How Neal Adams taught me to love.

Most artist I know have two main styles in their lives, I am no exception. I want to share a story with you in the hopes that if you are like me, you don’t fall into the same trap I did. The problem was that one style was holding me back from my true potential and it took a critique by Neil Adams to open my eyes. I did a lot of conventions back when I worked in comics, and then, just as now, I enjoyed getting critiqued by the artist I admired. One such artist was Mr. Neil Adams. I’ll spare you all of the gory details and just summarize what was said, some for your benefit, but mostly for mine. I wish I could say it wasn’t brutal, but that of course would be a lie. It was, but I deservedly so. I knew it, as soon as he said it I knew it. What did he say that was so life changing ,well, I’ll tell you.


In my critique portfolio I had 2 types of samples, kind of a fusion style & an exaggerated realism style. I was better at the realism, I had gotten work doing realism, but boy did I love fusion. I showed Mr. Adams my portfolio and he thumbed through it in a few minutes, blowing through the fusion and lingering only slightly longer on the realism. Then the critique started, words like disgusting and offensive flew from his mouth and hit me like a freight train. This went on for almost 30 minutes. My insides felt like a piece of chewed gum long after every ounce of flavor had been ground out of it.  To his credit he had warned me before hand that he wasn’t known for kind critiques, and of course I had been told as much from others I knew. I kinda wanted this though. I know ,”Why on earth would I want that?” you ask. Well I felt as though I had received enough of the “Your doing great.” and “Love it!” to last forever. They don’t help and I wanted help. So, upon hearing of his reputation, I worked up the nerve to go and get the critique I deserved. What happened next changed my life.


He said, “Look it’s not like I’m talking to a person without any talent here.” “Your doing some nice realistic stuff.” “What I don’t understand is why your doing this shit.”


I explained to him that I just loved fusion art and wanted to steer in that direction.


“Don’t.” He said. “Look your doing a style that a lot of guys would love to do, and your decent at it. Why would you do this? There are a ton of guys doing this style better than you will ever do it, stick to what you do naturally.” He looked at me, I think partly waiting for a response and partly seeing how I reacted to what he said, then he continued. “For most artist there will be two styles in their lives, the one they are good at and the one they love. Learn to love the one your good at and understand you love the other because you can’t do it. It’s not your natural style and won’t ever be. It’s a grass is greener situation. You want to be successful, you want to make a living doing art, train yourself to love the style you do naturally and be happy with yourself that you can do it well, and you will.” He paused, “You have talent young man use it.” then smiled.


I thanked him for his valuable time, shook his hand, thanked his wife for her patience, then went back to my booth. I told the guys what was said, after much prodding on their end. They more or less encouraged me to brush it off and keep doing what I was doing. I shook my head and told them I needed to listen to what he said. He has a wealth of experience I could only hope to one day have. He wasn’t being mean, I believe he knew what I was doing and wanted to make sure I understood why I shouldn’t continue down that path. I think he wanted his message to be perfectly clear and it was.


I went home and began to think about my art differently and it did take a bit of deprograming. I now love realism and rendering. I have put all my energy into becoming the best I can at that style and have no desire to attempt anything else. I can honestly say that doing realistic art is what makes me happiest. I get a lot of work, all realism and I believe its because you can see my passion in my pieces. Since I’ve learned to love the style that comes most natural to me I’ve seen a change in it. I can only attribute that to my mindset.


If Neil Adams wouldn’t have told me the things he did I would still be attempting a style I wasn’t suited for. I know some people will disagree and say I should have kept on doing what I was doing and eventually I would have gotten better. I don’t believe I would have. I believe I would have done a passable representation of that style but, I wouldn’t have reached my full potential as an artist. I think I let my love of the style make me believe that I was supposed to do that style, instead of just admiring it. I may be wrong ,but we will never know.


My point is, if you are like me and find yourself torn between 2 styles, be sure your not forcing yourself to do one just because you like it. Be sure it’s the right style for you and the one you truly love. You’d hate to waste years being frustrated only to find you don’t really enjoy drawing that style. There are plenty of things in art that will inevitably cause you frustration, don’t add unnecessary things to that list.


I hope this helps a few of you out or at least gives you something to ponder. Sorry I was away for a couple weeks I had to fly home due to a family illness and didn’t take anything but my sketchbook and some clean undies. I’ll include the sketches I made while on the trip below.  As always keep drawing and stay true.


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