by Greg Ruth
I am a notoriously shy person when it comes to myself and my work, though through the necessity of the work's requirements. I have tried like mad against all my basic proclivities, to be as public and present about the work. It's something we as artists must do if we want to be seen or heard, and it's a talent few of us possess. So when Ben Tobin approached me to be a part of a documentary about me and my work, I naturally ran under the nearest wet rock out of sheer instinct. Art making for me is an extremely private affair, mostly I suspect as a result of it being my personal psychic panic room as I grew up in Texas. For so many years it was where I could spread my wings and be myself. So it remains today something that is, despite the passage of time, a private hidden and protected space for me, so the idea of letting anyone in to actually FILM me doing it was to put it mildly a cry-dance-inducing nightmare. But ultimately I felt like I needed to essentially get over myself and do it. These kinds of inside peeks into the process and life of an artist are just the kind of necessities I needed and never got a chance to see growing up. It's these brief glimpses that validate a life of artmaking to up and coming creatives as something possible rather than just a useless dalliance that it's so often portrayed as by most everyone else. It's right up there with music and acting for the "get-a-real-job crowd".
Just below is the full film in its whole form:
Turns out the least part of it all was the filming itself for me, for Ben he had miles and miles to go in both editing, gathering of research material, sound mixing, interviews and color matching... it's dizzying to imagine but he did a splendid job and everyone interviewed seemed to really enjoy it. Largely my hope was that beyond the mere evidence of making a living as an artist and writer, however turbulent it is, that some tangible knowledge could come out of it. To that, some basics from the outtakes via Jane Yolen:
The Drybrush Master-Jane Yolen on working with an Illustrator on a graphic novel from Ben Tobin on Vimeo.
Locals and friends discussing how we can and do now interact with our art, and with each other:
Or finally, my favorite bit, Emmett and his mildly uncomfortable relationship with my taxidermy proclivities:
All in all it turned out to be a really lovely result beyond my hopes and expectations. I still feel a bit embarrassed and awkward about the focus on myself... I find I'm not much a fan of either too much criticism or praise as I find both tend to worm their way into how I think about my work more than I like. The knife's edge of criticism can provide some impetus to do better when it's done right, but praise is to me the most insidious in that it tends to encourage pride and satisfaction, and while we all deserve to feel both on the whole, I think they are impediments to good work. We should never be ove-rproud of what we do as artists because it causes us to forget to be critical, and it brings the ego into the work in an inappropriate way. Satisfaction is just pride with a cocktail in its hand and that makes for lazy work that stops growing. Our culture encourages both and sets as a goal some kind of retirement, or point of rest at the end of it all, but to me rest is only as good as it serves to fuel us up for the next thing we should be doing.
Carving a life out in the world of art requires us to work more than we ever thought we needed to, and grow more than we ever thought possible. We are stronger when we see each other as peers rather than as competition, and better creatives when we can listen to those peers tell us what they see from the outside. As much as it continues to make uncomfortable to be in front of my work in this way, it could not have been a better experience, and while I am happy that I won't have to do something like this again for a very long time if ever, I couldn't be more proud of what Ben pulled off here. If at the end of the day, this film project helps encourage more of this, then its done its job. Time to rest and get ready for what's next.