Know thyself.

March 7, 2008

Flow-chart thingy.

One thing that has been floating in the ether in my brain lately is where I see myself heading. I think some illustrators are lucky; they know exactly where they fit in, or they just fall into working on something they really enjoy and that’s what directs their career. Having that foresight or ability to find their niche is such a good thing– really valuable when you think about it. But maybe you’re like me; you consider yourself a jack of all trades, and you can’t quite figure out where you fit.

My good friend Frank and I discussed our ideas of the ‘rules’ for being an illustrator: and we both agreed that while there are a lot of other important rules, the top one could be ‘Know thyself.’ For a while I was trying to work out where my weaknesses were graphically, stylistically– but that was sort of putting the cart before the horse. Without knowing who to show my work to and where I could feel comfortable, I’ve felt a lot of maybes as to where I could fit in– I could see it, but how could my potential clients? The thing I’ve heard lately has been: “You have a great style. You just need to figure out what you want to do and then pursue it.” So I guess it’s actually more obvious than I thought. Hence this hastily scrawled flow-chart, cementing a lot of things I knew in my head.

I find this indecision really troublesome, but indicative of how I’ve always been– fish or cut bait was the resounding mantra my parents often gave me. And when I actually dissect how my personal work comes about, I realize it’s less about thought and more about bizarre imagery, strange juxtapositions, which leads to a unique kind of language that I’m not sure is so easily translated. Which leads me to noticing a disconnect between my editorial work and my personal work– and I think this may be where one of my problems lie. I could see other peoples’ work collected into a book, both personal and editorial– but mine? It seems less that way. And maybe this means branching out from editorial is important.

Not that this post has really gained me any answers– but it has made me consider more heavily what I want to do. I may not know the hows of accomplishing what I want to do, but I think it’s a good starting point. If you’re at all like me, I would advise you to think about what really engages you and where you do and don’t see yourself. Knowing yourself– your capabilities, limitations, goals and the like– is just as important as developing a style, learning business practices, and promoting your work– after all, how can you start to promote yourself if you don’t know who you are and why you are doing what you do? Of course things change but you need a framework to start, and a sense of focus so you can actually attack the markets you’re interested in.

Good news: In the coming few weeks we will be attempting here at the Trade Secrets HQ to overhaul the blog– along with a bit of a format change. It’ll be truly awesome, I assure you. So keep your eyes on the lookout!


6 Responses to “Know thyself.”

  1. Nice entry! We did a lot with log books on my illustration course, and what you say really backs up how useful they are.

    I’ve been reading this book by Julia Cameron called ‘The Artist’s Way’, and she has the reader spend half an hour every morning writing out three pages of free-flow thought, which really does seem to help distill what we’re trying to say and what we’re about.

  2. idle said

    Meg, I feel exactly where you are coming from. I’ve always had my head full of the most different ideas and I feel limited by the thought of having to work in only one direction/style. Until recently I’ve refused to work in only one area/style and even though I’ve had a few successes here and there I’ve failed so far to create a name for myself. So, as I am in my last year of university I am trying to find out what I really want. I have to face the fact as an illustrator I have to market myself as if I were a product and I have to face the fact that most people do not buy products that change their looks constantly. This means that I have to limit the public (blog/flickr/forums) output stylistically and in regard to content. So, on one it might be important to find out who you are and what you want to do but on the other hand it might just be that you intentionally create products. Hmm,… does that make sense? Anyways, it is good to know that I am only one having these concerns.

  3. Alan D. said

    Welcome back Meg! It’s really great to see life back in Trade Secrets!

    I don’t think gallery should ever fall off your radar. And textile design! Wow! I’d love to see your patterns as fabrics.

    Good luck! I look forward to the future.

  4. Gosh, this is such a problem for me as well. There is so many things I like to do, I feel like I’m constantly being pulled in different directions.

    One thing that HAS been huge for me this last year, is finally finding a settling point for my style. I used to be all over the place in different looking art and style, and it was a huge relief when I finalized realized what comes NATURALLY for me, and I stopped fighting it.

    I really like your flow-chart, it is always good to get things down on paper and see them, especially for us visual types.

  5. I’m SO glad Trade Secrets is back. Thanks for writing about the stuff you’re dealing with now. I’m a month away from my grad, and after 3 years of illustration & design school, I still feel so far away from knowing what I want, or being sure of my style or process.

    I look forward to reading more of your thoughts and discoveries.

  6. diana said

    I feel you on this. My problem seems to be that I want to do so much that its hard to focus on any one thing for too long. I don’t want to settle on just one style or just one market.
    I feel better knowing that I am not the only one who feels this way.

    I do love that brainstorming sketch you did. I do that myself sometimes. It does help to write ideas down.


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