'm doing!

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Deep Dive into CMANIM - Depression, Life, Cats.

Inspired by a blog post by Jack Rollins, Horror Author with Dark Chapter Press, I've decided to give a look into a side of me I don't particularly enjoy talking about, but it's one which has made me who I am and has heavily impacted my story writing and animation.

I am depressed. I have depression. Luckily I've not had a bad turn for quite some time, although I know it's always there.
I was first diagnosed with depression in 2010 and was on medication to help me cope with it. I don't know what the trigger for it was, just one day after getting home from work, I sat at the end of my bed and just began crying for no reason. I had been feeling lousy for so long and I just couldn't cope any more. I would hide my feelings through comedy and laughing, so people wouldn't think anything was wrong, laughing off anything that may have slipped through the cracks. I was up and down on a daily basis. I just didn't want to admit I needed help. I didn't want people to see me upset. I felt it made me seem weak. I only opened up to a select few people about the issue and for the most part was supported by them. I ended up losing some friends through this time and I wouldn't be back in touch with them until this year, 2015. I was on and off the medication, taking the full dose of it until the doctor and I felt I had things under control and would then steadily lower the dosage until I was off completely. This would happen a few times, as I would keep falling back into the downward spiral and feeling like I was just a burden on everyone and would be better off just being gone. Around the time of University, things were looking good for me, only with a couple slips here and there. My major one around this time, I had got home from work after working a night shift, sat down with the cat, Tippy, held him and began crying telling him "everything will be okay...", he just purred at me. I owe that cat more than he will ever know. For a while, I was going on only for him. It's stupid, I know, but I needed that anchor. Tippy relied on me and I couldn't have him be hurt or anything like that. I kept going for him. I love that cat.
Tippy and I more recently

I told my team leader and friend about this and told her I just felt weak and pathetic about the whole thing. She told me something I would never forget, crying isn't a sign of weakness, it takes a strong person to cry and open up about it. Thank you, Rachel.
I would later leave my job. The stress of working and second year of Uni was just piling up and with the whole depression looming over me, I needed to be selfish for a while and focus on me, and of course, Tippy.
That was the end of 2013, leading into 2014. 2014 was a much better year for me. I was able to focus on my Uni work, which dragged my grades up massively, getting firsts and being 5 marks off a first in one project (still boiling about that, haha). I went to Lithuania with an Erasmus trip and met some great people there. Stress happened when I was low on money over the Summer and ended up spending a month back home, with a week of it on holiday with my brother and his two boys. That was fun, even if I wasn't particularly great to be around at that time.
Going into my final year of uni, I was having a hell of a time. At some points, I just felt I shouldn't have been there and could feel that shit feeling creeping back in and was even thinking of leaving Uni, but I stuck it out. This feeling would return at the start of this year, the final half of my final year. Everything was going wrong with my work. My final presentation, I broke down into tears. I was stressed, feeling shit, no sleep because of this, my work was nowhere near finished, and I just felt like I was never going to make it. My lecturers told me they could see the hard work that was there and that I'm doing well. I had a few days to tighten everything up and have it ready for hand in. That day, I went home, didn't do any work. Had a bath, played some PS4 and just took a day to relax and de-stress. Then, over the next couple days, I worked my bollocks off. Even finding time to relax while rendering by painting some models. I handed my work in early. I finished University with a 2:1. I got back into work recently, not in Animation, but back in retail as a Butcher/Fishmonger. I now animate in my spare time, looking to work freelance. I was recently at HorrorCon in Rotherham where I was helping Jack Rollins and Dark Chapter Press, showing my Seance animation and promoting myself. I shifted some business cards, which puts my name in their pockets at least.

5 years ago, if you told me I'd be graduating University after studying animation and being happy with who I am, I'd have laughed in your face. But once those floodgates opened and my depression came out, I worked harder than I ever have in my life to be the best I can be. Someone my parents can be proud of, someone my brothers can be proud of, someone my niece and nephews can look up to and be proud of. But most importantly, someone I can be proud of. 

I don't know how many people will read this post, but to anyone who is going through a tough time, just remember, it really does get better. fight it. It's a hard fight, yeah, but it's a fight worth seeing out until the end. Talk to people about how you feel. It's not weak to admit your faults, it only makes you a stronger person.
I might not be out of the woods yet, but I'm doing everything I can to keep positive and try not to fall back into that pit. There's always up and down days, but the downs make the ups better. Remember that.

And get a cat. Cats are awesome.

I'll leave you with a message my friend Pat Ryan left on something I posted on Facebook about negativity.
"Yeah, there's a lot of shitty stuff in the world, I see some of it at work, but what I tell my clients holds true everywhere: the world is great. People are fucking incredible. If you can't, won't, or don't see the amazing, then that means its your turn to get up and make it incredible. People are greedy? Pay for someone else at a restaurant. People are cold and disconnected? Tell the person who serves you coffee how nice they look. People don't care enough? Call a friend and tell them you love them. Bad things happen to you? Help a stranger. Love stupidly, smile broadly, care selflessly. The world isn't against you, the world doesn't give enough of a fuck about you to want to hold you back. The only person that is obsessed enough with you to ruin your life is you. So, y'know, stop it."