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Heartbroken illustrator

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OddBerryCreations

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So I've been here for quite some time. I've gotten an impression from others that I still need to work on my skills and if you could see my most current work (I'll share if requested) you would see that I have made a ton of improvements. You guys might not think so but I know me and I know I have. That being said, I'm scared to death. It has been a month since graduation (yay!) but now what? I want to illustrate. I know that with every part of my being...but how do I go about it? Where do I belong? Student loans are beating on the back door and I haven't the slightest idea how to get my gears going. I have a family to take care of, a full time job that is so far from art its unreal, and a passion for drawing and illustrating that goes to the moon and back...but then what?

Children's books, editorial, marketing, who knows. I haven't the slightest but I know I didn't go to college for nothing so now what? I don't have a style...or at least I don't think so (www.oddberrycreations.com). I'm all over the social media platforms, I'm drawing/sketching everyday and I'm trying...so why do I get the feeling that it isn't enough? I'm frustrated, intimidated, and overwhelmed because I don't want the last 4 years to feel like a waste...but I've been feeling like recently I need to get drawing with a purpose...and soon...but without doing my own projects on the side...what else do I do?? I've contacted many different companies for new/free/any work...just to help build my portfolio. I'm lost...
#1 - July 14, 2013, 01:14 AM

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I'm not an illustrator- and I'm sure the ones here will all have some great advice on how to kick-start your career- but I just wanted to swing by and say I'm sorry for your troubles and offer support. It'll all work out!  :hug
#2 - July 14, 2013, 05:37 AM

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I am not an illustrator either, but wanted to share my support.  Just an idea - have you ever thought of teaching children's art classes through a program such as Young Rembrandts: http://www.youngrembrandts.com/
It may be a way for you to start to use your artistic background.  My son did these classes and loved them. Or perhaps you could teach an art class at your local community center as a way of getting started on your path as a professional artist.  I wish you all the best and hope you find meaningful ways to use your art. 

Sue  :flowers2
#3 - July 14, 2013, 05:50 AM
FAIRIES, Focus Readers, North Star Editions, 2018
GET OUTSIDE IN WINTER, Focus Readers, Jan.  2019
GET OUTSIDE IN SPRING, Focus Readers, Jan.  2019

Oh my it sounds like you've gotten some criticisms that have brought you down. Hugs!  :grouphug2: I understand well how that feels.

In the words of a great marketer I heard, "Just keep shipping." Keep working on your art and putting it out there.

Another idea I heard for artists at a conference is that art directors do look at websites (after being queried) to check out portfolios. They are looking for work that shows you can do characters in a) action poses b) and are able to repeat the characters. So a suggestion would be to create your own characters and maybe up to three illos of them from your own storyline on your website.  This would help you create a focused style.

But I'm no expert, so other illustrators, please chime in.  Is this advice sound for today?   
#4 - July 14, 2013, 06:04 AM
Ghosts In the Night - Mackin 2019
Minnie's Green Book - HMH 2015
Mossy Marsha - Amazon
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Christy, have you tried signing up for one of the SCBWI illustrator intensives? 

I think that would be a good move for you.  This would give you an opportunity to get a critique of your portfolio with an experienced art director, etc.  The one thing that I’ve heard over and over is that an artist should pick their strongest piece and hone in on that style, etc.  Also, art directors are looking for illustrators who can take their characters through a series of actions shots and emotions—tell a story.  I’d work on adding some of those types of pieces to your website if you’re wanting to get work in that field.  You might consider putting the other types of work you’ve done on a different page.  I dabble in illustrating but not professionally.  My focus is on writing, but if I were trying to establish myself as an illustrator, I’d have to make changes on my website.

