Friday, November 14, 2008

Operation 'Switch' - Prologue

They were not happy with me and I was not happy with them, so we decided in harmony that it was time to part. I would leave somewhere in the autumn of 2007, which would leave us four months to gather all loose ends, and for me to decide what to do next.

I think they expected me to find my sixth computer job. Over the previous 16 years I had done research in Artificial Intelligence, developed software for fashion logistics and smart cards, done research on software engineering and evaluated smart card security. My employers had one thing in common: either they were not happy with me or I was not happy with them. It was not going to happen.

Years earlier I had began to develop myself as an artist. It had started with a basic course on drawing and painting at De Werkschuit in Gouda, followed by courses on Figure Drawing and Portraiture, at this same art centre, and at De Vrije Academie and Tekenstudio Foppe in The Hague; I became a member at the Open Atelier Modeltekenen in Zoetermeer.  I liked it there, and what is more, it had struck a chord in me.

Over the years, the urge to develop my artistic side became stronger and stronger, until it had reached a level where I loved to exploit my skills professionally. However, The Netherlands lack a strong entertainment industry where my skills are needed, while at the same time my skills seemed to be stuck at the level of an enthusiastic amateur. However, going back to school in your forties with no income to keep you going is no triviality, and my lack of enthusiasm about the state of the art at Dutch art academies only made it worse. The frustration grew.

It was not until Spring 2007 that I took what I thought of as a bold step. I asked my teacher Adelbert Foppe for advice: "If I want to be a professional illustrator in four years, what should I do now?" He gave it some thought and, finally, told me to drop this silly idea. Year after year, one hundred or so illustrators graduate from the Dutch art academies, and the vast majority of them fails to get themselves employed. It took me a day or so for my disappointment to wash away, and I had made up my mind: "I will be artist, and I don't care how or what others think about it." Till the present day, I owe thanks to Adelbert for his wise advise.

And yet it took one more year for me to shape my future. It was Maxine Schacker who posed the not-so-rhetorical question of "Why don't you come to Max the Mutt?" and although Maxine had not addressed me personally, it kept me busy for a day or so. As soon as I had concluded I could not answer it, I had made up my mind.

I was going back to school and this school would be somewhere in North America, with its huge entertainment industry, and matching education. While I figured out the details, I would start as a freelance software developer, to have the flexibility to combine making money and working on my artistic future. Operation 'Switch' had started.

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