My experience as an amateur illustrator

Hello! I’m coming back after six months of absence, but not inactivity: my full time job got more demanding than ever, I finally completed my three years illustration course, went abroad for a week, broke down and bought another car, fixed a few issues and created others… not necessarily in this order.

I would like to say that all of these things still leave me time for my hobby, illustration, but I don’t feel this way: I feel they are distracting me from what I’d like to be my real job. That would be illustration.

I’m not a great artist, and no need to remind me 🙂 but I love to make art, and I love the feeling when I look at something I made and I actually like it. I love when I get lost in what I’m doing, and wake up from a trance and say “I’ve been sitting on the floor drawing for HOW LONG?”. I love when finally, after a dozen or an hundred hands of gouache, I finally reach that exact flesh tone I was aiming to. I love it when the flesh tone is not the one I was aiming to but is unexpectedly nice, too. I love when my hand trembles and makes an horrible ink mark, and love when I draw around it to make it an unplanned bush and find out it actually looks good.

10 pm: let’s sketch a little before going to bed!
4 am: this.

Unfortunately, all those things are happening less and less often. I think you can all relate: real life is swallowing your time, and you have to take care of urgent but uninteresting little things: gotta pay the bills, wash the dishes, do laundry, get groceries, and of course work to have money so you can do all those meaningless things. The bliss of a good illustration is forgotten when you have to sweep the floor for the umpteenth time because you freaking dropped the pan with your dinner in it, and THEN make dinner again. Real life sucks, kids.

And then there’s the feeling of not being good enough. You watch other artists pump out four hundred studies and fifty-three completed paintings and you feel ashamed of your ballpoint pen sketch drawn on the back of a receipt while queuing at the market. Your imagination dries out, and it’s more and more difficult to find the mental energy to live for a few minutes in your artist-y world.

This was made on a good day, on the back of an envelope instead of a receipt.

You all have at least one, don’t you? The world where all the stories happen, and where you go when you need inspiration. Mine is full of warriors and castles and magic, not unlike the most stereotypical fantasy island. I’m starting to build another one, with spaceships and intergalactic travellers, but it’s still in a toddler phase. Machinery is not my fortĂ©.

A piece of the new world, done with a cracked version of Photoshop Portable on the office PC during a few night shifts.
Why aren’t you good enough?

It’s easy to fall into the “everyone’s better than me!!!11” cry pit, and I am sometimes guilty of it. I mean, give a look online! Artists’ groups on Facebook and art blogs like Muddy Colors offer you a glimpse in the life of professionals and great amateurs as well. You dared open your Pinterest or Instagram feed? Too bad for you. Don’t even get me started on DeviantArt. But you know what? For every Painter McPaintyFace there is an hundred of poor kids that struggle to get that perspective barely pleasant. They don’t even dare to post their stuff because it’s not worthy of the great Internet. You see great artists only because they’re the ones brave enough to put themselves under the spotlight.

Do you love what you do? Let the world know, dammit! If you put effort in your art and catch every chance you have to improve, you’re good to go. It may be a ten-minutes sketch, but it’s better than a zero-minutes sketch. And yes, I need to tell myself this stuff everyday.

With all my receipt sketches and stolen admin passwords to install Photoshop at the office, I am improving. Every new piece I make nudges me closer to the artist I’d like to be. I laugh when I cannot put together a portfolio, because every new piece is better than the ones before. Ok, not every of them, but some are. Even with the little time I have, I can feel myself improving more and more, and this is beautiful. I’m not giving up and being swallowed by the real life, but I’m holding onto my fantasy world. And may I be cursed by one of my sorcerers if I ever let it go.