Whatever you do, don’t let the stresses and disappointments of this profession bring you down.  Believe in yourself, illustrate because you love it, work hard to improve your skills and the rest will follow.  Meanwhile, ((((HUGS)))

By the way, I really really liked your Raggedy Ann illustration. =) 
#5 - July 14, 2013, 06:26 AM
« Last Edit: July 14, 2013, 06:36 AM by Kimberly Lynn »

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I have to share this link with you, Christy:

http://books.simonandschuster.com/Doll-Bones/Holly-Black/9781416963981

That's what popped in my head when I saw your Raggedy Ann illustration. =)
#6 - July 14, 2013, 06:34 AM

I just graduated, too, and I know the feeling! There's so much to take in and do to get started in the business, and there's always that creeping 'what if I do it wrong?' or 'what if I'm not good enough?'. I think (or at least, I tell myself) that you just have to go for it and learn on the way. You can't wait until your art is perfect to start doing things.

These are some of the things I've been doing lately - maybe some of them would apply to where you are:
-Posting artwork regularly on Tumblr, specifically. It's a good place to figure out what people like and why. I like to experiment with little things and see if it gets a reaction.
-Looking critically at art/illustration past and present and figuring out why it works (or why it doesn't). I do this automatically now whenever I see any artwork, but I also try to spend time reading blogs like David Apatoff's http://illustrationart.blogspot.com/ James Gurney's http://gurneyjourney.blogspot.com/ and Muddy Colors http://muddycolors.blogspot.com/ (they always have interesting points to consider about illustration, illustration business, and illustration history) and also going to art museums and reading art history books.
-Drawing from life. I try to get outside regularly and draw little five-ten second gesture drawings of people/animals walking by or standing around. It helps me to loosen up and see forms and actions better. I'm also looking around for local places to paint/sketch from a model and also recently discovered a plein air painting group that meets weekly.
-Trying to find creative people to hang out with and talk to. This one's taking me a while because I'm something of an introvert and just moved to a new town right out of college, but in the meantime, I'm trying to keep in contact with friends from school so that I stay excited and inspired to create. Nothin' like having friends who are excited about working and creating to make you excited, too!
-Putting together a 'dummy' book. I want to write, too, so this helps me on both fronts, but if you don't like to write, just take a well-known fairytale or something of the like and illustrate that as closely as possible to how the actual process of illustrating children's books professionally would be. It's a good way to figure out if you like the process of that particular genre of illustration, and you can also put sections of it up for ADs to look at so that they know how you'll handle illustrating a story consistently. I've been to the local library a lot recently to look through picture books close-ish to my style (or just books I admire) to see how other artists handle pageflow, interaction with text, layout, color schemes, color transitions, etc. I'm still not there yet, but it helps vastly!
-Sending regular postcards to ADs and building a list. It's terrifying! But also necessary. I try to remember that even some of my favorite children's book illustrators waited as much as two or three years of sending to ADs before one finally picked them up for their first book!

Hopefully some of this helps you. As for finding time with a full-time job, I'm not sure - it's gonna be rough, but if you're good at keeping disciplined and to a schedule (even if you come home tired), you should be okay. I'm currently trying to see if I can survive on a parttime job and illustration, but I can't really speak for how that is because it's been a good while and I still haven't found the parttime job. (I'm also not trying to support a family, and am extremely lucky as far as loans are concerned, so that's a little different from where you are, responsibility-wise.)
I guess the long and short of my advice is to just keep going and keep learning - it's a long haul, but we'll get there! Presence, skill, and experience aren't quick processes, unfortunately.
#7 - July 14, 2013, 10:21 AM

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Making art for a living is a tough, tough, tough road. Keep your day job. Keep drawing in all your spare time. Take more classes. Not "art school classes," but classes on painting, drawing, designing, set design, movie filming, cartooning. The internet is filled with them. I graduated from art school in 1998 and I am still taking classes.

To find your "style" you have to draw from your heart. Research other artists careers, especially illustrators whose art inspires you to create more. If you want to go into children's illustration, make going to libraries and bookstores to look at recently released books a priority.

Keep in mind that it is a very rare illustrator indeed who making a living in this field. Rejection is part of the job. Get used to it.

To get work in your chosen field, you have to find out who the players are in that field. Who the art buyers are and who the movers and shakers are. A lot of this can be found on the internet, but some of it will be harder to dig out and requires old fashioned detective work.

