Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Leggo your Ego

-By Dan Luvisi

Got your attention? That's a new painting I just finished for my book Popped Culture. See more at my BLOG.

Now, let's talk.

I want to talk about a touchy subject: Egos and Insecurities.

Before I begin, this doesn't apply to everyone, so please, don't feel as if I'm calling you all out. What I'm writing about  a situation I once went through, and how I managed to control it before it took me down the dark path.

Before I go any further, I'm going to be as honest as possible, and try to use candor to my benefit. It's something I tend to hold back on, in fear of insulting or hurting someone, but I feel things are required to be said for me to get my point across. I, in no way, am insulting or trying to hurt anyone, but just needed to place that forewarning.

I try to be as confident as I can, but hell, I'm an artist--let's be real: I have my shelves of insecurities. One of them, is being self-conscious about what others think of my work. I was raised by a very stubborn father, who was too once an artist, and in doing so--was my harshest critic. Time after time I would try to impress him, hoping to make each piece better than the last.

When LMS: Killbook of a Bounty Hunter was announced as a book and film, finally, my dad gave me that warm congratulations I had been dying for. But then, I got the same judgement by others. I began hearing some nasty things talked behind my back how I got to where I am. Not in particular about the project (sure, some don't like it, and rightfully so!), but saying I didn't have to go through any struggle to receive it.

I was twenty-three when the book publication and film deal went through. Something I never, ever, expected to happen. But it did, and for that, I was rewarded. Friends began claiming behind my back that I didn't deserve it. I never understood where it came from, and began questioning if it wasn't the book that sold it, or just luck.

Then I began to hear it being talked about by artists I truly looked up to. Some that I had been fans of for years, and honestly, it kinda crushed me. I didn't create a project so I could be high and mighty, I created one because I was inspired by hundreds of artists throughout the years that were doing something I could only dream of. The George Lucas', Todd McFarlane's, and the Mike Mignolia's of the world.

I would vent to some friends about how it bothered me, and one day approached my now current girlfriend about said topic, asking if I was over-thinking it. She explained, in the most sincere and honest of forms, that:

"People know you for the success of LMS, but not the journey you had to go through to get there. No one ever will, but yourself. All you can do is continue to create, and build from where you started."

That's when it began to click. No one would be able to witness it, par a few friends who were by my side during those days. But when I heard that, it made a lot more sense.

Let's jump back to when I was a young sprout. I had just discovered ConceptArt.Org, and I fell in love with an artist's work. His name was Marko Djurdjevic, and I'm sure you've all heard of him.

He had such a dynamic and fluid style that caught my attention. I wanted to be at that level and work on the projects he was on--but truth be told, I wasn't ready. So I bought his DVD tutorial, and tried to take it all in---but again, it just wasn't clicking.

I grew jealous. How is he at that level? Why do so many people enjoy his work? Why can't I be like that? 

Marko, if you're out there, man I wanted to be you. To this day, you're an inspiration to me, but at the same time, I had to fight back the insecure-venom inside from taking over and ruining your image.

Soon I found myself not enjoying his work anymore. I wouldn't publicly trash-talk, but in my head I found myself disliking his work more and more. (Before we go any further, there was nothing even wrong with his work. Hell, he was getting even better with each progressive new piece!)

But that was it: I was jealous of his evolving talent, something I couldn't get a grasp on. So eventually I moved aside from it, allowing it to be what it was. I took some time to myself, and then one day, met yet another german, who was named Stephan. Stephan, would one day not only become my business partner to this day, but also my mentor.

Even though he never said it through these words, he taught me not to be jealous of others, but to use it as inspiration. I began to appreciate Marko's work again, re-falling in love with everything he had done. Studying his forms and shapes. That's where I discovered how to separate myself from being jealous, and instead allowed myself to absorb.

