Friday, July 23, 2010

Fresh Perspective

As of today it has been about five and a half weeks since I left my full time job to focus on illustration. And although I am all right with what I have been doing since I left, today more than any day I was feeling more overwhelmed than ever before. There's so much I want to accomplish but now that I have so much time to do it, the unlimited daily freedom is actually taking a toll. I've had difficulty staying focused and no matter how many lists I write or attempts I make to organize and plan out my day, my attention span wanders continuously.

The first half of my day was spent turning in circles, spinning my wheels, starting one thing only to abandon it for some other fleeting attempt at something else. I was ready to throw in the towel altogether and embrace utter non-productivity. But then I stopped. Turned around, and kicked myself in the butt (metaphorically speaking).

A long while back I purchased a slew of books I hoped would provide understanding and inspiration when I eventually made the transition to illustrator. Only now, months later, did I finally decide to actually read one of them. And it was the best decision I made since I quit my job. I walked over to my little shelf of books about illustrating children's books and selected a couple to read. I gathered a notebook, pencil, glass of water, and settled into the chair on the back deck (afterall, why read inside on a nice, cloudy summer day?).

I began with The Art of Reading. The book as a whole is quite interesting. A celebration of children's literature in which some of the most well-know contemporary illustrators talk about books that inspired them when they were children. Included with each illustrator's blurb is an illustration inspired by their selected book from their childhood. It was enjoyable to see these visual reinterpretations--but what really moved me was not the art but what the artists had to say...

As I read I found myself jotting down numerous quotes from the illustrators, most of which pertained to why they were illustrators to begin with. They spoke about the magic of books, the importance of inspiring imagination through illustrations, the passion they had for living and breathing the art of storytelling.

It was while reading this book that I realized my own complete lack of focus lately was not due to a lack of interest in what I am doing, but a lack of passionate perspective as to WHY I am doing it. I need to remind myself why I'm in this field. At the end of the day, it's not about filling my portfolio with random self-satisfying images--it's about loving the art of creating a full story.

True satisfaction can and will only come when my artwork becomes what it's intended to be: part of a book, a "complete world between two covers." Beyond that, it is a priveledge to illustrate for children because our pictures have the inherent ability to "serve as a gateway to the world of books." It is through picture books that we first begin to read. First visually, then with written language. And every book has the potential to impact a reader, to make them remember it long after they've left it's pages.

THAT is the world I must remind myself that I love. That is where my passion truly is. I enjoy illustrating individual images but I love sequential book art more than anything else. And while I do not fancy myself an author just yet, I need to find the storyteller within myself or I am doomed to fail in this industry.

In summary, I feel both rejuvenated and terrified. I don't yet know who I am as an illustrator or how to get where I know I want to be. But I'll take comfort in the fact that so long as I do and make things with love, passion, and the proper perspective, I can be happy.

There is no right way, only the right reason.


  1. I so understand your journey! Mine is very similar - it is hard to concentrate on one thing when you got so many ideas swirling in your brain, isn't it? I got The Art of Reading for a Christmas present 2 years ago, and I love it, I'm glad it gave you inspiration! I've been focusing on my illustration career since getting laid off in December and I'm still trying to get in the groove. It will happen - keep trying!
    Lynn Alpert

  2. That's very wise what you have written here. And as an illustrator myself I think similar - without the passion to make pictures and without this, let's call it, higher need of making them it becomes just a hobby and not a true path we want to follow all our life. In more simple words - illustrating should give you happiness because you can share the magical world you have in your head with others who, yet, may not have a world of their own. And that's an amazing feeling ;)

  3. Courtney, I have often read your blog with interest. I find it very refreshing. Today your writing did touch my heart. I am sure you will find your path clearly leading to your desired destination very soon, despite the challenges that you experience today, . Your creativity and exceptional artist mind are truly incredible, and I believe those will enable your path to success before you realize it. As you know, nobody ever trips over mountains. It's always the small pebble that causes one to stumble. Pass all those pebbles in your path and you will find you have crossed the mountain. God Bless You! ~ Gute Freiend