Though people often don’t tell us, what we’re capable of accomplishing. A lot of people give you advice based on your current positioning and past actions; rather than your potential.
What we need to find is people who believe in us. We need to be stupid enough to dream big and pursue the impossible.
Three years ago I had a very simple and basic dream of wanting to be able to illustrate. Contextually, up and until this point I was a junior graphic designer who thought I was half decent at lettering. A lot of my friends would ask me to commission work for them until one day someone asked me to do an illustration for them.
Initially, I rejected the request. I said I had no experience illustrating and that you would be better off going to someone that knew what the hell they were doing.
Feeling like I was letting a close friend down, I then retracted my statement and decided to work on the piece. Unfortunately, I’ve lost a lot of the original sketches, but what I can say was; it was a harrowing process and a lot of aimless hours ending up with a lot of horrible results. After what felt like an eternity (probably three months minimum) I ended up with the following piece:
Now the hypercritical me can demolish this piece and talk about how awful it is. But let's leave this here as a landmark for later in the story. Needless to say, when I completed this piece, I felt more dissatisfaction rather than “success” due to my lack of experience.
Later wanting to still get better at illustration overall, I decided that I’d work in an American Traditional Tattoo style and work on characters from my favourite show Parks and Recreation. Here’s a snippet of the pieces I created:
At the time I had a “designer friend” who was my accountability partner. As we both had pursuits on the side, we arranged meetings in order to talk about our goals, to keep us motivated. The idea of these meetings was meant to be very encouraging but, it had the very opposite effect for me.
Unfortunately, I paired up with someone who wasn’t the most supportive and overall was very dismissive of things that weren’t “his” idea of amazing. He kept saying things like “my line work wasn’t decent, and I should heavily consider doing something else”. My biggest mistake was that I listened to him. After creating four pieces, I decided to go back to my “strengths” and give up on illustrating.
As much as I gave up the bug was still there. I always had wanted to be an “illustrator”. But with my background in lettering and graphic design, this was such a grey area. There were no “courses” or education that I felt taught me how to “complete my journey” and find my style.
Over the span of three years, I studied illustration and gravitated towards things that heightened my interests. Initially, I spent a lot of time recreating American traditional tattoo designs. I purchased numerous drawing courses from the website Pencil Kings (figure drawing classes and shading courses). After that, I even dived into the comic world and picked up some drawing books devouring a lot of different techniques. I also explored how tattoo stencils for photorealism pieces, are created.
Throughout all of these individual researches and studies, I was too scared to attempt creating “original pieces”. I was too afraid to fail. I was also scared to hop off the training wheels and create something original. Even when I did brace the courage to create something unique, I’d spend a minimum of at least three months creating new pieces.
These three months, it felt like an embarrassing, stressful and unfulfilling time attempting things of which I had no experience. There were many nights and moments where I felt like an absolute failure and questioned why the hell I’d wasted so much time in persisting in something I was terrible in. It honestly was so defeating and felt extremely upsetting.
Now it was only until yesterday that I felt like I crossed that “magical line”. The following piece only took me a total of 4 hours to create over two days:
The purpose of sharing this isn’t to “toot my own horn”, but is intended to map progress. For the most prolonged time illustration was my weakest skill set. Until now, I feel like it's something I have a skillset in. After completing this piece, an overwhelming feeling liberation overcame me.
Over the last year, I felt so wrapped up in my future goals that I just forgot how far I’ve come. Three years ago all I wished for was the creative confidence and ability to create an illustration piece that I was comfortable and proud to say “I created that”. That moment took three years of consistent work to happen.
Now I can’t stress enough about the number of hours that I felt like I was going nowhere and felt like an empty failure. It has taken me three years to get over that feeling.
For anyone reading this, I want to assure people to keep their goals in mind. Write them down, spell them out, define what the hell they are. Never hold onto the certainty of whether or not it will happen, hold onto the dream. Don’t let people dictate the way you want your future to form and how you want to live. Never let the next disappointment deter you from pursuing your overall journey. Keep going and keep pushing because your hardships will be your blessings in the future to come. I can testify this by directly experiencing it.
If anyone is reading this is in the thick of any hardship in their pursuit comment below, and let us provide support to those people that are struggling. Whether or not your experienced or at the very beginning of the pursuit, let's talk about it and support each other.