As an illustrator I often get asked what my top tips are so I thought I would share some of them here. Obviously they reflect my own experience and if you ask me about my top tips again in a year time I’m sure I will find another thing or two to add to this list!
Distance yourself from your work
I used to be very shy about showing my work to other people (my parents included). I was afraid of what people might think of me as a person when they saw it. At the time, you see, I didn’t differentiate myself from my work and I believed that when my work was being looked at and judged I, as a person, was also on the hot seat. I am not sure how and when it all ‘clicked’ in my head but somehow I came to realise that I was completely mistaken and that when people see and comment on my work, they are not commenting on me as a person. Them liking or disliking one of my illustrations doesn’t mean that they like or dislike me. This tiny change in the way I perceived my work made a big difference: I stopped seeing my work as something precious and sacred – sure it comes from me and is very personal to me but it is not me – and this in turn enabled me to feel more detached and more relaxed about my work. That was liberating! I am afraid I cannot teach you how to switch that button in your head but understand this: no matter how much of yourself you pour into your work, you are not your work!
Make things happen
I do believe that there is an element of luck in creative careers but luck is not all. There is also hard work (obviously), persistence (it’s not a race, it’s a marathon) and… well, your ability to make things happen. I feel extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to work with some big companies and amazing people so far but I also know that some of the opportunities I’ve had I owe entirely to myself. Sure, it can be super scary to contact people and put yourself out there but it is also so rewarding and you will feel very proud of yourself when you get results! Ask yourself what types of projects you would like to work on and who you would like to work with, and take action today!
Even when you feel that you are finally getting good at your craft, don’t feel like it’s where it ends. I have always been very curious and I love learning (this actually caused some confusion when I had to decide what I wanted to do with my life because I was interested in so many things!), and I can’t praise highly enough the benefits of learning new things and exploring what makes you curious. It doesn’t even have to have anything to do with your craft at all (that’s the beauty of it!). Beside the fact that I find learning new things fun I have noticed that it makes me feel excited, motivated and it often leads to new ideas that I can then use into my work! So try new techniques, experiment, read books, watch tutorials, listen to podcasts, take a class, go to the museum,… But whatever you do, keep learning!