Don’t Let “THEM” Define YOUR Success!

Don’t Let Them Define Your Success!

A Self Defeating way of thinking. 

Too often I hear up and coming illustrators, animators, and comic book artists say, “Hopefully I can make it someday and get freelance work.” This is a self defeating way of thinking…if you never get hired does that mean you didn’t make it? Is there a such thing as all or nothing as an artist? Is this easy for me to say because I make a living with my art?

Keep Creating even if you aren’t “working”.

I don’t think so because I remember those very discouraging times when I wasn’t getting work. But more importantly I would be creating art even if I wasn’t getting hired to complete freelance assignments. I don’t create for my clients – I create for myself. My publishers get to publish my work. I own it and stand behind it and even though I work closely with them they don’t own it – I do. I take responsibility for the quality of my work and place a higher standard for myself than my clients demand – therefore – it’s mine.

Do Commissions Equal Success?

The problem with thinking that assignments equal success is that you let forces outside of your control define your value. It’s a dangerous game to play because at what point to you throw in the towel and say, “well, time to quit – nobody hired me.” Success can be defined in many ways and I understand the need to generate income with your craft. I think it’s important to remember that some artists start earning a decent income within a year after school. Some might take 1-5 years. Some much longer.

What if you don’t find work right away?

I once had a student who stated, “I need to start earning money with illustration right after graduation.” I didn’t know quite how to answer that and I failed to give a good answer at the time. What I would say today is this: “So, what if you don’t? does that mean the past four years was a waste of time? What if you could see the future and you are able to generate more money than you could imagine but it takes you 10 years to get to that point – is that worth it? Do you have the commitment to make it through the 10 years of below expected income levels? What if your experience was like my friend who struggled for 4-5 years after school and then was asked to illustrate: “A Series of Unfortunate Events”? Would that be worth it?

The tendency is to want the rewards with little sacrifice. If you really truly want it you will have to dedicate your life to it – this is good news for most because you’re in control of it! You have many years ahead of you of hard work! Embrace it. Fall in love with it. Cherish the time you have with your craft.

What does “success” mean to you?

If being successful means being chosen to work for someone else – you might be disappointed if your work is easily good enough but you aren’t being seen by the right clients.

If being successful means earning enough money to pay your bills – you might be judging your potential before your work is marketable.

If being successful means winning awards – you might be creating art that is unappreciated by the trend police.

If being successful means selling a certain quantity – you might be disappointed if the right audience never sees your product.

The previous is inspired by Seth Godin who says we’re now living in a time where you can’t afford to wait for someone to pick you – rather you must pick yourself.

Nobody hired me to make ebooks but I picked myself and published them.

Nobody hired me to make video tutorials and online classes but I picked myself and created them.

Nobody hired me to run my youtube channel but I picked myself and publish videos every month.

Nobody hired me to write this blog but I picked myself and now I have a place to share my ideas.

If you set attainable goals you can be successful every day, month, and year. It starts with a commitment to excellence and improvement. It ends when you die. I can promise you that I will be creating art until that day. I don’t work -I create. I live and breathe knowing that I have much more to give. I am successful because what I create makes me happy. Do you want to be an artist? Then be an artist and be successful by your definition, not THEIR’s.


“Will You Critique My Art?”

I get asked many times each week if I can take a look at someone’s portfolio, project, drawings, or paintings and give them a critique. I love teaching. I love giving critiques because it’s a way I can help others and feel connected. I love being able to share what I’ve learned because I get such a high from working on a piece that’s working. Probably the best thing about helping someone else with their art is watching them make new discoveries and epiphanies. (yes I had to look that word up)

The problem is that I just don’t have time to help everyone who asks. The internet has blessed me with more connections than I can possibly handle. I have my regular freelance workload and I often don’t blog about them due to confidentiality agreements. I am usually working on a picture book – two right now and then there’s my personal story writing/illustrating that I try to find time for and of course requires a lot of time and effort. I’m also teaching both online and at the University and then there’s blogging and my family that often gets left out. I’ve been blessed with a wife who supports my daily sanity hikes (we call the outdoors our boardroom) to get away and clear my head and talk shop with my partner Wayne Andreason, but that leaves little extra time to help those of you who have reached out and asked for help.

So I have to say no to everyone to be fair. Please know that it’s not because I don’t want to – I love talking art and sharing my thoughts on your work but most nights I don’t go to bed until 1:00-2:00 am as it is. I have set aside time to help people through my new online SVS class because I wanted to be able to present material in a logical way and then work through a project.

Some have said, “Well I just need a few pointers so it won’t take long.” I’ve known people to make life altering decisions based on a few remarks. I take each critique seriously and realize that a few careless words could have a long lasting impact – so giving critiques when I’m pressed for time is a recipe for disaster.  I want to feel really good about what I think are the two or three things that will really make a difference in the artist’s portfolio – which comes with careful contemplation.

I also get asked to give paid critiques. Again, I don’t have time but beyond that I really like the idea of presenting material through a class because many of the questions are answered through the material and then the critiques are better received and have more meaning.

I hope I have not offended anyone with this message and please know that I love getting your emails, letters, and comments! There just isn’t enough time in the day for me to do everything I want to do.