Once you have found out who is buying the kind of work you want to be making, put together a targeted portfolio of work that they might buy. Contact them based on their query preferences. Some list contact information on their web sites or online media profiles, some don't - detective work again. Put together a query letter (information on form and content suggestions is all over in print and on the web), a postcard mailer or an art sample tear sheet.

Wait a couple of months and do it again. Rinse and repeat as necessary. In the mean time keep creating new art. FWIW most people take between 10-15 years to break into the art business. That's years of honing their craft, becoming better artists and business people. If this is really what you want to be doing, nothing short of death will stop you for long because, if you are like me - making art is like breathing.

Good luck and keep drawing!
#8 - July 15, 2013, 06:02 AM
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Animal Totem Mandala 2016
The Story Circle 2016 (Piñata)
Color and Conjure 2017 (Llewellyn)

I would like to thank everyone for their great responses. I am making my sixteen-year old son, who wants to be an artist, read through them. I don't want to discourage his dreams but I want him to realize that if he wants to hang his career goals on being an artist, then he has a tough row to hoe.

I'm trying to convince him to major in the two subjects he's best at, science and art, and to get a teaching degree in both area. With two months off as a teacher during the year, he can focus on his art without depending on it as an income.

I hope he makes it as an artist. I understand that there are certain schools with higher employment stats for their graduates than others. Still, I believe the sheer level of talent available among artists means you have to have a lot of patience, endurance, talent, hard work, and luck. He can only benefit from going in with his eyes wide open. Thanks!
#9 - July 15, 2013, 07:11 AM
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Good job, ShellieP!
I'm obviously trying to make it as a writer, and I majored in English, but I also worked in tech for years. Excellent art and money to live on don't always go hand in hand. It's wonderful when they do, but back up plans are important.
#10 - July 15, 2013, 09:18 AM
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I just wanted to give you a {{{Cyberhug}}}.

God Bless,
Susan  :goodluck
#11 - July 15, 2013, 09:23 AM
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Hey OddBerry -

Sorry that you're feeling stressed.  Unfortunately, I think that's a regular part of the job.  The good news is, it subsides.  Focus on your craft.  Try new mediums.  Perfect mediums you think you're good at.  Build your portfolio. 

I'm an author/illustrator so I'm not really sure how straight illustrators get their gigs.  I would recommend following Giuseppe Castellano on Twitter ‏@pinocastellano .  He's an Art Director at Penguin and he's constantly giving people good advice on their portfolios and how to break into the business.  Apparently postcard mailings are MUST for book illustration.

I would also suggest setting some small goals for yourself, i.e. do 5 child illustrations Monday.  Tuesday: draw same child with 4 different expressions.  Yanno?  Little exercises to keep you working and fresh.  Maybe a week long goal could be to research and design a good postcard.  And while those are being printed, your next goal is to compile a list of 50 editors and art directors to send them to.  (FYI I use Overnight Prints for my printing.)

Good luck!!!

Julie
#12 - July 15, 2013, 09:45 AM

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I would also suggest setting some small goals for yourself, i.e. do 5 child illustrations Monday.  Tuesday: draw same child with 4 different expressions.  Yanno?  Little exercises to keep you working and fresh.  Maybe a week long goal could be to research and design a good postcard.  And while those are being printed, your next goal is to compile a list of 50 editors and art directors to send them to.  (FYI I use Overnight Prints for my printing.)

Good luck!!!

Julie

I love this suggestion. And I also loved all that Goldenbird had to say - such good ideas there!

I'd also ask yourself why you're feeling heartbroken. You've only just graduated - so if you're already feeling heartbroken, you need to find a way to give yourself a boost without relying on feedback from others. I firmly believe that it's this stage that weeds out the wannabe illustrators from those who love it with such a passion that they actually become illustrators. Because if the passion isn't there, you'll get disheartened and give up. So if that passion is there, just keep doing it but give yourself tasks each week so you feel like you're getting somewhere.

