About four months ago I made the decision to quit my day job as an interior designer to pursue a career in illustration. This decision, which was three years in the making, was by far the most difficult decision I’ve ever had to make. Three years ago I had attempted the same transition, but gave up under the combination of financial pressure and my self-generated anxiety. Three months ago I was confronted with all the same questions and anxieties as last time, but this time, instead of running away, I decided to cut the shit.
What would “they” think of me?
My biggest reason for hesitation was “what would ‘they’ think”? “They” being family, friends, acquaintances, and strangers… literally anyone. Anyone who knows me knows I’m an overly self-aware person, so when it came time to make this decision, I couldn’t help but think about how others may (or may not) think of me.
In the end I decided that this was the best decision for me. I realized that what really mattered is how I view myself, and if that means that some people think I’m crazy/weird/naive/hopeless, then so be it!
Am I good enough?
Over the past three years I kept telling myself that I’m not good enough to be a full-time illustrator. This anti-pep talk not only prevented me from pursuing illustration as a career, but prevented me from drawing altogether. Rather than focusing my energy on drawing, I found myself stewing over questions like “Who’s to say my work is worth something?” or “What if no one likes my particular style?” Gotta love anxiety, am I right?
This time around, I realized that I am indeed not a very good illustrator. I’m very new to illustration. It’s okay to suck. All that matters is that I improve, or at least learn something from one drawing to the next.
What if I fail?
Not only was I worried of whether or not my work was good enough; I was worried that I’d fail altogether, as if failure would be the be-all-end-all or I’d be sent to the stocks and pelted with rotten tomatoes.
There’s still a strong possibility that I will fail in creating a career in illustration, but it’s a much smaller failure than not having tried at all. I fail almost every day now. My ideas fail, my techniques fail, and worst of all, sometimes I fail to draw at all. Failure, I’ve learned, is crucial for growth. If you’re not failing, you’re not taking enough risks.
So what keeps me moving forward?
Throughout this journey I’ve had an overwhelming amount of support from my friends and family. My chief creative director (aka my boyfriend) has been my motivator, coach, cheerleader and my number one fan. My parents have been my business advisors/therapists. My friends have been my supporters and promoters.
I’ve discovered a huge community of supportive and encouraging illustrators throughout my short time in the industry. There are so many resources generated by working professionals to help new, and lost, illustrators like myself navigate this uncertain, and sometimes scary, career. Andy J. Miller (aka Dr. Pizza), Lisa Congdon and Frannerd are just a few of the many illustrators I admire who have made it a part of their practice to help up-and-coming artists.
Along with the support from friends, family and the illustration community, I live every day reminding myself that life is short. I do this by thinking of my brother Austin who passed away at just nineteen years old. He was bright, kind and ambitious, and had his whole life to look forward to. He taught me to work hard, help those in need, and spend time with those you love. Because of him, I try to live every day to its fullest; practicing gratitude, embracing failure and pursuing my dreams.
In the end
I decided to cut the shit and follow my dreams. Becoming a professional illustrator is my dream, and there was no way I was going to hold myself back any longer. The reality is I no longer care what other people think; I’m not very good and I definitely still can fail. At least if I fail this time, I can say that I tried.