An Animator’s Survival Guide to New York City

New York has a certain “tough love” way about it.  It takes its residents and beats them down unrelentingly.  Those who make it through the city’s trials become stronger and with a sense of pride for being tough enough to last.  These “trials” come from all sides.  Long, quick paced workdays for barely enough to cover rent, cramming oneself into a full subway train like a sardine every morning for the commute to work, the constant buzz of life and the jungle of concrete and stone that covers every inch.

For people in the creative field, it can be even worse.  Battling for the single job that hundreds of other equally qualified artists also applied.  Why do it, you may ask?  It’s definitely a love/hate relationship, but the question I aim to answer is not why, but how.  So here is an animator’s perspective on surviving in New York.
For me, escapism is the most important way to cope with city life.  It’s about finding a way to seperate myself from the stresses that surrond me.  Without doing that, I would have surely given up and left the city long before now.  So these are the places that I go to find a little time away.

It may not sound that special, but when the only “nature” we can get near to is a couple block square with some grass and trees, it really does feel like a different world.  A few steps into Central Park and the tall trees block out the skyline and within a five minute walk of a subway, you can fool yourself into thinking you are no where near the city.  For a less populated area, Prospect Park in Brooklyn is the way to go, mostly frequented by the nearby residents enjoying the fact that Manhattanites are afraid of leaving the island.  But whether it is Central Park, Prospect Park or one of the many other small parks that are scattered throughout the city, it’s one of the best places to be able to sketch.  Sketch something other than the rigid grid of streets and buildings.  It’s a place to get a feel for nature, while still staying a stone’s throw from public transportation.  The people in them, excited to feel grass under their feet as well, become much more animated and grerat subjects to draw or paint.

Bronx Zoo
One of my favorite places to escape from city life is the Bronx Zoo.  It’s easy to get lost in this massive area filled with animals (just ask the cobra) and far enough from the hustle and bustle that the constant city noise is no where to be found.  Come spring, there are always people setting up zoo visits to go sketch as a group.

American Museum of Natural History
The natural history museum is another great place I’ve found to sketch, although the rooms can get a bit dark depending on where you are.  There is something for everyone here from dinosaurs, to ancient artifacts, to animals.  And the best part of these animals is they stay perfectly still for you.

Dr. Sketchy’s
Although it’s not just a NYC thing, Dr. Sketchy’s anti-art school was started here.  Their bi-weekly burlesque drawing sessions are figure drawing sessions in a less rigid atmosphere.  It tends to be a group of like-minded illustrators and artists there as much to socialize as they are to draw.  And like many other social events in NYC, it takes place in a bar which helps with its relaxed feel.

The Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art is a great organization that hosts various events throughout the year, bringing a variety of amazing speakers.  They also have a yearly comic art festival every April, which may not make you rich, but provides a great opportunity for artists to show off their work and network with each other.  I participated this year with some friends and we all decided that if we got nothing else out of it, it gave us a deadline to get a finished piece of work done by.

And finally, what about those times we can’t escape the city?  There is no other choice but to try and make the best of it.  On those long commutes, we pull out our sketchbooks and go to town!  The subway is the best place for finding people people holding a pose for a good amount of time.  And whether it’s the partied-too-long type, the confused tourist, or the irritated commuter, there never fails to be some interesting poses.

Although I may be living in New York mostly so I can be an artist, it’s that same art that lets me relax and enjoy New York despite its tough love.


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