“I believe the human spirit is indomitable. If you endeavor to achieve, it will happen given enough resolve. It may not be immediate and often your greater dream is not something you will achieve within your own lifetime. The effort you put into anything transcends yourself for there is no futility even in death.”
Monty Oum, 1981-2015
If you had tried to tell me last semester that I would be part of this program with all these amazing and caring people I probably would have waved the idea off. I was upset about a lot of things and I had just moved here from my childhood home in the country. I wasn’t optimistic of anything. It took some effort to let go of that and allow myself to really trust people but it’s been so worth it. I’ve never had a better school semester.
My project idea was originally going to be an animation, focusing on how someone seems to deconstruct over time because of stress. I wanted to start off with the lines in the film being clean and precise with full colour and shading which would slowly begin to deteriorate and look more and more like things weren’t adding up. I planned to have the lines go fuzzy along with the color going bland and monochrome to show how someone feels when they’re stressed out. After a long time of going over the idea and redesigning it, moving things around and designing characters around original ideas I decided I would rather make a webcomic. A webcomic is sort of just like it sounds: it’s just a comic people can access online from any device. Animations can convey emotions but the kind of animation I wanted to do wouldn’t have any dialogue and thus could not show what I wanted to show as far as character development went. I used programs such as Paint Tool Sai and Comic Life to bring my idea to life.
Over the course of this semester I have learned more than I think I ever would have in a regular semester of school. Propel has taught me that I work better with no bells and no teachers hanging over my shoulder or chatterbox students one desk away. I’m not required to listen to a 30 minute lesson on something I’ll forget in an hour anyway. I chose what I was interested in and I chose how I wanted to present it. I worked in an environment that I could more or less control (I could sit anywhere and any way I wanted, with whoever I wanted). I learned better communication skills (as well as the other 6 c’s, character, citizenship, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking) through activities and challenges as well as learning how to be a leader in some situations (Tiger’s Den). Everybody did more presentations in this one semester than they ever would have done in a normal school situation and while I don’t believe I’m any better or worse at presenting than I was, a lot of the people here will say they feel more confident or sure of themselves now than they were before. I’ve also learned to be adaptive while still remaining myself. If I had stayed in a regular school situation I would have still been in a rut so Propel has really opened my eyes to new parts of my own personality and abilities.
I don’t think a lot of people realize how hard art can be. You can nod and say yes, painting is tough. Yeah, I think sketching can be a little difficult. I don’t really think people understand how much artists struggle daily to be able to express themselves or get an idea to translate from their head to their hands and then onto paper without being misunderstood somewhere along the way. Even still, more people think traditional art is harder than digital art.
Traditional art is defined by something you physically touch. You put the pencil to paper, you smudge everything with your thumbs, you mix the paint yourself etc. Traditional art is just as hard as digital, though. The same amount of effort goes into both of these techniques. The only difference between the two of them is the fact that with digital art, all you need is your favorite program and a tablet. While my project was focused on how people do and don’t deal with stress, it was also a way to show that no art is easy. Digital art isn’t just a three click process, it takes hours of adjusting and blending and sometimes it just doesn’t even look the way you want it to so you scrap the whole design.
When I first started my project I didn’t really anticipate how tough it would be. I knew how to shade and colour already so I wasn’t worried about learning any of that. What really stumped me was formatting the images into the comic program in a way that wouldn’t reduce the quality. There was also the constant trouble of my pen pressure coming and going. Pen pressure is what helps you change the thickness of the lines or colour without having to do it manually, all you do is press harder on the tablet. Occasionally a tablet won’t register with the installed driver and starts to act as just another mouse which makes the lines jagged and all one thickness. I also forgot to account for the days where I would struggle to enjoy drawing. Art block is infuriating when you need to be able to something and you want to finish a project but you just heavily dislike your own art. I didn’t take art block into account but thankfully I had scripts to write if I couldn’t draw anything but it was still frustrating, a comic is reliant on both text/dialogue and images. If I could have done this differently I would have teamed up with another artist so it was less work on both of us. One of us could have sketched the cells and the other could have lined them or vice versa until the cells were done, working around the script until everything was completed. Making a webcomic alone is really stressful. It’s worth it, though. I’ve never actually tried to do something like this and I’m so glad I did.
Propel has been such a unique experience. I wouldn’t have gotten it in a regular school situation where bells dictated what I did and when I did it. Every day would have been the same as the one before it and everything would have been just as predictable. Propel has been something new in every sense. No day has been the same as the one before and there has never been someone hanging over my shoulder pressuring me to do an assignment a specific way to get a certain grade. We’ve all had the freedom to work on what we want however we want which is the way school should be. If all schooling was like this I’d probably want to go to school instead of dreading every single day.
I won’t ever have a similar experience in the future. Propel was unique and it won’t be something I can recreate in another situation later on. I’ve made so many friends and other connections and done more than I would have if I hadn’t decided to join this program. I feel that I’ve grown more as a person than a lot of the other kids my age have. I’ve been given more time to look critically at situations and think about world issues as well as learn about how other people might think. I’ve learned to be more accepting while remaining critical and its made me wiser. Obviously I still have a lot to learn, I’m only seventeen, but I feel like my mind has been expanded farther than most at my age. I’m sad to see propel end but I know it has to for me to move on and do more ambitious things. I’m thankful I had the chance to do this and I’m confident I’ll be able to be more inventive later on in life because of it.