Troubleshooting

Full disclosure: I have been guilty of approaching my work and career with a utilitarian mindset for years, and it’s finally run its course.

And as a result, my portfolio is almost entirely made up of images created to satisfy a stiff brief. These images are strange to me. And these images don’t bring me joy.

And hey, by no means do I think my life as a creative professional should be — at all times — fun, enjoyable and satisfying. I will still be taking on clients to pay the bills, however, I shouldn’t look at my body of work and wonder where where my voice is and what my goal is. Balance, indeed, would be nice. (I know I’m being harsh on myself, but trust me, this is going somewhere good.)

For years, I’ve been great at being a business woman who happens to inject some creativity into the mix, finishing every single job I’ve ever been hired for before the deadline, and sometimes with two versions of the final. I have been quick to reply to (most) emails, polite when dealing with quotes and invoices, and quick to answer phone calls at any time of day.

At the risk of sounding like a tool, I am fantastic at appeasing a brief. And this has made me more successful than I ever anticipated, which I am grateful for (it’s how I was able to buy a house, and renovate said house), but is it the end all and be all? Is it doable in the long-term? And more importantly, is it the work I crave? Is any of it indicative of what’s in my head; what I gab about to Shawn at night on the sofa; how I feel about the world? Is it meaningful to me? The answer is no. I’ve been able to satisfy this expressive itch on a tiny scale through this blog (hurray!) but I have yet to bring that passion and point of view into my art, and that’s a very silly and sad reality.

Before I go on, I should clarify that I didn’t not enjoy creating the work in my portfolio per se — perhaps I’m a glutton for punishment, but there’s something sickly satisfying about working on a deadline and satisfying a client’s need for a colour change — but that doesn’t mean it’s the work I’d be happy doing for the rest of my life — or even the work I’m meant to do. Let’s face it: I get this work because I’m available. I get it because there’s an itch on someone else’s end that I’m chosen to scratch. Notice that this process never takes into account my itches. Sure, sometimes a client lets me have some creative liberty, but the reality is, it’s always freedom on a leash and often comes with strings attached (you go one step too far, and you’re asked to reign it in).

Frankly, I’m employed to pick up my pencil when someone else tells me to, and I’ve forgotten to pick it up for myself.

I’ve always had big ideas that I squash because I am one person, or simply because it’s impractical. I’m quick to say, “it’s probably been done before,” only to discover that I can’t find something quite like it anywhere. I’m quick to throw myself into a commercial artist box because there’s always a portrait or a politician in need of drawing, and I weigh that against the frivolous or fleeting or subjective need for art.

Of course art is necessary, but as a (very) logical person who is sometimes too right brained, I’m quick to think, “why should I?” And this week the answer to that question hit me: because it would make me happy. Because I’d want to hang that drawing in my own home. And maybe, just maybe, if I would, someone else might want to, too.

And so, I’m embarking on a creative journey toward self-discovery. (Which, in less flowery terms, means that I’m halting some $$$ jobs to focus on my own personal practice. Rather than using my downtime to write articles for blogs for extra cash, I need to be investing in finding my voice again and doing things that make me happy. Mom, you’d be happy to know that I’m diving back into my paints.)

One of these newly sparked but very unsatisfied mediums that I’ll be exploring is interiors, a world that’s undoubtedly connected to art and design. Art influences fashion influences furniture influences art… And yet, up until recently, I haven’t figured out the right way to marry these worlds in a way that involves all of my skills, satisfies me creatively, and does justice to my point of view.

I often feel like I flip-flop between art exhibits, blogger events, and rubbing elbows with people in the home/interiors space, and while navigating the myriad worlds is my reality, I’ve had a hard time mobilizing all of that in a way that is accessible, pleases me, and is helpful — to myself and to others. At art events, I talk about technique and colour theory; at interior events, I chat about furniture and the layout and flow of a room; at blogger events, I gab about writing, clothes and brand collaborations. I like all of those things, and no one area takes away from the other, but it frustrates me that I haven’t simply tried to create things that merge all of my likes.

At the end of the day, I am the sum of my parts, and for too long I’ve let paid jobs rule my life and dictate the work I make, and it’s time to make some stuff that just makes me happy. The sketches I do for all of five minutes while I’m on a conference call with a client is something I should be spending days on.

So wish me luck as I try to connect the dots between my worlds and meditate on my skills. Om…