Hopes, Fears & Opportunities – 12/05/11.
When I decided to go back to university to complete my degree, which I started over 10 years ago, I decided that this would not just be a case of earning the degree, but it would enable me to concentrate solely on illustration for a year. I had lost my way and my commitment to something that I loved and which meant everything to me.
I didn’t find it particularly difficult to quit my full time job and to jump head first into a year of uncertainty and financial worries; the only thought that entered my head was that this would be my final and decisive change that my life needed.
I have just finished putting up the final major project exhibition today, so this writing will be the final piece of the degree, this is apt as I believe that this is not only a time for reflection over the past year but also a time to look forward and ensure that I am in the best possible position to continue doing what I love, illustration.
My position is slightly different than others on the degree course, as I have been working in the Manchester arts sector for the past 10 years before I came back to education. I have built up relationships with a healthy network of people within the sector and from this I have been working on a range of different activities. I will continue with these differing ventures such as writing & facilitating workshops with establishments such as Whitworth Art Gallery, Chinese Arts Centre, Zion Arts Centre & Reclaim Project. I am also currently working on the FutureEverything festival as an Operations Manager at an event at Victoria Baths. Although this is not ideally what I wish to do on a full time basis, it is an excellent opportunity for me to keep in touch with the arts sector and to expand my base of colleagues and practitioners.
The year that has just passed has been invaluable for my practice, but more importantly for my mind set and professional attitude. I have seen myself change from a good illustrator to a professional practitioner, someone that can not only be valuable to have as an employee but also someone that can go out and create their own job. The hopes of the past year have always been the same and I think that they will continue to be the same throughout my professional career; I want longevity in my profession. I don’t want to be someone who earns a fortune for a couple of years and then nothing for the rest of it. I need the balance of life and work, I have realised this over the past 10 years that money is not the be all and end all of everything.
I have many fears in all of the different aspects of my life and practice, but these have diluted over the course of the year. I now relish these challenges and feel that I am in the best possible frame of mind and that my work is as healthy as it has ever been to overcome whatever is thrown at me.
I know I’m not untouchable, that would be foolish of me to think that way but with the confidence I have gained through the excellent tutors on the course I honestly believe that anything is possible.
I always feel that any opportunities that present themselves are earned. I’ve put in my fair share of time volunteering and doing work for free so I feel that now I’m in a position that people know what I can offer and deliver.
The reality is that I will have to keep creating these opportunities in order to ensure that the work doesn’t just dry up but continues to grow and expand. In order to ensure that this is happens I have a few ideas that will hopefully make this a reality.
Since speaking to many different illustrators, design agencies & art directors over the past year they have all said that self-promotion is the most important way of finding work and contacts within the sector.
The Internet will be my primary focus for promotion and marketing, I have my website, blog, facebook groups and I will soon be going onto Flicker. I have recently been in contact with a friend of mine who is an expert in new media technology and how to use it to find your audience (Ross Breadmore – Nixon McInnes); I will be contacting him again over the coming weeks to streamline and intensify my ability to communicate with as many potential customers as possible. Keeping everything as fresh as possible and updating existing and potential clients is vital.
I have always found that networking is so important to building connections and getting regular work, so this will be another major part of making opportunities; I’ll continue with my current group of practitioners but also look at broadening this with people more specific to illustration and publishing.
A group of us on the illustration degree have got together to form an art collective (LoveCream), this will be fantastic for collaborations such as magazines, exhibitions & festivals. I also think that it will be vital at this pivotal point in all of our careers to have ‘wing men’ who can back you up, inspire you and give you the kick up the arse when it will inevitably be required.
The next job for me is to begin to make these contacts in editorials and publishing; this will be done with a small barrage of emails, postcards, business cards, portfolio visits & phone calls. I need to continue with these also once I start working more regularly so that people do not forget about me and so I can show new work when it is produced. From speaking to several illustrators they seem to say the same thing that postcards with new work should be sent out quarterly and monthly pdf portfolios with new work in should be circulated.
I will also be looking for an agent in the forthcoming weeks, although I am a little apprehensive about going with an agency with a lot of illustrators on their books, as I do prefer the smaller agencies whom can spend more time and investment in you.
The end of year show is coming up so this is a great opportunity to shine and make a mark.
I honestly cannot wait for it all, bring it on I’m ready for anything!