Wednesday, December 28, 2011

How to Make a Resolution That Sticks

With 2011 left with only 3 days left, we thought it would be timely for today's post to be about resolutions.

Often we hear of New Year's resolutions in the context of something that will be broken.  We hear about avoiding the gym in January as they'll be overcrowded, but in a month or so they'll be back to normal.  Part of this failure to commit to the New Year's resolutions is that we either tend to set goals either not thinking about what it'll take to get there, or we make a resolution that is too broad.  As we've said time and time again, it's all about specificity and prioritization.

In order to make a resolution sticky, you want to make sure that A) it's something that you honestly believe you can achieve, and B)you have a plan for.  

We always believe that people can do amazing things, but in order for people to achieve greatness, they also have to believe in themselves.  If you'd love to be an artist that works for a movie studio but don't really believe you could get a job at a movie studio, chances are, you're not going to work for a movie studio since you won't make working for a studio your priority. 

Sticking with our example, if you want to land that job at Dreamworks in the new year but fear that you aren't good enough to make it to Dreamworks, your resolutions shouldn't be to land a job there.  Your resolution should be to paint every day, or to do a sketch every morning or every day after you come home from work.  Maybe it's to take a few art classes or to download workshops.  It could also be to go to a counselor, or to read a book on self-confidence every month.  Either way, your focus should be on making a resolution that you can stick with.  Anyone can go to the library and get a book, or spend some time in a bookstore doing intense browsing through art books and magazines.  If you are reading this, chances are you have a pen or pencil to do a drawing daily, even if it's on grocery bags or the inside of envelopes.  Got junk mail or bills in the mail?  Then you've got something to draw on.  

If you have a large art goal as your resolution, think about breaking that large goal down into steps.  Instead of saying "I resolve to make $5,200 this year off selling my new comic," maybe think about saying "I'm going to make $100 per week off my comic sales," or "I'm going to submit my comics to a new comic store every week" or "I'm going to do one event every month that will bring in $434 in comic book sales."  

Figuring out what the actual goals needed to complete a resolution can also be very sobering, so don't be afraid to adjust your resolution.  If you hit your goal early, you can always ramp it up later in the year.  The key is to make sure that it's something that you honestly believe in your heart of hearts that you can do.  

The other part of sticking to a resolution is about making a plan.  Even if your resolution is something that you believe you can do like a resolution to sketch every day, you still need to  make a plan.  By providing yourself with a detailed plan of how you're going to achieve your goal, you'll make it easier to finish it all the way through.  

Even if you don't make a detailed plan, you should still think about your resolution to see if it really fits.  If not, revise your resolution to make sure it does.  Make a resolution to paint every day?  What about when you're flying to that wedding for a weekend?  Are you going to bring your oils on the flight?  Are you going to have time to do them on holidays?  Figure out the rules to your resolution - if you do two drawings a day, can you skip one?  What about seven, do you get to skip a week?  

Our point is not to drag you down with the nitty-gritty, but you do have to think about your resolution to make sure that not only is it feasible, but also easy.  If you only draw once a month and you want to go up to once a day, every day, for a full year (or beyond), is that something that you even have time for?  What are you going to change to make that happen?  

Maybe you could make sure that you go to sleep 15 minutes later to get that last sketch in before you go to bed.  If so, then what about also keeping a sketchbook and a pencil on your bedstand?  If you're only painting once a month, then instead of going for a daily painting, what about making a resolution to paint once a week?  Or if you want that daily thing, what about just making at least one brush stroke per day?  In that case, you want your painting to get set-up where you can easily access it, and you want to make sure that you have your paints and brushes and everything right where you'd need them to be in order to do your daily work.  

Part of making a plan can also involve getting someone to hold you accountable to your resolution.  Have a friend check up with you weekly - every time you miss your mark, you owe them $20.  Sign a contract to make it legally binding.  While this punishment principle might not work for everyone, it is a potential plan you can make if having the hordes nipping at your heels inspires you to get things done.  Alternatively, you could also give your resolution buddy a sum of money, or some rewards in advance, to give you every time they check in and you're on track.  If you need that Pavlonian training, we say go for it.  

So if you're looking to make a resolution (or ten) for 2012, make sure it's something you believe you can do and make sure you have a plan.  Knowledge is power, kids, and now that you know how to make some killer resolutions for next year, what are they going to be?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Monkey + Seal Recap 2011

Happy holidays everyone!

Today we just wanted to do a recap of our year, since now is as good a time as ever to start evaluating 2011 and to start planning for 2012.

Major Accomplishments for 2011
•Monkey took over partial ownership of Big Umbrella Studios (BUS) around this time last year!  He managed to help keep BUS alive and kicking.
•Monkey + friend Grant Gililand (aka The Gross Uncle) had a feature show, Beastiarum vocabulum, at BUS and made some nifty t-shirts.
•Seal made some new prints of her more recent paintings.
•We both updated our personal websites.
•We celebrated our 6 year anniversary together(!)
•Seal finished up work on her first animated feature (we can't tell you more than that yet!)
•Seal got a position at a video game company in Sausalito.
•Monkey built a site for The Lords of Print and started off finding new clients to print shirts for.
• We had a split show at OZ called "The Undiscovered." Seal's portion of the show was titled "New World," while Monkey's part was the interactive "Secret of Deadbrook."
•Monkey got his first wholesale client for his Ties of Awesomeness.
•Seal got a job working for Marza Animation Planet doing concept art.
•We tabled at the SF Zine Fest, where Monkey won a class at the SF Center for the Book.
•We took a trip to Indonesia with Seal's family.
•Seal started work as Production Designer for a short film directed by a senior animator at Pixar.
•Monkey quit his day job and runs his businesses full time.
•We tabled at the Alternative Press Expo.
•We signed up for our first out -of-town craft show, Spectrum Live! in Kansas City, MO (such a huge jump!)
•We broke our record for the highest gross total from a 2-day craft fair at this year's Bazaar Bizarre.
•We reorganized our apartment.
•Monkey continued to run the bi-monthly Artgasm Drink n' Draw.
•We held a successful presale for our new shirt - Cthulhu Fhtagn.
•Monkey took classes at City College and has learned about container gardening, Flash game programming, archery, and more!

Whew!  Well, those were all our big accomplishments for the year.  There were many smaller accomplishments, like finishing paintings, and getting over emotional hurdles and personal challenges.  There were meeting deadlines we didn't think we could meet and coming to terms with some of our own hang-ups regarding art and work.

We discovered and struggled and fought our Impostor Syndromes, and had to deal with the constant invasions of realtors as the building we rent in was being sold.  We had to solve difficult logistic and financial problems as well, and having to figure out time management as 2011 was our first year of both being self-employed.  

Another big challenge for us that we continue to work on is the decision to specialize in our creative fields.  Now that we both are doing art full-time, where do we go from here?  Does our future lie in video games, films, silkscreen printing?  As we trudge along these questions constantly plague us, but we also have to fight to keep in mind that as long as we're happy and manage to keep doing things we enjoy, perhaps the answers will be made clear to us.  Hopefully in 2012.  

Next year, we have a lot of plans for growth and new endeavors.  Monkey is working on a side project with a friend related to the wedding invitation industry.  We're planning to both release new books of our work in collected forms next year.  We're also working on developing a book/curriculum in the way of a instructional, inspirational "How To Become an Artist" class/book.  We have Spectrum Live to look forward to, and showing with such an amazing caliber of artists is a bit daunting and exciting.  We hope to vend at more craft fairs, and Monkey wants to hold a solo show complete with sculptures and more interactive storytelling.  Seal hopes to focus on sustainability while at the same time finding a more consistent nature of work.  We're both still trying to find our path in terms of what type of art/what style we really enjoy.  Seal hopes to complete a graphic novel based on her "Skyace Wasteland" painting series.  Monkey also hopes to release a book of illustrated stories in full color (including a re-release of The Drowning of Jun Wakayama).  

We are definitely looking to stepping up our game next year and pushing ourselves to more fully realize our artistic visions and growing even more.  If anything, we hope next year's theme to be "Sustainable Growth."  

We hope you'll share with us your accomplishments and your thoughts on what you're looking forward to achieving in 2012.  Let's take the world by storm!!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A List that Will Save Your Sanity

Sorry this post is so late, we're a bit hectic still dealing with the sale of the building we currently rent in, so many apologies.

