Nick Parker


But Hey, No Pressure, Dude: Josh Dykgraaf

But Hey, No Pressure, Dude: Josh Dykgraaf

Matthewblode 2 copy
Nick Parker Oct 13, 2019

Josh is the definition of a specialist. If you’ve ever felt like you’re pretty good with photoshop, you probably haven’t seen Josh’s work. I don’t say that to make you feel bad, it’s purely out of awe. If photoshop is your game, this is the guy you want as your mentor.

As a creator, Josh has an abundance of passion and loves to talk about his craft. But what I find intriguing about Josh is his openness to critical feedback. I see Josh more as an artist than a designer or illustrator. Giving feedback on art is so much more subjective than helping someone decide on whether a design solves a problem. But that’s the difference with Josh, he understands that his art has an audience and their opinion matters, so he continues to produce work that is incredibly well received.

I was very interested to find out how Josh, a hybrid artist and designer at the top of his game deals with those dark thoughts that sneak into the creative process.

Josh Dykgraaf:

The act of being creative does not cause me to be anxious at all, very much the opposite. My happy place is when I'm at my desk all day, headphones on, creating things. No kidding, my first ambition in life is to make coming into the office to create in Photoshop my everyday. I'm eager to get out of bed when I know that that's my day.

Showing my creative output to the world is what causes anxiety, especially when it's a brand new audience who have new experienced my work before.

Right now, I'm anxious about putting my work in front of people asking them to pay real money for it. People have always had nice things to say about my work, but it's another thing entirely to ask them to act on it by paying money for it and put it up in their homes. Part of it is a validation thing, but far more importantly if it succeeds then that's a big step towards my life goals. In some ways it feels a bit make or break. Oh yeah, and almost everyone I know in Australia is coming to Melbourne at some point during the show. But hey, no pressure dude.

How it feels

It feels like a persistent, low grade panic that just sits in the background 24/7, slowly wearing away at you - like most negative emotions, it saps your energy just by being there and rounds the corners off your personality. Holding meaningful conversation is harder and draws more energy.

Anxiety to me manifests as tunnel vision - I become less aware of the world around me and less attuned to the emotions of the people around me.

I'm less likely to pick up on if someone else is feeling down, and generally less considerate of people around me and generally more short sighted in most actions I take. I'm generally an excellent planner and manager of myself, pretty good at projecting consequences of my actions - that can fall apart when I'm anxious. Sometimes to total shambles.

Physically, it can sometimes manifest as a persistent pain in my chest that builds on days at heightened levels.

Effect on work

It can be a double edged sword. If I am aware of the source of the anxiety and can actively do something about it, it can be a powerful catalyst for high levels of focus and productivity. An example might be something I'm working on.

On the other hand, if the source of anxiety isn't entirely apparent to me or if I can't do something about it, for example a public speaking engagement that I know is happening or very poor health of a loved one, it can cause crazy procrastination or simply inactivity as I try to stick my head in the sand. Simply doing something new for the first time, particularly in front of strangers, can be a huge source for me.

Coping strategies

A certain amount of compartmentalisation is critical - recognition of the fact you can't act on everything right now, and must deal with everything bit by bit, starting with what is in front of you first. BUT not so much as to stick your head in the sand, recognition of the source of anxiety is key as you still need to address it at some point, so it needs to be in the background on some level. Failure to do so is simply going to cause the problem, and the anxiety, to snowball. That's when things fall apart.

Also, nothing relieves stress like acting on the source of it in some way, no matter how small it might be.

Another key thing is knowing whose opinion to care about. There are maybe half a dozen people in the world who, if they said something negative about my work, I'd actually be bothered about it (FYI you're one of them homie). Everyone else can shove it, unless it's constructive feedback that I can use to improve in some way.

Link between creativity and anxiety

Our creative output is really a part of ourselves - we are projecting or expressing a part of what makes us and pouring our energy into it.

Then we turn around and present this piece of ourselves to the world for everyone to experience and critique, judging this output that is in some ways quite literally our baby.

Throw on top of that the fact that the creative arts aren't especially valued in Australian or Western society - broadly speaking, people don't want to pay real money for it and therefore on some level do not think it's a valuable use of energy and time. We live in passive (& sometimes active) judgement of those around us. Every creative I've ever known has had their parents question their career choices at some stage until they become successful.

Is it any wonder creatives are stereotyped as anxious people?