I should have written this years ago.
Jan (or yathosho to anyone stuck on deviantart) wrote this journal post specifically about me, wondering where I was, and his thoughts about the work I did in the past. I have to say I was very touched, and I consider myself lucky that I was able to connect with him. That post has prompted me to speak up and perhaps reacquaint myself to anyone still sniffing around this page to see if I'm still alive.
Short version: Yes I am very much alive and well. I do not post nearly anything on DA anymore. However, I am just as active in my creative endeavors as I have ever been.
Long, long, long version director's cut w/ commentary:
Where should I begin...Well, Jan begins at the his first impression of me, when I first entered the scene, so let's begin there. At the beginning.
I first discovered AVS around January 2001. That would be eight years ago. It makes it sound so old, but that's the truth. Winamp's AVS blew my mind for two reasons: I loooooooved looking at the designs and how they went to music. It was two of my favorite things in the world rolled up into one. Music and art. As Jan mentions, I came into the scene somewhere after the first generation people ( tonic , ernst , ParaNoya, basically after AVSociety released their 3rd volume I believe) and before the next gen came about ( zamuz , unconed , amphirion , duo , fsk, pak-9 , etc). I clearly remember downloading halfway around the sun by yathosho. I was really impressed by this pack 1. because it was huge and most of presets were great, and 2. it had all these re-mixes.
That summer, 2001, is when I went I went AVS crazy. I remember making it a priority that I would comment on every single deviation that was submitted to the AVS section. I really connected to the medium and I suppose I wanted to be ingrained in the community as much as possible. DeviantArt was a much different site back then. In fact, the only reason why I stuck with DeviantArt was that DeskMod had a server crash in 2001 and never really recovered. Of course, DA had its own server woes in the summer 2001, no thanks to me re-freshing the page every 10 minutes to check for any new presets. But that's how it all began.
Music, Art, Math
AVS clicked for me because it combined three things: Music, art, and math. While I have never considered myself superb in any one of these facets, I've at least thought that I was competent with any of them. Granted, you could argue that all three are so elementally similar, there's hardly any difference when you step away from it all. Maybe that's what I liked best. That you could express a sound with a sine wave that would draw a curve a circle. AVS allowed me to explore these three disciplines much more deeply than I ever did in school. The real cherry on top was the gift of creation. If I followed my interests, I would be able to make something unique. I now realize that creativity is essential to my emotional health, and I write that without any melodrama. It took me a while to figure it out, but unless I am making something, I'm not happy. Well, AVS made me happy and I followed it.
Another reason to keep following the scene was the community. I have to say that I really miss it sometimes. I feel like the AVS scene was very unique back in its hey-day. In all, they were probably no more than 20 different artists who were active. Yet those few individuals accounted for probably 90% of the downloads on the WinAmp presets sections. I loved to imagine that during the years of 2002-2006, I was one of the best in the world at something - even if that something was just a tiny window that made shapes and colors.
And each artist had his or her own methods and tricks and styles. And we would steal and borrow and copy and share these tools of creation. It was exciting to be a part of that. To feel included in something bigger than yourself. I really miss that sometimes. It probably why I get so jazzed when I find that people are using a theme I made.
So why stop doing the thing I loved, that brought about so much happiness? I guess there were several factors:
Scenery is an albatross for me. It was the last fully realized AVS pack I created. In the world of AVS, I don't think I could ever top it. I found my ideal take on visualization: complex but lightweight, composed of many many small parts. Separately, each part is simple, but together, they form an intricate pattern. Today, I still carry on this methodology for creating art. It's basically how my mind works. Like ants. Alone, an ant is simple, but take the whole colony, and you'll find this elaborate labyrinth that defies imagination. I see the world in the same way. Powers of ten. I'm getting abstract here, but the point is, I attained a certain ideal with Scenery, and I didn't think I could create something that would go beyond that. In fact, I found that all the presets I made after that were more-or-less copies of something I had already done. I would always be playing on the "lots of simple things makes something complex" idea. Take Bouquet for example. Released 2 years after Scenery, it's basically just another version of Ivy.
