joy

14 Nov

“Whatever feeling, whatever state you have at the time of the stroke will register in the stroke.” ~ Robert Henri

Class, if you struggle in your work, we can usually tell. If you hate your topic, it shows. Love it, and we sense that, too.

Of course, illustrators don’t get to pick their paid assignments; that’s the nature of commercial art. Oh sure, when jobs are storming in it’s easy for an artist to turn down the ones she’d rather not do. I have often said no to illustration jobs—usually  because of an over-crowded schedule, but also, occasionally, because I didn’t believe in the content.

Alternately, sometimes jobs that seem wonderful can but turn out to be a headache. That can happen when the illustrator and art director end up having conflicting visions for the assignment or a basic personality conflict, or late breaking news changes the layout of the paper at the very last minute and the beautiful horizontal illo you’ve labored over for a day and a half is now vertical (seriously?!?) and you have an hour and ten minutes to make the change.

Anything can happen in the process of a paid job. You are hired to make the art, but your design decisions are trumped by those of art directors and editors. On the other hand, when you have time to make self-directed projects for your portfolio, you are in complete control. Use that freedom! Choose topics that make your heart sing, because you can! Create lots of what you do well, and of what you love to do. Sell your joy.

I made the above coffee shop image for fun years ago because I love coffee and coffee shops, and, at the time, I really enjoyed incorporating pattern into my work. My sweet friend Kim Rosen graciously offered a bit of art direction. (Future blog topics: collaboration / two heads are better than one / working with friends makes life fun.)

When I ask clients to send me samples from my website of the work they love and want me to emulate in the jobs for which they are hiring me, more than any other image, they send me the coffee shop. I’ve gotten a ton of work from this one image, including My Foodie ABC, the first of more than ten books I have now illustrated for Duopress.

Several years ago at a college illustration conference, Yuko Shimizu told us how clients began asking her to include elements from her personal work into paid assignments. A quick look at her amazing website shows this principle in action.

Use your personal work to develop as an artist, but also to attract work that you will enjoy doing. In other words, don’t make business art if you’d rather draw dinosaurs. As my friend Jillian‘s dad (Jimbo) likes to say, Do what you love, and you’ll always love what you do. We sense your joy in creating; use that pervasive sense of joy to your advantage.

Joy is highly attractive.

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4 Responses to “joy”

  1. mwilso29 November 14, 2012 at 8:08 am #

    Great advice!

    • violetlemay November 14, 2012 at 8:33 am #

      Hey there Ms. Molly! Thanks so much for stopping by. 🙂

  2. Talitha November 14, 2012 at 8:38 am #

    Great post and something to always keep in mind! Thanks again for your sage advice 🙂

  3. Charla Pettingill November 14, 2012 at 9:17 am #

    Great advice, as always…and also a reminder that I need to create more time for personal work to freshen up my portfolio! 🙂

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