Living as a Professional Creative
Creatives Anonymous Meetings
I sort of feel like my blog title sounds like I’m living with a devastating disease; or like I’m someone that needs to attend a weekly “creatives” support group. “Did you hear about Tami?” “Yes, I hear she’s living with creativity. She is so strong. We’re praying for her.”
And firstly, I consider myself truly lucky to have built a career as a working artist. My creative drive is the thing I am most passionate about, but at the same time I occasionally can view it as a curse. As a working artist, the thing that lights me up the most is also the thing I can be most nervous about sharing with the world. The more personal a project or series is to me, the more potential there is for hurt if it is not well received.
It’s as if my creative side has always been balanced by an innate fear that tries to stomp out those creative impulses. At times it has been my own insecurities that hinder me, and other times it has been outside forces in my life, trying to lead me into a more “traditional” path to success. I assume this is probably true for anyone following a path outside the norm. I think these inner and outer voices never fully go away, no matter how long you’ve been creating or how successful you may be.
By opening up with my insecurities, you might be wondering how I even got to this point in life to call myself a professional creative. Excellent question – I often ask myself the same thing. I used to view my professional career as a sort of “happy accident” that fell upon me. I am blessed with meeting a lot of awesome, encouraging people that always seemed to enter my life at very pivotal times.
For instance, I wasn’t even seeking out a freelance career and then an opportunity fell into my lap that seemed too good to pass up. My first art show was arranged at a coffee shop before I even had a body of work, much less knew what I was going to produce to actually show people. While I still attribute these life-changing events to the people that believed in me enough to get the ball rolling, my ultimate success has relied on one underlying factor – I work my ass off. I do not accept failure, and giving up has never been an option for me. This combination of drive along with imagination is what has hugely allowed me to make a living out of my art.
Am I terrified of new opportunities and jobs that seem out of my realm? Of course I am. But it’s through these experiences that we learn what we’re made of. Potential is like a muscle you have to exercise, and no one has time for flabby potential.
Gaining Confidence as an Artist
My path of taking art from being a hobby to being a career relied on one main thing: confidence. I went to school for graphic design and felt very comfortable and confident with my abilities. But with my illustration, well, that was a different story.
I’ve drawn my whole life, and honestly, my style has pretty much been the same since I was ten. Having a whimsical, doodle-like style, I didn’t feel like my illustrations were appropriate in my professional life.
I loved the world of graphic design because I saw it as art with rules. I loved making clean and stark designs, and felt like my work was professional and serious. If you know me personally, the word “serious” probably wouldn’t be among your top five words used to describe me. So I welcomed this transition and saw myself “adulting” for the first time.
But one thing kept getting in the way: I am a complete weirdo. My heart kept gravitating toward illustration projects; most of which were unpaid, but this is what I kept seeking out. I found that I wasn’t motivated by money if I was really excited about something. Through these projects I developed a style and process that really worked for me.
In the beginning, my fear of rejection was paralyzing. I looked up to a lot of professional artists and felt like my style wasn’t in the same league. They were all so talented and there I was drawing one-panel comics and silly animals. To me, “art” was portraits and paintings, and I was just a kid with an ink pen and some jokes.
But the great thing about putting yourself and work into the public eye, is you get more and more used to people not “getting” it. And the bonus is you are smacked in the face with awesome people that not only get you, but love what you put into the world.
My art isn’t for everyone. No one’s art is. Accepting that fact allowed me to take my illustration to the next level and thrive as a prolific artist. I finally accepted the fact that I am not a sunset painter. If you want a watercolor of Rainbow Row, I’m not your girl. And that’s okay. There’s an excellent pool of artists for that market that I have no intention of competing with.
By embracing my inner weirdo, I found that there are others out there like me. People responded positively to pretentious cartoon animals wearing monocles. People wanted to see washed-up unicorns struggling with career choices. And now, even after years of establishing myself as an illustrator, I am literally overjoyed every time a stranger buys a print of mine. I’m like a never-ending gif of Sally Fields yelling, “You like me! You really like me!”
And yes, there is still part of me that loves the more serious world of graphic design. I love taking on those projects and keeping each day varied. But the real game-changer was accepting the fact that humor and levity had a valid place in my professional realm. My job is better than anything my twelve-year-old self could have dreamt up. I can’t thank my fellow weirdoes out there enough for giving me a voice.
So no matter what your industry may be, find your weirdoes – I mean target market – and be true to your inner self. Admitting the fact that you have something worthy to put into the world is the first step.
“A love for drawing has been present in my life for as long as I can remember. I consider myself lucky to be able to incorporate what I love into what I do.
I pull inspiration for my art from both my humor and my heart. Some of my illustrations are observations on life, some are memories, and some are wishful thinking as to how animals might actually behave in the wild.
Take a look through my work, and you’ll see what I mean. I hope you see something that relates to you, touches your heart, or at least brings a smile to your face.”
Tami Boyce is a Charleston-based illustrator and graphic designer. Her work can be found at various establishments around Charleston, South Carolina, including Theatre 99, Early Bird Diner, Frothy Beard Brewing Company, ReForm Studios, as well as ZaPow! Gallery in Asheville, NC.
My website: www.tamiboyce.com
Facebook page: www.facebook.com/Tami-like-likes-to-Draw-326527840327