Dealing with Bad Habits and Rejection

PHOTO BY REMO MASINA

Here we are a few weeks after IlluXCon and my mind is still buzzing with the possibilities, even as I settle back into the same routine I had before.  Yet now I have realized something.

Here I am back in the same ol’ catch 22 that trapped me into an unhealthy unproductive pattern as before.  To make ends meet, I work small side jobs (mostly leather crafts or independent commissions) and by the time I’m done with that, I’m left with just a few hours at the end of my day to cram in both my portfolio work and my personal work, which usually means choosing one over the other, unless I’m crafty and double-dip the chip, metaphorically speaking.

It’s so very difficult to take time from these activities that bring us income to convince myself working on portfolio pieces instead is going to pay off!  But it needs to be done or I’ll stop and look at the 40-year-old in the mirror and ask myself if I’ll ever accomplish what I want in life by age 50.  Bills still need paying and that’s a problem I have the power to influence as a content creator.

So I’ve been asking myself what is bringing me a step closer to my Mountain?  I’ve been reflecting on that a lot lately.  It’s led me to some simple conclusions.  First, the cycle must be broken!  If I need to work a little later in the day and sacrifice some time with my loved ones, than so be it.  I need to dump my guilt about doing this because my partner believes in my career just as much as I do and my success is his success.  I am the one who brings guilt to the table.  As long as I don’t work late every single day, it will be alright.  If I want to get anywhere with my career, I need that extra push, especially right now when I am so close.  As long as I  know to stop working, should my schedule become unhealthy.  It’s a problem I’ve had in the past and I will have to learn and abide by my limits in this regard for my mental and physical well-being.
Next, I need to start believing that my art is good enough to boost my income.  I stopped submitting to publishers and art reps years ago because I only ever got automatic rejection responses.  I know now that it was because my work was simply not good enough back then and I had no idea how to present my portfolio.  Neither was my work branded for the companies I submitted to!  But now?  I am armed by the knowledge granted from places like Muddy Colors and ArtOrder.

Having peers and respected artists review my portfolio at IlluXCon and tell me that I’m “almost there” has fueled the realization that I only need a little shove to get me where I need to be.  With just a little grease and polish on my work, I will start approaching publishers again.  I will start believing the time I spend on my portfolio is worth the time I take away from short term sales!  It’s a precarious tight-rope act trying to compromise between short-term and long-term goals with a constant fear of failure, that the time spent will be wasted.  The older I get, the more I feel that urgency and the more unsure my feet become!  It’s that self-imposed and societal reinforcement that if you don’t have the American dream by age 30 that you are a failure in life (I am currently 31 years old).  This is bullshit, especially as our society evolves new work patterns and standards of happiness and success in life.

I realize that I need to diversify my income, which would, in turn, help me be able to spend less time scrambling for side jobs and more time planning long term portfolio pieces.  While I have done this with leathercraft, it’s had the side effect of stealing away something I used to do for enjoyment.  Leathercraft was always meant to be my happiness hobby and I would like it to be so again.  Everyone needs that hobby that brings them pure happiness and fun or you are just working. All. of. the. time.  
My first coloring pack is available now!

I’ve been brainstorming many ways to help pad the income between jobs, the first of which is producing digital art items such as coloring book packs, which I plan to roll out more of soon!  I have also been researching how to sell my old work as stock illustration.  The article on revenue streams over at Muddy Colors reminded me of a lot of old plans I never did put in motion.  Time to step up and get things moving again!

With everything buzzing around in my head right now, it’s so easy to feel paralyzed by ALL THE THINGS that need doing!  I find that is where lists help to quantify my goals and make them more achievable.  So here goes!:

TO-DO

– Revise my current portfolio pieces that are salvageable for submission to Fantasy Flight Games, Paizo Publishing, etc. (Kushiel’s Dart, Lotus Dancer, and Dreaming Butterfly).

– Create new work branded for the IPs I want to work with. (Magic the Gathering, Dungeons and Dragons, Shadowrun, Tor, etc.)

– Catch up in Painting Drama. Even getting halfway through this course improved my work so dramatically!
– Create more traditional pieces in my Art Nouveau style, as they seem popular with collectors and I quite enjoy doing them.
– Submit old work to istock.  Might as well extend the value of these paintings!
– Sell off the massive glut of sketches and originals sitting around here doing nothing.  Saying goodbye to my old work is also quite cathartic!
– Get new 2D art commission samples made. The previous ones are years old by now!
– Start approaching small publishers and work my way up. 1000 no’s may equal one yes!
And so it is that I continue towards my Mountain, now armed with the proper gear and a glint in my eye.  No trolley for me, baby. I’m hiking that mother!

7 comments

  1. GuiseMaker says:

    You sound to be on the right path to me! Keep up that excellent attitude and hard work and it is sure to pay off!
    I too have been falling back on commission work a lot lately to make ends meet, but what I find rewarding is to have a personal piece as a goal for when I finish a commission…I usually end up in phases of commissions…a few personal pieces, then commissions again.

  2. GuiseMaker says:

    I would also like to point out, there was an article on the possibility of 25 being the new age of adulthood, instead of 18 (which certainly makes me less stressed!). Also, in this day and age, I have noticed people as a whole mature later than our parents did. We are all expected to know what to do with our lives at 17 or 18, but most of us don’t figure it out until later! There is a lot of pressure to live within the requirements of society’s schedule, instead of making our own ways. You’re doing fine. 🙂

    • It’s so strange how our teenage years are being extended. So many folks are stuck longer at home to try and alleviate their debt OR they’re moving back home after having trouble surviving on their own. It’s a strange world we live in, though I can’t help but think of how the extended family system isn’t strange to the rest of the world, where this living setup is more common. It’s comforting at least to know I’m not so different from a lot of folks!

      I don’t think successful people always had a b-line path either. It only appears that way to people who meet that successful person after the fact. I think a lot of people who chide others for not knowing their path in life also have a hindsight of 20/20 where they may be mis-remembering how hard things were and how you can’t judge present situations by the world of 20 years ago. Society has changed and things don’t work the same anymore.

      For example, I can’t pay car payments and tuition on a summer job. Not like others have told me they used to do ‘when they were young’. It’s just not feasible, not with the skyrocketing prices of tuition and the relatively stagnant pay versus the rising cost of living.

      But that is a whole other rant!

      I’m going to do what I can and stay hopeful. I’ve got the talent. Just got to start putting myself out there, even if the fear of rejection is scary!

    • GuiseMaker says:

      Yes, in this country we are expected to become independent at a much earlier age than in other countries. When I studied abroad, most of the students were in their mid-twenties to mid-thirties, and that was completely normal, because they usually take a couple years after graduating high school to do social or civil work, and that’s usually when they find their calling.

      I was lucky to have supportive parents of my art degree, and they are now supportive of my chosen career in costuming and running my art business, but they do forget how difficult it was for them at my age, and often wonder why I still struggle, and why I bother with this profession. Their eye is on money more than passion now, and dad thinks when I get a higher paying job, then I can just quit on art…which will of course, not happen. I know it will take a while to get to my personal goals as an artist, I just need more money in the meantime to get me there!

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