It's the most wonderful time of the year.
And by that, I mean January.
Not that I don’t love Christmas - I do, albeit in a very different way as I get older. Now I feel the magic vicariously through my daughters. It’s a nice few days of pure family time, and that is always good. But my favourite time of the year is January.
January for me is like the first page on a new sketchbook. A fresh new year is so full of possibilities, and Im a big fan of a blank slate - I’m a total dreamer, and I enjoy wondering what the year will bring. In early Jan I’m always full of energy and plans (to be made, then ignored of course) and hope. Around December time, I am tired.
Earlier this year an illustrator friend warned me about the dangers of burn-out, and at the time I kind of brushed it off. I don’t suffer from burn-out. My creativity tap is the one part of me that I can always rely on. My motivation to work like a maniac is my family, and repaying their faith and patience - that does not allow for burn-out. But for the last few weeks I have started to see what he was talking about. I have sailed dangerously close to the burn-out wind, and juggling multiple projects has left my brain feeling like mush. I badly need to switch off, just for a week.
It’s something to keep in mind if you are in the creative industries, and especially if you are a freelancer. All jobs have pressure of course, but I can only speak from my own experience. And from that experience, taking on as much work as humanly possible to keep the wolf from the door, combined with splitting your brain up to manage that work (and give each your best) and then chasing payments (my biggest bugbear) is exhausting. I’ve spoken before about doing things to manage your mental health, but one thing I forgot to add was - take a break. No art, no creativity, no pressure on yourself. A day or two of this can save you weeks of fried brain. I am only really learning this now.
After my own little break, when I get back in the saddle, I have a rough idea of where I want to go. And that’s new (professional) territory. Not leaving illustration (it’s my living) but… evolving. I want to try and shift into a new gear, take on some new challenges. Develop. I guess I want to do that every year (and probably do - we all do) but after ten years of scrapping to get a steady career in illustration, I want to enter my 40s (yep, next April) scrapping to make it something.. more. Hard to put a finger on it, but Spinal Tap Mark II is as good an analogy as any (Jazz Odyssey’s abound).
My new company (Voidonauts) will be one path to that. It’s looking like it will have a role to play in development as well as marketing, which is definitely where I want it to go. I’ve learned about pitching for film & tv and doors are revealing themselves there, so that is exciting. Hoping that 2019 (it’s first year of trading, really) will give it a good start and maybe open the way to hiring talent. I’d like to work with other creative people and make something truly exciting. We’ll see. The beauty is I have nothing to lose.
I’ll still be doing the same work as now of course - book and DVD covers, posters (I still enjoy it) but I just hope I can make better ones.
I’ll also be making more music, under the Our Wanderer moniker, because it’s fun and it’s a counter against over-illustrating and yet still making stuff up.
And I’m going to write another book. I just have to decide which one (have a kids book, and a grown-up one).
So to finish off the year, this is my last bit of work of 2018, and a good example of me trying to push my art in (slightly) new directions. And it was fun to do, despite the burn-out.
Have amazing, safe and happy holidays. I hope you all feel the same way I will on January 1st - lots of hope, relish for the blank slate and saying to yourself ‘what cool stuff can I make in 2019?’.