Thursday, April 5, 2007

Hope & Hopelessness: One girl's struggle to find her place in the illustration world

Allow me to introduce myself.

My name is Courtney Autumn Martin, and these are my thoughts.
I am a recent graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, a lover of all things children's literature, an avid collector of children's books in all forms, and an aspiring children's illustrator.

Having now entered into the realm of the living, breathing, fully-functioning society that I had avoided for the years while working and studying in my cozy art-school bubble, I find myself completely devoid of artistic direction. In this first year since graduating, I am more confused than ever, bi-polar at times in both my optimism for the future and my overwhelming fears of inadequacy.

Some days, I wake up inspired, motivated, confident even. Fueled by all the wonderful work I see being made each day by illustrators across the globe. I might spend hours in the bookstore rifling through the children's section to find new works of wonder. I might even declare to myself, "Dammit Courtney, you can do it, too!" And resolve myself to finally taking those steps to send my work out to publishers, editors, art directors, and to finally start taking charge of my life.

But some days I wake up wishing that I hadn't gone to art school, that I had chosen a profession that was easier. Where you go to work 9-5 everyday and you come home and enjoy the rest of your life. Because with all my training, and wishing, and hoping, I worry that I'll never be as good as those that I admire. I look at all my favorite picture books and feel in my heart that my own visions will never make it onto the shelves into books with which other children will grow up.

But it is this fear that I hope to overcome. It is that fear that I shake off each day as I go to paint in my cold little studio in the basement. Because we all should have the opportunity to do what we want with our lives, especially when all the opportunities we have had up until now have made it possible.

Sometimes there is no excuse for fear and self-doubt.
Especially as so many others find a way to quiet those voices and make their wishes come true.
Ideally, I would love to reach some sort of self-acceptance, where I allow myself to be whoever it is I am. I would love to illustrate books, freelance as much as I can, and even write my own books (yeah, me and the rest of the world, I know). For a long while I've also entertained the idea of working for some of my most beloved publishing houses. Having a hand in the design and conception of children's books would be amazing. I love the book as an object of art itself. The concept, layout, text, book jacket, all coming together to create a rich experience. It wouldn't be a bad way to spend my days.

So, anyway. This is my blog. This is my outlet for posting new work and getting feedback.
The good, and the bad. I want it all. This is where I'll report my progress. This is where I'll turn my daydreams into words, and hopefully, reality.

Welcome to Slumberland By Day.


  1. You have it in you - the talent and the desire. Just keep going girl...keep going. You'll get there. You will!

  2. I have been out for 5 years. (I went to SVA) The first year was VERY HARD. I am now just starting to find a style I can work with long term, before that I struggled a bit. It seems to me that you have a very strong ability, you just need to keep up the motivation.

    Now only you can do this, at school you had peers and teachers, and Illustration can be isolating. But if you are the type, where no matter what you end up doing, you need to draw in order to be might as well try to make a career out of it anyway right?

    That's how I think anyway. I would be doing this regardless if I get paid or published or not, just because it's what is inside of me and needs to get out. If people or art directors like it, this I can't control but I still need to get things out there.

    Keep your chin up! Your style reminds me of another RISD grad, Kelly Murphy. I love her stuff, and your stuff looks very promising!!

  3. Hello!

    I just found your blog via the SCBWI web site looking for locals (I live in the same town).

    I know this was written at the beginning of the year. I hope your first year is going better. Overall, I like your work. I'm a writer myself so I can't give you much of a critique other than, "that looks purdy." :D

    Coming from personal experience, I suggest joining/starting up a critique group for illustrators.

    I can be found through the SCBWI web site if you're ever interested in chatting :D

  4. Reading this is like reading my own thoughts. I know you wrote this months ago before your first book was published. I bet it's neat looking back now and seeing how far you've come. Right now I feel like I am now where you were when this was written. I just graduated with my master's degree, got married last month and moved to Maine. (I'm originally from North Dakota). Anyhow, I feel a bit overwhelmed sometimes. I want to follow my dream of becoming an illustrator - but it's hard to know where to start. Hopefully I can be as lucky as you and in a few months from now look back and know that I've been published. Thanks again for the inspiration! Your work is amazing.
    Best wishes to you.