|"The Draw" - Study for a new website and blog header piece. Mermaid archer concept, combining archetypes of personal philosophical meaning into a soon-to-be promotional work. Graphite 2013. (More on this to follow)|
Life changes and the demands on the freelance illustration lifestyle have brought me to taking a second ‘full time’ job.
I am lucky compared to many in the same position; for one, I was offered the position out of nowhere, yet at the right time. Two, it is a job in the art field, dealing with paint and creative decision-making. And lastly, the unconventional company not only has me as a full-time seasonal employee, but with the end date known, the possibility for returning next season is likely a renewed offer that I may or may not play with.
My art world has now suddenly become the Otherworld - the Underworld, that place I have to steel away to when no one is looking – and night is the time for it.
Perhaps I should conceptualize my own themed Superhero costume?
I’m struggling with this because, for a while after graduation, particularly within the past half year, I have been able to work in daylight, and with a regular, ever strengthening discipline to encourage Studio work straight off the morning routine. Not only did I have the personal attention to apply myself, I had the solitude to help facilitate it as well. My social life was streamlined, based upon the occasion of art related interaction.
Now, with the supplemental job and major paradigm shifts, I have new and non-artist associations interacting with me daily, presenting their interesting but different worlds to me, and wondering why I long for ‘more’ time in my own, again. Not only from a personal gratification perspective, which is certainly a significant part, but also from a strictly business understanding of the lifestyle, the imperatives of my commitment are lost on most, if only in part.
Petar Meselzija said at Illuxcon, “an artist must live their art like a monk lives his religion”. I have known what that full emersion feels like, and I struggle with the fear that I am not a worthy Artist – Illustrator – for often failing now to live my art fully.
So it goes, sometimes. I'll come back to my art after this next interval on lifestyle.
I notice other professional artists and their significant others, their spouses, and it makes me think hopefully of the interpersonal success they seem to represent. Rebecca Guay, Gregory Manchess, Donato Giancola, PJ Lynch, Omar Rayyan, etc., etc. Perhaps it is an encouraging thing there are so many who have long-term relationships in the business? Even dear friends and loved ones who are creative, though not strictly professional, demonstrate a durability in combining their most intimately personal art world with their love.
But then I wonder, how do they navigate the inevitable difficulties, the misunderstandings? Such things will always be there, after all.
That pain-staking reiteration – in as clear words as you can think of – to your loved ones on how you need to do such and such, or how all these very logical business reasons explain the necessity of this task over here, and how every time it just yields that weary indulgence from said loved one. It is a hurtful ache when they generalize or wash out the weight of your words with, “Yeah, I know, your ‘document work’, your ‘studio time’. “I know”, I “got it”. It only makes you less confidant they do, because how can a loved one who tires of your commitment so readily be truly understanding and supportive? Maybe remaining positive and productive in spite of this occasional regression in one’s relationship is based on a kind of sympathetic acceptance?
Still, consider artists of other callings, such as the Avant cellist Zoe Keating; how do they manage a productive career with a child, a marriage, a social life, all constructed in amongst a passionate work base? That is to mean reasonably happy, loving, supportive lives with positive child-rearing, spousal-dynamics, and rejuvenating, playful friends, naturally.
But there are benefits to this drastic paradigm shift of mine that should be noted.
I have discovered – quite late in the game – the podcasts of ‘The Illustration Underground’ by Kevin Cross and Mark Rudolf, professional illustrators talking the demands of the lifestyle. I’ve been listening to the episodes while at my second job - to prime my psyche for the shift into Studio mode, if you will – and one of many thoughts that rung true for me was, and I am paraphrasing: “you’ve got to see the silver linings for all the dark clouds on the horizon”.
I've made this into "Perfect perceiving silver linings for all the dark clouds".
So, irregularity forcing my hand means I exercise my creativity and integrity to be stronger at seizing any available moment. I’m working my mental muscles towards more competent ingenuity and flexibility, yet another thing Cross and Rudolf stress as being an imperative survival skill in the business. All those dark clouds they are talking about? They are the constant, turbulent weather of an artist's horizon, representing little and large upheavals in any given aspect of freelance responsibility.
