On rejection – You win some, you lose some

You win some you lose someHappy Monday! Today I thought I’d waffle on a little about rejection. Unfortunately it is part and parcel of working as a freelance illustrator and it can be pretty crushing when it happens. Over time I’ve learnt to deal with it better by understanding that it happens and there’s nothing you can do about it. I’m referring to rejection here as something that happens once you’ve created a body of work and that work isn’t used for its intended purposes.

There’s also rejection of opportunities, when you’re put forward for a job that you don’t get. I personally find this harder to deal with. I think it’s the potential of something happening being taken away and it’s an all or nothing situation. When your work is rejected for its original use you might get an inkling from the client that their client (if it’s design based) might be steering in another direction so you can almost brace yourself.

For me as soon as I know there may be a potential job I get my hopes up. It’s so hard not to, I start imagining how I’m going to tackle the project and dreaming of the finished product, ahh it’s lovely. Then the bad news: they went with someone else, they’ve decided to use computer graphics/stock art, they aren’t willing to pay a fair fee, etc. Noooo! It’s unavoidable and it’s rubbish.Waffle on - rejectionI got a phone call from Steph at The Artworks recently and it made me think about how I react to news of potential (exciting) jobs. My heart leaps, I feel so happy and excited. I know full well that it’s a 50/50 and there’s a lot of factors against the job being mine and hopefully lots of factors for me getting it. I tell myself to keep calm, don’t think about it and push it to the back of my mind (that’s easier said that done!)

Whilst contemplating this I realized that the initial excitement of a potential project gives me such a boost of adrenaline and happy endorphin that even if I don’t get the job it’s almost worth it for the rush of the potential. It’s what drives me. I guess that’s really how we should see all jobs whether they are completed and seen though to the end and you get to see the finished product or whether you’re offered a potential dream come true job weighed against absolutely nothing at all. It’s the fact that enquiry was made in the first place, that seed was planted. Sifting through rejections we find gems of jobs that have been completed, opportunities that have been fulfilled and even if they haven’t come yet (the jobs I mean) they will and when they do they’ll be worth any number of no’s or sorry.

Rejection is a bitter pill to take but also seems to be one of those things that does get easier. You build a thicker skin and get used to hearing no (hopefully they’ll be a few yeses thrown in there too!) I think it’s true the saying you win some you lose some but through every lost opportunity can come a new sense of determination, ambition or a feeling of wanting to rebel against the no’s. It’s hard to feel positive at the time of rejection (hindsight is a beautiful thing) and no one likes to experience it but I really believe good things are worth fighting for. The challenge lies in addressing rejection as an opportunity but it’s definitely better than feeling rubbish and not good enough. Rejection can mean making space for something new, a chance to improve a certain area of your work/life, a goal to work towards…and so much more… What do you think? Please share above if you have your own strategy when dealing with rejection, how do you cope with it?



Waffle on…

Waffle on From the beginningFrom the beginning

Firstly just a quick thank you so much to everyone who has messaged me about my new blog, retweeted a link, liked my Facebook posts and got in contact to leave encouraging words. I’m really pleased it’s resonating with some of you and you’re finding it helpful.

Thinking of beginnings, in particular because this little blog is new I wanted to talk about starting out and starting from the beginning. I recently had a lovely email from Carmen (check out her work here) “It gives me hope reading how you managed by balancing part-time work with freelancing in the early years and gradually become a full-time illustrator. I guess it’s easy to look at successful illustrators and assume that the work was always there from the beginning and that there was no struggle as such. So it’s been a great help reading this as I make the transition to working part-time and hopefully being able to dedicate more energy to illustration.”

This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot. I never really thought about it at uni or when I first graduated. I definitely fell into the trap of looking at successful artists and admiring their achievements never really thinking I would achieve even a small percentage of what they’d done. Oh dear… comparison, it really is the thief of all joy! When you start to push through the barrier (and it is a barrier) of comparing yourself to others is when (in my opinion) you can flourish as a creative and really enjoy the work you create. I think it’s really important though to remember that everyone starts somewhere and the people you admire all started with nothing. When you look at other artists work you don’t see the blood, sweat and tears that may have gone into the beautiful book cover or the gorgeous range of packaging. You don’t see the years it might have taken them to forge this seemingly enviable career whilst juggling numerous part time jobs and other responsibilities.Waffle on from the beginning cherryI find it inspiring to hear about the struggles, trials and sometimes mountains (!) that successful people have to climb to reach their successes. Everyone starts somewhere. Last month I read #Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso, its a book about her business and personal journey to become who she is today – founder and owner of Nasty Gal a new and vintage online store that began with an ebay store. The book is hugely inspiring (with awesome illustrations by Jo Ratcliffe) and I love that Sophia shares her story and what brought her to the point she’s at now. Read it for a huge helping of creative energy.

