Last Tuesday night my awesome friend David Wilson had Chris Oatley speak in the class he teaches at the Salt Lake Art Institute. Much of what Chris said got my brain a thinkin’ so now I’m going to share some of my thoughts with you.
What’s your Next Creative Goal?
Most of us artists have a place, or multiple places, where we want to “arrive”. We think that when we publish a book, or get into that school, or work for Pixar then we will have gotten “there”. In most of our heads that place is probably a far off hard to reach place. I know it was in mine. So here’s the thing I’ve met some of my goals (illustrating a book being one) but I don’t feel like I’ve “arrived”. I hope I never feel like I “got done” being an artist because I met that one goal I had, and I also hope I can do good with my art regardless of what project I’m working on. So what about focusing on what you are going to do right now. After all that is where you are, and where you are is going to get you where you will be someday.
Let me try saying it a different way…
The castle that is your career will be built of all the lego brick jobs you’ve done. The lame jobs you take just to pay the bills and the awesome jobs you take because you love them will all be a part of that castle. I think this is a great thing. I’ve learned so much from the jobs I’ve hated and the mistakes I’ve made it helps me move forward smarter. The trick (at least for me) is making sure I don’t get stuck only getting frustrating jobs. Look at what you learned but move forward. Look to the future. If you say “I always get jobs that don’t pay on time” or “I hate the art directors I end up working with.” That is the reality you will continue to create for yourself. But if you say, “That was a frustrating job but it’s in the past. I’m smarter now and my next job is going to be so fun.” You will probably be right.
What if you are already stuck in a job you don’t enjoy?
Ask what you are learning or what you can learn. Make that job a good step to the next place you want to be. I learned A TON from doing newspaper layouts for over a year even though it wasn’t my ideal creative job. What if you aren’t in a creative job? What can you learn about marketing, social media, creating relationships, or saying no to people in a nice way? There is always ALWAYS going to be something in your life that you can do to get you where you want to be. Look for it and enjoy the process.
Don’t compare yourself to other people. They have a different goal than you and a different path to getting there. And most of all don’t put yourself down because you haven’t “arrived” at your goal. I often meet other artists and think about how cool they are, how good they are, how much better than me they are… but I’m done with that now. It’s a silly thing to do. As long as that is my thought process I’m making myself less. I could be the best artist in the world but always be less than everyone else because I thought myself into being less. I’m no longer going to look down on jobs I get because it’s an educational job not a trade job. I’m no longer going to meet illustrators and assume they know they are better than me because they’ve illustrated a “real” book and I haven’t.
Instead I’m going to Think:
I am a great illustrator.
I love the companies and people that I work with.
I love the things I get paid to draw.
I love that my clients always pay me on time.
I find that people appreciate what I do and pay me fairly for the value I create for them.
I love meeting other artists and talking with them about art.
I get the best jobs, and I’m grateful for them.
Being a freelance illustrator is fun.