Do one thing well.
“Be like a postage stamp – stick to one thing until you get there” – Josh Billings
It’s rather difficult to focus on just one thing. I think as a creative there’s so many things we want to pursue, and building a brand and business you can now do everything and not just your one thing. At the moment I’m not just an illustrator. I’m also an amateur photographer trying to take beautiful photographs for social media and my online shop. I’m an amateur writer trying to write my ideas down in a way that is both interesting and genuine (and grammatically correct). I’m also the marketing manager trying figure out my branding and how to build a website. Also how the bloody hell one does taxes when self employed.
There’s also so much to grab our attention outside of creating. We have to do lists the length of our arms, we have Pinterest boards inspiring us to make our homes as beautiful as our dream ones, and we have too many TV shows we “absolutely must watch” Don’t even get me started on all the books with pages left unturned.
Even just illustrating itself is not the simplicity of focusing on one thing. I can not simply just sit and draw to my hearts content if I want to be successful. There’s so much to learn from photoshop and what dpi means to the rule of thirds and how to create compelling images. There’s focusing on creating new work, keeping an (imperfect) sketchbook, learning typography, and then the constant inspiration that is to be found and filled up with but just not finding enough time to express.
So I’m left feeling like I’m just doing everything badly. Or at least a bit haphazardly.
Today I was inspired by a post I stumbled upon by Huit Denim Co. who are based in Wales and make jeans, and just jeans. I’m liking their ethos of do one thing and do it well. Nothing to distract, just pure patient focused energy on making one thing of superior quality. No more jack of all trades yet master of none.
So I’ve decided I really want try to master something. To do my one thing really well. Realistically all the other stuff has to be thrown in too because that’s life. But where possible the rest is just drawing. And learning to do it well.
I’m three months into calling myself, and working as, an illustrator and felt it might be mildly interesting or helpful to someone to share my experiences and the little things I have learnt.
When I finally decided “just bloody do it now” and opened up my Etsy shop (I only had one drawing for sale – Tortoise above^), it was that first step that started moving everything else slowly forward. Perhaps it was the sudden self affirmation that I AM an artist/illustrator because I now have a shop, or whether it was that the first step was easier than I’d thought, but nearly 3 months down the line I’ve quit my full time job and gone down to a part-time hours in a lovely tea and coffee specialist shop called Seibiant. Bills should just about be covered by that and now all energies will be concentrated on drawing until my hands fall off.
I’m currently a bit obsessed with watching Fran Menses YouTube videos and would highly recommend anyone interested in illustration to go check out her videos and work. It’s been very inspiring for me to see someone who is successfully working as a Freelance Illustrator.
As I am at the very beginning of this journey I thought it might be helpful for anyone else in a similar place to share how I’m getting started. So far the majority of my drawing dollars have come from supportive family and friends (thank you I love you), so there is a little fear that the small success I’ve had may dry up, but there’s been a few distant reaches into my illustration world that have encouraged me to put head and heart into pursuing it fully.
So here are a few pointers that I hope will be useful.
- START. Just open your shop NOW or whatever it is you need/want to do. Do anything but just go.
- SOCIAL MEDIA. Even if you just pick one for now to focus on. Your work needs to be findable (I don’t think that is a word but it works). I’m currently obsessed with Instagram.
- PRINT. I started out ordering a few of my prints from online printers (I used DStudio and would highly recommend them) but it ended up being too expensive if I wanted to stock all of my drawings. Find out what works out for you but for me it was to buy a printer. My work is all in black & white so I can get away with a cheaper printer for now, but I wish I had invested in a more expensive one as sooner or later I will definitely want to upgrade. I’m currently using this HP deskjet which does the job fine for printing up to A4. What I’ve found is more important is actually the paper you’re printing on. I’ve spent more money on paper experimentation than anything else. I’m currently using this Somerset Enhanced Velvet. It may seem a little expensive at first but being able to print on demand, one at a time, and be in control of the image is worth every single penny in my opinion and experience. It’s a also a much cheaper upfront cost with the freedom for more variety than out sourcing prints.
- PHOTOSHOP. Learn it. It’s so important and so helpful. For me it has taken the fear out of making mistakes because I can just erase an accident on photoshop. You can pay monthly, I think it’s about £8/month, or there are other free alternative programmes out there but I haven’t explored them myself (I’ve heard good things about GIMP).
So there are my first 4 hopefully helpful steps. Get in touch if you have any more questions and I will happily do my best to answer them.