Anyway, today we wanted to talk a bit about making lists - a certain list . Many of us probably have "to-do" lists, or lists of things we'd like to achieve in life, grocery lists, etc. etc. Some people probably live their life off lists, so the idea of making two more may seem daunting, but we got this tip from Naomi Dunford of IttyBiz, who is basically a super awesome person that helps people with their small businesses.  I highly suggest you go over there and pillage check out all her free resources, and buy some of her cool stuff.  No affiliate-backscratching either, we're just fans of what she has to say.

Sooo, enough about her, back to YOU.  So you have lots of lists already, why make more lists?  Well, the list we're asking you to make is a list that will boost your self-esteem and make you feel awesome.

Things You Did Today
The first list we want you to make is a list of things that you did today that furthered your progression towards making art.  For the professionals, it might be "emailed a client today" or "finished a commissioned piece."  For the beginners, it might be "watched a drawing video on YouTube" or "went to a gallery opening," or "doodled in my sketchbook." For everyone, it could be "worked on a painting," or "pulled reference for illustration," or "studied package design from cupcake box."

Whatever it is, if you took a step forward, no matter how small, record it.  While this may seem a bit pointless in the beginning (you could be making stuff with that time!), it really doesn't take a whole lot of time, and after a week or so, you'll notice that you really are making progress.

Try not to get too wordy with this one - go for line items, not full journal entires.  Keep it short and sweet, so it doesn't become this big time suck that distracts you from getting on with following your dreams.

If you didn't do a single thing towards art today (which is hard to do, see below), then write "recharging for tomorrow."  We can't all go full-bore 100% of the time, and by being accountable to doing something, not only will it remind you to do something towards your art, but it'll also show you how many little steps you've actually done.  If you're looking on pinterest for inspiration, or read a graphic novel, or browsed some t-shirt designs, or read this blog, or thumbed through a fashion magazine, realize that you're just broadening your visual vocabulary, and that counts as something too!

Even if you're tired from work and just want to lay in bed eating vegan ice cream, I'd say that counts towards recharging your batteries (and bonus points if you're also looking at the design of the little carton).  So keep a list of the stuff you've done today, and as long as the "recharging" entries don't beat out the action items, you're in a good spot.

So what did you do today?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Stay Strong!

Today we wanted to talk a bit about health, since in these chilly winter months, colds abound and it's not fun trying to paint with the flu. Believe us.

While we always talk about sustainability with creation, we do realize that there are times where everything else goes out the window in order to get a project done, or a proposal turned in, or a competition entry postmarked. Whether you're turning in an illustration for a client or having to send out product to your customers, it pays to be professional and as punctual as possible - and sometimes that means that you sacrifice sleep, eating, etc. to get it done.

So, while many of us are busily trying to finish holiday card illustrations (ARG!) or turn in finals or just get some work done in this busy busy busy time of the year, here are some tips to survive the winter.

1. Keep a glass of water close by. The bigger the better. For one, Monkey + Seal tend to work long hours at the computer, digitally painting or creating websites or whatever, and we tend not to get up for long stretches. Keeping hydrated in these dehydrating winter months is super important (even in non-winter months). If you have a big jug of water on hand, you're more likely to drink, and you're more likely to not run out of water before you take a break.
This also encourages bathroom breaks, where you're forced to get out of your chair and go do something else that doesn't involve a computer. Take the time on the way to the potty to do some stretching.

2. Take breaks. Please avoid repetitive stress injuries if at all possible. Too much time at the computer is never good, and if you take a break every hour or so you'll be more fit in the long run to keep on going. Powering through might seem like a good idea, but if you ever have week-long stretches where project after project is due, you can seriously injure yourself.

3. Stretch. It's a good thing to do on your breaks. Plus, the physical activity will help keep you awake in those 3am crunch-time sessions. Just remember - if you don't hold the stretch for 10 seconds, you're not really stretching anything. A good one that we do a lot is to hold out your arms parallel to the ground. Now try to raise your hands (not your arms) up - you should look like you're about to push a giant box. Now try to hold them there for at least ten seconds. Let your hands rest, then clench them into a fist and move your hands down, so it looks like you were trying to push a giant box with the top of your hands. Hold for ten seconds. Repeat over and over and stretch those hand tendons!

4. Avoid/Embrace stimulants. So Monkey doesn't drink coffee or tea or energy drinks, even when he does a 30 hours marathon of craziness (try to avoid these if at all possible, they aren't pretty). If he drinks a few red bulls, he gets shaky, he can't focus, and nothing really gets done besides poor-quality work and lots of twitching. Seal on the other hand, needs a nice warm low-caffeine coffee or tea with soy milk to keep going late at night, and she feels fine the next morning. Really, whether you use caffeine or sugar or whatever is fine, but if you don't normally use them to stay up, just be wary that it might make you weird. Also, cutting them out in an effort to cut back might also make you weird, so don't experiment when your work is on the line. Do what works!

5. Sleep. When you can, but do it as often as possible.

6. Eat healthy. We know, we know, it's hard to eat healthy when you're glued to your chair and working non-stop, but it really does make a difference. You'll find you have more energy and feel less lethargic eating lots of vegetables and carbs from grains rather than heavily fatty foods and chips. Monkey definitely has to watch this, as he'll eat a whole bag of pretzels for a meal, but try to get some healthy food. If ordering out is too pricey, see if maybe you can team up with another artist who is on a different schedule and you can bring each other meals. Collaboration and trades are always awesome!

7. Superfood. We're not paid to endorse Odwalla, but whether it's a psychosomatic effect or not, whenever we've started to feel sick and had to keep going, we've bought a few of the Superfood (the green one, not the berry one!) and pounded those and we've managed to fight off the cold at least until we didn't have any more work to do. Eating/drinking a crapload of vitamins (especially vit. C) or fruits and vegetables probably will do the trick as well (maybe just gallons of orange juice), but for whatever reason, if we can afford those little $4 bottles of juice they seem to do the trick.

8. Lemon/Ginger. So when you're already sort of sick, we grate some ginger and cut up a lemon and throw it in a pot of water and boil it for a while. We then take this crazy sour concoction of death and drink it. Monkey highly recommends using some Chrysanthemum tea (super sweet, buy it from your local Asian grocery store, looks like little sugar rocks in a packet), to kill the bitterness, but people can also use honey. Seriously, drink a few cups of these over a few days and you'll kill pretty much most colds. This stuff is hardcore.

So there you have it. The Monkey + Seal formula for staying healthy while burning that 3-4-5am oil. What tips and tricks do you recommend for surviving the winter?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Lessons from Indonesia, pt. 3 - Putting it All Together

Monkey here for round 3 of our "Lessons from Indonesia" series. So in Part 1, we talked about cutting out distractions and getting some important work done. In Part 2, we talked about being grateful for what we had. Today, I want to talk about mixing the two and getting some work done.

So last time I talked about how we need to be grateful for what we have. While this is very important in the way that it makes us happier and (I would say) better human beings, it also lends itself to giving us a call of duty.

While those with video game inclinations might think that gratitude is going to give you a high-quality first person shooter, the call of duty that I'm talking about is your call to action. Whether you want to be a firefighter or an artist, a lawyer or a designer, being grateful for what we have lends itself to you following your dreams.

Confused yet?

The connection between realizing how awesome we have it here in the United States compared to developing nations (or even first world countries ruled by despots) and following your dream is that the single greatest way you can express your gratitude is to succeed. Think about it: we have youtube to teach us practically anything, free or low-cost tools to create a business overnight. We have cell phones, hot, clean running water, sanitary food, large places to live, cars or buses, police who don't steal from you (although pepper spraying is another matter entirely) - we have it pretty good. With all these privileges, it is actually a huge slap in the face to everyone who lives in a shanty town and forges through garbage to survive if we don't live up to our potential. You see, we've got what they dream of: opportunity.

Say what you will about our crappy economy, we still have more opportunity for artists, writers, thinkers, developers, designers, creators, dancers, and game-changers than a vast majority of the world. While we're struggling to pay rent and making the tough decisions like canceling cable and choosing to bring our lunch rather than eat out, other people are dodging bullets daily and walking three miles every day just for water that is not completely toxic, just dirty. It is an insult for us not to do the work, to put in the hustle, to fight for our dreams.

