Saturday, February 6, 2010


I met up with a friend of mine from Toronto last night, we both went to school together; she studied Graphic Design, while I pursued Illustration. It was great to see her; it's always great to reconnect with friends in your life who you've known for years, but seldom get to see for one reason or another. Part of my enthusiasm was that seeing her reminded me of art college and brought back to life in some ways, those experiences of when I was in my twenties, trying to figure out just how I was going to quit my semi-full time job in retail, and truly realize my goals of becoming a professional Illustrator.
It was a strange time back then because I remember having this feeling that I would never be able to sustain myself - to live my life wholly from my craft, from my art, from my illustration. When I entered art college all I knew was that I wanted to draw for a living. After having completed one year of University in Fine Arts when I was 19, I decided that it was not-for-me; my intention was to be taught formally "how to draw and paint;" Fine Art during that time was less about figuration in painting -- actually, it was less about painting in general. It was extremely experimental, it was performance, and it was so conceptual that I could not follow what was going on, nor did it satisfy my desire to become a better "drawer." At one point I was ripping up newspaper and trying to travel across the room without stepping on the carpet because it was lava. That was way too cerebral for me at 19, and still is, although I appreciate the reasons why the instructor had us do this; to break our concrete ways of thinking, to introduce to us a new way of seeing.... "Ceci n'est pas une pipe."
Nowadays, I feel differently about Fine Art, it's something that I have become more interested in for many reasons -- people change -- but I'm digressing.
While I as in art college, I remember thinking that I mistakenly chose to study a dying profession. I would say this to my friends who were in other programs; I envied them because they were on their paths to becoming high paid art directors in ad agencies, designs firms (many of whom have currently lived up to those roles, which they had hoped they would be while they were in school). But for myself, it was a very confusing time because a handful of professional illustrators, some of whom were my own teachers, spoke about how brilliant the 70s were for illustration; they spoke about those Golden Years; they spoke about money and how much of it they made from one single job; they reminded me of celebrated war heroes displaying their battle scars. Unfortunately their stories did not inspire me, but plummeted me deeper into a chasm of confusion about this career that I was about to enter in less than a year.
Fortunately, my prediction of painfully trying to find work within a barren industry were not realized. I was able to freelance steadily; I quit my job in retail and moved out of my parents' place to live on my own.
However, nowadays the industry is changing, the economy sucks ass, and these questions about how I'm going to make it through tough times are beginning to (re)surface. But, talking to Steph last night made me realize that becoming one of those wounded illustrators who reminisced over how great the industry used to be was - is - a waste of time.
I've been doing a lot of thinking and remembering and studying, trying to figure out new ways of approaching my craft, my art, my illustration, my business.
Yes, my business.
I am still working steadily and I am extremely grateful for that, but the landscape of our industry is changing - no, I don't think print is dying - it might just have caught the flu - but it'll be around, it's just that I believe when it revives itself from this ill slumber, it will reappear in a different form.
I've been challenging my old of way of working, I've been asking questions to myself about my work, and I've been wondering which direction to go in next. Those beliefs that I used to have about how to approach promoting my work to an industry, to a client who is changing, is changing.
At the moment, I'm at my experimental phase, it feels strangely familiar though, these first-time feelings of standing on an uneasy surface mimic that plane that I stood on over 10 years ago while I was school wondering "what-the-eff!" I was going to do next, and how the heck I was going to build a career with longevity when there were no books to teach me how to do so.
Steph and I talked a bit about this, about metaphorically going back to school; doing self-initiated research projects about those individuals whose careers I champion; deconstructing them to explore some of how they arrived to whatever position they are in.
So vague, I know, but it's because I don't know. I don't know what I'm looking for, but I'll know once I find it. How cliché, but this entry is full of them. Gawd, isn't that a U2 song? Extra gawd...
I guess that's also part of the reason why I applied to grad school for Fine Arts; it was in hopes of being placed in that position where I would have to find a way to get to the other side of the classroom without touching the floor, using only one piece of newspaper. I needed my beliefs challenged in order to evolve my work and my business.
The business of illustration... yes, it does take the romance out of it. I admit that I didn't study art and design to end up learning about how to become a better businessman, but I knew fully well that upon entering this field, that if I wanted to achieve longevity within my career, and to allow the returns from my work to entirely support my life, then my pieces could not be solely derived from artistic inspiration.
Illustration is the art of business and the business of art (... yes, I'm quoting you Charles...)

* the illustrations above are from a book called Around The World With Dot and Jack. I thought the illustrations were beautiful and wanted to share.
Davies, Mary C., & Suska. Around The World With Dot and Jack. Bavaria. 1928.


Steve said...

Well said Marcos, great post!

alex fine illustration said...

I think taking time off to experiment is always a good idea. I feel like I'm getting too comfortable with a style I never really mastered so I might start experimenting soon as well.

Marcos Chin said...

* thanks steve!
** alex, thanks for the post as well... yeah, i know what you mean, i try as often as i can to creatively mess around; it's strange because it doesn't always result in much, but when i have that breakthrough, regardless of how little it might seem, it's the best feeling!