I also read a little while back this post from Lisa Congdon on her blog Today is going to be awesome about the challenges in her first year of marriage and how she felt about her work and feelings of wanting to give up (read the post for a more in depth view.) She talks about the process of writing a book and how she found it gruelling. Well, if she hadn’t written that on her blog you wouldn’t know. You’d read the book and think wow she wrote a book! You tend not to really think about where it started, where the idea originated from and the process it took to grow from a dream to a reality. You admire the finished product.

I think its pretty awe inspiring to peel back the layers and see where the person started. Where they came from. It definitely gives me an injection of positivity viewing artists’ work that I adore in this way. It certainly beats feeling miserable and thinking I could never do that! Everyone starts with nothing and from nothing comes something, that’s inspirational!

Try to remember (I’m saying this to myself just as much to anyone who might be reading this…) Everyone goes through hard times and good times, I doubt very much that any illustrator whose work you love has had an easy ride. Being an illustrator is hard and becoming one is even harder (I’m still trying) that’s not to say it’s not worth it, through all the ups and the downs there is so much to learn and life would be pretty boring with just the good. The bad brings the fight!

Thanks for reading! If you would like to comment please click leave a reply above :)



Waffle on…

Waffle on PerseverancePerseverance – Don’t give up

I wanted to share a little story today about my experience of applying to university and my thoughts about starting out as an illustrator.

I left school at 16 and worked in a  veterinary practice for two years. After this I went to college to study a National Diploma in Fine Art & Illustration. Illustration gripped me and I decided (something I didn’t think I would want to do) that I wanted to continue studying illustration at a degree level. I researched universities and visited them on open days and I fell in love with the illustration course at Kingston Uni. I prepared my portfolio and attended an interview which included a drawing test. The interview went well and all that was left was the wait to find out whether I’d been accepted.

When the acceptance letter arrived on my doorstop I eagerly ripped it open only to be faced with a huge disappointment – my application had been declined. I was pretty devastated at the time. (It sounds dramatic but if anyone else has been in a similar position you’ll understand how rubbish that rejection feels.)

It didn’t take long before I started wondering what it was that went wrong and wanting to gain feedback. I got my other uni letters through and I’d been accepted at my second choice. But it was my second choice for a reason. I didn’t want to settle for second best. I decided to email the course director at Kingston to gain some feedback. Kingston was the only uni I wanted to go to so at the least I thought I could get some feedback to work on for my re-application for the following year.

The feedback was the course was oversubscribed. There was nothing I could do …Over the summer I worked at a pub and in my spare time worked on improving my portfolio and setting myself self initiated projects to keep me drawing and feeling inspired. I emailed the course director a couple of times. Near the end of summer I decided I had nothing to lose so decided to send one last email. I wrote that the only uni I wanted to go to was Kingston and that I would apply every year until I got in. It was a bit of a scary thing to do but I wanted to put myself out there and explain that if there was any chance I could go on the course I would give it my everything. I didn’t want to waste another year.Waffle on coffee PerseveranceAbout a week or so before the course was due to start I was working a shift at the pub when my phone rang – it was a lady from the admissions department at Kingston and a space had become available if I still wanted it? HELL YEAH I DID! I was so excited (and quite shocked!) And that was that, I was off to Kingston.

It still surprises me now that I basically begged my way onto the course. I’ve never been the best at anything or over excelled or over achieved in a certain area I’ve always slightly struggled to get good at anything and I think that initial roadblock to get into uni has really helped me begin to tackle little by little this massive creative industry. It’s really hard and it does take a lot of perseverance – I think it can be easy to look at an artist you admire and see all the things they’ve achieved (I do it all the time) and sometimes even assume that what they’ve achieved has come easy for them. But it hasn’t. It takes a lot of trying, failing and trying some more to push forward in this job. As long as you have passion and motivation and you keep ploughing on you’ll get there eventually. Don’t let anyone tell you you’re not good enough. Keep going until you get to where you want to be.

‘Find something you are passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it,’ Julia Childs.



Waffle on…

Waffle-on-creative-conundrumsCreative Conundrums: What can we can do when confidence goes for a long distance run? (in the wrong direction!)

