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Artist anxiety. How did this artist get past it?

In this clip from the Art Podcast, artist and YouTuber Ben Walker Storey tells me about how he dealt with the anxiety of promoting his artwork using video. And also how these videos turned into a series about drawing goths from the 80s.

How the idea came about for the drawing goths series that you're doing?

It's weird because it started like this very definitive spark moment of not knowing what the hell is going on in the world with the pandemic. So that was a very global thing that everybody was going through and then for me, I had been seeking help for some mental health issues. I thought I had ADHD basically. 

Things were kind of getting kind worse as far as being able to keep track of my life and my projects. Just jumping from one thing to another without even realizing I had left what I was working on and all of a sudden I'm in another room. And I was kind of going off sometimes and barking at people like strangers for no good reason you know? It just wasn't good.

So I sought out help and I was finally able to get a diagnosis

So I sought out help and I was finally able to get a diagnosis and get medication and it turns out I have depression and anxiety and that can cause very ADHD symptoms. 

So what happened is by just getting meds basically and a low dosage of Prozac all of a sudden I was able to focus on a thing and enjoy drawing in a way that I hadn't since I was a kid. 

These illustrations and all these gigs and these projects that I've been working on through my entire adulthood, sometimes it'd be fun but a lot of times kind of stressful. Like I'm worried about what people are going to think or is this going to turn out good? Is there going to be proof that I suck if I finish this? There's a lot of unneeded anxiety wrapped up in art-making. 

So once I was medicated I was able to just relax and enjoy myself and have fun drawing. And at that same moment, there was this lockdown. So I was like, I'm not gonna make any money for a while. 

I got a moment to just enjoy drawing and kind of reset. 

I've always loved drawing out of old yearbooks. I mean they're not celebrities we don't know who these people are and there's just this grid of all these faces looking at you. And they're so small that you can just instantly see the differences in people's faces and heads and their hair. It makes me giggle.

image of a goth from the 80s illustrated
Image from Ben's Let's Draw Goths coloring book

Everybody instantly looks very different on almost like a cartoony level. I just always loved cracking open these old yearbooks that I have from the 60s and 70s. I found one that was just Shriners! so it's like old white guys with fez's on! 

I would just draw faces and there's no money in that it's just to enjoy it. Then I was like, I'll make skillshare classes. But I had anxiety every time the camera was on me I would get really uncomfortable. I wouldn't even notice I was uncomfortable but when I watched it back I'd be like, oh god I look like I'm going to throw up! I would just be making these faces like I was just so miserable.

So I was like if I want to do this class I got to get on camera more. I got to have a lower-stakes thing that I can do every day. I started doing these little cheap chills show snippets on my Instagram where I would just talk about posters that I had done or whatever just to get used to being on camera.

you should cut out a picture that makes you smile or makes you laugh

My friend Paul Frederick he's a great cartoonist over in North Carolina he texted me and said you should cut out a picture that makes you smile or makes you laugh. Make a hole and put it on the camera. 

So I found, I don't even remember who it was now, it was like a cereal box with a stupid face on it that was just silly, and then I got a picture of Dr. Smith from Lost In Space that always makes me laugh. So I would just look at that instead of the lens of the camera. 

But you can't tell the difference and after a couple weeks, I stopped relying on that. I didn't need that anymore and I just kept doing it. Then it turned into drawing the yearbook people and looking out for the oddballs, the nerds, the rockers, and of course the goths. 

That was kind of who I always knew most about. I would run in those circles and go to those nightclubs mostly. that's what I like to dance to you know? So as far as knowing about that subculture that's always kind of been my kindred spirit.

I was still kind of fixated on the idea of making a yearbook of just goths

Then I started seeking out the goths and just drawing them and I was still kind of fixated on the idea of making a yearbook of just goths. Then I started showing my process and drawing that on Instagram. 

Then suddenly it clicked! I started picturing like a new look for me for some reason to be on camera. You can be more yourself if you're a ridiculous-looking character you know what I mean? 

I like it it fits the aesthetic though that's what I love about it! You say you were nervous I did not see that at all! 

I would make these videos where I'd be like talking to my friends. I never even sent this video to anybody but I was like, just talking to my friends, why am I dressed like this? why did I set all this up? 

I bought a VHS camera that I still want to implement. I figured out how to use a VHS camera as a webcam live which is pretty cool. it looks better than the web. so I want to get involved in that stuff. 

But yeah I didn't even know why I felt like I had to focus on goth culture? And I have a new look, if I look miserable I can look miserable and be on camera on purpose right?


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