A Short Essay on Shanty Town Blog (an Update of Sorts)

Hello, all. I want to talk a little about the current state of Shanty Town and about the future. Some realizations have hit me recently about the content I’ve posted here, and I think it’s important that I address them for anyone looking at this blog for the first time. Sorry if you’re here for whacky art or poetry, I promise I’ll be back to that soon. I just feel like I have to get this out.

For me, Shanty Town functions as a sort of time capsule that shows what I’ve been interested in, both in terms of style and in terms of content. In the course of looking back at the posts on this blog, I’ve traditionally seen the periods my art has taken in terms of the art’s form. How I’ve experimented, improved, and iterated over the years. I like seeing my progress as a writer and an artist, and that’s been my main takeaway in the past when I’ve looked through my backlog.

Recently, however, I’ve been struck by the content of the blog itself. For some reason, the way my art is perceived from an outside view has recently been more apparent to me than ever. It may seem strange for an artist to have a limited understanding of his own work, but sometimes subconscious thoughts come into play in ways that even the author (or especially the author) can’t see outright.

The root of my realization is this: the content on this blog is extremely, unflinchingly bleak. It’s no shock to anyone who’s read it, but it’s struck me that the stories I tell here consistently end abruptly, on sour notes that give no sense of redemption or resolution to the narrative. The subject matter I depict is mined from the worst sides of human experiences; deceit, hatred, murder, suffering, pain.

Most of the art here seems written from a place of exhaustion with these truths, uncertainty about the future, and a desire to jolt readers out of a positive mindset. You could argue, as I have before, that storytelling like this reflects reality. And admittedly, there is some truth to that. Looking back, I think my choices in subject matter reflect a desire to understand and cope with the darkness inherent in our reality here on earth, and sometimes that’s an important thing. But it’s not the entire picture.

I wouldn’t say I regret writing any of the content here. It’s an honest expression of what I was feeling when I wrote it, and I still think many of the ideas I’ve presented here are well-realized and interesting. It’s largely still art I’m extremely proud of, and I believe there is worth to portraying the darker shades of human nature. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying these works, and there’s nothing wrong with exploring these places in art once in a while.

However, going forward, I feel that I need to drift from Shanty Town’s typically macabre subject matter somewhat. I want to learn how to portray brighter emotions like joy and fulfillment without them feeling disingenuous or forced. I want to break from grotesquery as a constant and try to portray the depth of human experience more accurately. 

Ultimately, I guess I just feel ready to turn the page on extreme, unflinching negative thought like this. The writing I do here, for better or worse, is a reflection of me and my thought process. And, as the content here would imply, my thought process has returned to depressive places again and again in the past few years.

Frankly, I feel worn down. In looking over my previous posts these last few days, they’ve made me feel nothing but jaded and sad. I don’t want that to be the only feeling my work incites. I want to make art that explores brighter emotions. I want to recognize all sides of life, the ups as well as the downs. I want to move forward.

You may be wondering why I’m leaving all the old posts up, or why I’m not just making a new blog. First off, as I said, I still enjoy the content I’ve presented here over the years. It’s neat to me to watch my writing and drawing blossom as you scroll up from the bottom, and some of these stories and art pieces represent huge steps forward for me as I’ve strived to be a more effective artist.

Second, my work reflects me as a person and it will naturally change as I do. If it seems like this shift in tone is a big one, that’s only because the shift I’ve taken in real life is pretty significant, too. In a world filled with false, surface-level positivity, it’s taken me up until now to realize that I’ve thrown the baby out with the bathwater in trying to “see things as they really are”.

 Sometimes, reality really is filled with peace and joy. I’m realizing more and more that it’s not dishonest or intellectually bankrupt to portray these things in art. I hope that by writing to define what is good and pure in my experiences, I can learn to let these emotions flow better as well.

I can’t promise I’ll never write anything dark again, because I surely will at some point. I can’t promise I’ll start out making art that’s emotionally effective as I try to find balance in the way I perceive things. All I can really promise the readers of this blog is that it will keep going, for better or worse, in good frames of mind and in bad, as long as I have fingers to type with. Thank you to everybody who read this whole thing.

-Will

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