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