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It’s coming up on a year since Doug and I “wintered” in Buenos Aires (we spent three months there, from mid-January to mid-April), and if any of you freelancers are thinking of doing something like this, it’s a good time to share what we learned from it.
To refresh your memory: because we’re both self-employed, my husband and I decided we would finally take advantage of this, and spend the worst part of our cold, wet winter somewhere warm and sunny. Besides warmth and sunshine, we had two more criteria: 1) it should be a place we’ve never been before and present some fun challenges, and 2) be gay-friendly. (That last one is pretty damn big, when you consider being gay in many places means imprisonment or even death. Kinda cuts down on options.) Thus, we ended up choosing Buenos Aires.
If you’re thinking of doing the same, here’s a small list of things I learned which I’d like to pass on to you:
I’ve spent my entire career obsessively trying to “learn how to draw” when I should’ve just been drawing. Always thinking “I just need to get a little better… and then I’ll start working on (insert any of a hundred personal projects)”
The fact is that i’ve been good enough since my teens- and would’ve improved so much more rapidly had my study been in the service of any of those projects- and not in the dozens of sketchbooks pilled in my closet.
Lesson: Don’t use “learning” as an excuse to avoid “doing”.
This post is a couple of years old, but it’s of colossal importance in this time of 9gag, reddit, imgur, and any number of image sharing sites that pass around comics and illustrations. A legible signature is often as important as the image you’ve created.
Probably the most important thing I learned while filling in as an art director:
Seeing how desperate you are as an art director, when you put your trust in an illustrator - has really changed my whole perspective. And also I realized that being on time and doing professional work is 98% of what [being an illustrator] is all about.
And every once in a while you do this one great piece where the stars align and maybe it gets into American Illustration or Society of Illustration or CAA but that’s not what makes your career. I was always trying to shoot for these fantastic super-quirky weird concepts and I didn’t realize that so much of it is being professional - about being somebody that an art director can put their trust in.
This handwritten letter is by Austin Madison, Pixar animator of Rex, the green dinosaur in the Toy Story series (among other characters he’s designed). Madison’s letter is a submission to the Animators Letters Project, and it so eloquently described what I was attempting to say in 140 characters.
Here’s page one:
I, like many of you artists out there, constantly shift between two states. The first (and far more preferable of the two) is white-hot, “in the zone” seat-of-the-pants, firing on all cylinders creative mode. This is when you lay your pen down and the ideas pour out like wine from a royal chalice! This happens about 3% of the time.
The other 97% of the time I am in the frustrated, struggling, office-corner-full-of-crumpled-up-paper mode. The important thing is to slog diligently through this quagmire of discouragement and despair. Put on some audio commentary and listen to the stories of professionals who have been making films for decades going through the same slings and arrows of outrageous production problems.
In a word: PERSIST.
Page two continues with canny and inspirational advice for those of us — actually all of us — trudging through the creative blocks that fill most of our days. At the end of today’s workday, I’m happy to report that I persisted, knocked out lots of mediocre stuff, and then cranked out a couple above-average ideas towards the end.
This is a tad meta, but I noticed one of us posted this on our Twitter stream and thought Tumblr’s ability to let readers reply here would be even more helpful:
Canadians: what are the best options for buying art supplies and paper online in the Great White North?
Thanks in advance for your help!
Fine artists: How do you price your paintings? Most of us have absolutely no idea how to price our own work (or we have a disdain for this task because we feel it cheapens our craft). Chris Tyrell comes to the rescue once again with his typically sound advice, and some very simple math. Say thank you.
Want to make some New Year’s Resolutions? Do yourself a favour: Print Keri’s fabulous advice and stick it on your fridge. Read some of it every day.