I made a significant lifestyle change last month where I ended full-time employment and went part-time. Although it was only a two-three year stint (a temporary situation after a stretch of freelancing), minimising my working days to just three days a week will be a new circumstance for me.
My whole working life has been as a graphic designer. I have had some amazing experiences and opportunities but I’ve also worked some incredibly long and hard hours in very stressful conditions. I may not have done everything a graphic designer is capable of achieving, but I came close to it. There’s nothing more it can provide me in terms of challenges and motivation. Occasionally I was given the chance to create illustrations however, they were always designed to suit the client’s brief rather than my own taste.
So in my spare time I would paint and draw what I liked. It was an escape from the daily deadline-driven drudgery. Breaking away from the computer was uplifting and freeing physically and mentally. I guess it was the beginning of my personal art renaissance.
I was given opportunities to travel as an artist-in-residence and I also joined some local sketch groups. Being around other artists, professional and amateur alike, I learnt so much and more importantly I was now drawing regularly. My range in subject matter and art mediums expanded as well, but I knew there was more to discover.
That’s why I have decided to make illustration a priority in my life. I want it to be my new career. The only problem is I don’t know what I want to do. I like all sorts of mediums. I like drawing from life and from my imagination, and I like detailed work as well as being expressive. There is nothing that screams out as “my thing”. I’m not even sure if I want to do commercial or published illustration, or create my own products. And is online the way to go? Or through retailers or a market stall? This is what I need to find out first.
Also, I feel it’s the right time as we now live and breathe in an online world where everything from getting small quantity print runs to promoting your artwork and profile use to be an expensive step or an exclusive one not open to amateurs or unestablished artists, and it didn’t necessarily guarantee you success either. The internet not only provides more accessible services and a global audience but there are choices within that as well.
I also feel this worldwide community celebrates individuality too. It encourages anyone, despite their skill level, to follow their heart and pursue what they love. As long as it is, from the heart.
Full speed ahead
I’m calling it ‘The Creative Plan’ and every Monday will be dedicated to this grand plan. The underlying motive is to explore and find out what I like through exercises. At this stage I cannot think about what would work commercially as it will influence my endeavours in a negative way. With my design background it’s too easy to manipulate your work to make it “marketable” or as the term goes “on trend”. I have to be true to myself and develop my own instincts.
I’m using a structured plan rather than freewheeling my way in an unhinged, emotionally driven “go with what you feel” approach because, well, that’s not me. I am a little anal in planning things, I am a coverer of any possible scenarios type of person, and if I like or dislike something I want it to be based on more than first impressions. So having a structured plan wont let me overlook anything that might be worth trying because of my limited experience.
In a methodical manner I will carry out exercises specific to a given medium. I’ll include tasks that require tight, detailed rendering to expressive gestures, and cover subjects like portraiture, still life, on location, fantastical, fashion illustration, mixed media and calligraphy, to name a few.
The exercises will be simple as I don’t want any to continue on to the next day. It’s not about completing a nice portfolio of artwork but what I can learn from the experience. This also means I will be making notes and reflecting on each outcome, which I hope to share with everyone.
On the horizon
Sadly, I can only dedicate one day a week to this (the other days will be spent completing long-standing projects I started a decade ago). It will be hard living off and managing a smaller income, but I think the financial sacrifice will be worth it. It’s where my head and heart is. Plus, I’ve never studied fine art so this will be as close as I get to that. It’s all getting exciting as I have been concocting this for sometime and now it’s finally happening. I’m feeling a bit girlishly giddy about it.
It would be great to hear from anyone who has done something similar or plans to. Any thoughts or words of advice would be helpful. Did it change your art or your approach to art? How did you manage it with everything else in your life.
Thanks for your time!
And we begin…
The Creative Plan – Day 1 Graphite Pencil
Good on you! It’s hard to step back from full time work, I did the same, having gone back to study art as a mature age student. I was fortunate that I was able to re-negotiate my job to 3 days a week. Having just finished a self-imposed one year project I would say keep it ‘simple’. Yes there’s a wealth of things to explore, but you can tie yourself in a knot trying to do too many things. Anyway all the best with your future, I look forward to seeing your new work.
Thanks for dropping by and thanks for the advice. I’m already enjoying the three days a week and thankfully I’m old enough now not to be tempted into keeping an active social life that requires too much time and money! Yes I agree about keeping it simple and something I’ll have to keep reminding myself to stay true to. I love your work by the way, its so unique and fresh! I’m really intrigued by the blind stitching and how when you approached your 365 stitch a day, you didnt think ahead even on what type of thread you used – that’s working on pure instinct, love it!
Good for you!! It’s always encouraging to read of another artist diving deep to pursue what’s really on their heart. I look forward to watching your Monday experiment unfold. I relate in some ways to your story in that i’m finding it hard to settle into a niche. I’m my own worst enemy though, as I get bored with things so quickly… but, enough about my woes!! I’ll be back here cheering you on, wishing you all the best for the year ahead. Go get em!!
Hi Chrissie, thanks for your comments and support. I completely get what you’re saying, and especially like what you wrote about being flexible in your thinking and approach to creating art, and new art. It’s funny how people can be put off by trying something new, even when it is just a piece of paper! Love the use of the blue Kilometrico pen – a personal favourite of mine! Good luck with your journey too.
Sounds great Meegs, though letting go of that office view would be hard! One thing that really springs to mind here is a workbook called the Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron – all sorts of exercises to unlock and evolve creativity.
I found when i was dancing professionally if i was doing my own thing creativity wise at least some of the time, then also doing an on-trend/ by the brief thing to pay the bills doesn’t feel like selling the soul.
Best of luck to you on this journey! I have been struggling for a while as to wether to leave full-time work in order to pursue art. Your art is really great so I have no doubt you are making the right choice!
Thanks Nicole! I know how you feel, it was a big step to make. I had to sit down and review my financial situation several times, take a few honesty pills about how feasible this would be. But I think partly due to the fact that I’m a lot older now and I know what I want out of life, and that my decision only affects me and no one else made it, well, I thought, if it doesn’t work out, I’ll go back to full-time again!
I tried visiting your site but couldn’t find it – I’d love to see your work, your avatar is great! Cheers.
oh I found the link! Your work is stunning! So fluid and beautiful balances. I did a fashion illus course last year (adult evening course) and it was really interesting. I love the expressive nature of it. My biggest issue was I kept putting in too much anatomical detail from having spent so many years doing life drawing, and I had to basically return more to my comic book history where the lines are cleaner and more suggestive than anatomically correct.
Thank you! And that’s really neat you took a fashion illustration class. I also took a class and was also told my style wouldn’t work for fashion illustration but had a different problem of making my sketches too “bubbly” or cartoon like. I have been working on changing that while still keeping what feels good for me, if that makes sense. And I think now a days people’s unique style is more appreciated in fashion illustration thanks to platforms such as Instagram, like you were mentioning in this original post.