We soldier on in the face of difficult times, bad news, rejections and set-backs. The pandemic has cost us friends, family, time and money. The current cultural climate has also cost us friends and family etc. too, and makes every interaction with a stranger potentially unpleasant (at best) and it sometimes feels like the bullsh#t never stops. I know. These are tricky and often disheartening times. But we have to keep at it. We have to keep reaching out and moving forward as best we can. Basically, we have to keep trying.
And so we do. And what does that look like? For me it looks like this: Still writing every day. Still exercising (almost) every day. Still finding time to meditate every day, even if it is just for 10 minutes, and doing what seems to be the hardest thing these days: maintaining hope. Not just for myself but for everyone. I have to think/believe that these dark and difficult times are a transitional period between eras and that something new and better will come out the other side. It isn’t a certainty, but it is a hope, and it is a hope that takes work.
I say all that to say this: sometimes there is some light at the end of this seemingly endless tunnel and lately I’ve had a few bits of good news that have raised my spirits, renewed my hope and moved me in directions that are both new and exciting and also familiar and exciting.
In the realm of the new and exciting, I can now officially add “Visual Artist” to my meandering multi-hyphenated “career.” A panel from my long-running (since January 2009) weekly photo project “Another LA Cartoon” was accepted as part of a group show by Shoebox Arts here in Los Angeles. This was, and still is, very exciting and I was thrilled to be one of the 30 artists chosen out of over 800 entries. Since these are still covid-times, the “opening” was a virtual zoom meeting where I got to meet the curators and the other talented artists included in the show. Even though I didn’t win the juried competition, it was awesome to see that they also used my piece as the ‘header image’ for the Facebook “event.” …oh, and if you’re not already following my LA Cartoon, you can click on the image in the lefthand side bar right now.
I’ve considered myself a visual artist since my ’80s days of making “Xerox Art” band flyers, zines, graffiti, and posters. While my particular aesthetic might not have mass appeal, it is something I have worked on and take seriously. I’ve continued a daily practice of creating digital images as a way to engage the parts of my brain that don’t see much action in the writing process. My LA Cartoon project is just one of many “visual” side projects I’m constantly at-work on. I also plunder the Public Domain for images that I can re-imagine and remix into new graphic designs that I post (daily) on my semi-anonymous (but not really) Instagram feed, some of which I turn into T-shirts and more for sale. A good example of this is the header image for this very post. It didn’t say “Planet OConnor” when I found it. lol. I also create surrealist/Dadaist videos, usually accompanied by my own surrealist soundscapes. I’ve even been commissioned to design everything from book covers and beer labels to wedding invitations and theater posters. …but this was the first time I’ve ever submitted my work to a gallery, so you can imagine how exciting (and admittedly unexpected) it was to get chosen to be part of the show. I’m hoping this will lead to more interest in my visual work.
In an epic example of my own less-than-optimum luck, just a month before the pandemic lockdown, I did rack up a major (for me) and completely unexpected “win.” I signed with a commercial & theatrical agent. In all my years (decades actually) of improv, punk rock bands, one-man shows, assorted stage & on-camera video work, and recently, podcast VO character work, I never pursued “acting” as a vocation, never had a “headshot” taken, never went on an audition. Much like my daily visual arts practice, performing has always been something I’ve done for the joy of doing it, and not something I expected would lead to paying work. But a weird thing happens when you spend a few decades doing something for the thrill of doing it: you build up a skillset and a bit of a “body of work” that just might get noticed, and that is what happened. So now, I am getting up to speed on things like headshots, and “actor reels” and all the other aspects of trying to be a proactive, hustling actor. Yes, this “writer” is now also available to the industry for commercials, character parts and whatever else might come along. Again: I don’t know that I have “mass appeal” but I’m certain I can fit into some specific parts. If you’re a director looking for someone like me, then I’m your guy.
The other good news is of a more familiar type: I’m going to be teaching Improv again this Summer! A theater on the Westside has invited me to teach two one-week sessions in July. We’re still working out all the details (covid-related complications, of course) but the classes are officially booked and I can’t wait to be teaching again. This will hopefully lead to a lot more teaching by next Fall.
Meanwhile, the writing continues, as does the hustling. I’m now querying every animation company in Ireland asking to pitch my “Ogre Stone” script (remember that one?) and I am also, of course, writing on a couple of new projects as well. Basically, I am hoping this post of good news doesn’t read like the brag-y “curated life” posts people put on Facebook and Instagram etc. There is always a lot of work and a pile of rejection(s) to go along with whatever good stuff happens, and I’m no exception to that rule.
Keep at it, everyone!