Picasso said: “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” Indeed, many of us who are in the art field find ourselves here because as children we continued to paint when others stopped. Perhaps some parents tried to dissuade us — even prohibit the occupation we chose — in order to follow something more… ”serious”. Others more fortunate, had the support of family who, recognizing our passion, prompted to us to follow the profession that we now practice.
Most of us working as designers, have the blessing of being able to say we turned our hobby into a profession. We say that very often, but how conscious are we of that in our daily lives? (continued below)
Reality often brings us down and our dreams are crushed by it. Our spirit wears away, gets bored, falls asleep at best, or falls into a coma at worst. Under these conditions, the easiest thing to lose our point of reference:
That creation is an outlet to express ourselves.
There lies the secret not only to our mental health, but even to a successful career. Personally I don’t remember being conscious of the situation in which I had degraded myself. I only realized it when I came out of it. I had already finished my studies in graphic design and illustration and was struggling to make ends meet and find my identity in this profession. But I kept drifting more and more apart from that personal identity with every crappy brochure a client asked for… and by trying to please everyone, I had become a very average designer.
So, I’ll tell you a story… one about how sometimes you end up finding what you were searching for, even if you didn’t even know that you were looking.
I have a love/hate relationship with sleep — with a slight tendency toward hate. I have always appreciated hypnotherapy as a way of dealing with a difficult period and the rules are simple: you sleep all day so you don’t think of what makes you so sad.
Unfortunately, we are not programmed to fall asleep whenever we please, so some time ago, I had to find something to keep my mind from thinking of what had made me so unhappy.
I had no job at the moment to devote myself to, and hence no money to go on vacation… or shopping.
Compulsively I started working on some personal projects: drawing, painting, listening to music as loud as my neighbors would allow me to. I worked as hard as I could and I went to bed only when I was in a near-zombie state.
Without realizing it, losing a part of me, had made me find myself again, and, since words are not my strong point, I had started creating imagery to express myself and communicate my feelings. Sometimes you owe it to yourself and your conscience to try out some new things, even if you are sure of their futility. It can be characterized as romantic, naive, or even stupid. But no one can say it’s inconsistent.
According to Newton’s third law, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. So the reaction to my action started coming from the internet. By uploading my work to my forgotten flickr account, I started receiving emails from strangers. Most of the time, their comments on my illustrations were followed by questions about whether something unpleasant happened to me in my personal life.
I knew very well that I was more than honest with my illustrations. It was more than obvious I was hurt. People who did not even know me, could easily understand what had happened to me or draw their own conclusions. Whether their assumptions were wrong or not, was not my problem… but that never bothered me since I knew “that” had become a huge part of who I was. I almost took pride in it, because it meant that I was consistent and true toward myself and my feelings.
When you’re so honest two things can happen to you:
- You become a laughing stock
- People identify with you
I’m sure both must have happened, but within a very short time, I began to discover bloggers who used my pictures next to their writings. I received notifications of reposts & retweets of my work from all over the world. Clients from abroad started to ask me to create commissioned work for them.
This all happened just three years ago. What hurt me so, back then, was probably the best thing that ever happened to me.
Yes, it sucked and I still wish things were different sometimes. But I now know our happiness can’t depend on anyone else but ourselves. In many ways, this helped me become not only a far better illustrator than I ever was before, but also a better person.
And I am now looking forward to becoming even better, one illustration at a time.