Featuring Lisa Ann (Jae) Andresen
My story is not nearly as fantastic as it might have been. I haven't met my fiancée on Elfwood, and my best friend, while also an Elfwood member herself, was already well on the road to becoming my best friend by the time she joined, which was about a year and a half after me. I joined Elfwood back in 1999, mostly because I knew a girl from an online RPG I played in who was already a member, and I thought that the commenting system was cool. All of my friends had webpages, but me and HTML have never exactly gotten along well, so having a gallery online where I could post of few of my paintings and drawings seemed to be a reasonable alternative.
I didn't expect to update much. As it was, I only had a few pieces of artwork which could qualify as "fantasy," and I didn't see myself doing anymore anytime soon. I had no scanner, nor any access to one, and as such my next update didn't come until fully six months after I joined. In that time, however, something in me... changed. I looked forward to Fridays every week, because that was when I would check my page for new comments, and they always made me happy. They encouraged me. I started using my imagination more and more, seeing in certain photographs I liked a fairy instead of a girl, or dragons flying over sandy beaches.
But I had also wanted to be an archaeologist/ forensic anthropologist for a long time, ever since I was small. I was the only kid in my class at elementary school who would come home and watch the Discovery Channel instead of cartoons. And when I finished high school (with a silver medal in ancient people social studies via the Academic Decathalon competition), I headed straight off towards my local community college, as it was cheaper than a university and it had one of the best Anthropology units around.
What changed everything, I guess, was the summer my mom and I had a huge fight, and she kicked me out. I moved in with a friend and her family, and I had access for the first time in my life to a scanner. Suddenly, I wanted to fill my days and evenings with "Elfwood" art, as I called it then, and I would finish a new picture almost every night. I was updating every week! I was getting comments galore! And I loved it, really loved it.
The summer of 2000 was when I began to realize that, if I kept drawing, I could potentially make something of myself. I could illustrate fantasy novels, or sell my original artwork at art shows and local galleries. The idea that I could support myself with my art was both thrilling and terrifying, because I knew that for all my potential, I had a long way to go....
That Fall my mother and I made peace. I moved back home, and my parents began to notice how much my art had improved. My father invested in a scanner for me, and I took off from there. I got work at an art-supply store, and while that didn't last long, I had learned enough in my few months there to know-- really know from the bottom of my heart, that I wanted-- no, that I was, that I am, an artist.
My hands were shaking the day I walked down to the admissions office at school to change my major to art history (I wasn't entirely ready to give up my beloved ancient civilizations) with a minor in fine art. The head of the Anthropology department at school asked me if I understood what I was doing. I nodded, and said yes, even though on some level, I felt horribly that I was letting him down.
My parents reaction to my change in majors was not as bad as I'd expected. My father told me that he'd always known, from the time I was small, that I was artistically talented, but looking through my older artwork, I don't see anything special. My mother was disappointed that I wasn't pursuing a "scientific" career path... she viewed my art as more of a hobby. But in the 8 months since I made my choice, I can already see a tremendous difference in the direction my art is going. I take my time now, with each piece, and I'm becoming less and less afraid of trying something new. Each day, I become less worried about "failing" at my art, and more concerned with learning.
Elfwood has taught me so much. Existing in a community where I could be inspired by artists so much more accomplished than myself, from all around the world, watching my favorite artists grow along with me, seeing the progress I was making and appreciating the comments in others-- these things taught me to believe in myself, not only what I can do now, but what I can do in the future. I know I wouldn't be here today, wouldn't have become the passionate artist that I am, if I hadn't been looking for the lazy way out of making my own website back in the Fall of '99. I'm so glad that I did. As of this year, I even have my own website, coded entirely by me. It seems that creativity permeates far more than just my drawings, now.
||Lisa Ann (Jae) Andresen lives in Southern California and does not look very much like this picture anymore. She suffers random infestations of Cherry Coke Goblins and is currently listed as "Out for Lunch, be back in 15".