About a week or two ago I had a conversation with my friend who is very integral to the support system of my pursuit of a career as an illustrator/artist. He has been immensely encouraging and he asked me "why is it that you work on so many projects that are indirect to your attaining a job as an illustrator instead of just getting to the part where you actually just sit down and illustrate a story so you have that for your portfolio?" About two days later my mom asked me the exact same thing, only in much more urgent tones.
I had the same answer for both of them. I work on all these other projects because I feel that they will lead me to a better developed artistic style and mastery of technique. They help me practice concept development slowly. Rather than forcing myself to work on a story and be inspired by the same set of characters for an extended period of time, I am training myself to be inspired constantly but instead of being limited by a storyline, I am only limited by a set of parameters much wider so as to train my brain to create images without overloading it with too many limitations at once.
I think back on the summer I interned at some Stop Motion Animation studios. All the people that I did end up getting close to who gave me a small window into their perception of their job basically told me that because they're working on a collaborative project that is not their own, they feel constricted artistically within their job and prefer to work in lower stress studios where they have ample personal time to create their own personal projects at home so as to have artistic freedom and expression of their own.
I think that experience and knowledge has led me to almost fear being trapped in such a job. An illustration job where I feel trapped by someone else's imagination. It's like that compass in one of the Pirate of the Caribbean movies. It only takes you where you want to go, but it can only do it when you know EXACTLY where that is. Right now I'm in a state where I'm not certain of what exactly I want to achieve as an artist, and maybe I'll never find out and continue to work on my own projects occasionally selling something here and there. Which would be fine. But I hope that my vision will crystalize and take me to an end game, a new beginning of a career that I will love.
This Christmas I worked on some ornaments for my family to give as gifts. I'm going to post one a day so as to not visually overload my post. The one below is an image that I did not create myself, I must admit. I really like ships but I'm not very savvy in drawing them yet, so I looked onto the cover of a book I am currently reading, We the Drowned. This exact image is on the cover of the book and I really liked it, so I simply copied it. This is one of the baby steps I sometimes take to learn to draw something new. I copy it. After copying enough of the same thing I begin to get a better sense of my own take on the object of my art and while I may use references from photos, I still create my own image. Not this time though. Although I did use gold leaf, and that was not part of the book cover, which was black and white.