Fact is, you want success and results TODAY, I get that (I feel the same about my kidlit and have done for a few years now!), but the unfortunate fact is that it's not going to happen that way. You've still got years of hard work ahead of you. The good news? All those years of hard work will be filled doing exactly what you love! Yes, in your spare time, yes, while you're still doing another job, but still – you have a passion and you're going for it. That's what keeps me going, I just love writing fiction for children and I know that one day all my hard work will pay off. In the meantime, I focus on small achievements - entering online contests (and winning!), getting positive critiques, sending off MS. If you follow some of the advice you've been given here you'll soon have your own list of achievements!
#13 - July 15, 2013, 09:58 AM

Franzilla said it all. Somehow when we graduate or complete a course, we think we are ready to be published. Unfortunately, in many ways we are just beginning. It is very rare to be able to "come out of the gate" and earn a living writing or illustrating. Keep chipping away...and while I'm typing these words, I realize that it might help if I follow my own advice. I need to get going, set some small goals, and get writing once again!  You can do it, I can do it, we can do it.
 :shootingstar
#14 - July 15, 2013, 10:44 AM
I've always said I'll write someday...my someday is now.

Fact is, you want success and results TODAY, I get that (I feel the same about my kidlit and have done for a few years now!), but the unfortunate fact is that it's not going to happen that way. You've still got years of hard work ahead of you. The good news? All those years of hard work will be filled doing exactly what you love! Yes, in your spare time, yes, while you're still doing another job, but still – you have a passion and you're going for it. That's what keeps me going, I just love writing fiction for children and I know that one day all my hard work will pay off. In the meantime, I focus on small achievements - entering online contests (and winning!), getting positive critiques, sending off MS. If you follow some of the advice you've been given here you'll soon have your own list of achievements!

This, 100%. Time to start on those 10,000 hours of practice....

But it will be worth it. :)

eab
#15 - July 15, 2013, 11:07 AM

Excellent thread. No real advice to add, just nodding my head in agreement. It's a tough line to balance--being so optimistic and hopeful and putting in hard work while never being sure if there will be payoff or not. It's like falling in love over and over and being told "I'm not interested," but constantly keeping your heart open to the idea of somebody falling back in love with you someday.
#16 - July 15, 2013, 11:38 AM
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I think the important thing for any artist -- illustrator, writer, actor, musician, whatever -- is to understand success takes time and to enjoy the process, bumps and all.

If you look at your process as where you are now -- the beginning -- and compare it to success, it looks impossible. But if you remember there are steps along the way, and each step is a small success that leads to the big success, you can enjoy the process.

Your first step could be to get a job in an art department -- any art department -- that hires freelance illustrators. You may be doing graphic design -- or assisting someone doing graphic design -- but you'll learn a lot about why certain illustrators are hired over others. Your next step might be to query similar companies that hire illustrators. And of course, all the while, you are working on your own portfolio of things you love.

Your steps may not be the ones I've outlined. There are many different directions you could take. Just remember you can't go from point a to point z without going through the whole alphabet.

And enjoy the ride.
#17 - July 15, 2013, 12:29 PM

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Okay. Gentle cyber-hugs aren't my style. I'll leave that to people far better at it than me. But I can try to offer some constructive criticism.

It seems you have the drive to be an illustrator, and you know you still have a ways to go, and that's great. But heartbroken? Really?

You graduated art school merely ONE month ago and are heartbroken no one's paying you for your illustrations? Get used to it, and get over it. I've been there, done that. You're attempting to find work in a creative field. It's 99% rejection when starting out. And the people who became successful at it didn't whine about being heartbroken. They sharpened their pencils and got better at their craft.

And yes, I understand the cycle can be despairing. It's expectation... and letdown... and expectation... and let down... That's the way it goes. A saying that's helped me (relayed by a very successful writer) is "success means going from failure to failure without a loss of enthusiasm."

It seems you're being overwhelmed by option overload.
You say you're on all social media platforms? -- that's probably a waste of time for you right now. Especially because you've listed a family and job taking up your time. How is spending time posting on twitter going to help you? You should be spending the time becoming a better artist.
Torn between book illustration/editorial/etc? Who cares? Focus on creating better portfolio pieces.

I checked your website-- good job on having one (you'd be surprised how many illos I know don't have an online portfolio at all). But everything on there seems... unfinished? Nothing is an actual completed illustration, or a multi-pose character sheet. There's a million postings here and elsewhere about what art directors and agents look for. I'm sure you've read them. Why are those examples not up on your site?

