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Your Art is Important

Updated: Mar 31

Being an artist is a wonderful thing. You have the ability to create something out of nothing, be inspired by anything and evoke raw emotions in an observer.

However, being an artist is also a dreadful thing. Writers’ block, stolen artwork/assets, and the feeling that in the grand scheme of things, your work is not important. With social media giving artists a platform to speak honestly about the process of their occupation, the curse of creativity has become much more apparent in recent years. People love to compare statistics such as likes, comments, views and followers, and somehow we now associate ‘success’ with big numbers online. The harsh reality of comparing your 30 followers to another artist’s 1 million followers and thinking: “What’s the point? No one cares about what I make, it’s not good enough. I’m never going to be good enough”. The even harsher reality of looking at your 1 million followers and thinking: “Why do people follow me? My work isn’t that good, I’ll never be good enough”.

It is not a bad thing to want validation from others. Hearing someone say ‘good job’ when they look at your work makes all the struggles seem worth it. However, an issue arises when you feel like you should stop creating altogether because you feel like your work is not important or impactful. The lack of validation from an outside source makes you think that no one is enjoying your artwork, and if it is not being seen, there is no point in making more of it. On the other hand, you could have countless people telling you ‘you should carry on!’ or ‘your work inspires me!’ but it’s still always in the back of your head as you move onto your next project. Society doesn’t help this mindset either. According to the Arts Index 2007-2018 report, in the UK local arts funding has been cut by 43% from 2007-2018, and the government makes it very clear that artistic endeavours come after scientific ones. In secondary schools, there has been a 20% decline in arts subjects being studied at GCSE as schools push for students to study the sciences.

Logically, this makes sense. More STEM workers mean more technology, more medicine and more development as a human race, and this is a viewpoint shared by many of those who criticise the arts. Whenever one of these people finds out about my career as an actor, my degree in English Literature, my love for playing instruments or my hobby as a 3D artist, they often say the same thing: “why would you choose to do something so pointless?”. I remember in my third year of university, I had an engineer come to my house to fix my oven. While we stood talking in the kitchen, he asked what I was studying. When I said English Literature, he laughed and said “Oh yeah? What are you gonna do with that then?”. It was very clear that he, as a STEM worker, looked down on my arts degree. However, I took great delight in informing him that I was using it to supplement my acting career. I began to reel off all the major and professional performances I had been in, including a performance on the West End in London and a professional play based in Reading. He was very taken aback by me proving that I was well on my way to what he would consider professional success (i.e., getting paid), even with my fun little artsy degree. However, although I had fought effectively for my importance as an artist, I cannot help but allow similar negative viewpoints to get to me regularly.

So many people see value in endeavours only if it brings in an income. They think that if you cannot make money from it, it’s a waste of time. However, they forget the experience and transferable skills that come with any creative outlet. Not to mention the positive impacts on mental health, or at the very least the fun the artist gets out of creating. I often find myself talking very self-consciously about my MMD work in real life, as if it is something to be ashamed about: and it all comes from the lack of professional opportunities linked to this engine. Realistically, you cannot make a living from MMD alone. You may be able to sell assets, but this can never be a full time endeavour if you are independently supporting yourself. It's just too small a program. And so, in the last few months while I have been working on MMD projects while looking for a job, I've been wondering "what's the point in doing MMD anymore? It won't get me anywhere". I've began to let the words of the oven engineer affect my hobby. If it's not bringing in money, there's no point in doing it.

However, on the 27th of November 2020, these negative thoughts were pushed entirely out of my mind as Good Smile, a figurine company that produces high-quality nendoroids and figures of anime, movie, book and game characters, announced their prototype for YYB’s Hatsune Miku MMD Model.

This in itself isn’t a new phenomenon, as MMD modelers such as LAT, Tda and Mamama have already had their models transgress the boundary between the digital and real world. However, this was the first opportunity I have had to actually own an MMD figurine, and by my favourite modeler and figma company, no less. The first thing I did was send it to my friends in the MikuMikuEffect Discord Server, because I was so happy that MMD was being recognised outside of our community once more. For a small 3D engine with no professional growth, events like this come very rarely. But when they do, it is a massive deal for us.

For the first time since I left university, my work felt validated. YYB and I, while we may specialise in different areas of MMD, were made as artists in the same program, and in the same community. We are making our mark on the world, and the real world at that. What we do as artists IS important, and it doesn’t matter what the oven engineer says. Later the next week, my art was validated even further by my receiving a job offer as a professional writer- a job that I received only because of my experience of writing for the organisation The transferrable skills that I learned such as SEO, learning how Wix and WordPress work and marketing myself on my MMD twitter landed me a real life job. And it was all because of MMD. Without this little 3D program, I would not be a professional writer at this moment.

Of course, I recognise that my perception of my own validity has only emerged through those outside people saying "good job". I am still working on recognising my own importance. I am easily swayed to believe what others say, especially if it is a negative opinion about myself. But the fact is that now, with the successes of YYB and of myself, I know that my art is important. It does not matter what the outsiders say. My work is important.

Whenever I experience these negative feelings and there is no one from the outside to make my work feel validated, often think back to February 2020, the day I visited my dissertation supervisor Karín Lesnik-Oberstein. I was very concerned about the direction of my dissertation as I had scored incredibly low on the first draft. Just before I left the room, feeling dejected and worried about my degree, she turned to me and said “You’re doing something here that no one else in the world is doing. And that’s something to be proud of”. Whenever I feel down about my work, no matter if its 3D, writing or otherwise, I remember Karin’s words and I feel a little better.

Everything that you do, no matter if you’re world famous, just starting out or making art for your own personal use: no one in the world is doing what you're doing. No one has made any of the art you're making, exactly as you are making it right now. As long as it remains fun, you should never stop creating. You might not know it, but you are inspiring others to carry on creating. You do not need that outside validation, you need to learn to validate your art for yourself. The world needs artists like you right now.

STEM gives us the technology to live. Art gives us a reason to stay alive.

To finish off, I wanted to congratulate YYB again on their fantastic work. YYBさん、おめでとう!!

You can follow YYB on their Twitter @sanmuyyb, they’re not only a fantastic modeller but also a fantastic illustrator!

[all image references can be accessed by clicking on the image]

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