Chances are, we never were maimed by land mines, or had our houses robbed by the police, or had to live in a dump. So for all those that have faced trials beyond our imagination and dream of computers and soft beds and four walls and running water, let us do our part by not feeling guilty and get down about the state of the world. We need to make use of our tools and what we've got to make ourselves the best we can be.

Eve and I both believe that we can change the world through art. It's our calling. Whether that means inspiring someone or building a business that incorporates giving a portion of the proceeds to charity, or making it "big" and being able to donate money to nonprofits, or teaching, or whatever, we believe that our path in life consists of not only creating art but positive change as well. We believe that you can change the world for the better by fighting your own fight, no matter what it is, and realizing your true potential.

We can't save anyone else unless we can save ourselves, so strap in and get your tools of the trade ready. It's time to get down to work and rise towards our dreams together - after all, as fortunate as we are, how can we not?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Lessons from Indonesia, pt. 2 - Gratitude

Happy Wednesday everyone! It's Monkey yet again with another post about some of the things we learned from Indonesia.

We thought it was a bit of perfect timing, since tomorrow is Thanksgiving (or Unthanksgiving, or National Day of Mourning, depending on which coast you live on and what your beliefs are about the settler's immigration to this continent). Regardless of whether you're frustrated or just happy to be eating tofurkey, I think it should most definitely be a time of reflection.

While it shouldn't have taken a trip to Indonesia for me to really grasp the sense of extreme poverty that many citizens of the world face (after all, I should just check out Detroit, or New Orleans, or even my hometown of Stockton, the most miserable city in the country), seeing that sort of poverty first-hand really tore me up.

While I don't want to take away from the Occupy Wall Street Movement (where I proudly stand as part of the 99%), just as we are fighting for our own well-being domestically, we also just need to be aware that we're most likely part of the 1% globally, just by living in the United States.

While I currently make enough money to register well under the poverty line, I'm also typing this right now on a mac, and I'm someplace warm, drinking some tap water. I'm not living in a cobbled together home made out of bricks, plaster, and some sheet metal for a roof. When it rains, it doesn't splatter into my home that doesn't have a front door. I don't have to buy bottled water everyday because tap water makes you sick (assuming I'd even be able to afford bottled water). I can be assured that my city inspects restaurants to ensure clean practices.

There isn't an actual war (with suicide bombings, ak-47's and the like) going on in my backyard like people in the Middle East and parts of Asia have to deal with. I don't have to worry that Eve is going to be kidnapped and sold into slavery (at best) like the women of Juarez, Mexico have to worry about.

While I don't want to belabor the tragedies and trials and horrors that our world has seen and continues to see, we do need to recognize these things. As Cal sociology professor Dan Brook has said about the massacre of the Native Americans by the Pilgrims and their successors: "We do not have to feel guilty, but we do need to feel something. At the very least, we need to reflect on how and what we feel."

If anything, I think that we should all feel extremely grateful to have what we do have. If you're reading this, chances are you're trying to pursue some sort of creative endeavor, and that is something to be extremely grateful for. Often times we (or at least I) get bogged down in how tough the struggle can be sometimes. Trying to find the energy and motivation, trying to find ways to survive as an artist, new clients, dealing with problem clients, trying to explain to your family what you do, dealing with your can be rough. However, what I try to focus on is the fact that by choosing to follow your dream, by choosing to work your butt off until you're exhausted for what YOU want to do (not what society tells us we should be doing), we're part of an even luckier .01% that does what WE want to do.

So however you want to celebrate this upcoming Thursday, whether it's with food and family or with friends or with your pencils and paints in your studio, or with strangers in an #occupy protest or whatever, know that you do have something to be grateful for. So as long as you're still breathing and doing what you need to do, be thankful for what you have, and make the most of this crazy little thing called life.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Lessons from Indonesia, pt. 1 - Cut out the Distractions

Monkey here.

After returning from Indonesia, I didn't really expect to experience any culture shock returning to San Francisco. I don't really culturally fit into the rigors of Indonesian communal culture, and finding food that was vegetarian (let alone vegan) was pretty difficult at times, especially since I didn't have access to a kitchen where I could cook things myself. On the plane ride home, I missed my iphone (had it switched off the whole trip), my email, digitally painting or working on websites and the such (we left our laptop and tablets at home), and painting (we just brought our sketchbook and cameras and a hand full of color pencils and pastels).

However, after recovering from some jetlag, I realized how distracted I got as soon as I got back online and jacked in. Emails to read and respond to, facebook posts, uploading photos from our trip, signing up for new artist websites, digital painting, video games, television shows, youtube, ohmygoshtherearesoooomanydistractions now!

While one might argue that it just takes some getting used to again, I was freaking out earlier today as I wasn't used to having to actually do anything. As a guest of a family that provided food and transportation constantly (which can be more frustrating than one might guess), I realized that I just sort of went with the flow and with the notion of choice taken out of things, I just went with it. It was literally like a dream, where you don't get much input, you just sort of go along for the ride most of the time.

Our privileged American life (and seriously, just the fact we can drink our tap water is pretty privileged) is full of distractions designed to keep us bouncing around and not doing our true life's work. We're supposed to stay sedated on great television and celebrity gossip and playing video games that really don't do much for us in life besides take our time away from doing real, meaningful work. I realized that often times we get caught up in the distractions and get manipulated into doing other things than getting down to business.

My point (finally!) is that it is easy for us to let life sort of take us wherever it wants us to go. It's easy to let it steer us from gatekeeper to gatekeeper, and just ride the tide and abandon all hope of taking control of our lives. It's easy to join the mass, it's hard to be yourself.

So my plea is for you to go out and do something today that will wrest the reins back into your own hands. In support of the #OWS movement, you could close your bank account and open an account at a credit union. You could start writing a business plan for that business you've always wanted to start. You could paint or sculpt or create something for yourself. Rebuild your website! Write a manifesto! Do something, anything (it doesn't have to be massive) to help cut out the clutter and find something that YOU want to do and focus on it. Turn off the music and close the Facebook tab, close your email and do something amazing, even if it's a simple as choosing to take a five minute break from work and mediating or walking outside. It's your life, so don't let the distractions overwhelm you! Get to it!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Gratitude (repost)

This post is from April of last year. We'll see you next week when we're back from vacation! Woo!


Monkey has been doing a lot of reading the past week, and constantly, he's stumbled across the notion of gratitude being one of the main forces that moves the universe. Being grateful is definitely difficult when you're facing tough situations, but really, if one can manage to do it, one will definitely enjoy life more.

Whether or not you believe in the power of positive thinking, or visualization, or the Law of Attraction, or any of the new-age, life coaching movement stuff, the sheer logic of being grateful for everything in your life will lead to much more happiness.

If anything, Monkey + Seal have found that when we stop and think about it, we have much more to be grateful for than to be angry or frustrated about. Yes, in the past week Monkey lost his wallet on the bus, and Monkey + Seal got news of not being juried into Spectrum and not getting into the SF Renegade Craft Fair. Also, some of our student loans' grace periods are ending, so we'll have large loan payments to start paying off.

However, Monkey had his wallet returned, there's always next year for Spectrum and Renegade, and Paper Hat Productions (which is basically Monkey + Seal) is working on their next art riot extravaganza. Additionally, Seal just finished some freelance work, we got to go to our good friends' wedding this weekend and take a small mini-vacation, and we somehow managed to run into a friend when we went shopping for Indonesian snacks! Additionally, we have jobs and a cozy apartment in one of the most awesome cities in the world, and we're pretty healthy, and get to follow our dream of becoming professional artists. We could go on and on, but we're sure you get the picture.

Anyway, it's a proven fact (although don't ask us for citations, sorry) that negative events affect us about 10 times as a positive event. No wonder its so easy to get bogged down in the negative. But we find the trick is thinking about all the other good things in your life (that we often take for granted) to say "hey, although xy and z sucks, we've still got a,b,c,d,e,f,g,etc. going for us."

So, to wrap things up, don't wait for Thanksgiving to be grateful for all the little things in your life. Make it a daily habit and your life will be way more fun and meaningful!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Releasing the Rhino (repost)

Hi all. Here's a post from October of last year(!). We hope you enjoy it and Happy November!