My suggestion is to make a goal over the next few weeks of completing 2 (TWO) drawings to satisfaction. (I suggest two instead of one so you can swap out when your mind gets muddled working on one of them). Just 2 drawings that could go in a portfolio, that either show action/emotion/story/setting or some combo. Because the work you have so far is simply not nearly good enough yet to be competitive. (This isn't exclusive to you. It's true of most everyone starting out).

And I'd lay off the oh-so-common "vector crutch". First get strong line work down. A graphic designer relies on the pen tool. An artist uses a pencil or brush, real and digital. (that's my opinion, bring on virtual flogging...). There are many ways to fill in color. I use digital markers, gaouche, scratchboard tool, paintcan in Corel Painter.

Other commenters here can virtually flog me if they like, but really, I'm trying to help. In my experience, a virtual kick in the pants is far more effective than virtual hugs. Virtual hugs feel good, but they won't help you improve. And hey, my own portfolio isn't yet as strong as it needs to be either. I started it 9 months ago and I've trashed half of what was originally on there. I'm sure I'll trash half of what's there now...

Congrats on completing school. It's an achievement. Now welcome to the real education- the one that you're responsible for!
#18 - July 18, 2013, 04:23 PM

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I think Rungen gives some really good, helpful advice here. Sometimes a good kick in the pants is just as caring as a hug.  :yup

 
#19 - July 18, 2013, 05:24 PM
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I think Rungen gives some really good, helpful advice here. Sometimes a good kick in the pants is just as caring as a hug.  :yup


Yeah, don't we know it. *Looks over at Salina to see if her foot is headed in my butt's direction!*

Hugs have their place – they can feel nice if that's all you need – but a kick in the butt is far more likely to actually get you doing what needs to be done. I'm all for butt kicking. With a smile.  :grin
#20 - July 18, 2013, 05:56 PM

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I came by to see if I can help, but reading through these posts says it all. Some EXCELLENT advice by fellow illustrators here, and authors too!  GoldenBird, Lyon, Ninja, Rungen,... in particular, really great practical advice here for illustrators! I wholeheartedly agree with you all, especially Rungen's straight talk.

Honestly, I'd lay off on sharing work online, especially because it's not ready to be shared. If it's not ready for sharing, it could hurt you more than help, I'm afraid. I am concerned with you asking for feedback on your work when you are still learning and developing your skills. Sure, we all need thick skin, but if you know you don't have thick skin, why set yourself up for harsh criticism, especially from strangers? I couldn't take it. It seems you are sensitive to these comments, so do stop that from happening. Take control!  I'm sure you must have some friends from art school who you could share work with for feedback and grow from? I think you are still in the discovery process of not only your style, but where you want to go with it. Time will give you more focus and clarity. Be patient, and you will get there.

Good luck on your journey, Oddberry.
#21 - July 18, 2013, 05:58 PM

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And girls,... get back to work! (Arte and Franzilla, I mean. I'm always having to kick their butts.)  :mad

#22 - July 18, 2013, 06:02 PM

I need to print out Rungren's post and reread parts of it every time I get a rejection on a query - and I don't even illustrate. Really great words, here.

It's really just about work, submit, repeat, but with illustrating there do seem to be some practical things surrounding your portfolio and the type of work you have up and when and how to share as well. Please do read and take the advice to heart. One thing I keep telling myself as an author is that if I'm not ready, all the luck and opportunities in the world won't help. I've just got to get my work in progress ready for that next chance, and there will be another chance. For you as well, but take the time to work and refine. Heaven knows I wasn't ready to be a published author just because I graduated from college with a degree in writing and literature.
#23 - July 18, 2013, 06:27 PM
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I don't have much to add to this thread because there is already SO much useful advice above.

I especially agree with the advice to spend less time on social media and more time honing your craft as well as researching/learning about what illustration markets you want to focus on first.

I also agree with some of the advice above about working on building up a strong body of work before you try to get published in children's lit.

