Many things have contributed to finding my path as an artist. From an incredibly supportive husband, fabulous friends, to a love of storytelling… I receive questions every week about how I got here, what tools I use, what inspires me… so, I thought it might be helpful to write a bit about how I got here.
After college I had a host of jobs. Most of them weren’t right for me. In fact, I quit one job by placing my office keys on the desk, submitting my resignation via email and simply walking out, never to return again. Because the job wasn’t just making me miserable, it made me hate life. Another job I held for one single day. I learned that I am headstrong, I take action and think about the consequences later. I don’t recommend it, but it has mostly worked for me. Of all my jobs before art, the only job I enjoyed was working at the library. I was an assistant but I never felt like one. There was a level of respect, playfulness and curiosity that I loved there. (My ideal world is one full of art and books.) I worked at a cafe and and the library, took out massive loans (which I’m still paying off) and enrolled in art school at the age of 27. I was often the oldest person in my classes, and believe me when I say that I was AWFUL in comparison to the students 8 years younger than me. Being older, my one advantage was that I was clear about what I wanted to do – I wanted to create illustrations to make people happy and I wanted to write books.
Returning to my headstrong self, I learned what I felt like was enough and dropped out of art school. I began drawing everyday. I am now 3 years and 500+ illustrations deep into running my own show. I admit I am distracted by shiny, new, well-paid opportunities. Many of the artists I know work at animation or game studios. I was recruited by one of the big animation companies last year and turned down their request for an interview. I have to keep clear on my goals even when it’s easy to be swayed by big names. I am a full-time artist and business. Anyone who has started their own business knows the painful truth that YOU are the only way that your business earns and moves forward. I realize the path I chose is harder. Much, much harder than I had imagined. The majority of my income comes from my personal work and a small percentage from commercial work. I work weekends, nights, and sometimes I am disheartened by the lack of opportunities I have simply because I’m not associated with X, Y, or Z company. That’s the reality of any industry. But I truly prefer working for myself. I prefer creating artwork that I feel passionate about and working on projects that speak to me.
I don’t see myself as an authority on much of anything except my own experience. I can tell you what software I use to create my digital illustrations, what wood burning tool I use and what watercolors and pens. I believe in the beginning of any creative pursuit the idea that knowing the tools of your favorite artist will help you reach your goal is an easy trap. No one can create artwork like me because its not about my tools. My history, my experiences, feelings and thoughts inform my work. I use flash and photoshop, but you could find that you hate those tools. Then where will you be? In the end you have to find what works for you and go toward that. I battle a lot of insecurity and doubt, every week, every day, and recently that’s lead me to try new things… which is good and bad. Good because I get bored and trying new things keeps me excited and fresh. Bad because sometimes I fall into the same trap. I look at what others are doing and try to BE them. I have to constantly remind myself that although I might be good at a small amount of things, it is those things that I must focus on. I must go towards the things I’m good at, develop those and keep focused.
If I have arrived at a place that is admirable to others, I did that by being true to myself and working hard. I am not talented. I have no secret formula to create my illustrations or wood burnings. There is no magic button that makes shops carry my work or blogs write about my work. It comes from a constant pursuit of independence. I wanted to be free to create what I want, work where I want, with whom I want and make people happy.
Before beginning any path, creative or not, I think its important to be clear and focused. That is what will propel you forward. So… do you truly know what you want to do?