Monkey here:

So I'll be honest. I just came up with that phrase "releasing the rhino" right now, but I think it's pretty apt metaphor at what I wanted to talk about today. Plus, as part of Monkey + Seal, we like metaphors that deal with animals.

Many times, we carry around a lot of baggage. Whether it's familial responsibilities, loans, or a looming urgency to save the world, I know I tend to carry around a lot of crap that affects my art in negative ways.

I know that while constantly thinking about art as a business has its advantages, sometimes I get wrapped up in the money and that gets me thinking about my huge college loans, and that gets me worried about whether or not I'm good enough of an illustrator to get jobs, and etc. etc. etc., the downward spiral continues and then I start painting desperately to try and make money, rather than painting because it's what I love.

Let's call this huge force of negativity "the rhino." It's a stubborn, powerful beast that basically pulls you where you it wants to go, which is generally down and out. Whether it's money, or what you think your parents think of you, or what your peers think, or whatever it is, it can be frustrating and tiresome to fight the rhino. I mean, seriously, it's a RHINO for crying out loud, they're huge!

So, we have to learn how to release the rhino. I know this is hard to do, but it's the key to getting stuff done and being successful. The rhino can take what you, the real you, love, and turn it into something painful. If it's about acceptance and self-esteem, the rhino turns painting into just another thing they won't love you for. If it's about money, the rhino turns dancing into necessary, painful work. Once your love is turned into something painful by the rhino, it's hard to love it and you won't find that you enjoy it. At that point, why bother?

Well, you should bother because you love it. The pain isn't coming from what you like to do, it's coming from that giant rhino that's pulling you down and the straps are cutting into your shoulders and you're tired and grumpy and life stinks...because of the rhino!

So, cut it free. Release the rhino. How to do that is going to be different for everyone. Sometimes it's about taking a nap. Others it's yoga or meditation, or writing in journals, or playing a quick video game. Do whatever you have to do to center yourself and realize that to succeed at doing what you love, you have to love it.

It's not time to face the rhino yet. The rhino is like the last boss in the video game of life. You have to level up and gather courage and wisdom and experience and new tools and techniques before you can take on the rhino and finish the game and win your success. Just keep doing what you love, just to do it, and you'll find it's a lot easier to face the rhino later on.

In my case, I have to keep painting and experimenting and drawing because that's what I love to do. After I finish the illustrations and paintings, I then have the option to go and examine any business prospects - making prints, selling them at craft fairs, putting them in my portfolio, but that has to come after the art is done.

Are you fighting a rhino? Be honest. If you are, see what you can do about letting that beast go and get on with your love. How do you release the rhino?

Monday, October 31, 2011

The White Door

To celebrate Halloween, since we'll be on a plane out of the country, here is a reposting of the story Monkey wrote last year. Also, here's a quick speed paint Monkey did of a zombie! We hope you enjoy it! Happy Halloween!

The White Door

On Sam's way home from work, he would generally keep to the same route, down Lincoln, right at the corner store, down two blocks on Woodsbury, and then left onto Ausiel, which took him past a few blocks of old Victorians til he got to his apartment. He deviated from this route rarely, only if he needed to pick something up from the dry cleaner's of perhaps some limes at the corner store.

One day, on a unremarkable day like any other, as he walked down Ausiel he looked up and noticed a door he had never seen before. Granted, he didn't look up focusing on noticing strange doors on a daily basis, but he noticed that at the peak of a house, presumably where the attic might be, lay a strange, whitish door that was left ajar.

At first, Sam though he had seen a dim light in the room casting strange shadows about. Although the door had no strange markings besides a round-ish crystalline knob and a shiny white finish, Sam couldn't get it out of his head when he went to sleep that night.

The door didn't quite make sense. It seemed to jut out into open space - why would you make a door leading to a four-story fall? If it was just for decoration, then why was it a full door and not a window?

That night, as Sam slept, he saw the door, closer this time, as if he was flying. This time, a strange greenish light seeped out and as he approached the door a black cat suddenly jumped out and hissed at him, waking him just as his alarm clock was about to go off.

As the days turned into weeks into months, Sam would occasionally glance up towards the door, and it seemed to always be open, almost beckoning for him to enter. While he didn't even know how he could get up there, he was quite curious, but never curious enough to take any sort of action.

Soon it was October, and with the crisp fall air sweeping through the streets and talk of Halloween costumes filling the water cooler chatter. The month quickly flew by, and with Halloween falling on a Saturday that year, parties were being thrown left and right.

Sam, dressed as a scarecrow, decided to venture with his friend Paul to check out a few different parties to celebrate Halloween. After staying longer than expected at a nearby bar, he found that he and Paul were unexpectedly close to his house. While things were already getting a bit loopy after the shots at the bar, Sam was relieved when they walked back on Ausiel to what was familiar territory for Sam.

As he waited with Paul and some other guests outside the apartment complex to get buzzed in, Sam was suddenly hit with a jolt of familiarity. The apartment building looked really, really familiar to him. As the buzzer went off and the gate was opened, he realized he was at the same building that had that strange door on its roof.

As Sam went in, he suddenly felt the urge to climb the stairs to see if he could finally find out what was going on with the strange door, but Paul threw his arm around his shoulder and led him into a ground-floor apartment.

"Whose party is this?" Sam asked. Paul just shrugged and informed him that it was the resident manager's apartment, but that the guy was a friend of a friend. As Paul scampered off to procure some more drinks, Sam absently rode the buzz and started looking around. The apartment wasn't lit very well, and dark curtains hung from every corner, dividing the room. Fake cobwebs were strung up upon bookshelves and on cheap prop candelabras decorating table tops.

As Sam made his way deeper into the party, pushing past the billowing black curtains and costumed guests towards what he assumed was a bathroom. When he finally found the door he assumed to be a bathroom, he pushed it open to find that it was actually some sort of closet. It was only a few square feet, but surprisingly, it was nearly empty, save for some long black coats that hung from a clothing bar stretched across the width of the closet.

What surprised Sam even more was that in the darkness, he could see light oozing out of a crack in the back wall of the closet. He looked back to see if he was being watched, but all he saw were guests dancing and completely engaged in their conversations. He stepped forward and found that the back wall wasn't a wall at all, it was a door. A door he had seen before every day on his way home from work.

Sam's pulse started to race and emboldened by the alcohol in his system he closed the closet door behind him and started groping into the closet, gently pushing away the coats. His hand ran against smooth, porcelain-like molding until he came to what found what he was looking for. As soon as his hand wrapped around the door handle, he knew it was the same door. Crystalline door handle set in an ornate steel locking mechanism, smooth porcelain finish, Sam had seen it a thousand times before and just feeling it in his hand, he could see it even in the dark.

As Sam slowly turned the handle and stepped past the hanging clothes, he found himself in a narrow passageway, seemingly between the walls of the apartment building. Naked wooden beams and posts surrounded him, foam insulation sprayed on either side of him. A bare lightbulb hung from a ceiling too high to see and disappeared into the darkness above him.

Sam slowly progressed down the claustrophobic hall, noting that he could hear sounds of the party through the thin walls. He came upon a rickety wooden staircase that ascended upwards into darkness. As he took careful step after careful step, he could hear sounds of other apartments now, horror movies being watched, other parties, bed creaks and moaning. He climbed the stairs for what seemed like a lot longer than he should have been able to, but he pressed on in the dim light.

Sam came suddenly to a dead-end. Was this it? Was this just some strange coincidence that led him to a wall of nothingness? It took a while for Sam to realize that he hadn't come to a dead end, but that the stairs simply turned to the left, as if it was spiraling up around the perimeter of the apartment building.

Sam continued to climb, this time in near darkness. As he stepped through the murky black, he wondered if this was some cruel trick - that eventually up here in the dark recesses of the building the stairs would just give in and he would tumble down to his doom, fated to be rot in the walls like some rat. But the stairs were study, and Sam continued to climb.

As time passed, Sam began to get confused. Was he really so drunk that he couldn't tell how far he had walked? He wasn't sure how many steps a flight of stairs would take to traverse the side of a building, but he had been walking for what seemed like a while, and he had already turned with the stairs five times now. Sam figured that he was, at the very least, above the entrance to the corridor, but the sheer height of it didn't quite make sense. He felt as if he had been walked up ten to fifteen stories worth of stairs, but the building was only four stories tall. He had made it a point to count out how many floors of windows the building had on multiple occasions.

