Maintaining Focus on What Matters


You have heard me talk a lot on this blog about my busyness and how I wish I had more time for this or that, including rest and relaxation or making personal work in my art practice. {By the way, did you read this NY Times article a few weeks ago? If not, I recommend it.}

I am trying really hard to stay focused on what matters most to me — doing good work and maintaining a thriving illustration practice, of course, but also carving out time to do nothing (“idleness” is the word the author of the aforementioned NY Times article uses). And, for the record, “nothing” to most of us just means laying around in the sunshine, reading a book, hanging out with friends — just not working.

Then there is the issue of this other thing that matters to me a lot, and that’s not getting so lost in “work” (i.e. illustrating other people’s stuff, or making work that turns into a product like journals, wallpaper or note cards), that I lose sight of my own creative vision, my personal work, and pushing the boundaries of my creative practice.

Let’s be clear: I LOVE BEING AN ILLUSTRATOR. I love illustrating other people’s books. I love designing things like note cards, wallpaper and fabric. I get to work on some amazing projects where my ideas matter and my perspective and style are valued by clients. But I have to make sure I’m also listening to the part of me that wants to embark on new creative projects that come directly from my imagination. I want to make time to make the stuff that I think about in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep. Essentially I want my fine art practice (my personal work) to matter as much as my illustration practice.

So there’s some tension with that, because part of being busy with lots of illustration work is that I don’t have much time to do much else creatively.

Blah, blah, blah, I’ve talked about this before (here and here, mostly).

So what I’ve decided to do is stop talking about it and to actually do something about it. Here’s what I’ve done so far:

1) I entered my first juried painting competition. I don’t think I have a snowball’s chance in hell of my work being accepted (I picked a really prestigious one for starters), but entering forced me to make some new work to submit.

2) I’ve begun a conversation with a fantastic literary agent about making two book ideas come to life. I’ve set some goals for working on two proposals, and am really excited about them.

3) I’ll be applying for my first residency. I won’t find out till November if I got it, but just working on the application is filling me with happy anticipation.

Oh, and there’s the trip to Scandinavia and Iceland coming up shortly, which I will take by myself. I’m hoping to gather lots of inspiration while I am there that will feed the conveyor belt of ideas that runs through my brain.

I’ll report back with some updates (if there are any) as they happen. Thank you for listening, friends. I feel better now.