Having another creative for a partner is invaluable. (For those who don't know, my partner is a published writer who is currently studying a creative writing master's degree.) Being able to discuss my insecurities with someone who gets it, who knows how difficult it is to make it in the creative field and who knows the wrenching self-hatred and self-doubt that comes so commonly to you when a project is going slowly or not at all - it helps me struggle through. It is incredibly easy to give up, to adopt a self-defeatist attitude, and to not complete something out of a fear that all your effort will amount to nothing.
There have been differences I've noticed between the writing and illustration worlds, although this is all second-hand as I've never tried to make it as a working writer. Writers seem to have an easier setup for agents, and publishers - do illustration agents exist? This is still something I'm looking into. One of the things I struggle enormously with is marketing myself. I never went to art school, and as never taught entrepreneurial skills at school, only how to sign up under big companies and fulfill a role under middle management. It's a valid career path, but at times it seems my entire pre-university education was based around a very particular and narrow approach to making a living that I can no longer follow even if I wanted to for disability reasons.
I know I have talent. I know I have ideas. I know I can produce content - but can I produce it quickly? On time? Can I sell it? How? And where? And to whom? I was not trained to run a business, which is what selling my own art amounts to. There was a business class run at my school, which I didn't take but my younger brother did, and from what I've heard it was entirely unhelpful in actual business running. Learning the terminology, studying huge, conglomerate businesses and specific situations they got into, sure. Starting your own business, how to handle demand and production, these weren't things that were taught. Again, part and parcel of the narrow route my education nudged people towards.
I've been considering attending art school. I've been looking into art courses, something I've never ever done before. I wasn't permitted by my family to pursue a creative subject after school, so I chose the sort of 'second best' choice (Psychology), which I did enjoy but even before my health forced me to end my education I already had a naggling feeling it wasn't what I wanted to do for life. It's hard to be an artist and give up on that before you've even begun. I've been drawing since I was 4 - it's something that's in my blood, I guess, if you buy into that kind of thing. Missing out on art school was painful, but I don't think that going to art school gives you talent. What it does do - at least the good ones - is teach you how to market yourself as an artist. How to network, how to gain contacts and fulfill their briefs. How to make your art attention-grabbing, how to engage with your audience. These are things I've been trying to teach myself, but painfully slowly. Maybe it's optimistic to think that art school would help me learn those skills any better than self-teaching, but there are other reasons I'd like to attend. To be in an environment of fellow creatives and artists; to be forced to practice; to get valuable feedback from people experienced in the field; to be guided to broaden but also enhance my skills.
Is it worth the money? The time? That's something I'm still thinking about. Would I even be accepted? Hard to know that until I try.
Thanks for reading my first ever blog post! I hope to write more of my thoughts down in a readable format as I navigate this strange life.
About the Author
Julian is a 20something freelance illustrator who was diagnosed with CFS/ME in 2012. He is passionate about comic books, Victorians, superheroes, and minority representation in media. He lives in Manchester with his boyfriend and their various pets.