Just as he was about to give up and turn back, through the darkness came a faint light, as if it was creeping through a door just slightly ajar. Suddenly Sam's resolve was back and he climbed on, slowing his pace so he would make less noise as he approached the pinnacle of the stairs. As the distance between them shrank, Sam noticed that it didn't seem to be made of porcelain. It was a bit too shiny, I looked more like polished bone.

Sam nearly laughed out loud at this thought, thinking it would be too absurd and impossible to find a bone large enough to carve an entire door out of. Just then, he could hear a strange chanting going on behind the door. As he neared, he attempted to slowly peek through the door, but leaning forward put off his sense of balance and as he stuck his hands out to brace himself, he ended up pushing the door in forcefully and stumbling inside.

Once inside, it took his eyes a while to adjust. Bright lights were directed towards the middle of the room where a metal table lay. After Sam rubbed his eyes, he found he was in a room with a tall, hooded man with deep-set cheekbones and old eyes. The man stepped foward and extended his hand. "Welcome Sam. I see you finally found the door you've been looking for."

" do you know my name?" Sam looked around, suddenly noticing that there were others in the room, all cloaked with their hoods obscuring their faces. "I'm really sorry to burst in like this, but you see.."

"Oh, we know all about you Sam," spoke the tall man. He motioned for Sam to follow him and walked towards the center of the room. "We know that you've been dying to know what this room is, and how it can exist where it does." Sam was speechless. "Do you know what floor you're on, Sam?"

"Uh, I dunno," stammered Sam, taken aback by the tall man's knowledge of him. "We're in the attic, above the sixth floor?"

"Nice try, but how about the thirtieth floor?" The tall man smiled, the creases of his lips extending a bit farther up on his face than a normal human's smile should Sam stepped back, hesitantly.

The tall man continued. "Sam, I could try to explain to you how the door works, or how we're on the thirtieth floor in a four story building, or I could even explain to you what new door we're actually trying to open, but instead.." Sam suddenly realized that two of the shadowy figures had snuck behind him, and they quickly grabbed him by his arms.

Sam struggled to free himself, but someone else had already grabbed his shoulders and was trying to hold him still. Then there were hands on either side of his head, and a sharp sting in his neck. His captors suddenly let go. Sam stumbled forward, then backwards, and suddenly found himself sitting in a chair. "But instead," the tall man took a step closer to Sam, "I'm just going to show you."

"Sam, you are going to be part of this little experiment tonight. If you hadn't realized, it's just about midnight, so we really should get started." The tall man reached into his cape and slowly drew out a long, thin knife. "I apologize that the drug we just gave you only interrupts your voluntary motor control. You won't be able to talk, or scream, for that matter, but the unfortunately part is that you will most definitely be able to feel."

Sam's body felt like a dead weight. His head became heavy and he sank deeper into his chair. He tried to scream for help, but his body wouldn't listen. Two of the figures lifted Sam up and started to carry him towards the center of the room. "Well, Sam, it's time for us to say good-bye. We really hate to do this to you, but you know what they say, curiosity skinned the cat. Yes, yes, I know the saying is that curiosity killed the cat, but I've never met a creature that really survives too long after being skinned alive, you know? Say 'meow.'"

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Freedom to Be Happy

**First off, we wanted to take this opportunity to let you know that Monkey + Seal will be taking a short leave of absence. We'll be heading out of the country for two weeks on our first (longer-than-two-days) vacation in four years! We'll be taking lots of reference photos and trying to keep up with the art, but we won't be having any new posts for the next two weeks. We will be re-posting some of our older, favorite posts from the archives, but no newsletter! Thanks for sticking with us and we'll see you when we get back! End of announcement.**

You are most likely to have, at some point in your life, been disappointed, hurt, scared, worried, angry, frustrated, or all-around in the dumps. We can get frustrated at co-workers, or angry at ourselves for losing a wallet or purse, or worried that no one will like our art. Often times these negative emotions will build up and will suck us into a vortex of bad mojo.

No more! We say. We believe that everyone has the freedom to be happy, and we want you to find that freedom. We'll say this up front - being happy is a bit of work, but it is doable.

Part of reclaiming your freedom is realizing that "you don't have to go there." "There," being that place of doubt and fear and shame and worry. You can only affect your environment so much. Sometimes we'll do everything that we were told to do in order to succeed, and sometimes things will just go wrong. You'll set an alarm to wake up extra early, but then you end up forgetting something and you run late. Life doesn't always go perfectly to your expectations, and you can't control the actions of others, but you CAN control your own response.

Part of the idea of the Freedom to Be Happy is that happiness is something that you are free to become. It's not necessarily given to you, but it is something that you can CHOOSE to be. While there is a lot of grieve about, and we want to respect and honor your feelings when things go tremendously wrong, but in the end, you can choose to wallow in those feelings and let them debilitate you, or you can choose to acknowledge them, accept them, and then move on.

It can be a hard process to take ownership of your own feelings, but once you do, life seems a whole lot happier. You can worry about whether or not someone will like your newest sculpture, but is the worrying really going to help anything? You can stress out about whether or not the interviewers are going to like you, but is that stress going to make you magically more personable? Don't you think all that worry and stress is just going to make you more nervous? Most likely if you're worrying about the outcome you don't want to happen, the worrying will probably be a detriment to you rather than assist you.

Monkey + Seal have both been dealing with frustrations in their own lives, but time and time again, as we'll be venting to each other and getting frustrated or sad or angry, we ask each other "Is worrying going to solve the problem? Can you change it by getting angry?" It helps to take the emotional aspect out and it allows for you to approach the challenge in a rational manner which will help you to tackle the problem with actions rather than reactions.

Reactions are punching that person who insulted you, or are shredding your dumb boss' important documents. They may make you feel better momentarily, but do nothing to actually improve the situation or your mood in the long run. Actions are deciding to just ignore and avoid the toxic person who is upsetting you, or to speak with your boss or their boss or the HR person to figure out what they're doing wrong and how to go about changing that.

So if you have a new product, say, a new print, and you set up a presale and are worried about it selling, ask yourself, is worrying about the presale outcome going to change anything? By worrying and stressing and checking your email minute after minute to see if anyone bought anything going to really help? If you're worried about sales, why don't you take that time instead to send off press releases to blogs that you think might be interested in your product? Or how about you use the time to tweet and facebook about your new print? Or, if you can't help hitting refresh over and over, go take a walk and clear your head. And don't bring your smartphone, because you know you'll be checking your email from there.

Overall, it's about figuring out what you can control and what you can't. You can control your emotions, and how much work you put into whatever it is you're trying to achieve. You can't control other people or their actions. You can control whether or not you're prepared for rain, but you can't control whether or not your craft fair is rained out. You can control whether or not you practice enough for your dance recital or novel reading, but you can't control whether or not people like what you do.

So remember: you have the choice and the freedom to be happy. Whether or not you choose to be happy is a whole different story. By doing all you can and trying your best, that's all you really have control of. Let go of the worry about external factors that are out of your control, and you'll find that you'll be less stressed, you'll be more in-tune with what you really want and really care about, and you'll find that you'll discover new ways of making what you do want to happen come true.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Giving Up The Dream

Monkey here.

The other day, I had a sort of a crisis. Overworked, stressed, tired, and feeling like a great effort I put out for a project was totally wasted, for a second I thought: "I should just quit this art thing."

I pondered the possibility that I could just move back home with one of my parents, get a management job in some retail place, and just drink every day after work, watch my friends' band's shows, play video and board games in my spare time, and just grow old. I could just do nothing of great value or importance, and generally let my soul and passion slowly wither and die and "get a real job" that I hate but consistently pays the bills.

While there is nothing wrong with this sort of life if that's what you're into, for me, it brings up a huge wave of revulsion and disgust. I want to paint monsters and scared people and dark apothecary vials and tell horror stories and design shirts and paint Magic:the Gathering cards and see the world and inspire people to make art. I want to design video games and card games and board games and design a monster for a film and I want to never have to go to an interview again. For me, this is the path of greatness, of a dream chased and fulfilled, of the magic of the universe swirling in the palm of my hand. This is what I want my life to be.