I had come to realize that Ego now meant competing with myself. I would no longer look at any other artist as competition, but inspiration. I would gather what I could from them, learning from each and every one of these creators. I would read books from people that inspired me, and then read books from people that inspired them.

Now I look at success for others as a blessing. Even if I barely know the person, and I see they achieved something of success in their career, I have to commend them. The journey to success is hard and challenging, and not many will be there to hold your hand on it.

Thank you Marko for teaching me without even knowing me, and I hope all of you new comers don't go down the path that I see far too many artist going down. This business is so tiny, and we should be helping and looking out for each other as artists, to allow new artists a way to grow.



  1. I can understand your feelings of envy. For me, though, I've worked so hard to get where I am today (not that I'm "anywhere") that when I see an accomplished artist, I just think of all the work THEY must have had to do, and I see them as someone to learn from.

    And, to be more blunt, there is so much bad/indifferent art on the Internet that seeing someone really talented is like a drink of water in the desert.

  2. PS Dan. I can relate to having a parent who was a onetime artist. You expect them to be happy for your successes, but sometimes they just don't say anything encouraging, or even criticize your work. My mother used to paint but dropped it, and I kind of don't show her my things any more because her reaction never seems to be positive. I don't want to say that jealousy is involved, but sometimes I wonder if it is.

  3. I can so relate to having an unresponsive parent and an inner demon of jealousy. In my experience, the poison of envy relates directly to having untapped potential within, which is dying to get out. But for whatever reason -- pride, lack of self-knowledge, pressure from others -- you ignore where your abilities are deepest and keep trying to do something you feel is "superior". Many times, you may not even know that you're doing it. I think the strength and bitterness is your mind's last-ditch effort to get your attention and say, "Look here! Something is wrong. Pay attention." I used to be rife with jealousy, until I finally realized that I wanted to learn traditional draftsmanship, and started drawing courses. My outlook changed almost instantly. When I see magnificent drawings, I get inspired. I now know enough to appreciate the beauty deeply. And who knows what I may be able to do in the future.

  4. Very inspiring subject. Thank you so much for sharing with such candor! I have found myself in similar struggle, where jealousy makes looking at some pieces unpleasant, even though there is much to take in. It can be hard to remember that our humanity can make things harder than it needs to be, that envy is a personal demon that blocks the way of progress. Sometimes I think envy more stems from the fear and anxiety of being just a copy, forgetting that we each have our own voice and take on things.

    In the case of jealousy of opportunity, it's tough. Sometimes I've felt that way, but after speaking to the artist I learn that there's often struggles behind the velvet curtain that aren't so obvious. We all pay a price to create, I think, sometimes invisibly.

  5. Dan your posts are getting better and better. I've been through that phase too, fortunately I managed to get myself out of that. Now, I can appreciate other artists careers and focus on my. Keep the posts comming!

  6. Don't know if you saw, but the AV Club had your work on their site: http://www.avclub.com/article/here-are-some-twisted-takes-familiar-childhood-cha-204849

  7. I don't know. I don't get inspired by anyone. I just look at all the amazing stuff that flies by on my Facebook newsfeed and I think "huh, cool." and that's it. I don't do anything with it. I'm an artist, but not one that wants to be original or creative. I would rather follow someone else's lead. Make something that someone else has already thought out.
    I guess that's my way of avoiding harsh critiques. I'm simply doing what my boss tells me to. If it's wrong, then it's his fault. Not mine. And to be honest, I'm perfectly fine with that.
    I admire your art, it's amazing and unlike anything I've ever seen, but I don't think I can (or want to) follow your footsteps. Please continue what you're doing!

  8. It's funny Dan but you used to be my Marko, then i heard you talk about your life on a webinar and you answered a bunch of my dumb questions and i realized you were just as messed up as i am. Impossible to be bitter towards you after that ;)

    Also please record a few more livestreams so that i can religously watch them like ive done the others!

  9. It takes courage to be that honest. I really respect that.

  10. "Let go of your ego."

