Wednesday, December 17, 2008

niches, and right paths

Recently I embarked on a new direction for my illustration. Licensing. As an art student in the 80's, I didn't have any coursework that dealt with the business opportunities of an illustrator. My college was sadly lacking in supporting Illustrators. Therefore I have spent the last 20 years trying different angles. I am not sure I have found my niche, but for now I am on a trajectory of creating work to license and I will continue until I hit my head against the wall a few too many times. How will I know when I have gone the wrong way? I don't really know. 

I read Seth Godin's blog and was happy to read his post several days ago. The main premise was that everyone who 'makes it big' has put in 10,000 hours of effort into their desired field. He debunks this theory with some good examples of people who had great ideas, great timing and generous amounts of good luck. However I am nearing my 10,000 hours so I am feeling pretty good right about now. Which brings me to how his post relates to my knowing when I have gone the right direction, his book, 'The Dip'.  This book delves into the mental science of quitting. Knowing when you hit a dead end, and when you just hit the 'dip' and need to keep on pushing to the promised land on the other side. Of course no book is the magic pill to success, except for maybe the author and publisher, but for most of us, they are tools to help us, nothing more. My hope as that this too will help me to decide if I am on the right track.

A great example of someone who I think has explored their art, and hit full stride, is Yulia Brodskaya. I think these beautiful paper sculptures are a great illustration of finding your path. If you look through the Graphic Design portfolio, or the Typographic, general and old stuff portfolio you can see the evolution of a niche.  

As we approach the new year, I find myself taking inventory. I am entering 2009 not unlike years past venturing into new territory, but each time I do, I evolve. I bring my newly acquired experience, my past knowledge and I take a deep breathe. Cheers to being able to reinvent, cheers to freedom to try, cheers to being blessed an artist.

Monday, December 15, 2008

cold weather and a sketchbook

Oh how I love it when we get our annual snow storm. Here in Portland we are lucky to get one a year. I have all sorts of detailed theories on what temperature and humidity conditions need to exist prior to the official call for snow flurries that will guarantee snow for more than an afternoon. Of course none of my theories are backed by science but that doesn't stop me from spouting them to anyone who will  listen. 

Since we in the NW are icebound, in the freezer for the week, I find that a hot cup of joe and my sketchbook on the sofa is a great combo. I am finding that the creative juices are flowing with all sorts of licensing doodles. Now that I have my handy chart created that details what work is in need of production, I just have to start producing! First out of the gate are some fun Christmas Tree images. I am anxious to post my sketches, but I will lead with this fun flickr picture, it sums up the spirit of Christmas trees that I want to create.  

Thursday, December 11, 2008

the value of old ideas

I just spent the last 4 hours pouring over my old sketchbooks. I save them as I guess most artists do, forever. I can't imagine throwing one out. In revisiting them I noticed that there is no rhyme or reason to how I sketch in a sketchbook. I tend to open it, look for a blank page, then draw. This is a pain as I go back through them looking for a particular sketch. Organization is not one of my strong suits. However, tonight was different. I post-it noted pages, I wrote on the post-its so that I could see what I had marked, and then when I was all done I categorized the items I liked and thought had potential. Then in my attempt to really out do myself, I made a big fat chart. A flow chart type of dealio. Well more like a site map really. But none the less a handy visual aid of all the items I liked, or wanted to work on. (See my crappy picture of the chart.)

What was the point of all this besides the exercise of organizing and daydreaming of new pictures to be made? The goal is this. I want to really expand my portfolio for licensing options and want to do it in a strategic manner. I know that in my sketchbooks are many fun ideas that singularly are just a fun idea, but together have real power. Going through my sketchbooks provided me an opportunity to revisit work that was never fully fleshed out, but with the right attention could be something worthwhile. Taking the time to organize the work by category will help me to analyze the depth and breadth of my artistic interests. I found that yes I do truly love to draw food, and no I do not love to draw nature. Do I feel compelled to work on that, no not really. But it does show me that I need to focus on promoting what I am deep in. And if I am so inclined it also shows me what areas I can add to and really expand my offerings. 

The lesson to this is that old sketchbooks are invaluable. Not only are they historical references of our lives, and what we see and think, but they are chock full of potential. Not unlike ourselves.

Monday, December 8, 2008

bazaar art and crafts

This weekend I attended my local elementary school Christmas Bazaar. It is a funny concept, making a craft be it hats, coasters, paintings or one of the countless variations of creative product, then sitting in a school gymnasium selling your wares. I was struck by the variety, even amongst the many earring makers, scarf creators or greeting card producers. Everyone has their own hand, their own eye, their own sense of beauty. As they sit casually behind the tables each artist is a version of their own art. Kind of an inanimate version of themself. I don't think many of the crafts people who sell their work at small bazaars make any money, they are lucky to break even on costs to produce goods let alone make any money for the countless hours required to make the piece and then sit and wait in a dimly lit gym for sales. So why do it? I think it is the same reason that no matter how many rejection letters we get, we keep on making art. Because at our core we are the art. We can't help but make it. We can't help but be it. How is this different than Art?

When I was in college I remember the great divide between the 'commercial' artists and the 'fine' artists. We, the Illustrators and Designers were the sell outs. We did our art with a client in mind. But the fine artists they were the 'real' artists. Expression for the sake of expression. How would those same classmates feel about the craftsperson and their recycled-felted-sweaters-around-hot-water-bottles? Are they the real artists? They certainly don't have dreams of grandeur like many of my classmates, but every bit of what they make is relevant as an expression of self. I think they absolutely are artists. I don't think the medium or the education matters. So what makes it a craft and what makes it art? Can't the two be one? Where is that line? I think some would say Art serves a higher purpose as a social commentary. Well I think some Craft makers serve the same purpose. Maybe the line is blurrier in some artists that others. I would ask if Bob Ross and his big magic brush is an artist then. I think it is a very hard argument to make that Art is so much higher purposed, when some of that very art is a ball of string. How is that ball of string different than a ball of string on a wire that you put through your ear? Isn't it still about purpose? Isn't the earring maker still making a statement?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

sorting, sorting...

Ok, so the good news is yes I am going to start selling my work via  the PODgallery. The bad news is I have go through mountains of work and make selections of what I want to sell. Then of course make sure it prepped for high quality printing. Not that I am complaining, just realizing I have a lot of work to do. As a good seasoned Illustrator, I know better than to count on mega sales right out of the gate, however since the opportunity has presented itself I will work hard to promote it and help nudge it to success! Which means once the collection has launched I will be emailing the crap out of everyone! Be warned.