Thursday, 9 May 2013

A Letter to the Lost

Tomorrow will mark a deadline for many students, artists, designers and creatives. These deadlines are solid dates ingrained in minds, the last day in a calender that has a firm end. They represent the end of an era, when you worked like hell and tried to create something honest. It will have certainly involved passion, heartache, loss and joy, a spectrum of emotion in the attempt to create something. You may have quarms about your own work, it will not reach your high standards, it will not be perfect, but it will be the start of something. I'd like to address students and soon to be graduates of creative courses across the country. In particular, the students of CG Arts and Animation, UCA. This is a short piece about my year since graduation and how it may help you in some small way...

"All you have been doing for four years is look at this, like this can't see anything else. You don't even see the mistakes any more." 
                                                           Phil Fish

Today, my graduate film "The Minor Key" was kindly featured on a great website devoted to animated shorts. regularly promotes and features the work of student and graduate artists, as well as featuring some of the most inspirational creatives in the industry. It is an honour to be featured on another site with such a love for the artform and it feels particularly poignant considering that the Minor Key project came to a close this time last year.

A lot has happened in the year since then, with freelance work and personal projects driving me forward, as well as working with some superbly talented students at the University for the Creative Arts as the Graduate Teaching Assistant. It's been a strange journey, but one that feels completely necessary. My work has evolved a lot since then. The year has largely consisted of a diverse set of freelance projects. From animated children in a sea of fire to photo realistic lemons and door handles  It's been a pleasure to work with such a great group of artists and designers, all of which have been kind and welcoming to a graduate animator. More importantly, it has inspired me to move forward as a film maker. The Minor Key represented my departure from the CG Arts and Animation course and in truth, it was a project of self discovery. It demonstrated that I could use the software correctly, I could tell moving narratives and that I could bring a world to life. It was of course limited by time, technical ability and confidence, but it was definitely the start of something interesting. It made me realise that if I keep doing this, I think one day, I could do something that could be fucking good.

After a year spent exploring new techniques and ideas, I'm ready to start something big. That "something" is currently a bit of a secret and I won't be revealing too much until after the summer. But it's safe to say that it will be the most interesting and exciting piece of work I have yet been a part of. My passion has always been film and film making. It is part of me that feels so deeply certain and concrete that there are no other options in my life. I love what I do, I love creating work that moves people. My graduate film was my first step to achieving that dream and now I'm ready to make the next big step along that path. For myself, this is an independent step. It is a scary thought but it feels like exactly what I need to do next.

I knew my graduate film had it's problems. You will be thinking the same about your own work. It can never live up to your own high standards or ideals, but it is the first step forward. You will worry about what others think and explain away the mistakes. But this graduate film is more important than glossy visuals and perfect renders. This is the first step towards something far more special. Part of that is finding a voice and a passion.

"Things that are personal have flaws, they have vulnerabilities."
                                                                                 Jonathan Blow

You have had 3 years to learn new software, skillsets, artforms and a new lifestyle. That may seem like a long time but in reality it is such a small part of the whole. You are more developed and confident than when you started. You now know stuff that always seemed impossible. These are important steps in a long and difficult journey. What becomes important is that you still love what you do. You may feel lost in a world of business and career. But that is superficial. Many will wonder why they should listen to me. I have no real signs of success, whatever these are. I do not work for the best company in the world, nor do I own an loft apartment in Manhattan  Instead, I live in a grey industrial town and make animation. To many, that sounds kind of pathetic, but to me, that's kind of the fucking dream. All I can really say is, stay in love with what you do. Try to avoid ever ruining that. The world needs more people with ambition, you are most definitely one of those important people. Be honest in everything you do. If you do that, you can never really be ashamed about your choices.

"Say who you are! Really say it, in your life and in your work. Tell someone out there who is lost, someone not yet born, someone who won't be born for 500 years. Your writing will be a record of your time. It can't help but be. But more importantly, if you are honest about who you are, you will help that person be less lonely in their world. Because that person will recognise him or herself in you. And that will give them hope...Give that to the world, rather than selling something to the world."

