Wednesday, May 14, 2008

I want to be a professional artist

I know it's been awhile since I've posted anything even as basic as a doodle. The truth is, it's been a while since I've drawn anything as basic as a doodle. I don't even think I know what this week's Illustration Friday theme is. This is partially because I've been so ungodly busy and overly-scheduled, and partly because I think every bit of creativity in my body has gone into hiding. Maybe it's somewhere behind my spleen--I certainly couldn't tell you, because I seem to have no access to it at the moment. This too shall pass, right?

Maybe now's the time for a little introduction. I'm a very, very, very beginner illustrator. As in, not able yet to financially support myself with this work. Not even close. And despite living in a low-cost-of-living city and leading a very low-cost life, I've found I can't support myself on a part-time job either.

So I work full-time. At a job I mostly really enjoy (involving college students and volunteerism). Every once in awhile, though, I'll have a day (and today was one of them) when I feel so out of place in the tasks that fill up my days, so in over my head, that I just can't take it. "Why am I here?" I wonder. "This isn't my calling, my career, the thing I've wanted to do since I was eleven years old, the thing I've taken lots of college classes to prepare me for. And I'm not just floundering and uncertain of my future, either! I have something I love to do that I like to think I'm actually pretty good at. Why can't I just get paid to do that? Why am I spending my days dealing with these politics and these stacks of papers and these numbers- and procedure-related tasks that I am so not good at?? WHY CAN'T I JUST BE AN ARTIST AND GET ON WITH LIFE?!!"

But there's simply not enough time in my week to do everything, and this week it's the art that's getting the shaft. Granted, right now is even more busy than usual. I've done well with balancing art and work (and laundry and cooking and friends and family) in months past--and I'll get back there again. But today I need to vent. I'm not sure I really wish the industry was set up to hire full-time illustrators like accountants and social workers and engineers, but... sometimes I kind of wish it was.

Anybody been where I am? Anybody there right now, with me? Care to tell me inspiring tales of how you went from full-time work in other fields to being able to illustrate full time (preferably without getting married first, because that's just not on my horizon, barring any fast-paced real-life fairy tales)? Or just want to commiserate? I'd love to hear from my fellow illustrators. If there was a day to leave comments, this is it!


  1. Oh, I think we've all been there. Persevere, dear. Just keep moving in a forward direction, even when it seems like life will only allow the smallest of steps, make room for a little creativity. It doesn't have to be "art", it could be cooking or rearranging the stuff on your desk, or anything that stirs your creative juices. Sounds corny, I know, but honest it'll get you through.

  2. Regarding not drawing at all - I was really stuck a few years ago and one thing that got me unstuck was The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. It probably took me 35 weeks to do a 12 week program but it was really helpful. Try to learn as much as possible about the business (don't forget, it IS business). Go to every local event you can. Join a critique group. Work in the field as your day job if possible to meet those people and keep learning. And when you get back on track with working, keep improving and take good feedback to heart. My entire first style of illustration needs to be removed from my portfolio/website, because it's been replaced by stronger, more appealing work that only came about from me growing and challenging myself. Start with one small action, and don't stop! But if you do... don't beat yourself up about it, just pick up and move on!

  3. Ok, what Gina said! I was just about to say, "The Artist Way" is very very helpful, but she beat me to it. The rest of her advice is sound as well. But yes, all of us illustrators, aspiring or already there, have been through days and weeks and months like this.

    Between that book and actually, my blog, I have finally started challenging myself and becoming a stronger artist every day. Also, being introduced to other artists, like yourself and researching the biz, I finally believe it will happen. I will be doing this for a living some day soon. In the mean time, I am really enjoying the process... finally.

    I know some time has passed since you posted this, but I sure hope you are feeling better by now!

  4. Here, here! I want to live in a small (yet culturally diverse and never boring) town near an ocean, where it is warm many days but still snows on winter holidays. And I want to live in this wonderful place AS A FULL-TIME ARTIST! Have you read this book they recommended to you yet? I think I may buy this.

    Keep contributing to our critique group and I will always offer positive feedback! Maybe in a year or two we'll get the group to go to an illustration event.



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