Category: changing focus

Does it Pay to Specialize as an Artist?

I was quoted in an article over at CreativeBloq, “Does it pay to specialise as an artist?” 

Featuring some familiar faces and some of my own art and thoughts as well!  I’ve struggled for years to find my artistic voice and sort out my passions from my wide array of interests. Hopefully these words of wisdom help others figure things out for themselves as well!

Confessions of an Artist: Switching Career Focus?

So back to a serious topic I broached somewhat when I was talking about what is working for me and what’s not.

I’ve been weighing my potential career through a clouded looking glass lately.  I’m turning the big 3-0 this year and this fact has me particularly introspective about my path in life.

I could continue going down my current path of the feminine high fantasy and really try to tailor myself to everything that the licensing business wants (colorful, steampunk, unicorns, fairies, holidays, angels etc.)  All lovely in its own right, but I just can’t seem to get motivated for anything lately.  I find myself asking too many questions:

“Is this what I want to be known for?”  

“Is it too late to change what I’m doing now if I want to do something different?”

“Is my current path what I’m passionate about?”

More and more, the answers to all three questions respectively are No, Yes, and NO.  This indecision has led to more than a bit of art block for me lately (probably why my crafting has gone WAY up and new 2D art has gone WAY down.)

If you would have asked me what kind of artist I wanted to be when I was in high school, I would have told you I want to be the person who illustrated RPG books, a video game artist, and also write and illustrate my own story books.  One by one, I convinced myself I could never make a living doing any of these things, an attitude aided by the discouragement of family members and teachers who claimed ‘illustration’ was a dirty word.

More practically, I didn’t want to move from my current location to follow the job opportunities that might’ve sprung up from these industries.  On average, if you want the well paying jobs in the industry, you have to be willing to move to snag those jobs and I was just not ready yet to detach from my family out of high school.  Sure there is freelance, but for team oriented jobs, you are generally expected to relocate.

Nowadays, I’m haunted by the constant probing of doubt in the back of my mind. I am overwhelmed by choice every time I sit down to draw to the point the pencil feels so heavy, I can’t decide what to do.  I’ve decided it’s high time to empty my head. That old bugaboo, Money, will come through side jobs or temp work. If I’m bored at my current job, I may as well be bored at a better paying job and not force the art out.  I don’t expect to be inspired every minute I work at my job, but I would at least like a greater majority of inspiration as opposed to being absolutely bored, to at least feel satisfied with the proportion of inspiration and effort that goes into my work and the payoff that equals in satisfaction with money, life, and otherwise.

What’s important to me now is to follow my passion.  More and more I realize that my passion is leading me back to the original impossibilities – concept art, writing, and other such unfamiliar territory.

I can’t help but feel this is a step backwards. I have a book out already focusing on high fantasy illustration of a feminine nature. Does this mean I can’t change?  I have an established body of work completely different from what I originally wanted to do, in subject matter and even in choices of media (I am a traditional media artist venturing into a digitally dominated field. HALP!).  Does this mean I won’t be able to sell those older products anymore?  I am at level zero again realizing that if I want to switch focus to something like concept art, I will need to completely overhaul my body of work and my public identity.

I need to be at least as good as the people already working for the companies I’d like to work for.  I need to step up my game, get back to basics, and for the love of Prismacolor, I need to learn how to draw digitally!

With all this change in the wind, I have no doubt I’ll still be making art, even if it’s a bit different from what I’ve been doing before.  I hope you all will bare with me, all the same!  I have some wonderful art buddies who have been mentoring me during this transition and even the wonderful Hayley on board for a collaborative design project.  There’s hope, if I can just carve out the hours of the night enough to pull together a portfolio by Spectrum Fantastic Art Live, where it is my intention to tout my wares at portfolio reviews as a Concept Artist for the first time!

Today, I’m feeling old, tired, scared, and more overwhelmed than ever before.  So it’s back to square one, remembering my passions and moving forward, unstoppable. I’ll find where I fit in this big puzzle of life!

(Hopefully by the time I’m 40)