The other day I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, Creative Pep Talk, which is hosted by illustrator Andy J. Miller (or Andy J. PIZZA as he likes to call himself, hahaha!). The podcast "is designed to help you make a good living, making great art." Andy is all about getting creative professionals pumped UP about their work and he also shares great tips and tricks for how to have a successful (ie. financially viable) creative career. I love that this animated, fun, hilarious guy who makes really imaginative, creative work is also really into like, you know, making a living! There's a dumb assumption around being a creative that if you choose a career in the arts, you've chosen a life of scraping by, just making it, being a "starving artist" and any fortune you make would be a result of dumb luck. That's just not true. In this era of the internet and countless platforms and outlets for your work to live, there really are endless opportunities for a creative to make a living. There's no reason why a creative cannot approach their career in a thoughtful, pragmatic, and goal-oriented way just as anyone else would approach any other career.
Anyways, I was listening along to one of his latest episodes where he interviewed one of my other art heroes, Lisa Congdon. They were discussing how, if you as an artist or creative are feeling stuck in your career, you should think about what it is that you make that just oozes out of you. "The stuff that you can’t help but make is the stuff that you need to be investing in."
Of course, this got me thinking about myself and my own work. Frankly, I had a bit of an epiphany.
So let me backtrack here. Last summer, I realized that I didn't have any real set career goals. My job as an in-store graphic artist for Whole Foods Market is just fine, but it's also comfortable, not super challenging any more, and is never going to pay an amazing wage. So, I decided to start looking for a new design job. I worked on this here portfolio website, polished up some projects, and sent my résumé to job posting after job posting. After months and months of doing this, I've had a couple of opportunities and interviews, but overall, I haven't had much luck.
I've really been beating myself about it. I mean, I've been in the design field for over 5 years! l have the required skills of the "Graphic Designer" job postings that I've come across (sans maybe some web design/coding experience, but that's what web developers are for, amiright?)! Why can't I seem to land a new job? It's really emotionally draining, not to mention super time-consuming! Portfolio websites don't build themselves, applications don't fill themselves out, and cover letters don't write themselves either. There's a lot of work that goes into finding work! I started to wondering if this investment of valuable time, emotional energy, and creative juice was even worth it.
That's how I was feeling when I was listening to Andy and Lisa's discussion. They weighed in on how to find success. Andy said something that really struck me: creatives need to invest in making the stuff they can't help but make. He said he's talked to so many young designers who are doing the things that they think they need to be doing, instead of doing the things they want to be doing. He said he wants to tell them, "You’re trying to go the wrong way!" I realized that maybe that's exactly my problem: I'm going the wrong way!
I decided to stop investing so much time and energy in job searching and instead focus on what I am passionate about and what I want to do. But what is that? Well, I know I want to make for a living. I love lettering and printmaking. I am also interesting in pursuing more work with people who are passionate about values that align with my own: things like conservation of our natural world, intersectional feminism, making it through the next 3 years of that cheeto in the office with minimal damage as possible! How bout making Saint Louis an even better and thriving community! And don't forget good, delicious, sustainably grown food and drink, and FUN. There's got to be a way to make all these things part of my practice and career and twist them all up together to build something fruitful and authentic.
There are a few ways that I'm already pursuing and developing these. First, through my daily lettering project that I share on Instagram to keep my lettering skillz hot and loose. Second is Black Wood Prints, the side hustle for my printmaking work. Finally, I'm pursuing freelance design opportunities to get a wider range of experience under my belt and hopefully make connections with people whose values align with my own (have a project you think I'd be good for? Hit me up!)
But those are only a few small steps. I still have questions. I'm wondering how else can I pursue this new mish mash idea of a career. What steps do I need to take? Goal-setting and follow through has never been a strong point for me! I picked up Lisa Congdon's book on the subject Art, Inc., and I'm already getting a ton of ideas from it. I'll use this blog to document and reflect. I'm not sure where I'm going but I am excited to make strides. Stay tuned!