                                                                                               Charlie Kaufman

Congratulations on making it, you've come a long way. You have a long way to go, but if you continue to work this hard and continue to care this much, you'll make a difference in the world. That is really what it is all about.


  1. lovely, true, inspiring words, Jordan. We're lucky to have in the mix. Thanks too for all your hard work, support and close scrutiny of student work during the course of the year :)

  2. Nice post Jordan.
    I'm going to request that you please just post some sort of imagery from this 'secret project' - I keep reading about it, but never seeing anything. I fear that it will go through the hype machine and expectations will be so high when you do post something (to unrealistic proportions) It's great that you are developing something, but man; let us see some stuff (please) !

  3. That sounded bad. I just want to see some things! :(

  4. Thank you very much Phil. I know my words are not the most sought after, but I hope just hearing it from someone who has been through it but also witness it happen again this year can be of help. I've seen a lot of students in a state of stress this week and I know it'll be hard for them to see much light. I don't really know what I'm trying to say all in all. Just that, like you often say, if you continue to work hard and produce very honest work you can be happy and content in doing good.

    And thank you Jon :) I'll take it as a compliment. The problem with showing stuff is that my work has moved away from the visual. I have a project in the pipeline with work ready to post, that'll be up next week when it's organised. The other bigger project I am planning for the next year is somewhat more complex and what I'm most excited about. I'm not trying to drag things out or hype things up, instead I'm in a limbo state. Currently writing and gathering ideas, with no firm goal or promise. I just know it'll lead somewhere interesting. In short, I'm moving away from portfolio exercises. I'm now much more driven to creating my own work that has no other purpose than to be what I find interesting. My life as a whole is less concerned with what people think of my work. I'm not really trying to please anyone, but just creating what I think is important.
    However, I'm really happy to see such talented guys like yourself interested in my work. I'll still be posting artwork and technical exercises, but the bigger stuff is in free form at the moment. One day, I hope, it'll be worth the wait.

  5. Inspirational words, Jordan... and once again, you brought a tear to my eye! :)

  6. Thank you Jackie, apologies for the tears, I need to stop doing that.

  7. That brought a tear (or several) to my eye too! Very inspiring. Thank you for all your help this year and good luck with your exciting new projects :)

  8. Thank you Anita. Hope it at least provides some comfort for the trials of third year. Good luck with the future :) I'm sure I'll be around every now and then.

  9. enjoyed reading this one Jordan :] I get what you're trying to say ,thanks!

  10. A lovely read Jordan, thank you for this message :)

  11. Thank you JJ, hope all is going well with your own work :)

    And thank you Alex, congratulations on the completion of your project :) it looks superb.

  12. "In short, I'm moving away from portfolio exercises. I'm now much more driven to creating my own work that has no other purpose than to be what I find interesting. My life as a whole is less concerned with what people think of my work. I'm not really trying to please anyone, but just creating what I think is important. "

    I think these are some of the wisest words you could give graduates. :)
    It's taken me quite some time, but I've begun to realise this myself now; and to an extent adopt it into my workflow. It's very freeing, and it's allowing me to really do things that I find fun, regardless of what people think. Yes, I still am trying to achieve technical proficiency in order to get hired, and yes I'm still trying to get portfolio ready pieces. But those two things are less important than just doing things for myself now. Hence my work rate recently has really stepped up, and I'm enjoying what i'm doing.

    You should take that as a compliment, and now I understand why you aren't showing anything. Look forward to seeing some stuff though. The Louis CK Has real style and character, I enjoy it a lot. I want more.

  13. Cheers Jon, that means a lot. I think it's important to constantly work for your own passion, rather than worry about others. This is always the methodology for the most interesting and innovative works. It would be nice to see CG animation pushed into more interesting directions, I don't really admire the advertisement and media type work that has taken such a hold on the industry.