I also have to be more inventive and dynamic with my time, with everyone, because it is like gymnast work to maneuver where art can fit amongst the company of people. I’ve been called a ‘lone wolf’ by many, and even since young childhood I have been aware of my solitary constitution. As an adult, as an illustrator, with my broad-bent goals, it is a constant study in adaptation, at best, practicing creative space in a more social environment.
Solitude is a treat now, an additional pleasure when it comes, and I am learning how to turn the lack of it into the ‘golden state’ I need it to be, for the rest of the time. I can no longer be pampered by solitude.
And, by knowing others of non-artist professions, not simply more people, I am given regular practice at general human interaction.
I honestly refer to it that way; it’s ‘practice’. I can talk about art and the creative life endlessly, philosophical musings and literary discussions flowing easily as well - it is a safe realm for an artist - but to quote a fun BBC comedy, “I’m not very good at chit-chat…I’m not even very good at chit”, never have been, so learning where the interest lies in it has advanced as a more fascinating preoccupation for me. It is a challenge that will deepen my skills in the long run.
Finally, all of these benefits could not be positive as they are without the quality and jovial nature of the people who have been involved in my experiences. There has to be that initial affection and support in order for an artist’s comfort level to allow them to connect deeply with others, I think.
Oh yes, and of course, being able to make my own Superhero costume is only ever a good thing.
So back to that Underworld, where all these challenges are overcome!
In the big picture, I’m still only just starting to work on my craft, to figure the trick out, to reach and grab hold of ‘it’. It isn’t as though, because I’ve declared myself an intentional, professionally pursuing freelance illustrator, I must know my whole process, let alone THE process of it all. It isn’t as if that declaration means I now represent some fixed, set method of being an artist. There is no switch to be flipped going from hobbyist or student to professional. No. That declaration means I intend to see my passions through, and I may just need all the help and support anyone is happy to provide.
And the nature of my intent, my passions, is entirely play. I intend to live off of playing, to live life in a state of permanent flux; there's a fitting oxymoron.
The artist intending to be an artist for life is choosing a life ‘childlike’, and they will have to choose that every day of their pursuit. It is almost a cop-out of a career choice, were it not for how bloody difficult and frustrating - even uncomfortable! - it is. Because an artist has to have the ability and be willing to endure the clear discomfort of working out problems, and discovering true solutions. Creative work has the nature of eating time more than any other activity, and it will feast while you delve the crannies of the universe – or the more daunting crannies of your own imagination – in order to capture the genius of fresh fingerprints, of signature approaches. Our 'superpower', right there.
On top of striving for success in this most serious play, the artist has to turn on their heel and be the boss as well. No creator without a capacity for business will get farther than his or her ‘canvas’.
And where is my 'canvas' at now? Upon recent contemplation, I've identified the way it has evolved with my own growth.
My older work, from high school and early college, was black and white or, at the most, limited color. It had this all-pervasive presence of white, of void, of innocence and blinding light.
The more middle work, through the majority of college including my culminating thesis, and even the lingering legs of stuff immediately after graduation, was tentative exploration manifested through color of an earthy palette and natural content.
My new phase, the current direction I am spying to sharpen out, is themed in ‘chiaroscuro’, fractured, vivid color, and an emerging 'darkness'. Nothing defeatist, simply of a stronger mettle and a fuller emotional range. More mature.
I also hit upon the central themes and iconography now important to my creativity. My personal work is forming a kind of thesis, or at least collection, which illustrates the tenacity for life that I wish to embody. With all the challenges dominant in my current relationships, I must more than ever process the struggle creatively.
Woods - and clearings in woods - mermaids, birds of prey, roses, knives, archery, stronger light and shadow, abundant nature, particular flowers, some form of a confrontation, and some level of violence are all important to these new concepts.
This is a lot of work. It is important work. And it is an investment of my energy, as it should be.
As always, process and progress will be posted here, such as the development of "The Draw" at the beginning of this entry, and other happenings on my website shop.
"Adapt and overcome" - Viggo Mortensen