MAINTAINING THE PASSION
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At the heart of any successful career is heartfelt passion.
Does yours need rekindling?
Are you feeling that your income is sufficient, but there are days you would rather be doing anything other than illustrating? The check in the mail doesn't make up for the boredom; you envy your colleague's enthusiasm; you feel stagnant, frustrated and worried that trying a new style will jeopardize your income. Are these familiar thoughts?
Then you have succumbed to the relentless problem of clients determining your creative direction rather than your own heart setting the course.
How do you reignite the spark? To seek some answers, we spoke with illustrators who have successfully transitioned their careers.
Wayne McLoughlin was represented by top agents who negotiated large fees for major assignments that he painted with a meticulous realistic technique. Because each successful illustration lead to another similar one, Wayne's creative growth was zapped. It was apparent to him that "if your portfolio is a certain way, that's what you get."
Wayne is a robust man who grew up catching snakes in ponds, surfing as a teen serving as a Marine Corps combat soldier and then backpacking through the South Pacific as a photographer. While establishing his financial success as an illustrator, he had lost his identity and had become just another technically proficient painter.
"When others spoke of their work, I heard a passion about it that I just didn't feel. What I was doing wasn't personal." He was bored, frustrated, depressed. Needing to break this syndrome, Wayne moved from Manhattan to Vermont and set aside several months just for soul searching. This fruitful reflection resulted in a new business mission: to paint with dramatic lighting the outdoor sporting life that was an integral part of his being.
While maintaining an income illustrating regular assignments, Wayne carved out studio time to develop samples for his new business direction. Ironically, "personal" wildlife painting is responsible for his most popular and lucrative commercial work as illustrator of two New York Times best-selling series: 'Warriors' featuring cats and 'Seekers,' featuring bears.
Now Wayne is the fulfilled proprietor of Blue Loon Fine Arts co. (www.blueloonfinearts.com) which accepts commercial assignments and also sells his original paintings as well as limited editions and products printed with sporting life subjects. Blue Loon's tag line clearly expresses Wayne's successful career metamorphosis: "Capturing the drama and romance of nature."
Zina Saunders' gift of versatility filled her piggy bank and drained her emotions. "I had a good business and was not in need of money. I just wanted to follow my heart." And she did...up to Manhattan's 104th St. and the Schwinn Bike Club. Zina notes on her Drawger site: "Ever since I was a kid I've seen older Puerto Rican men riding crazy, tricked-out bicycles loaded with mirrors, flags, fuzzy dice and raccoon tails. I tracked them down to where they hang out drinking beer and showing off their bikes. I painted their pictures and asked them questions about who they are and how they got started with customizing their bicycles."
These portraits and interviews became the "Overlooked New York" website, the first of many series resulting from Zina following her muse. "When I tried new visual things, people liked it and so it gave me encouragement to keep going." "Overlooked New York" led to an invitation to join the illustration community's Drawger site which offered exposure for Zina's new direction, brought challenging assignments, and introductions to extraordinary people who became subjects for subsequent series. Zina concluded, "Following my heart rejuvenated my enthusiasm and encouraged me to try new approaches, opening my world as an artist and as a human being. I began (digital) painting in a completely personal style, utterly emotional. Now I love the work I do." Zina radiates joy because her days are filled with painting and writing about individuals and groups of people who excite her. Many of these series are posted under "Galleries" on www.drawger.com/zinasaunders.
Sometimes a passion can help you through a creative slump even if you are unable to fully embrace it in your work. A few years ago, an unexpected work hiatus allowed Nancy Stahl reflective time. As the weeks passed, Nancy's interested in her computer waned. Discovering a software program for knitting "got me interested in sitting in front of the computer again. I learned to have a passion outside of work." Having a career that evolved through many style transitions, Nancy enjoyed seeing her graphic ideas visualized in knits and purls. In an effort to bridge the gap between work and play, she infused knitting into her illustration repertoire by regularly setting aside time to create a quantity of knitted samples to post on the web (www.nancystahl.com). Nancy knows that sometimes you fall into a rut with what people expect from you so it as gratifying when some clients trusted her to convey their message with this fresh approach. It was thrilling when the U.S. Postal Service requested for designs for warm and cozy Christmas stamps and chose Nancy's knitted proposal for their series. Incorporating knitting and computer skills was "a leap" that was emotionally and creatively satisfying. "My work has really showed how excited I was knitting on the computer and trying everything new." Over time Nancy has discovered the need to be discriminating about suggesting this medium professionally because clients don't always understand the limitations of knitting. It is also necessary to carefully guard against tainting her passion because the pressure of fulfilling clients' specs and time constraints can take away the joy. Though Nancy remains in love with the technique, future knitting time may be used more for generating gifts rather than fees.
As agents we click through countless illustration samples of trendy styles and competent techniques. In a presentation, invariably it is distinctive pictures created with passion, enthusiasm, and integrity that make us stop and literally say "Wow!"
As master of your career map, you can change directions.
Some steps to consider:
The desired result: WOW!!