Be patient & let your ideas lead the way.
I wanted to write a more lengthy blog post today about something I've been seeing in my own work lately, and especially client work. I've been freelancing for 2 years now, granted I also work part time, but I work on freelance/personal creative projects outside of that job for about 70% of my time, so I consider that my main career and the moment and more so for the future.
I've been lucky enough over the last 6 months or so especially to be fully booked with client work, to the point where I rarely get to work on personal projects and Monster Trunk, which is not a bad thing to most people, but I think most creatives will know that it can be pretty frustrating when you're full of ideas but have no time to work on them.
So in this blog post I'm going to talk a little bit about personal ideas and how they have helped me to land commissions, which has been covered many times before, but I wanted to talk about it from my experience along with the dream world the internet forces our heads to live in.
If you're not yet working for yourself and just drawing as a hobby, this would probably sound ridiculous, but I make the effort to try and draw for myself for at least 30 minutes everyday, if you do work for yourself in the creative industry, you will know that you often spend a big chunk of your day doing non-creative tasks. So I try to draw something for myself everyday, I used to find it hard to come up with ideas, but now I keep most of my drawings to myself and don't post as many to my social channels which relieves a lot of the initial pressure.
When I first started my freelance career I used to draw a lot of topics that I thought were popular, because when you start out all you worry about is building an audience, but if you don't love what you're creating then it gets boring. So I started to draw what I was interested in and passionate about, usually zombies and dinosaurs, and I actually got quite good at drawing them in my own way and started to develop a style. Which was the starting point to my own ideas leading the way. Because I drew a lot of dinosaurs and zombies I started to get emails asking me for work based on pieces I'd done previously, for fun, my zombie head illustration below is extremely popular with clients even though it was done about 18 months ago.
When I first did this illustration, it was purely for fun, it was based on an inktober illustration I'd done in 2014 and it got featured on the Dribbble blog, which for me was amazing, I was so excited. So I finished it up in Photoshop and really tried to push my skills and develop some new techniques in my process, which I did, and I think it was a piece where my work really levelled up for the first time since leaving Uni. Initially, it got me zero commissions, people liked it, but likes and followers don't equal work, but eventually the more my work got out the more people saw it and off the back of this illustration alone I've been commissioned to create t-shirt designs, an action figure, and Twitch graphics.
As I mentioned, along with zombies, I absolutely love dinosaurs and anything that includes dinosaurs, and I think that this shows when I draw dinosaurs because I have people asking me for dinosaur related work. It started with me creating some t-shirt graphics for an awesome Youtuber named BestInSlot last year, along with his new Youtube banner and I'll be working with him again in the future on some more of his ideas. Then I got asked to do the illustration below, again, this was more for fun than anything else, it was for a friend to give to her boyfriend as a present. I wanted it to be really special, so again I tried out some new things, I feel like my work levelled up again, and I got some really positive comments about it.
It's a year ago since I created that now, and based on a few images combined such as my Shark Hunter illustration, my Viking illustration, but mainly the dinosaur illustration above (all of which I did purely for fun and not money) I was specifically singled out to be the lead artist on a upcoming card game with a really nice and ambitious client.
Now, this then had me thinking about something else, when I've been drawing for fun, it's been the sort of stuff I'd like to draw in the future, and just on a personal basis. These have never been uploaded to my website, but for some weird reason I seemed to end up landing jobs that required what I'd already done, an example is the image below, I drew this guy because I wanted to come up with a series of fantasy, zombie vikings, I'm now working on a card game where one of the classes is a zombie viking?! I drew some goblins last year one day and ended up using that exact design for the goblins in The Tero Blade. I'm not saying it's some weird thing where what you draw is what you get but it certainly helps to keep drawing and throwing out ideas to build up a creative bank of characters and thumbnails which could be exactly what you need in the future.
Which leads me onto the second thing that I quickly wanted to mention, we have to be patient in this industry, especially when we've not been part of it for that long, I see so many artists on my feeds complaining about how they're not getting enough work and that they should just get a real job. It's a long journey, I've been doing it 2 years and I'm still always learning, I've seen a number of artists lately just start to release their first books and they've been in the industry 15-20 years, some are just leaving their full time jobs at 30-35 yet people who have been doing it for a couple of years are tainted by the internet these days and think that the world owes them something and that they should be some sought after artist already. This applies to myself too, I definitely have moments where I get frustrated that I'm not where other people are, but then I remind myself that they're 10-15 years in front of me and that grounds me back in the moment so that I can get on with building myself up to eventually be in that position.
One of my favourite quotes I've heard from quite a few successful people, both creative and not, in the past few months is 'It's a marathon, not a sprint' which I think sums it up perfectly.
So if you've been in the industry for 2-5 years and aren't where the internet forces you to think you should be, just take a minute to analyse the situation because the chances are you feel that way because you're comparing your work to an artist who worked 3 jobs for the first 7 years of their career, hardly slept for years and has spent the last 10 years working for Blizzard, it's just unrealistic. It's much better to put in the hard work, be positive and think to yourself 'If I put in the work that could be me at their age'.
I know you've probably read loads of articles about how doing personal work lands you jobs but if it doesn't do so straight away you might not be feeling like that's how it works, but just be patient, keep doing what you love rather than what other people love and eventually the work will come. At the end of the day, if there's something you really want to work on you don't need anyones permission to do it, just go out and create it yourself!
Sorry for such a lengthy post, but I felt like sharing my experiences might be relevant to even just one person and give them a nudge in the right direction, so I hope that there was some value in it! Here's a new illustration I created the other day, an alien farmer guy, which funnily enough sparked another project about 5 minutes after me posting it, I just had the email from the guy I'll be working with and I am so excited to get started and share it with you guys!
Vlog is coming Monday, so I'll post that here then, hope you enjoyed this post and feel free to leave any thoughts in the comments below!