February 16, 2015

An Important Lesson Learned from Canadian Ice Sculptures

How does one connect cartoons, Canada, ice sculptures, and giant thought bubbles in one post? If that got your attention, please read on about my trip last week.

First, I’m a Wannabe Creative

This story starts with a big disclaimer: I’ve have a secret desire to build my career off a creative and quirky personality. You heard me, I basically want to be Matthew Inman.

As you can tell from my below sketchbook doodles, this dream refuses to die. But when I try to take the extra step of tracing and maybe coloring my sketches on my computer to boost their quality, I hit a mental block. I’m not sure what creates it, but it always keeps these characters stuck in their paper pages and away from the digital limelight.

Several examples sketches from my sketchbook.

With that sad fact about my life cleared up, the real story can begin.

A Weekend Visit to a Canadian Festival

All the above was in my head during a weekend visit to Canada one week ago. The main focus of the trip, in addition to riding ice slides, eating beaver tails, sleeping in a hostel once was a prison, and ice-skating along a 8-km-long canal, there was the Winterlude festival. Specifically, the part with the cool ice sculpture art.

Sadly, getting to this amazing art was not easy due to a 15-minute walk through below-zero winds and piling snow. After one minute of this I realized I’d left my hat and protective face mask behind, which made the weather that much worse.

When we arrived at the park where said art was , I’d forgotten what it was like to feel my own face – but I did learn the feeling of my legs and teeth chattering so hard they may break apart like ice.

Once we finally arrived at the somehow colder-still park, though, seeing all the ice sculptures on display made the trek worth the pain. I could describe how amazing they looked with the artists’ attention to detail and when they were backlit by colorful lights below the night sky – but thankfully my fingers weren’t so frozen that I couldn’t take pictures. I invite you to see the pics below and let them blow your mind.

Ice sculpture of an eagle being formed by a hand making an eagle shadow.
Ice sculpture of two children reaching up to pet a dragon.
Ice sculpture of a woman holding an umbrella while dancing in the rain.
Ice sculpture of an angel reaching out to the viewer.

What Ice Sculptures Have to do with Creativity

You may be wondering, “Okay Max, cool ice sculptures and all, but what’s that have to do with being creatively frustrated?”

After walking back to the hostel and making sure no limbs had frozen off, I realized that going to those sculptures was actually very similar to my creative struggles. When I think about doing the work to trace, edit, and present my drawings online, my mind imagines all the work is like that walk to the park was: so difficult and uncomfortable that I can’t even start it.

But walking that walk in Canada showed what the results of that struggle usually are. For all that work you get amazing sculptures that, no matter how much work and cold weather one must endure, are worth the amazing feeling of seeing the result.

While I idled in my jail cell before enjoying the Canadian night life, a thought struck me: If the work of walking to a park in sub-zero Canadian weather was worth seeing those sculptures, wouldn’t drawing my cartoons on my computer be worth overcoming my creative block too?

It took a while to find an answer to this, but the eventual one was “Yes.”

I’ve known this answer for a while now, I’d just forgotten it at college when my future career ambitions took a vice-like grip over my brain. But I was more than happy to do the work and take those risks in high school, as this drawing I made before shows:

A cartoon drawing of myself with lots of different ideas and concepts in an over-sized thought bubble.

Another great, and likely embarrassing example, of this are some posts I made on my first ever blog. They were extremely long and philosophical, had needless image editing, and were probably never read by anyone. Yet I still enjoyed making them – they were worth the work.

So with all the other things I can thank Canada for, I can also thank them for some extra inspiration to beat the creative block stopping my mini-dream of being a digital creative. I beat it in high school, so why not again?

I’ll likely never be Matthew Inman, but I can keep trying, right?