New York Comic-Con 2021: Adam Savage Panel + Covid Differences

On Friday I hopped on the train with my teen and headed into the city with him for the first time since covid began for New York Comic-Con 2021. This wasn’t our first time to the convention—we attended NYCC 2019 and had tickets booked already for 2020’s event that was later cancelled.

We initially had tickets for the whole family, but as the event neared we decided that we didn’t feel comfortable taking our younger son, who’s not yet of age for a vaccine, and ended up taking a couple of my teen’s friends. Though his friends were coming, he still wanted to do a duo costume with me. After some deliberation, we both had the idea at the exact same time(!) that the iconic duo we should dress up as had to be Jay and Silent Bob.

My attempt at making a judgemental Jay face while Silent Bob shows me he’s mastered the mirror selfie

I was away on a girls trip for the week (more about that later!) leading up to the event, so my teen decided with his dad what panels he and I were attending, and didn’t realize we were seeing the world premiere of the new Chucky TV show (which was amazing!!) and Adam Savage, nor did I realize the sort of royalty that the former MythBusters host is in the Comic-Con circuit. Unlike my husband and son, I’m not invested in any of the specific fandoms represented at the Cons, I’m more of a nerd for Art, Creators, and Costuming.

I was quickly invested in what Savage had to share with the audience: personal experiences during quarantine, extreme feats of well-researched and precise creative projects, and nuggets of wisdom from someone whose creativity has led him to fame in addition to professional and financial success. I jotted down some of these nuggets that resonated with me, which are paraphrased here.

Adam Savage words of wisdom from NYCC 2021

As mentioned, these aren’t exact quotes, because I’m not a journalist or the fastest phone typist. The panel was recorded and I will update these to be correct once I find where it can be viewed.

On Creative Balance

I make things and I tell stories about them, and I think of those things of equal importance

Adam Savage

Savage brought this up when discussing the challenge of not having a filming team during quarantine to share his creative projects with his YouTube followers.

This quote was what had me reaching for my phone to take notes, because it’s exactly the problem I’ve been dealing with as of late. Over the summer, I committed more time to oil painting, before that I was getting a lot of DIY projects done around the house. Still, my writing goes untouched. Lately I’ve been grappling with whether or not ‘not writing’ is a problem, and if so, how on earth I’ll manage to squeeze in writing when I’m hardly meeting a quota of creative projects that I’m happy with.

The fact of the matter is that the question keeps coming up for me because it is a problem. I think of myself as a writer and an artist, and I’ve been struggling with an attempt to decide which role is more important to me when it’s perfectly okay to accept that they are of equal importance.

On Getting the Work Done

Getshitdoneitis, it’s like a disease, I have to finish something

This was something Savage said when he was accepting questions from the audience. Many questions erred toward creative block and creative struggles, and I think this one was more along the lines of what to do when you’re in a lull of creative work.

I loved this phrase because people often ask me how I make time for creative work, and on my own time I often find myself thinking it has to do with my husband taking on more than he should or personal mental illness…ha! But I like the idea that it’s just a fire burning in me to get things done, and that each completed project lends fuel to that fire.

In the process of making something, your mind is busy figuring out what the narrative of the object is

This illuminated a problem I’d been having with my latest painting. It is based on a photo I took at the nearby Southport Harbor a few years ago.

Here’s a recent progress photo, though it looks slightly different at the moment

I’ve come to a lull in it, and I realized through his comment that upon choosing the reference photo for this painting, I was thinking about how I could begin to paint popular scenes from my area and eventually sell prints locally. Any narrative focused on profit rather than expression is bound to have trip ups. I plan to keep in mind the story of a work during its creation rather than the goal of what’s possible after it’s complete.

To move on from writer’s block, memoir writer, Mary Karr writes others’ work in long hand. It’s all about being in the environment of the work and getting your mind in the right space. She’s a writer, so she does that. What I do—I clean up my shop. It serves the same purpose and gets my gears turning

Adam Savage

I’ve read four of Mary Karr’s books, so I lit up when he mentioned her name. I never knew this about her and I think both methods for easing into a new creative project are golden.

The Emotional Work of a Creator

Someone asked Adam what his most difficult project was, and he said this:

The most difficult thing I ever work through is always my own emotional content and personal biases

As the audience member was wrapping up this question, I was assuming and even hoping that Savage would speak about something more personal rather than an individual project. Though it’s not quite answering in the direction the person wanted him to, it’s important to acknowledge that thought and physical work will always be upstaged by emotional work. Not because it’s necessarily harder, but because the fatigue of an emotional experience doesn’t subside with rest like your mind or body. Healing the heart is always about time, thought, and amending perception. It can’t be rushed.

That, and it’s always good to hear that creators on the top of their game also struggle with confidence with their competence.

After I finish a really big build, I always spend about a week depressed

I appreciate that a creator of his caliber acknowledges to his wide fan base the emotional content of creation and the heartache of completing an intimate journey with an individual project.

I realized I had deprioritized my role as a designer and an artist

Normalize talking about this! As I began sharing works of art frequently, people continue to approach me and share that they “used to” make art, paint, etc. It’s far too easy to let our roles as artists be put aside, regardless of caliber.

Parenting

Wasn’t expecting any parenting advice, but someone asked what his first project was and he shared this:

I grew up with my father painting for hours every day, despite any issues I may have had with him, it’s an incredibly austere thing to witness.

Many of the same people who talk to me about not making art anymore focus in on the busy-ness of parenting or general adulthood. I always think about how valuable it is for my kids to see me being creative rather than keeping a clean house. They’ll grow up knowing that I have many layers despite my role as a stay at home mother.

The thing my parents always did for me was put the things I’m interested in in front me

I always say that when you see a flame in your child ignited by an interest, to throw gasoline on it. Make information and tools accessible and teach your kids how rewarding it is to follow their curiosity.

First NYCC After Covid Began

New York Comic-Con 2021 required that all attendees be vaccinated or have a recent negative covid test. All attendees wore masks for the entirety of the convention, aside from eating and drinking in the food court. There was a higher limitation on the amount of people that could attend, so the event was not as crowded.

The biggest difference, to me, was that there were far less people in costume than the last time we went. Maybe because this year we went on a Friday and previously it was a Saturday, or maybe it was because people didn’t want to have to figure out a masked costume.

This was by far my favorite costume:

Scrooge McDuck in a pile of money costume at NYCC 2021

Runner up was this guy

Joe Dirt Costume at NYCC 2021

And here are a few more shots of those whose creativity or execution of a costume urged me to take a photo while I chased around my teen and his two friends:

Oh, and I forgot to mention: Silent Bob and I stumbled upon our alter egos

the superhero versions of us were far taller

mastering the lean

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