A year ago, I was only starting my journey as a freelance artist. I wanted to offer illustration and graphic design services to potential customers. I designed logos, the visual identity, and marketing collaterals for three clients in the first quarter.
I started off like that, until I tried opening commissions too, to which an old friend and classmate asked me to create a portrait of her and her family. Starting a RedBubble shop also came into the picture.
By the end of the third quarter, I released my first ever e-book Seedlings: A Short Story Collection. I also joined the Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan’s annual art exhibit Brave New World.
And just this afternoon, I finished my annual report for my venture into becoming a full-time artist.
Here are some of the lessons that I took away from this experience so far:
1) It’s never easy.
It’s one thing to do what we love, but that doesn’t take away the stress, difficulty, and pressure of work. Passion is a popular word nowadays, but its true meaning can get mixed up with other feelings. It comes from the Latin word pati (suffer). I love what I do, and I do what I love, and I’m willing to go through the hardships of being an artist, because this, I believe, is how I can serve others best. Moreover, writing and drawing have been ways of creative expression and channeling of emotions ever since I was a child. It can be likened to breathing for me. If I do not do it, I will feel that I did not live my life to the fullest potential.
2) Keep learning.
There are innumerable resources on the Internet, and there are very helpful books in the market. The only thing missing? Using them! Recently, I subscribed to Schoolism; think of it like an online art school where your teachers (some of them can even be your art heroes!) are top professionals in the art industry. I will be starting this weekend to take their lessons. Weekends, for me, are for rest and learning! (Go check out Schoolism – it’s a big investment on your skills as an artist!) In the last two quarters of 2017 too, I’ve been listening to Bobby Chiu’s podcasts and interviews and his Little Plant People Thoughts and Philosophies. Listening to his videos and the artists he has interviewed over time definitely gave me a picture of what the art industry is like, good tips on drawing, marketing, social media, and other topics, and advices on making career moves. (Go check out Bobby Chiu’s Youtube too!) Nine or ten years ago, if I remember correctly, I found out about Bobby, Kei Acedera, and Imaginism Studios. As a budding artist then, they were among the few people who really inspired the young me to take up art in college and to consider a career in this field! This was still in my deviantArt days too! Anyway, learn what you can from your mentors, fellow creatives, and don’t forget to share and teach others.
And as what a cousin of mine said, “Knowledge isn’t really power. Applied knowledge is.”
3. Embrace everything in the journey, and learn what you can from the good and the bad.
One thing about being a full-time artist is that the works I create are mostly personal, unless commissioned by a client. I am also very invested and connected to my creative process and production. Creating personal art is like bearing our hearts out, dangling them from our sleeves. I get ideas for stories and illustrations from my feelings and personal life experiences.
So as I was making my annual report to track my progress earlier this afternoon, I was reviewing the insights on my Facebook Page. I found out that there were 2 or 3 instances where someone clicked “Hide Post” and “Hide All Posts” from my art Page. There was also someone who clicked “Unlike.” At first, I felt a little sting and asked myself, “What did I post or write on that day?!” I know that these negative things shouldn’t be taken personally, but I can’t help but feel sad, because it’s like criticizing my heart. It feels this way, because I invest all that I am in what I do. Somehow this discovery brought that feeling I had when I was still in high school, studying Adobe Photoshop by practicing drawing there, and an anonymous user in deviantArt commented on three pieces of mine which I worked so hard on. He said that my artworks were ‘mediocre trash.’ Had I let myself dwell on it for far too long and not let go of it, I might have not pursued drawing anymore! Like what my Mom and Dad said then, take it as a challenge.
“To be great, be whole;
Exclude nothing, exaggerate nothing that is not you.
Be whole in everything. Put all you are into the smallest thing you do.
So, in each lake, the moon shines with splendor
Because it blooms up above.”
― Fernando Pessoa, Poems of Fernando Pessoa
Lessons I can take away from these is that we really cannot please everyone with what we do; there is truly a certain group of people who will really only get us and appreciate our art. Instead of focusing on the negative, aim your viewfinder on the positive, on the people who continue to support you and give kind words. And for those who cannot appreciate what we do, wish them well; we all have our own different loves in this life.
And remember this! We did not create art to get likes.
Also in regards to my early deviantArt negative experience, I hope we learn to be kind, polite, and constructive in giving criticisms or feedback. The Internet needs to be kinder and more respectful! We do not know the negative impact that words from an anonymous person can have on a young but hopeful mind. The good and the bad are present in our journey; what’s important is to learn from both, but let go of the bad, knowing that you have already taken a significant lesson from it.
That’s it! I narrowed it down to three. I wonder if this will increase as the years go by.
Anyway, for my announcement, I would just like to let you know that I’ve decided to focus on illustration and writing from now on. I love graphic design, but I want to give more time now to these two disciplines. In my heart, I believe that it is storytelling that I really want to do, and the best way I can do it is through these two.
So yes, now I can say, I am a full-time illustrator and writer. 🙂
With that, I wish you a Happy New Year, dear friends! Thank you so much for your support, trust, and kind words – please know that I appreciate everything! It hasn’t been an easy first year, but that’s how it is when we’re still a freshman, right? Haha! You help encourage me in taking this path. I will make it work, so other young aspiring artists can see that it is possible. Here’s to more Filipinos doing illustration, writing, and in general – the arts! I hope and pray for all the best for you in 2018 and beyond.