Kevin Smith on life as an artist

Say what you will about Kevin Smith. There are plenty of folks ripping him apart, and just as many putting him on a pedestal. I love Kevin. I think he’s awesome. He sways into crass-land a bit much, nowadays, but, whatever. I’ve watched his speaking specials more times than I’d like to count. He weaves hilarious tales with moments telling how he got where he is today. This section, from his special Burn In Hell, is especially powerful. He speaks on his father’s death, and on what it takes to be an artist. Really struck out for two reasons.

First. I never referred to myself as an artist til this past year. I’ve been doing / studying art since the seventh grade, which was around twenty-four years ago. Been a designer for twenty-two years. Been a photographer for sixteen years. Been a writer for twelve years. Been a videographer for four years. But art, or calling myself an artist, is something I’m wholly uncomfortable with some of the time (just ask Kim and Michele). There’s a lot of art that I think isn’t really art, it’s PR and puffery. There’s a lot of folks that make me feel like a talentless hack. But this past year, with a couple First Fridays and accolades under my belt, finally feeling comfortable with calling myself an artist. Which is something Smith touches on, and I related to.

Secondly, from a conversation with my grandfather years ago. On the front end, the following are Cadillac Problems. I get it. While I was working at Taco Bell, during college, I was kinda getting screwed over. I was doing managerial duties without getting paid as a manager. Was also working my ass off. I’d close some Saturday nights, only to come in a few hours later to open. It was nuts. I’d went out to Wal-Mart, interviewed for a stock position. I just needed something flexible to get me through school. Well, the schedule out there was a lot more stringent, and I’d have some tight turnarounds getting from school to work. I was up at my grandparents’ house, and, for some reason, started talking to my grandfather about this. I never did that. He was a good man, but not one to discuss stuff like this. Or, rather, I was never comfortable discussing stuff like this with him. He listened to me spill my guts without saying a word. At the end, he replied with one simple question, “are you happy where you’re at?” Me, “not really.” Him, “then you need to leave. You’ll figure it out. Life’s too short to be unhappy.” ….and that’s all I remember. Honestly, there probably wasn’t much else said. Didn’t need to be said. It was like a light switch went off. I went in the next day, confronted the GM, and was told “no.” To which I promptly turned in my notice. Never did get that Wal-Mart job. It was fine. Ended up pushing for a job at Imaging Solutions (Consolidated Products) as a designer. So for the summer before my final year in college, all through my final year, I was employed as a graphic designer. Which is a lot better than a stock boy at Wal-Mart. That gig ended up getting the ball rolling on my “official” entry into the design job world. It wouldn’t have come had I not had that uncharacteristic conversation with my grandfather. He passed away shortly thereafter. Which hit me pretty damn hard. It was like we were just getting started, and he was gone. Which, sadly, seems to happen more often than not. Throughout the years I’ve tried to remind myself of that conversation. Have I always lived that mantra? No. Sometimes it’s just not prudent. Sometimes you have to put up with not reaching your full potential to pay the bills. And that can suck. But it is what it is. As long as when my number’s up, I can say that I was happy more often than unhappy, I’m gonna chalk that up as a win.

And I will warn you, this video is filthy. Constant cursing and foulness. I don’t want to hear any complaints. 🙂

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