as far as work goes, i feel a bit like a pinball machine these days.
like my workday will be going down an easy trajectory then i get caught between awful bumpers of stress. or vice versa -- i have a lot on my plate and think i'm going to go on overload, but somehow sail through easily.
just picture how when you pull back the handle on a pinball machine, how you have that uncertainty -- what way is this going to go? and that is how things feel right now for me career-wise.
but! i feel very invigorated professionally after a wonderful conference. meeting up with friends, hearing inspiring speakers, finally putting a face to so many art directors i've known for years and years - some for about a decade! it reminded me again of how much i love editorial illustration, something i'd very much like to make a return to.
plus! i got to take a workshop with the amazing, insightful, genius, probably-my-favorite-living-novelist lynda barry. it's amazing how a couple hours of exercises can make you feel like you have all the potential in the world, like you have something special to share, worth sharing. she's an incredible person with incredible magnetism, and is also very funny. if you ever have the opportunity to take her workshop or hear her speak, run don't walk.
i also got to meet matt groening, who i've seen around at shows and such, but have never said hi to because i feel like after decades of bros quoting the simpsons back to him, he probably just wants to be left alone. but i got up the courage to say hi and he was SO NICE. like, WAY NICER than most people- and definitely way nicer than someone who's endured that much from fans ought to be! he leafed through my sketchbook (his request!) and said he knew my work - and even did a little drawing in the corner signed "your fan, matt" -- i mean, seriously, SO NICE.
I ALSO got to meet maira kalman!!! that was in anaheim, CA. i drove up to ALA to meet with my editor on What Will Hatch (my first picture book!) (my editor was actually out sick so we didn't even get to meet, sad trombone) but Maira was doing a signing across the convention center, so i zipped over and had a wonderful, brief exchange with her about land of lincoln, beginning as an illustrator in editorial and moving to publishing ("which is what you should do," says Maira)
lynda, matt, maira. that's a triple threat, seriously. THE triple threat.
i feel like a beginner again in some ways. i'm awkward, i don't know how to present myself or talk about my work. i'm TERRIBLE at introducing myself in person or talking to people. my friend allison, fellow illustrator, told me i'm the worst she's ever seen at self promoting/saying hi-- and SHE IS RIGHT. i'm somewhat used to the same kinds of events with the same people, many of whom would probably already be acquainted with my work so i wouldn't have to explain it or talk about it (ie, at my art shows, at giant robot, at renegade craft fair, at the NY stationery show even...) the world of publishing -- although i have been published many times -- is somehow a world i've carefully avoided, and it's new, scary territory.
the world of editorial work is a stranger to me again - because it changes so much, so quickly and i've been out of the circuit for awhile while focusing on my existing clients.
i have a lot to learn.
and i have to remind myself not to get discouraged, because it's so easy to.
and i have to remind myself to keep trying, because sometimes it all feels too hard to keep up with the famously difficult life of a full-time artist. (seriously, all of you with regular 9-5 jobs, with insurance and 401ks and paid time off -- i know we all think the grass is greener, but sometimes i really do think it would be nice to have a little stability. 10 years now! no stability!)
someone at ICON said in their talk that changing your illustration style is like trying to turn a giant ship's course: it's hard to do but worth the effort. i don't think i want to change my "style" (honestly, don't think i could either), but i *do* want to change my life and the way i feel about my future.
as an illustrator, i feel like you're somewhat trained to think you're a job away from never being hired again. and i feel like it gets more and more competitive every year, and i am just not a competitive person.
i want to evolve the course of my work and to reinvest in my career as an illustrator so i can fall in love with working again, whether as a teacher or with more of a focus on traditional books or editorial. it feels daunting to even think about doing anything professionally other than what i'm doing now and the way i'm doing it, and the people i'm doing it with.
but that's all the more reason to give it a closer looks, probably.