    I mutter to myself a hundred times a day, whilst looking in the eyes of the compulsive person standing in the reflection of the bathroom mirror, for long ago I have realized who the true antagonist of my story is. It is my own tendency to gravitate everything towards myself like a black hole, feeding my ego but never being fed, that leaves me eternally craving for approval.
    Ever since this revelation, I have battled my nemesis with all my might, in hopes to one day taste true freedom; to just not care, and do entirely as my heart desires.
    This state of egotistical freedom is what I would like to call creativity, and it leads to true innovation.

  11. Nice article, Dan.

    I completely understand your point, for I am RIGHT NOW at the same place. Damn, it even looks like you wrote this just for me (where are the cameras?).

    I like the work of many artists out there and view them as inspiration too (and I'm trying to avoid being jealous too). I know that they worked hard to get where they are, but sometimes, I feel that all this hard work is for nothing. You know, it's all about on keeping drawing and training and someday someone will recognize you as they say.

    Well, I'm not there yet. I'm 28 and I'm still someone who is unknown. Sometimes I get desperate when I see these 20 - 23 young guys doing awesome things (works, workshops or just being awesome as they are), and despair tooks place. Something like: "Damn! These guys can do awesome things! And I'm 5-6 years behind them! I'll never be like them, so isn't time to quit?"

    But there's a thing I could notice and moreover in other artists as well: Everything changes when they meet someone who can mentor him. I guess this is the key: If you're lucky to find someone who looks at you, or not...

    Well, as I said, nice article. I'll just keep trying and maybe someday will get there.

  12. 23!? Jesus it feel slike was just 3-4 years ago!

    My inner ego-demon (way too) often demands that I need to compete with equally-aged versions of my favorite artists... lets say a 20 year old version of you or Stjepan Sejic.
    Bigger, stronger, faster, smarter and BETTER. Those are the words that often haunt my head when I'm practicing my "skills". Frustration comes when a classmate or fellow artist of the same age exceeds my skills. A few months ago, a clasmate that dropped out 2 years ago got a job at Atomhawk. The frustration kicked into overdrive that moment.

    I always believed dreams CAN come true with the right amount of willpower, endurance and guts, but I still need to get the know-how and support to get there. My dad is almost like yours, only being proud when I succeed or when I show true "spirit". MY mom on the other hand is my staunchest supporter and critic (after some training from me), but one critic still is only one person and there are lot of persons on this pile of dirt.
    Still I yearn for the professional criticsm, while barely getting some (UNKNOWN ARTIST RIGHT HERE!) and lacking the know-how of networking.

    After 4 years of doing a game-art education (and being accepted on a bachelor in game-art after I pass my finals) I saw my growth over the past years and while it is quite a lot, it will probably never be enough.....

    In hindsight, best be if I leave these here.
    My DA:

    My portfolio:

    Great post Dan!

  13. Great post, really means a lot and talks true

  14. Well, I'm a 46-year-old female artist, so I doubt very much I will ever find a mentor. Nobody in the professional world ever looks at a woman my age and says "Gosh, I'd like to mentor that person."

    1. Why wait for someone to find you and expect them to seek you out? I'd try contacting an artist that you admire and see if they can offer you any advice. The artists that I have relationships with are such giving people, they want to help you grow as an artist.

  15. I am nearly forty, and am working my nuts off to get better, yes it is horrible when a youngster of 18 to 20 is better than you, and they get employed somewhere, where you want to be. I have stopped caring about them, I have seen the world, seen things and done things that would blow there mind. Too many people want everything now, and not work for it. Anyhow, great post, keep it up.

  16. Thank you, this is so truth, reading this its like having a fresh drink on a desert day.

  17. Live long and aim high Dan Luvisi ! \m/

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  19. Awesome article, didn't realise the last comment would be a spam bot! So I'm just adding my praise for your wise words and your crazy Minnie!

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