I’ve always been creative, but…
Today is the anniversary of my first drawing as an adult. I have been drawing as a child, sure, also as a teenager. I’ve always been creative in one way or another but then… life happened. I wanted to study something creative but was convinced that to make a living it was a much better choice to study something else, something substantial. Although surely one could argue that Cultural Science, which I chose and concluded with a Master of Arts (sic!), wasn’t the best choice for earning money either.
When I moved out from home at the age of 17 and started to study and work as a translator, I stopped drawing. I had a wound in my heart, yet I thought I understood that adult life was not supposed to be fun. It was just supposed to work out and therefore you needed to compromise, work and be serious. Creativity was put aside and labeled as a childish wish.
There are no coincidences: The inspirational kick in the butt
Last year a friend of mine recommended me Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. I’d read about the book some days earlier and decided it couldn’t be a coincidence, so I went to buy it immediately. I started reading it and doing all the assignments, also the daily and weekly ones, such as morning pages and artist dates.
Morning pages is a ritual to start your day writing 3 pages of whatever comes to your mind. Your worries, hopes, anything — a stream of consciousness. My morning page during week 3 of the book’s course, on the 17. November 2016 goes like this:
I am sad since 3 weeks, but it really is sad: I just want to know what I could do professionally to be fulfilled and have enough money and this question is bugging me since I’m 17 – 15 years now! Do I want to be a graphic designer? An Art Director? That seems to be the direction anyways…Do I want to draw and touch people’s heart with my drawings? I think this is what I want to do! So today I will go on the Artist Date to Modulor and just stroll around and let myself get inspired.
Artist dates are dates with yourself, with your inner artist, your inner child. Julia Cameron puts it like this:
The Artist Date is a once-weekly, festive, solo expedition to explore something that interests you. The Artist Date need not be overtly “artistic” — think mischief more than mastery. Artist Dates fire up the imagination. They spark whimsy. They encourage play. Since art is about the play of ideas, they feed our creative work by replenishing our inner well of images and inspiration. When choosing an Artist Date, it is good to ask yourself, “what sounds fun?” — and then allow yourself to try it.
That day I went to Modulor (a great art supply shop in Berlin), bought myself three micron pens and a small notebook, and already on the way home started to draw little comics to help me cope with my emotions… and just for fun.
The first step outside of the comfort zone: Instagram
I continued drawing daily, as it was a lot of fun and helped me clear my head. I also showed my friends some pictures and the feedback was always positive. My better half started convincing me to do something about it, to show my drawings to more people. So, a month after starting to draw, I created an Instagram account only for my drawings. The name was drawings in the sky. The Instagram crowd was immensely nice and supportive. I received a lot of positive feedback and decided I wanted to continue.
New Year’s Eve: Sending out a wish to the universe
I’m a spiritual person who believes in the power of thoughts and wishes. I make a ritual of it every now and then to send out a wish to the universe. The idea behind it is to send out a wish, let it go, consider it already done and feel and behave accordingly. This has worked for me so many times that I really have no problem believing in it, although it may sound like magic or madness.
So, on New Year’s Eve I sat down and looked deep within myself. What do I want to achieve next year? Which wishes do I want to come true? I wrote down: I want to develop professionally and leave my boredom behind me, I want to illustrate, to learn to draw and edit digitally, I want to create a portfolio of my drawings and (at some point) illustrate articles for magazines. Also, I want to see something of my own in Flow magazine.
I took an hour to get clear about those wishes, to write them down, send them out to the universe and embody their realization. I imagined with all my senses how it would feel when a drawing of mine appeared in my favorite magazine and how it would feel when the first person was going to pay for a drawing of mine. I considered it done and went out to party.
First wishes coming true
I continued to draw and to post daily. More and more friends and strangers started to notice my drawings. At some point in February my good friend Sissi asked me if she could use my pictures for her articles in the online magazine Seikkailijattaret. Of course I said yes! I proposed her to not only to choose from the pictures I already had, but for me to custom make illustrations for each article she wrote. She agreed.
I couldn’t believe that the first wish of illustrating an article was already coming true after such a short time. As I continued to illustrate Sissi’s articles, also other writers of the online magazine became interested in my illustrations. Soon thereafter, I received a proposal for becoming the official illustrator of Seikkailijattaret. I made illustration for their logo and banners, as well as some character designs and social media profile pictures. All of this pushed me forward. I got my dose of self confidence and started having the big wish and will for becoming a professional.
From wishing to making: professionalization
At some point still in February, I googled information on color schemes and found a very good article about it at byjohannafritz.de. Looking through her webpage I found a ton of freebies with tips on how to become a successful illustrator. I downloaded all the planning tools and started making plans for the year to come. I truly recommend her from the depths of my heart to anyone wanting to get structured on their way in becoming a professional illustrator (or creative overall).
The overall goal for the year was to get the first paying client. After that I quarterly set goals concerning my brand (logo, color scheme, IG profile, FB profile etc.), my portfolio (PDF and printed version), my website and professionalizing everything (becoming a freelancer, insurances etc., customer acquisition). I made plans for every month, week and day of the year. There weren’t huge things to accomplish daily, rather very constant, slow steps forward, concerning the time I had left with a part time job and the will to get better at the craft by drawing daily. Yet, the slow and steady pace helped me not to procrastinate, as I was never overwhelmed by the difficulty of the daily goals I set for myself.
Slow and steady wins the race: Zoluart is born
Slowly, I started doing all the tasks I had set myself: setting up my social media accounts (or professionalizing them, like changing the name of my IG account into @zoluart), drawing for my portfolio, putting up my website, printing business cards, networking and collaborating with creatives from different fields.
In July, I had my first small publication in Flow magazine. It was just a little picture from instagram, but I couldn’t have been happier. In the meantime, I was illustrating free cards for friends: newborn cards, wedding invitations and Mother’s day cards. Then finally, in September, a friend of mine asked me for a portrait as a gift for her boyfriend… the first paid commission! I couldn’t believe my luck.
Good thing I had set up all the essentials for being able to earn money and write invoices by then. I just wasn’t sure if I was good enough to draw portraits. But, I made my attempt and the client was happy with the result. After posting the first portrait on social media, more questions for portraits came in.
By now, I have drawn eight portraits for people I know, but also strangers have started finding me through my Zoluart social media. I have exceeded my own expectations. My gratitude for everything that has happened during this year is overwhelming. Sometimes I think I’m dreaming and am scared to wake up from living my dreams.
All I can say is that I’m immensely thankful for all the helpful people on my way and can’t wait to make a plan for my next year.
If you are somewhere on a road similar to mine yourself, here’s a list of useful links for you:
- byjohannafritz.de – planing freebies, podcasts, lots of tips and tricks for illustrators (to be)
- creativepeptalk.com – my favorite motivational podcast
- trajantosev.com – instagram marketing help
- frauhoelle.com – everything you need to know about brush lettering
- sawdustconnection.com/pdf/copyright-guidelines.pdf – copyright guidelines
- squarespace.com – beautiful and easy to make webpage templates
- moo.com – here you can make beautiful business cards really easily
- womenwhodraw.com – An open directory of female illustrators
This article was first published on http://www.strangerless.com on the 17.11.2017.