So when I told Eve that I should just quit, she said "Fine then. Just quit." And immediately, I knew what my answer was: "I just can't."

I can't let the past four years of long nights and tens of thousands of dollars go to waste. I can't let all that I've worked for just fizzle out just because it got hard. I've tasted the appetizer of a dream fulfilled and I can't get it out of my head. I need it just as much as I need oxygen or food or water. Even if I fail, as long as I don't quit, I can still lay there dying and know that I tried my best and fought til the very end.

Now don't get me wrong - stopping or taking a break is much different than quitting. If the circumstances call for it, to survive maybe you think you do have to take a step backwards and there's no shame in that. But to quit - to truly give up on your dream...well, to be honest if I think you really could quit, you wouldn't be reading this blog.

You can't quit now. Whether your just starting or have been on the road for some time now, you've already taken that first step. You can feel that burning urge to do that thing in your life that you've always wanted. There's this welling up in your gut and tightening of your jaw when you let go of what society dubs normal and be honest with yourself and what you want. You start to hear the blood in your temples and a tingling in your hands. Whether or not you think you know what you want, you do - you just have to let your inner artist be truly honest with yourself and chase that truth til the end.

So do yourself a favor: if you think you can quit, fess up now, say a "good-bye" in the comments, and we wish you the best. But if you're one of the dreamers, one of the doers, one of clan of those who have tasted magic and want more, then share this with someone you think is of the like. Post your declaration in the comments. Talk to us on Facebook. Declare that you're gonna keep going and that you'll never quit. Make yourself an oath and tweet it.

The world is here for your taking. Let's get to work.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Go Away Grumpy Puss!

Monkey here.

I'm a big ol' grumpy puss today. I was going to try and write another inspiring post about the life and times of being an artist, but some days you're just not into it. I woke up in a nasty mood after waking up in the middle of an argument I was having in my dream with some sort of professor type person who was upset that I was arguing that the language of the question he asked the class was poor and offered too many possible answers.

To be honest, it's taking a lot to even write this blog post. I was up at noon thinking I was ready to fire something off, and it's taken me about four hours to even start. After various frustrating emails (both reading and writing them), I've come to terms with that fact that somedays we're just feeling off a bit.

Eve reminded me this afternoon that while Monkey + Seal strives to be an inspiration to other artists (people who don't know they're artists are still artists, btw), we're human as well. We have bad days when everything seems to go wrong. We get angry and frustrated and sit around in our underwear refusing to do anything really productive and just want to play video games all day. Today while I'm a big-ass grumpy Monkey, I feel the complete opposite of being inspiring. I want to, you know, maybe quit some stuff, commit a bit of arson, maybe shoot some arrows dipped in sewage into people's legs. Basically, there's that urge to be evil and depraved. I'm not going to do any of that sort of thing, and I'll probably end up just playing Zuma Blitz on Facebook for a while, but the natural feelings of frustration and anger and all-around negative emotions are what I'm dealing with today.

The reason I felt it was necessary to even tell you that instead of putting on some "you-can-do-it" supermask is that you will probably feel that way too sometimes. You'll doubt yourself, your life choices, you might want to strangle someone, or punch people in the face. You'll hate your job, your work, your life, etc. etc. etc. You too will have extremely craptastic days where nothing is going right and you just want to sit in bed and watch Godzilla movies all day.

Eve and I purposefully have posted some of our beginning work on this blog before, and plan to do so in the future. Why? Because we always end up seeing the end result. You buy a book by an artist and you see the good sketches, the final paintings, all the glorious hard work that they've done. You see the product of them busting their humps for years to build up the skills they have. You never see their first superhero drawing, or what they were like before they went to art school. You don't see their bad sketches, or the crappy early paintings, or the drafts that were rejected. You only see what they want you to se. It builds this image of immaculate awesomeness, and it's intimidating. We think "we could never do that" or something of the like.

Poop on that. Over here at Monkey + Seal, you get to see the real deal. So I actually just spent about twenty minutes looking for some digital versions of our old work, and I couldn't really find any (it's all archived someplace else), but believe me, I'm no stranger to showing you my old, craptacular work.

Anyway, the point is, is that everyone both starts from somewhere, and that everyone has bad days. It's fine, you're human, I'm human, and we all have crap days sometimes. Anyone who says otherwise is totally a robot and should be scorned.

So I hope that somehow you'll find this mildly incoherent post helpful in someway, if anything, to know that you're not alone. We all feel like poop sometimes, and unfortunately, it's just part of being human.

If that happens to be you today, let's work on getting out of the funk together. I plan on playing copious amounts of video games and proudly shirking my responsibilities for the day. While this might not be the most productive coping mechanism, hopefully I'll get it out of my system and get something done this evening. What do you do to get out of the funk? Post your coping mechanisms in the comments below and help someone else get out of the funk too!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

100% Responsibility for Your Life

Every time we table at A.P.E. (The Alternative Press Expo) and other shows, I am excited, inspired, and vexed all at the same time. I have multiple projects that I wished I had completed in time for the event. And I beat myself up for over-working hard at my job, but not making the time for my own personal art. Every year, I see other brilliant art/artists, and I am jealous. I long for that intense creativity. Every year, it is the same.

So I decided that this time, if I want different results for next year, I have to change my behavior. I have to change what I do to get the results I want. I am 100% responsible for my life. If I am not where I want to be in my art, health, lifestyle, it is because I am not prioritizing the right things. There is always one more baby step that we can be taking towards our goals.

Are you 100% responsible for your life? Have you blamed others, your circumstances, your job, your finance, relationship, etc. for not being where you want to be?

It is not often said, but did you know, that you deserve everything to be exactly as you want them to be? Your art career, your relationship, your environment, your friends. . . you are responsible for the quality of your life and you have the power and resources, as you are now, to get it all.

In the art world and life in general, there are relatively things "outside" of your control. I say "relative" because in most parts, you are still responsible. You can't force a client to always love your artwork without revisions. You can't control people's emotions towards you. But what you can do is take a 100% responsibility for yourself. You are in control of yourself, your goals, what you do to get there, and its results. Everything else is just excuses and avoiding responsibility.

Maybe the client doesn't particularly like your style, but what you can do is research ahead of time. What does this client like? What do they expect? If you simply do not fit the style and feel of what they are looking for, save yourself the time and look for clients that do fit. You may not be able to fully control what people think about you, but you can certainly take actions that build upon your character and how people might perceive you. If you work hard, speak truthfully, and are generous - you will be seen as such. Even though someone may appear that they "just don't like you." (this may happen) But perhaps we should ask ourselves, what am I doing, how am I coming across to this person, for them, to react that way to me? Perhaps the economy, the audience, or the art market makes it relatively difficult to secure art sales. But these things can still be remedied by being proactive. Search for new economy. Do market research. Find your audience. Sometimes all it takes is just persistence and actions.

Are you where you want to be, right now? If not, then what actions are you taking? How can you change your behavior, now, today, to achieve the results that you want? How can you take 100% responsibility for your life?

For more reading, check out Jack Canfield's "Success Principles"

Thursday, September 29, 2011


"It can be done within my time"

"It can be done within my budget"

I first saw these two signs printed in large colorful letters, at one of my old jobs, hung above the entrance to the conference room. It made such a huge difference to anyone present during those meetings in that room. Everyone had confidence in each other that the job would get done and whatever challenges that lie ahead were going to be accomplished. We has a sense of possibilities. The words "it can be done . . . " solidified, that there was no turning back. No second guessing. We simply ruled out excuses.

Sure I don't have a lot of time, but I can do a sketch on my 15min. lunch breaks. I can't afford art supplies, but I can draw on this found piece of wood. It can be done. Period.

Humans are often negative. Especially artists. We think it is impossible, because we've been told that all our lives. We think we need a lot of resources in order to accomplish the grand task of creating the big vision we have in our minds. Sometimes that's true. But most importantly, we often "fail to see the many small creative actions that we could make at this very moment" - Julian Cameron.

We dream of making the billion dollar blockbuster feature film when we haven't even attempted a 2min. flip book hand-drawn animation. We dream of the New York Bestseller novel, when we haven't even touched our writing journal in months.

It scares us to think that we can DO something today, at this very minute, that will take us closer to our creative goals. We would rather obsess about impossible things, than take clear small real actions towards possible tasks.