Initially I wanted to start a new column focusing on tips and ideas of how we can encourage our own and each others artistic adventures with creativity. I still want to do this at some point but for now I’ve decided that rather than focus on all the positive ways we can increase our creativity, why not look at the negatives that hinder our creative energy and ways to overcome negative feelings that we all have from time to time. I struggled recently with a creative block of sorts of my own and it got me to thinking why does it happen and how can I overcome it? I think in someways creative block is a perfectly natural way to feel as an artist and it can create a positive outcome. If it makes you wonder and think about the process then it means your learning and developing. I found this inspiring quote online by potter Whitney Smith “You can’t conquer boredom because its part of the process, the ebb and flow of being a creative person. A message from your internal self that you need to grow.” I think this is spot on and sometimes when we’re feeling down or bored it’s a signal for us to do something about it, to take action and to make positive changes.

Today I wanted to explore how confidence can affect our creativity. Confidence is a big deal as a creative and I think even more so when you’re self employed and you work alone. “Being self conscious doesn’t help you at all when you’re alone and trying to create something new. It does nothing,” Miranda July. As an illustrator working to a commercial brief you are creating work to a client or publication specification and you rely on art direction and feedback to inform you if you’re on the right track or not. You send the work off and you wait for the feedback to reassure you and make you feel confident in your design/illustration choices. This kind of cycle can turn into need for reassurance and filter into other areas of your creative practice.  For example, personal work. This is something I love about having an agent as I often send over new work for feedback and critique – it’s beneficial to have another set of eyes to look it over and get some expert advice. However, sometimes I feel I can lean on this and start to rely on other peoples opinions rather than my own judgement which then leads to a lack of confidence and self doubt.

Work or personal set backs can really knock your confidence and make you question your ability. If you’re feeling negative you start to convince yourself you’re no good. Your work isn’t any good. etc. etc. Don’t believe it. If you start to fall into this trap it’s a hard position to escape. When feelings of insecurity and self doubt start getting in you need to stomp them out very quickly. This can be hard and with added pressures of looming deadlines it can sometimes feel impossible and puts you under unnecessary stress. Waffle-on-creative-conundrums2These are some of the things that have helped me when I’ve been feeling like this:

1. Remember how far you’ve come. (Sometimes when you’re in a negative mindset you dwell on all the bad things and forget all the good you’ve achieved.) It doesn’t have to be the high profile clients you’ve had or the massive commissions you’ve scored. It can be the fact you’ve finally started (or finished) that self initiated project you’ve wanted to do for ages or you broke out of using that same colour palette you use for everything. Anything that signifies to yourself that you’re learning and improving.

2. Remember the reason why you are doing what you’re doing. The reason I became an illustrator is because I love to draw. When I’m drawing the whole world kind of disappears around me. I find it mediative. When there’s extra pressure for creating an illustration for a job and not just drawing a picture because you’d like to, you get sucked into worrying and everything else that comes along with it. If you forget why you’re doing the thing you’re passionate about, what’s the point in doing it? Focus on the positive reasons why you choose to do what you do and not what you measure it by. Presumably you draw because you love to draw and you enjoy the process not because you want someone else to like it. (At the end of the day it is your job and its what you get paid for but if you’re lacking in confidence try to remember that you do it because you enjoy it rather than for reasons of validation.)

3. Ignore it. This seems like bad advice even as I write it but hear me out. If these thoughts of self doubt and lack of confidence are plaguing you and trying to stop you from working you have to try to block them out. As Bree Van Der Kamp from Desperate Housewives said “whenever I feel my emotions getting the best of me, I simply picture an empty box and I take whatever I’m feeling and put that in the box.. and then I picture myself putting the box away in a big empty closet and closing the door.. Then..  if I have time.. I go back and empty the box and deal with the emotion.. in private.. like a lady.” (Yes, I know I just quoted a fictional character from an American television series!) It might not be the best way to deal but if you’re doubting your abilities midway through a project you really just have to get on with it and power through. Take Bree’s advice and address the issues after the deadline. By that point they might have gone. Along the same lines as ignoring it another piece of advice would be to just get on with it. The hardest part is starting and thats often when negativity shows up so by getting on with it your channeling your thoughts into the doing instead of the thinking. Oh and also if you’re working on a commissioned project remember they commissioned you for a reason!

I hope you may have found these tips helpful, please feel free to share above (by clicking leave a reply) if you have any other ways you tackle feelings of lacking confidence. It’s always nice to hear your not alone with these thoughts. Thanks for reading!Waffle-on-creative-conundrums3