Also agreeing with advice above: in order to survive in this industry, you need to develop a super-thick skin, to get used to rejection and criticism. There are sooooo many talented illustrators and writers out there, but many give up along the way. I tend to agree with one industry pro who says that success is as much persistence as raw talent.

I also strongly advise attending SCBWI events. I have learned SO much as well as being inspired by the workshops  and keynotes, talking with other kidlit types and commiserating, etc.

Good luck!

Debbie
#24 - July 18, 2013, 06:53 PM
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Wow.

Ok, first off let me say how very thankful I am for the support and suggestions. You guys are amazing and I appreciate you taking the time to help me out.

Now, let me explain something. After some of the comments and suggestions, I started feeling like I was a bit of a whiner. Maybe I was. But I worked a full time job, took care of a family, and went to school full time. I am a bit of an overachiever and I put a lot of pressure on myself to succeed while I was in school and I was doing the same once I got out. I was the kid (straight A's) that went into the semester and expected to know most if not all of the info by the second week. Crazy? You betcha but I made it through with flying colors. My over-the-top attitude is why I am where I am. I'm not successful and I know this. I took some time away and reflected. Give up? Heck no! I'm too stubborn (or crazy) to throw in the towel. I'm worried now just as I was then about not being successful but that doesn't mean I'm stopping. I have a new attitude on my work and how I want to create it. I know school is over and I know all about the real world. I am not a child; I am a mom/wife. But as I sit in tears over writing this, it's not because anyone has hit a nerve its because I eat, sleep, and breathe illustrating. I have spent so much time OUT of the classroom, studying, reading, learning, listening, to any and everything...it's all I do. Right now, my work on my website sucks. I know. I'm not looking for pity. I'm being completely honest. I see it. Don't think I don't. I was stressing about going from crawling to running but my time away showed me otherwise. I want to be the best. I want to be the best so much I can taste it. In the past year I have had over 5k hits on my website. Most of them have come from my blog and Twitter. I have it all linked up and thats the way I'm going to keep it. Am I obsessed with it anymore? Nope. but I'm not giving any of it up simply because my name is at least known. I am humble, I am passionate, and I am dead serious about getting there. I was so worried about making art to make money I forgot the real reason I started drawing in the first place. I now remember and I feel better about myself and my skills. Drawing for me is like therapy. I do it every day. It's still crap but I can see the improvements. Give me a year. I'll knock your socks off.

I spent too much time trying to find myself in other artist's work. I didn't realize I was losing myself in the process. Found me!!

#25 - July 22, 2013, 07:31 PM

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I spent too much time trying to find myself in other artist's work. I didn't realize I was losing myself in the process. Found me!!

Rooting for you, OddBerry!
#27 - July 23, 2013, 07:12 AM
Youth Services librarian and YA writer. Wisconsin SW (Madison area) Rep.
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I do it every day.

Good for you, Oddberry. That's the way to get 'er done as they say in Kentucky. Whether it is writing or illustration you get up every single day and try again. And try again. And try again. Success comes a tiny drib or drab at a time, and builds. But...it isn't a destination where you can stand on top and look around at the view. It is the process of creation itself. The day you don't get up and try again--no matter how far you have come--that is the day you fail.

:) eab
#28 - July 23, 2013, 08:15 AM

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I spent too much time trying to find myself in other artist's work. I didn't realize I was losing myself in the process. Found me!!

This. I see it in both writing and illustrating, and I've experienced it myself. When you're first starting out, you have to learn to listen to other people and their critiques/suggestions/instruction. Because there are so many things you don't know. But after a while...well, then when you've learned what other people can teach you, then you have to take your new muscles and well, maybe not stop listening to others, but definitely learn to listen to yourself again. Because once it's all said and done, there is only one you. You are the only person who can say some things in just that unique way--and no one else on the planet can do that!

Keep the skills you learned in art school. But now make sure your own voice is strongest.
#29 - July 23, 2013, 01:49 PM

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It sounds like you have a good plan,
and you don't always have to stay positive it is okay to be a bit whinny sometimes; just don't let it stop you from drawing.

My motto lately is "I draw for myself"
#30 - July 24, 2013, 03:24 AM

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