The great thing about being an artist is that we are creative, we are figures of capable imagination. We have 1) the ability to first visualize what we want and 2) to come up with the practical plan to achieve them. Now we just need to follow through.

What can you do right now, one tiny action towards creativity?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

How to Quit Your Day Job in One Easy Step

First off, thanks everyone one for your patience and understanding. Our crisis over here at the Monkey + Seal cave as been averted, and while we meant to get a new post and newsletter up late last week, some crazy deadlines and an exacto blade going into Monkey's foot sort of took priority. Anyway, on to the post.

Monkey here:

So 1.5 weeks ago, I quit my retail gig to pursue art full time. It was a bit scary (more like terrifying), but when you're at a job where auto-pilot still exceeds expectations, and you've been at the company longer than the CEO, you know it's time to get out.

So what's the magic formula to get out of your job? I'll tell you, but let me give you a bit more background info. If you read our last post "I Have $161,635.78 in Student Loans, $15,000 in Credit Card Debt, and I Want To Be An Artist..." you probably figured out that any decision that involves giving up a revenue stream for me isn't the easiest one to make. Even though that post was originally written in 2009, when you have that sort of crushing debt and aren't some well-compensated white-collar worker and instead are a paper-peddling artist, not a whole lot of debt can be wiped clean in two years. I have knocked down the credit card debt to $8,930.81, but the student loans are pretty much still where they were.

So as you an see, being about $170k in debt doesn't make the decision to leave your job any easier. This is probably compounded by the fact that I have pretty much $0 in savings, and it's not like I'm leaving my job for a full-time salaried position. I'm leaving my job for a fledgling printing business (, if you need any t-shirts printed), as well as my own creative ventures that range from illustration and fine art to our screen-printed ties, to DIY wedding invitations (we're not quite ready for launch, but you'll hear about it when we do).
Sort of terrifying, right?

So now I will impart on you the single, solitary step that you must take to quit your day job: Write a letter of resignation, and turn it into your boss.

There, that's it! Pretty easy, right? No magic spell, no earth-shattering revelations here. That's really all that's too it.

While I'm sure you read this post because you were more interested in how to quickly and easily quit your job and start living off doing what you love. To be honest, the one single step IS to just resign. However, this sort of smart-assed answer is here to underline the fact that there IS NOT a single, easy, happy-fun way to quit your job and live off your creativity.

The unfortunate truth about it all is that there is no way for me to tell you how to quit your day job. Everyone's financial circumstances, business acumen, entrepreneurial spirit, tolerance for risk, and general tendency to rush into things with a general disregard of popular opinion are completely different. Because of this, I guarantee that as similar as we are all, you're going to have to make that decision to leave your job for yourself.

Quitting your day job without something certain in place is definitely not for everyone. There are a lot of sacrifices you have to make. You'll be stressed more, and you'll probably be up late working, since all the stuff that your co-workers and your boss are doing (like accounting, marketing, whatever), you'll have to do yourself ON TOP of creating. You'll have to watch your finances more, which could mean not going out to bars as often, or maybe eating lunches of bread and water and dinners of pasta.

Maybe you do have something certain in place. Maybe your partner can help out with the bills or perhaps you've been saving enough to take a leap of faith. While this would relieve a lot of the fear of failing and becoming homeless, you still have to figure out how this is going to strain your relationship or how long you can last in case things don't work out. You're still going to have to do more work, as being your own boss is about five times more work than going to some day job, but is also about ten times as rewarding.

The one thing that is common among anyone who will set out on their own and turn in that two-weeks notice is that they have to believe in themselves. If you don't have faith in your own strength, your own passion, your own desire to become something more, then make the easy decisions. Stay at your job while you build up a career doing creative things. This is the path most travelled by successful artists. I know tons of painters and illustrators who work day jobs and create at night. There is nothing wrong with this, and it's great to save up, work off debt, and make sure that you have enough to live on before pursuing your art full-time. When that time comes to leave, however, you still have to have faith in yourself that you'll make it on your own.

Whatever you need to have that unwavering faith that you'll be okay - that you'll succeed beyond your wildest expectations is what you have to chase. For me, a total safety net is too safe - having something reliable makes me complacent and lazy. Having my ass to the fire is really what gets me going, and knowing that if I don't hustle faster, better, and smarter than before I'll be in some serious trouble, and that knowledge gets my blood boiling and my work done.

For most people, cutting the safety net is probably a terrifying, paralyzing thought, and the best way to build up your confidence is to take the small steps of building up a career slowly, doing as much as you can when you can. You don't have to throw caution to the wind - cutting the safety net can be a safe process of establishing a client base or a successful product line, of vending for years to build up your confidence that your art will make money.

So while it may manifest itself differently for everyone, please be sure to know that choosing to leave your day job is a highly personal decision that is one that must be made with the full knowledge of what you're getting yourself into. Have faith in yourself, and whether it's time to quit right now or in a few years, keep making those steps towards believing in yourself and you'll surprise yourself with that you achieve.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

An Assault on the Monkey + Seal Cave!

Hey everyone,

We regret to inform you that due to a bit of a crisis over here at the Monkey + Seal cave, your regularly scheduled blog post and newsletter must be moved back a day or two. We apologize for the break but sometimes the poop hits the fan and priorities must be changed.

Back to the battle!

-Rick + Eve

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

I Have $161,635.78 in Student Loans, $15,000 in Credit Card Debt, and I Want To Be An Artist…

First off, we'd like to thank everyone who helped make the SF Zine Fest possible - organizers, creators, and attendees alike. We had a great time, met some really awesome people, got some cool new comics and zines, and even won a few raffle prizes!

So today's post is a reprinting of something Monkey wrote for his short-lived "Monkey Zine" that he published a few years back. Lots of stuff has changed, and a lot has stayed the same. Monkey will be posting an updated version of the story a later on.

The reason we even remembered this was because at the Zine Fest two years ago we had the pleasure of talking about art school and life and pursuing your dream with an UC Davis student (who shall not be named, since we didn't ask for his permission to talk about him). He bought the Monkey Zine back in 2009, and two years later, he stopped by our table again! He even brought the zine with him!

So since this was never published on the Monkey + Seal blog, we thought we should republish it for everyone who missed it being posted on Monkey's personal blog way back when. Anyway, thanks R for being a fan, and best of luck pursuing your true passions!

I am 26 years old and have $161,635.78 in student loans, $15,000 in credit card debt, and I want to be an artist. I already have a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from one of the most prestigious universities in the world, yet because I was too busy running a student acting group and painting, I have no resume-building biology related experience, nor do I care to gain any.

Like I said, I’m about $177k in the hole, and currently my fiancée and I want to be working artists. We’re currently in art school, but I just hit my cap on student loans (wtf, who knew there was actually a ceiling on how much you can take out for education…) so I may not be able to afford another semester. If you ever were interested in pursing art, you’d know that it’s not easy to make money quickly, steadily, or easily. There’s a lot of work, dedication, and a never-ending commitment to your craft that you need to have.

How did I get to where I am? I grew up in Stockton, California, located pretty much dead-center of the state. It’s a politically conservative town of a couple hundred thousand, where public transportation is a joke, my high school had a day care, and our per capita murder rate is the highest in the nation.

My dad works as an environmental coordinator at an aerospace firm and my mom is a dermatologist’s assistance. My mom is very progressive and DIY, my dad, not so much. He’s your standard Democrat, but he’s definitely no Green (my political affiliation of choice). My parents do their best to support my dreams and they are surprisingly calm when I tell them things like I quit my high-paying, health-insurance graphic design job for unemployment during the start of the recession. They divorced when I was 18, and my dad remarried 7 years later. My step-mom is pretty cool, but since I life in San Francisco, and they live in Stockton, I haven’t gotten a chance to really get to know her.

I have a younger brother (5 years younger, to be exact) who still lives in Stockton. He’s super cool, and although we’re into different things (he has something like 30+ pairs of Nikes while I have 2 pairs of running shoes and a pair of interview shoes) we get along pretty fabulously.

My fiancée is pretty awesome. She is a feminist activist, intelligent, an artist, likes the outdoors and is Wilderness First Responder Certified, dances, sings, acts, likes to bake, and is a sexy lady. Basically, she’s everything I could ever ask for.

