Monday, 1 April 2013


I struggled a great deal with fears during college. Fear of failing, fear of being judged, fear of not fitting in, fear of not being good enough. I was afraid to truly express myself and because of that fear I wasn't the best student I could have been. My work was only mediocre at best.

I was so distracted by what other people thought, and by the myriad of fears racing through my mind, that I didn't reach the potential that I could have in my time there. I just couldn't figure out how to stop being afraid and distracted!

I found it nearly impossible to open up to any of my new colleges, mostly because I didn't want to say the 'wrong' thing and end up scaring them off.

I couldn't put the words together to ask the right question of my teachers, yet there was one teacher who could not only see what was holding me back, but unlike the other teachers they were able to tell me exactly what it was; I was just too foolish to get it.

On the bridge outside of the Animation Arts Centre in broken English with a heavy Russian accent, our experimental animation teacher, Valery Tokmakov, said eight words to me while trying to help us understand how to draw caricatures;

"Only a fool is afraid to look foolish"

I immediately understood what it meant intellectually, yet I am embarrassed to say that to this day I have remained a 'fool'. Still, the profound nature of those words firmly embedded themselves in my mind and are partly the reason for why I started this blog.

Being an artist by and large means understanding and expressing yourself. If you don't understand yourself, the message that you present won't truly be your message but rather a regurgitation of someone else's ideas.

In his essay "Self-Reliance", Ralph Waldo Emerson states; "In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty. Great works of art have no more affecting lesson for us than this. They teach us to abide by our spontaneous impression with good-humoured inflexibility then most when the whole cry of voices is on the other side. Else, to-morrow a stranger will say with masterly good sense precisely what we have thought and felt all the time, and we shall be forced to take with shame our own opinion from another."

That last sentence struck a cord when I read it. Many times have I looked at a piece of art and witnessed glimmers of my own ideas from years ago staring back at me almost mockingly. I was simply afraid to try out an idea which I thought might be taken as 'foolish' and thus end up looking foolish myself.

My favourite bit from the essay comes just prior to the quote above; To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, - that is genius." He goes on to say, "Speak your latent conviction, and it shall be the universal sense; for the inmost in due time becomes the outmost, - and our first thought is rendered back to us by the trumpets of the Last Judgment"

When we look back throughout our history, it is the people who were unafraid to look foolish who were able to move us forward by millimetres or miles.

I have yet to accept that it is okay to look foolish, but I am beginning to. I realise as well that this ties into the dichotomy of my youth in my attempts to fit in with both the nerds and the cool kids. In reality I wasn't either but rather I was simply 'me' and afraid to accept whatever that meant at the time, or however foolish I thought I might seem to either group.

Through my continued readings and research, I'm learning more and more what it means to be me, how to accept it, and how to stop being afraid to be myself, even if that means looking foolish.

Thanks Valery.


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