And if I did have an interesting idea, realizing it would take an enormous amount of dedication. The AVS language grew to be too difficult to play with. I've now been working with Processing for a year, and I now see how many doors were closed to AVS. Rather, how many hacks I would have to go through to achieve a vision.
Finally, AVS just didn't fit into my life anymore. I don't know if I mentioned this previously or not, but it's worth bringing up. In the spring of 2004, I failed two classes at university. Granted, in the long scheme of things, this isn't such a big deal, but at the time it was devastating. The failures encapsulated the ambivalence and apathy and emotional unrest I was experiencing at the time. I put myself through the worst case of procrastination. Instead of working on papers, I stayed up into the wee hours of the night working on the presets for Scenery. I poured hours into looking over every detail of those visualizations. After the semester was completed, I realized I would never be able to devote so much time to AVS. In a way, I viewed AVS as the thing I did when I should have been focusing on something else. Maybe it left a bad taste in my mouth.
The most basic reason I don't do the AVS anymore? I'm on a Mac. Yeah, I could run Windows on it, but it just hasn't been a priority.
if AVS made me happy, what am I doing now?
After failing the classes, I got back on track. The rest of college was especially tough, but I got it done. I took the first job I was offered, and ever since, I've been a working man.
But the story doesn't end there. A year into my job, I experienced a bout of anxiety with my occupation. It was the typical quarter-life crisis. I didn't know what to do with myself - what to make of the work I did. Remember that self portrait from December of last year? That's kind of how I felt - in the dark, a shadow.
2008 began with frustration. I was in a dull office job that gave me little satisfaction or emotional reward. Granted, I didn't expect one of my first real-world occupations to be my dream job. What concerned me was that I had no vision for myself. The frustration and the confusion kept piling up. Three weeks into the new year, I met the tipping point. In the same week my car died on me (Jezebel RIP 2001-2008) and I was turned down for a new job that I desperately wanted. While it wasn't too devastating of an event, it was enough to get me mobilized. I stopped the moping and self-pity, and just concerned myself on getting the next step done—whether that was signing up for a community college class, getting car insurance, or whatever was needed to get back on track. That track may have not had a definite destination, but I was committed to keep moving. Six weeks later I found the epiphany I didn't know I was looking for: I was a designer.
Since that moment, everything has changed. I was comforted in finding this identity. Never before had I had a long term goal I could focus on—a point on the horizon I could navigate towards. I can now put all my actions in perspective. I can ask, "How does this make me a better designer?"
Right now I am 9 months deep into an 18 month night school program for Graphic and Web Design. While my free time has been all but annihilated, the last year has been, without a doubt, the most productive and creative span of time in my life. I'm discovering how much creativity means to me, and why I took so much joy in making AVS presets.
So it all comes back around. My motivation now comes from the experimentation in AVS from several years ago. I can say that all those presets were actually were worth the time I spent on them. And I'm grateful to have had the experience I did with AVS community.
At this point I should mention how proud I am to be a part of the community that had both the guy that made Line Rider and one of the main guys behind Drupal. And I think about amphirion and duo and the work they are currently putting out. Right there that should tell you what a talented bunch of artists the AVS scene had.
Finally, Jan, you have been and continue to be one of the biggest sources of inspiration. Without your encouragement, I wouldn't have keep doing AVS for as long as I did. And without your art, I would have not been able to find my own style in those creations. I thank you as a friend.
In order to avoid any confusion, I'd like to clarify on a point Jan made in his post. Yes, I did work as a janitor for summers, on break from college. No, I never "quit" making presets.
Like I said, I'm working to switch careers to web design. My old site is up at nemoorange.com. I recommend you check out my creativity project for 2008, nemoorange.com/newmoon. I'm also working (slowly) on desandro.com.