I've finally bitten the bullet and have decided to go into illustration.
Introducing Razor House Illustration, my new brand/tag/pseudonym that I will be studying under for the next few months with MATS and hopefully trading under from then onward. More on that in a second.
I've been a traditional artist for a while now, probably for a good ten years or so. First abstract art, then photorealism and portraits. And even though I've enjoyed it, something was missing.
For me, there was never that sensation that this was going to be my big dream. It was close, but it didn't drive me fully into madness and obsession. There were parts I really didn't enjoy. There were things that other artists got thrilled by that I found boring, for instance although art and drawing got me excited, SUPER excited, I could never get myself interested in exhibiting. Galleries just left me cold. There was just no spark. This reluctance held me back professionally because I knew there was no where else I could go as an artist.... Artist's exhibit their work. That's supposed to be their passion and ultimate goal and I just found it all a bit unpleasant and that troubled me greatly.
What happens to an artist that doesn't find her industry interesting?
I toyed with what the problem could be... was it confidence... impostor syndrome... should I create my own gallery/creative environment and determine what being an Artist meant on my own terms? I thought about it all and I came up with some interesting solutions but still, I dragged my feet and day dreamed and nothing changed. So I had to ask the question:
Do I really want to even be an artist?
This was a scary question to ask. My reactions were volatile, full of sadness, fear, shame, guilt, hopelessness. At times I became very depressed trying to answer this. On one hand I LOVED making. The idea of never making art again seemed insane. There was no way I could stop, I couldn't even do it as a hobby, making art was ME, it was my purpose. Yet looking at my relationship with it professionally I just couldn't squeeze myself into the artist shaped mould that I was supposed to be. For a while I lived with the reality that I was going to be an artist, but a really bad artist. An artist that would never succeed. And that was pretty weighty and uncomfortable.
So how did I come to decide that Illustration would be the way forward?
Earlier this year I was given the opportunity to go back to university and study fine art. Something that was supposed to be really important and special to me. Something I had been thinking about and promising myself for a while. And my instant reaction when it became a reality... 'No'.
'No thank you. I'd prefer to study Illustration'.
Followed by this deeply strange feeling of 'what the hell have I just said, I can't be an illustrator, I'm rubbish at illustration, this is ridiculous'.
So my training in creativity and art blocks instantly kicked in and started probing myself further because an outburst like that doesn't come from nowhere. Illustration? Really? When? How? Why?
A little excavation into my portfolio, personal art collection, even my Pinterest boards would show how very, very, very interested I am in illustration. Work I collect or admire... usually very illustrative, the techniques I prefer to use- perfect for illustration, the project briefs I get excited over and want to work on- all for illustrators. Even my favourite commissions have been illustrations. But then the voice of doubt would creep in... but it's all digital now Lianne, and you can't do digital and you don't know much about design and you're too realistic, and you won't enjoy designing children's books or any of that comic style stuff.
Yet the idea wouldn't leave me.
I began fantasising, sitting in my studio painting little flowers for ceramics... sketching portraits for fashion and beauty brands... brush lettering and calligraphy days... wearing my own geometric fabric prints... blackwork and dotwork designs for tattoos... pinup artwork for cabaret or cosmetic packaging... I'm day dreaming even now. THIS was where my heart lay. This is what got me excited. I didn't want my work in galleries because I wanted my work in people's homes, in the shops, on their bodies. I wanted to be an illustrator.
Could you imagine the thrill of having your work in Anthropologie? Or being asked to illustrate for Penhaligons or Jo Malone? Or to design a new print for Lindy Bop or The Pretty Dress Company? Or to illustrate Dita Von Teese's tour programme? I genuinely feel giddy with excitement at the idea. I could, and would, literally, stay up all night to make those things happen. To make those things flawless.
I FOUND MY PASSION.
But the battle didn't end there. I was deeply uncomfortable with this new direction. I felt like a complete fraud despite even DOING illustration already professionally. To actually label myself as an illustrator, formally, and try and compete for agents and briefs sounded horrific. It was harder then calling myself an Artist. It's thrown up many concerns about my ability, my taste, my resources... I'm not good enough, I'm not clever enough, I'm not cool enough, I'm not nerdy enough, I'm not edgy enough, I'm not sweet enough, I'm not committed enough, II'm not young enough, I'm not local enough, I'm not a man, I'm not bookish enough, I'm not... there were a thousand reasons why I shouldn't pursue this. And that's how I knew it's what I wanted to do.
I was afraid.
I've learnt enough over the past few years that none of the above really matters.
I am a beginner. I am allowing myself to be a beginner, despite already knowing a bit about illustration, I want to give myself the luxury and security of being a complete beginner. I don't want to get anything right. I want to make all the mistakes. I want to get it all wrong and learn and learn and learn. I want to be SELFISH about it. That's how much I want to do this. So although my head is screaming it me 'this is hard, this is going to be tough, they're going to ridicule you' I am dragging myself into the world of illustration and I am SO excited. I don't even care if I do well or not.
This is all going to co-exist alongside my traditional art because I'm still massively proud of that and now that the pressure is off to make it my primary business I can RELAX again and start enjoying it once more. Things are looking good. They're looking healthy.
To allow myself ultimate space and freedom I have separated my new illustration brand from my previous artwork, just so I can have a fresh start from all expectations and previous clients. That's why I created Razor House Illustration. I don't know what it's going to be, what I'm going to make, or whether it will be any good. It's just a space to share it for now.
Razor House is an illustration name I've been holding onto since I was in my early twenties... reluctant to let go of, but too terrified to manifest. But now it's here. Now it exists. There is a new section on my website where you can find out more about that when I officially launch (whenever that will be) but this blog will cover both my art and illustration- so follow here for news and announcements. This website is becoming an umbrella site for all my projects including so just follow me here and you'll hear about everything one way or another.
Finally, MATS. Make Art That Sells is a website owned by art agency Lilla Rogers who teaches illustration and art licensing. Looking around for what degree I wanted to take left me a bit underwhelmed. I had very particular ideas about what I wanted to learn and I kept hearing the same advice... I don't care if our artists have degrees, I want to see their portfolios... when we employ new staff I have to tell them to forget everything they've learnt in college because it's so dated and then we teach them everything here... The idea of an end of year degree show tempted me greatly but I asked myself, do I want to be represented by an agency or do I want to make stuff I love.
I chose love.
I'm under no obligation to succeed at this and would I rather spend 4 years and £££££ on a degree I don't particularly need or spend ££ and making a bunch of things I love, learning tons about the illustration industry as it is right now and get started on a portfolio that I can showcase in a few months, not years? Being a self taught artist in the first place, it was an easy decision for me to make. I shopped around, read the reviews, asked questions and feedback from previous students and decided to sign up to the Hot Markets courses on MATS.
Do I make work anything like Lilla wants? Nope? Will everything be relevant to me? Nope. Will I be their new artist in their talent search? Nope. But I figured it was a good place to start.
Two weeks in now and I am LOVING it. I'll write about my experience of MATS separately but I am honestly back in love with Art. I am dreadful. But I'm learning so much. Bolt fabric was my first assignment. So much fun. The results were amateur but I've caught the bug. My brain is whirring. My heart is pounding. I'm scribbling down ideas and creating every day. I am HAPPY. This is what I've missed. Good work follows on from the passion to learn.