Many years ago, I went to my first nerd convention. It was pretty small, especially compared to the conventions I’ve been to the last several years. There were only about a dozen tables in the vendors hall, including artists. But over the years, I’ve seen a few of those artists grow into well recognized artists at the larger conventions, which is pretty neat. They also had a few artist talks at the convention, and I’d like to tell you about one I particularly connected with.

It was about the “Art with a Capital A” World, and how to find your place. He used the metaphor of a forest, filled with campfires. Each campfire was a different style of Art. And as an artist, you wander through the darkness of the forest, occasionally finding a campfire to sit down and rest at. You talk to the people, share their insights, and after some time, decide if you’d like to stay or not. Maybe it feels like home. Or maybe it doesn’t, and you wander back into the forest, looking for another camp to join.

Cartoonist, Realist, Surrealist, Expressionist, Art Nouveau, Manga-style, Fantasy, Sci-Fi… I’ve visited (and revisited) many camps. But I still wander. It’s not that I don’t feel at home, it’s that I don’t want to get too comfy.

When people see my works at conventions, or other art show and sales, I’m often asked which works are mine. And when I say “all of them,” they are surprised, because there is a wide variety of styles and mediums on my display. I change for two reasons – so I don’t get bored, and so I don’t limit myself. I want a challenge. I want to learn how to paint dark baroque scenes in high realism like Joseph Wright of Derby, how to convey emotion and psychology like Edvard Munch, how to create elegant and detailed portraits like Alphonse Mucha, how to tickle the mind like Rene Magritte, …and so much more.

To this end, I move from camp to camp, learning what I can, taking their philosophies and techniques with me. Sometimes I end up combining them. At this point, which camp do I belong to? Which label, or identity as an artist, is accurate? At the end of my BFA degree, I was studying the Post-Modern Identity, which sees identity as fractured, not singular. It is fluid, and changing. Our identities are made of many parts, any of which can be dominant at any point. I like to think of identities as masks. We carry them all with us everywhere. We can change which mask we wear, depending on which campfire we walk up to.

Which mask shall I wear this time? Or maybe, I’ll craft a new one.