Let’s imagine you had a time capsule that you wanted to send to the past to give your past self a message from the future. What advice would you give to your past self?
Picture this: aged, 15 years old, a young artist still stumbling her way through life but finding that her joy is through making characters and immersive imaginative worlds. However, the pressure has got to her – this early 2011, there’s this pressure to get a job and be financially stable. The big brick slams and breaks, revealing the two signs going opposite ways: TAFE or university? There’s this unrealistic cultural expectation that somehow university over-rules TAFE and apprenticeships, meaning if you got into university, you were now in the security line of ‘getting a job’ or ‘being successful and educated’. You’d make your parents “proud” by this… “expectation”. Not only that, but the competition was also drilled into your brain about how you needed to be good at something to succeed. You’d start comparing yourself to bigger boxes and make yourself feel smaller. You’d feel jealousy because you thought someone didn’t work as hard as you or didn’t have it as bad as you did. You’d take in so many advice, you’d lose yourself and not even know who you are anymore. You’d feel unmotivated to do what you love because you’ve trapped yourself in a self-sabotage container of misery.
Where can you go from here? How do you understand your art better?
- Start a portfolio early and get your work up online. Start creating your personal brand now – get connected to who you know now and slowly build up and meet people! Get online on LinkedIn, Instagram and create your own FB page! Eventually, create your own website (or blog site) to show your work. Put it out there so you can answer the awkward direct question of… “Sooooo… Can I see your work?”
- Practice and Share your work consistently: Get into the habit of practising your craft at least 5 mins a day. If you go beyond that 5 mins, you know you’re in the zone. If not, at least you tried for 5 mins? Share your work to get feedback but also as a way to start your portfolio early. Honestly, your opinion of your own work is not going to be the same as someone one else’s opinion of your work. As someone from Perth, we often think our own city is boring but that’s not what other people from the world necessarily think. From what I’ve heard, they see Perth in a different view from us. If you never share your work, the only opinion of your work will be your own opinion. Your market will tell you if they like your work but only until you put it out there.
- Explore the inspiration is all around you! Offline & Online! Explore market stalls… and travel around the world and Australia! You’ll be sure to notice different marketing campaigns, logos, typography, signage and all these things are inspo. Even the digital things you enjoy, films, video games, and tv shows have a brand identity and the way they present themselves with the use of various elements and principles make them specifically attractive to certain audiences.
- Reflect & Ask yourself: What’s interesting to me here? What am I drawn to? Think about the elements and principles being used here. Zoom into art piece and see how they drew their lines, how did they shade, how did they colour in. You can start to guess how they created the piece and the methods so you can start to try them on their own. You won’t know what is an unrealistic expectation until you try it then you will know the “what I can do” and the “what I can’t do”.
- Keep an inspiration journal to track your ideas and your inspiration, date them and make reflection notes to build on your critical thinking elasticity. You’re bound to change your inspirations as time goes by. I like to separate my inspiration into conceptual and aesthetic as I may not agree with how a concept is presented but I love the concept, this works vice versa. A pattern will emerge when you collect inspiration: the pattern are signs of your style emerging. I like the saying:
“You don’t find your style, you discover it”. You don’t find it outside of you, you listen to yourself more to discover your own style.”
- Acknowledge your journey. Well think about it this way, if you cringe at your old work, it’s a sign that you’re improving OR that you know that you CAN improve but don’t feel quite there yet. Your mind will always compare your work to what you want it to be. If you still like your work from 5 years ago, then it’s a sign not much has changed. It’s a good or bad thing depending on your goals.
“Who you have been + Who you want to be = who you are” – Adam JK
- Experiment while you can. It’s best to get a taste of everything while you have time and energy. Whether it goes well or not, you don’t know until you try. Experiment with your drawing, graphic design techniques, ideation, different jobs, disciplines – continue being curious and allowing yourself to discover and explore.
- Don’t forget, in the end, you set your own standards. What you decide is enough/not enough is up to you. Art is a personal journey, a representation of yourself and your interpretation of the world. So embrace the differences because if everyone was at the same standard, they’ll all be the same and it’ll be boring. So let’s collaborate and be inspired by others more, than putting each other down.
- A mentor told me, if you don’t like the advice you’ve been given, park it. Who says you need to take it in? Listen to various advice but ultimately, you make the choice to bring it into your practice or not.
To provide some real insight:
I’d like to share my personal art evolution of how my art has changed. I was in love with Japanese pop culture and anime when I was younger. This was a huge inspiration for me and I wanted to be a manga artist/concept artist when I was older. Towards 2017, I realised that while anime was great, it was not something that was actually right for me. There came admiration for those who could nail the style but I couldn’t fit in that style (or that box) I was trying so hard to fit in before 2017. What I did best wasn’t anime, but something more strange and interesting which I started to embrace. It’s always hard to describe your own style!
Thanks for reading! If you find this advice useful, please share it around but please credit this source!
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What about you? What advice would you tell your younger self?