The Back Story
It's been around 3 years since I started my creative pursuit. I remember some time in 2017, right before graduating university I decided that I wanted to be an illustrator. The whole idea of illustration spoke to me, the concept of art with a purpose is still so inspiring to me today. Illustrations have several uses, either to communicate a message or story, to decorate or adorn a surface, or make something stand out in a noisy world.
When I first embarked on my illustration career, I sketched on my iPad and posted on instagram, trying out different ways of doing things and most of the time feeling completely lost. About a year and a half later, I had developed a large portfolio of digital artwork, but I started getting this awful feeling every time I approached my iPad to draw. I felt so disconnected from my work and although I was making illustrations on a full-time basis - which by the way, was all I wanted - I felt like something was so off. I felt like I wasn't allowing myself to be an artist and I was trying to make art that I thought other people would like. That's probably a side effect of my generation, growing up with social media at our fingertips.
The Process of Finding my Style
Months went by and the feeling grew deeper and deeper. It was like a voice in my head whispering to me to drop everything and reassess. I didn't sleep, I hardly left the house, I spend my weeks trying to figure out what the heck was going on. It seems so simple to me now, but it took a long time to figure out what was happening to me. I was being pulled in a different direction, it's like my inner artist finally made it up to the surface and was like "hey! trust me!".
So, I picked up whatever art materials I had lying around and started experimenting. Admittedly, I spend way too much time scrolling through Pinterest finding images that inspired me. I experimented with everything from chalks to pastels, acrylics to watercolours, pencils and coloured paper. Each day left a new giant mess to clean up. I was conflicted between wanting to continue this style I had built up for over a year, and exploring what was calling me and pulling me in the other direction.
I think overall this process took about a year, but within 6 months I felt like I was coming back to my roots. I could finally see the other side of the bridge. All those late nights and pictures posted up on the walls like puzzle pieces I tried to put together were finally making sense.
The only thing that was pulling me back was the fact that I had an audience who knew me for that previous digital style I had built. It wasn't a large audience, but they were people who had invested in my vision and at that time scrapping all that work and starting over felt like a bit of a betrayal.
The work you see in my portfolio and social media today, is work that I feel truly comes from deep within. I spend months and months painting every single day all day long to develop my portfolio of work, and people who know me often say it's a great reflection of who I am as a person.
Trusting Your Inner GPS
Somewhere along the way, not only did I find my inner artist again, but she flourished and for the first time in a long time, she felt so proud of what she had created. One of the best feelings was when I had a portfolio consultation with Fig Taylor from the AOI, and she told me "she wasn't worried about me", she complimented my style and told me I had a good thing going. I felt seen and understood for the first time in quite awhile.
Although no art is truly 100% unique, I find that when people come across my art today, it speaks to them. Of course, people have different tastes and not everyone will appreciate my work, but for the small percentage of people who have a similar taste that I do, my artwork clicks with them and that's the most rewarding feeling in the world.
I'm writing this because when I was going through that phase of transition, I so hoped someone else could relate to me and tell me it was gonna be OK! I found little information online about changing your style at the time, and I think I also confused some family & friends who I turned to for help and advice.
My therapist tells me to trust my inner GPS, and to be honest no one in my life had ever told me that before. Hearing it from a total stranger was one of the most freeing sentences ever. How often do we doubt ourselves and think our ideas are wrong because we don't have any concrete proof that they're successful for anyone else? If you're reading this, I'm telling you, trust your inner GPS. I think when we're the most true to ourselves is when all the magic happens and things start to align. My art business has never been better, and I've never felt happier in the process of creating. I could have kept going with a style that didn't speak to me anymore and been successful, but on the inside I wouldn't be happy and that's what matters most above all.