I've stopped believing in formulas for success. Whether they exist or not, I've become tired of looking for one that works. I think I gave up a long time ago. I rarely cut corners, and take the long route to get to places. And although I probably end up putting in more work than I should, I believe that the time that I spend in one spot, learning, and fixing, and making mistakes and recovering from them are some of the most valuable gifts that I've given to myself. It's not always fun, but there have been many rewarding moments.
I believe in education.
I believe in networking.
I believe in preparation.
I believe in inspiration.
I believe in humility.
I believe in patience.
I believe in hard work.
Last night I was at a party with some friends. Yes, yes, although I don't go out as often as I used to, I did last night, and had a really great time seeing friends who I've not seen in so long, and having conversations that I didn't realize that I've been yearning to have because I've been working so much (for the most part) alone in my studio. I've been in this industry for eleven years, and throughout this time, I've gained much experience, most of it being useful; having reinforced and challenged some views and values in both my personal and professional lives. Some of the things that I used to believe in, I no longer do. And some of the goals that I had set for myself have fallen away, and have tarnished in their level of importance. But at the same time, I've learned that parts of myself have, over the years, become more solidified, and unchanged, although I have added to this list some new things that I've begun to care more about.
The Illustrator who I am today is not like the one from seven years ago before I moved to New York. And I think part of it is from the interactions and experiences that I've had living in this city; the friends that I've made, the projects that I've worked on, and even the neighbourhood that I've chosen to live in have all somehow left their impressions on me, which have in turn, affected the choices that I make nowadays.
I spoke with several friends last night about the personal projects that they are working on alongside their careers. Some have chosen to do both full day job, and self-initated projects on nights and weekends. While others have left their professions and have immersed themselves entirely in whatever project to which they've assigned themselves. And I wonder if much of my fascination with listening to their stories has everything to do with the fact that I am in a similar position now, within my own career. Although I'm not giving anything up per se, I am, and have for what feels like, a long time, been seeking out ways to expand my creativity and to lift my art and business to the next level. The obscurity of this phrase matches the obscurity of how I will exactly do this.
Because frankly, I don't know.
I'm doing a lot of reading and researching, I'm sharing what I'm doing with others, and listening to them talk about what they're doing, I'm watching a lot of documentaries and I confess reality shows too, because I'm anything if not a sucker for the rise of the underdog.
But there are so many moments when I'm confused and unsure about the direction that I should go in, and if it's even worth it.
If you've been reading my entries, you'll know that this is an ongoing theme of mine. I never said that i had answers, and I know that I'm redundant (ask any of my students), and I'm very open about the realities of my experience via my own profession, at times to a self-deprecating level, but I have a narcissistic side as well - I think he needs to be there to balance the critical side of me. There is an artist and critic inside of every Illustrator; the conversation that happens between these two bodies helps us make creative decisions. Sometimes though, I wonder if there's also an analyst inside of me as well because I could sure use the advise.
Over the weekend, I spoke at an "3x3's Nuts & Bolts" Illustration Conference, sharing whatever information that I had experientially about beginning one's Illustration career; really, it was more storytelling and wondering out loud than a didactic approach on how to look for work. My illustrations, and my lectures are an extension of myself and so there needs to be an authenticity of experience; I have to enjoy whatever art I'm making, and in reference to my talks, enjoy whatever it is I'm speaking about. It needs to represent where I'm at presently within my studio practice, and where I'm psychologically and emotionally as well, otherwise I'll get bored.
At the end of it, someone asked me how early I wake up to do all of the things that I do.
My answer was, "6:00 am."
Of, course this is not a militant ritual of mine, but I realized that over the past year, without exaggeration, I have been waking up very early because if I don't, then I wouldn't be able to accomplish all of the things that I've set out to do. This of course means letting go of other things in my life. However, as extreme as it sounds, it's not really that way. Making the decision to incorporate a second component to my studio practice of creating personal work has really helped me become more productive and efficient because I realize that if I'm not organized, then I won't be able to grow my career in the way that I would like.
The friends of mine who I spoke with last night, talked about their projects, their intentions and creative vision, the amount of time, money and work that they've spent towards them... their stories inspired me in a huge way. And I need to be inspired right now because it gives me comfort and encouragement to continue with the personal projects that I'm doing alongside my commercial work. There isn't often validation while I'm working on self-iniated projects, there isn't always an audience either. Instead, what I do think that there is, is a lot of is uncertainty... and this uncertainty can be so loud sometimes, Uncertainty can make me defensive and tired, and plant the idea in my head to quit. Taking my career to the next level means being uncomfortable -- it requires a ton of work, but it also requires research, analysis, strategy and risk. These are not the most romantic words, I admit, but who said love was easy. Love takes work.
*The illustration above was for SooJin Buzelli at Plansponsor, "Finding The Best Provider."