Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Force and Forty

I saw Star Wars: A New Hope in a Bay Area theater as a child. It was the night before our first family trip to a place strange place called "Lake Tahoe" where we shared a cabin with the Yokota family. 
While I could hardly follow the story at that age, the visuals from the film had a lasting effect on me, as did The Empire Strikes Back (seen at the old Hilltop Drive-In in Richmond) and Return of the Jedi. I have been drawing monsters and spaceships ever since. When I watched the behind-the-scenes specials from the Star Wars films, I knew without a doubt that I wanted to be there, wherever "there" was, along side those brilliant creatives building models and monsters for film.

My childhood bedroom was a drawing and painting studio, model shop, research library, writing studio, and more. I would even work in my parent's garage under the low ceiling of the storage loft just a few feet away from the cat litter box and whatever spindly arachnids decided to make the space their home.

Since then, I have nurtured a quiet ambition that remains vulnerable to the pressures of being practical with life and career choices. Somehow, I aged into an industry outsider/insider, often the jealous voyeur raging under the toxic haze of "what should have been". And yet, I keep drawing and painting, never letting go of that dim, fool-hardy candle of a dream.

When I saw a screening of Vimana in San Francisco a few years back, I reveled at the sight of my spaceship and space probe designs on the big screen. They were rendered and animated with so much attention to detail that I found myself feeling a rare sense of pride and satisfaction. Somehow, while taking a heavy part-time load of studio classes for my MFA and teaching at three schools, I managed to find myself again through that project. It was a validation of sorts that left me a bit bitter but hopeful.

Around the same time, a friend said to me, "I hate to say it, but ain't nobody gonna hire you." or words to that effect. I was an MFA student at the Academy of Art University, beyond my 30s and noticeably older than most of my classmates. Had I waited too long to take the leap toward what had been drawn to since childhood? Would the shady reputation and bad press of that for-profit art school (with sports teams! Imagine that!) put me at an even greater disadvantage with so many potential social and demographic strikes already against me? Persistence won out and I kept going.

And then came a giddy, almost surreal moment when I heard of the 40-year anniversary of the release of Star Wars on a local radio station. I was at my drawing table designing sci-fi stuff for an actual animated show. The work has been 10x harder than anything I've done before and I'm loving it and improving constantly. And having to put a lot of fun and entertainment on hold hasn't been a problem at all, and I don't miss Facebook and Instagram one bit.

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