The two of us are following our dreams of surviving off our art. We make zines, comics, paintings, stationery, sculptures, prints, and also do graphic design work. I have a under-funded and under-advertised non-traditional custom wedding invitation studio. We are also currently very under-employed.

I never thought the recession would really hit us, but it definitely has. As we struggle to make our credit card payments, and rent, it’s sometimes hard to just keep focused on our art, let alone positive about our current situation. We’re not even sure that we can afford rent next month, and there aren’t a whole lot of options in terms of borrowing some cash.

I keep finding job listings that are unrelated to art, but might be kind of cool. I don’t think I’d mind working for a non-profit, or doing something sciencey for underprivileged youth, and I know I’d be great, but I’m always dissuaded by the job posting as I don’t have any resume experience to show how awesome I am with kids, or how I could totally act as an advocate for immigrant reform even though I’ve never worked in a law office.

It’s actually surprisingly difficult (although I guess it’s not that surprising now that I think about it) to get a retail job when you have a degree from UC Berkeley. I really want a job that pays me just enough to get by, and requires nothing mentally taxing, so I can go home stress-free and just focus on my art. Granted, I would most definitely quit as soon as my art career takes off, which I now understand is probably why most prospective employers would be hesitant on taking me on.

So I’m stuck in a resume limbo where I’m underqualified for the jobs I want, and I’m way over qualified for the other jobs I want. But I lucked out and got a job at a place I used to work at, so even though it’s not enough to pay the bills, at least it’s a steady flow of income.

Money and I have never really gotten along. My parents declared bankruptcy when I was 15 or so, and so I worked really hard to get into a good school. I was offered a nearly full-ride scholarship to UC Riverside, but after touring the campus, I knew I would be totally unhappy. I’m sure telling me that it was okay to go to UC Berkeley, where they would be co-signing on my loans, was one of the hardest things my parents have had to do.

Hearing that I would be going back to art school was probably equally as hard to hear, but fortunately for me, like I said before, my parents are surprisingly supportive.

When I first decided to write this, the title was going to be “I Have $161,635.78 in Student Loans, $15,000 in Credit Card Debt, and I Want To Be An Artist FML.” But then I realized, no, not Fuck My Life. I thought about it, and I realized it should be FMLIA.: Fuck, My Life Is Awesome.

Granted, I might not be able to pay next month’s rent. Granted, I may end up eating rice and ramen every meal for the next few months. Granted, I might not be able to finish school. However, I have so much to be grateful for, it’s ridiculous.

I still have a roof over my head and food in my stomach. I have a computer to type this out on, and a job to go to tomorrow. I’ve been able to travel outside the country, learn from some of the greatest minds in the world, and find someone I want to spend my life with. I might not be as skilled as Rembrandt, but I can paint and draw, and even if I’m not as prolific as Stephen King, I get to write zines and make comics.

We often are led to believe that life is about making it big. Being a Hollywood superstar, or a millionaire, or a supermodel, or a business executive. Basically, we’re socialized to care about money and fame and glory and being the best. But I’ve come to realize that while the urge to become a famous artist is still there, that’s not what I need to focus on. I need to focus on the little things that make me happy.

As long as I get to paint what I want to paint, I’ll be happy. As long as I get to wake up next to the person that has the screws to my heart, I’ll be happy. As long as I get to stick my hands in my pocket, pull my hood up on my sweatshirt, and stroll through the foggy San Francisco night, I’ll be happy. As long as my family is healthy and doing alright, I’m happy.

Yes, student loans and credit card bills are painful. They are utterly crushing and overwhelming at times, but I did sign up for them in the first place. It was I that accepted the high interest rates and stellar fees to be able to open my mind to unimaginable wonders, make life-long friends, find my life partner, and to learn my craft. And at the end of the night, when my head is swimming with the burden of debt mixed with inspirations for new paintings dusted with hopes and dreams for tomorrow, I find that I couldn’t be happier. For this I am eternally grateful.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Artist's Multiple Identities

Oftentimes, the artist is described as being manic, we crave solitude to spend time with our work, yet we need to be immersed in life and people in order to experience them and relate them into our art. These two "Identities," of The Introverted Individualist and The Connected Humanist seems very much at odds with each other. And surprisingly, besides the two mentioned, there are more identity aspects that reside in the artist; we often battle between two sides of many coins: we have visions of Humility and Grandeur: of responsibility to be the creative "witness or recorder" in our society while simultaneously we crave to be recognized for that role. Van Gogh often expressed the similar duality that he is a Servant, a creative channel for society/god and at the same time, he has feelings of grandeur as the Savior, the artist who could bring about change in society through his art.

As an artist, you may have realized or come across some of these identities already, either in yourself or other artists:

The Activist - the artist intwined with politics and culture
The Entertainer - the artist who's goal is to amuse
The Warrior - "Art is a Battle" - Edgar Degas
The Careerist/ Productionist - "You tell me what to create, and I'll make it."
The Outsider - the artist who sees himself as not belonging to his society or human race
The Witness - I must record the society of today through my art
The Meditator - "art is in the mind, when it is on paper, it is no longer the purity of what I have imagined"
The Trickster - People buy bad art all the time. I'll create something that I don't care for and charge a ridiculous price and laugh at the stupidity of people for buying into my bandwagon.

. . . These are just a few of the artist identities and they are all very complex.

Why is it even important to know what your identity(ies) are as an artist? Often we do things that seem contradictory, it is because all these artist identities are at interplay with each other. Because these identities often define our roles as artists, it unfortunately often brands us early on and limits our choices. And external events only makes the identity crisis of the artist more complex.

Take an actor who is trained in all aspects of acting, but her/his first handsomely paid gig was in stand-up comedy. S(he) appears in more stand-ups and gets picked up by film producers to do a similar role, in a comedic film. It is not hard for this actor to conclude, I am a comedian, an Entertainer, I make people laugh and society will pay me for it. Were I to do drama, they may not take me seriously. It may even have the opposite effect and people will laugh at me. . .

Now this artist identifies her/himself as the Entertainer, with the expected role that as soon as s(he) is in front of the camera, it is to make people laugh. Although this identity can potentially provide the artist many future paid opportunities for more entertainer roles, the artist becomes cornered and limited. And worse, s(he) limits her/himself by choosing and only sticking to this one identity.

The "opposite" identity can also be true. Take the "Intellectual/ The Shaman/ or Avant-Garde Artist" who is often concern with meaning-making, their art has to be deep. Sometimes, so deep that no one else can dive that far down. This artist believes s(he) must create never before seen work, work that is deep, thoughtful, and new/unfamiliar. This artist refuses to do "commercial" work or "accessible" work for the public. S(he) will not allow herself to "play" to create works for "gist" or simple entertainment. The artist perhaps does not receive the feedback, recognition, or understanding that s(he) deserves and expects. The public is alienated by this artist's work. And the artist becomes alienated to themselves.

Take another example, the Hobbyist - this artist believes that they are creating art for a hobby. While in some aspects this is a positive to not always take on activities as a life-long career, the negative of this identity could be that this artist will never take their art to the "next level" or take it seriously. The act of creating or showing their art in public becomes excused or downplayed by their identity, "it is just a hobby."

To be a "successful artist" you will need to understand and honor all the different aspects of your artist identities; you will need to get to know which one is your primary role, or whether you juggle several, and understand that each identity has its own shadow side. There are positive and negative aspects of each identity and you may also find yourself in simultaneous conflict and at odds with yourself. You will need to learn how to make decisions NOT based solely on what your "identity" is at the time, but ask yourself questions:

whether you are moving closer to yourself or society?
whether the act of creating in this way connects you or disconnects you to what you believe is your purpose as an artist.?
if I were a different or opposite identity than what I'm most comfortable with right now, would I make the same decisions? (For example, if I were a humanist and not an entertainer) would I come to the same conclusions?

Remember, that identity is always flexible. You don't always have to choose. But there is always a danger in not knowing who you are, either. You can start new at any time. You are not bound by your past decisions or how you saw yourself then. We are continually recreating ourselves every day. If you do not change your behaviors, you will get the same results as you did yesterday. So nurture and manifest the identity(ies) that best serves what you want out of life.

Get to know the different multitude of identities that accompanies in being an artist, understand it, debate it, accept that this is part of the process as an artist and honor it. Balance and introspection is the key.