I’ve thought more over the past few weeks about what kind of illustrator I want to be. I know I don’t necessarily have to box myself in to one specific area, but I find it will be personally helpful to have a more clear goal to target. I want to define a trajectory for illustration career so that I can focus my energy and build a portfolio. If I change my mind down the road, then I’ll change paths, but right now I’m kind of shooting off in all directions and getting nowhere.
The plan I came up with a few years ago was that when I finally quit my job, it would be to work on my shop full time. Since I’ve quit, I’d developed a feeling of wanting to be a “real illustrator” with a career that gets hired out for projects, so my plan became to figure out what I want to do and build a portfolio. So far, I’ve done very little of either. I’m not saying this to admonish myself, but rather to point out that I haven’t felt very drawn in either direction. I still feel unfocused for what I want to do.
When I wrote my previous blog post just 3 weeks ago, I was questioning whether or not I wanted to put myself into my shop full-time. I thought the answer was no, not really. Then suddenly the holiday rush started and I wanted to kick my shop up a notch after it had been so stagnant for so long. I researched what kinds of new products can I add to my line. I ordered keychains, enamel pins, and a hundred blank tea towels to hand print for my shop.
After that mania passed, along with the exhaustion of preparing it all for a craft fair in early October, I found myself wondering if I wanted to get into specifically greeting card illustration. I’ve always been so proud of my clever little puns and how they make people laugh at fairs. I also find them less daunting than prints. People are obviously more picky about what they decide to put on their walls vs buy for one of the year’s many occasions. And there are those card lovers like myself that buy them just for keeps.
With greeting cards in mind for the past couple weeks, I’ve found myself still distracted by wanting to make other products like coloring books, puzzles, and t-shirts. Inventorying all the new purchases for Jenny Lemons leaves me longing to create some of my own to one day be sold at various retailers throughout the country (or world!).
When I take a step back and look at which projects I have enjoyed or would enjoy the most, I get: children’s books, stickers, cards, t-shirts, pins, and puzzles. These mediums run the gamut, but the common thread shared that makes me want to work on projects like these, are that they enrich people’s lives in small but often meaningful ways. I’ve written in my brand/artist bio for years that I just want to make people smile with my art. I think I have some personal judgement of myself if I were to just make disposable items like greeting cards or silly knick knacks.
“Why make something disposable like a building, when you could make something that lasts forever like a greeting card”. — Tom from 500 Days of Summer
And yet at the end of each day, I find these are things I really enjoy myself. I love seeing them in stores, holding them in my hand, gifting them to other people, and receiving them myself. And while they kind of go against some of my personal goals about materialism and environmental sustainability, they are so prevalent in every day life. The products we see and use every day provide countless opportunities for enrichment and joy, which is what I enjoy creating the most. So today, as I’m blurting out these thoughts onto the Notes app on my phone, I’m starting to focus in on the idea of illustration for merchandising and licensing.
I fear writing this down is solidifying yet another thing I’m going to change my mind about in not too long, but I guess that’s really the point of this blog anyway — to document my journey as an artist and to show the ups and downs. I don’t know how it has worked for other artists, but I hope if there are any other people not sure of what you want to do, you’ll find solace in the fact that I’m still figuring it out too.
If you liked this post or are still figuring out your illustration career, please let me know! And if you want to see more of my stuff:
Thanks for reading!