Lately I have been thinking a lot about making art for myself. I know that sounds weird, but I really feel that if I, as an illustrator don’t give myself time to just be creative without a deadline or any other kind of restrictions, I get a little nutty! It is important to make time for those projects that aren’t necessarily going to make me money or have anything to do with work. Those are the projects that make me a better artist. Being creative for the sake of being creative. Now I know that sounds totally artsy fartsy, but it’s so true.
Between juggling my career as a children’s book writer/illustrator and my invitation business it gets really difficult to carve out time for myself. I tend to be one of those people who gets really overwhelmed with everything on my plate to the point where when I do sit down to do something that isn’t related to work I feel incredibly guilty. I keep thinking about what I should be working on. It has occurred to me that this is absurd. All creative work no matter what I’m doing is practice and gets me to relax…all good things. Drawing is extremely relaxing when approached correctly.
I’m so type-A that I actually have thought about scheduling time for myself in the calendar on my phone, so that I could be reminded to do it. I can picture the alert now: “Make Time for Self From 1-3 p.m.” If only it was that easy! But of all the things I have learned since I started working on picture books this is the most important. Putting off creative projects you want to do before you start a new work-related project is just plain mean to do to yourself. Because then you will resent work. And that is never a good thing.
I can honestly say that I love my job. Every part of it. Even the millions (it feels like sometimes) of revisions I have to do, because we all know how much editors love their revisions! (And I say that with the utmost love for my editor who has made me much better by requesting many revisions). But it is a lot of work and can be incredibly stressful at times. As a perfectionist I live in this constant fear of what I like to call “permanent publication,” which is essentially my fear of not being able to change anything after the illustrations have been published. In my mind published is synonymous with forever. I better make it perfect because once it is being printed somewhere in China that’s it! It’s done, finished! Ready for the masses to tear apart! As you can see I have a very calm attitude about this.
So to not become a crazy person, I must paint or draw for myself. My own version of art therapy. Especially since I never know what that time I spend doing so will lead to. Sometimes taking a few hours for myself gets rid of any tension I’m having with another project. Or leads to trying a new medium I have been wanting to experiment with, which finds its way into a book later on. I just never know. But the key is to keep doing it.
I have always been envious of those artists who constantly draw in notebooks filled with sketches upon sketches. Sure I could do that, let me rephrase that, I SHOULD do that. But usually when I am out and about I don’t want to draw the people or the setting, I want to meet the people, eat the food, experience the place. This is probably the same reason I always forget to take pictures. But then I see people’s sketch books and think I would love to have a visual journal like that. I do keep a sketchbook with me most of the time, but it’s the pulling it out of my bag and actually using it part that keeps managing to slip past me. I like the idea that it’s there, but I have stopped feeling bad about being an artist that just doesn’t regularly keep up a sketchbook. There are worse crimes I suppose. I guess the important thing is making time for myself as an artist that works best for me, regardless if it is the norm for other artists.
I think I will go paint some mini landscapes this afternoon, seeing as I have been itching to do so. Maybe it’s the abnormal 50 degree weather we are experiencing here in Ohio today…