It’s been about a year since I decided to change the direction of my business, going from being mostly focused on greetings cards to being more focused on commission-led work and prints. I’d been phasing in the latter for a while, and decided to give up the cards side of things completely. I’m just starting to tentatively explore new ground, moving towards work which is more focused on illustration, and developing my style in that direction.
It’s taken me pretty much a whole year to get a good handle on what it is I actually want to do and what direction to move towards. It often takes me a lot of time to figure these things out and it’s easy to get caught up in other work - and certainly work that feels more safe and familiar. I like to be in my comfort zone, to know what to expect, and to know I am capable, that the end result will be as I expect it to be.
I am very much a lover of comfort zones. Once I find something I like I will stick to it - for example, I’ve had 6 pairs of the same type of trainers over the last couple of years (in different colours, though…) and I can’t even tell you how many stripy tops I’ve had in my lifetime. It’s the same with things like mugs, plates, and even recipes I use over and over. Familiarity.
So when I endeavour to challenge myself, to push out of my comfort zone, I get stuck. I freeze. What if it’s rubbish? What if I don’t like it? The unexpected feels scary, uncertain and the end result isn’t predictable. I get to a point where I become in need of a change. A new challenge. At the moment, I am more than ever feeling the urge to challenge myself and grow creatively. As much as I like the work I’m creating (which mostly consists of Pet Portraits at present), I want to experiment, explore and just be creative for the sake of it, and to improve and expand my skills along the way.
I’ve been working on some new pieces which I want to add to my current collection of prints, and found this a perfect reason to try out some new ways of working. I often struggle with creating work which isn’t going to have a purpose - I’m trying to change my mindset around this though! It’s important to remember it’s all about development.
The first thing I am tackling is backgrounds. Something I have avoided 90% of the time in recent years (the other 10% being minimal backgrounds in a handful of pet portraits). I’m going slowly and starting off with keeping it simple, adding in things like branches and leaves, exploring how to add depth and tone. This Red Panda illustration pictured above is a good example of how I’m working. I was really happy with the painting of the adorable little Red Panda, so I made sure I scanned it in before adding any background. As I thought might happen, I wasn’t happy with how I’d done the branches and leaves , so I made a couple of prints of it on painting paper, to experiment a bit further. This helps me to be far less precious about it and I can see what works and what doesn’t. It’s not quite there yet but I’m improving with each version!
I’ve had these on my studio wall for a few years now - a reminder that it’s always worth all the time & dedication to get to where you want to be, even if it feels uncomfortable and difficult! To remember how good it feels to get to where you want to be, and to keep improving and learning. To keep showing up.