Onwards and Upwards

My family has been lucky enough to get through the bulk of the Pandemic physically unscathed but forced lockdowns due to Covid19 have created new ways of working/studying from home and resulted in some serious soul searching and introspection. Has this happened to you?  Are you thinking about a fresh start in work/life?

 

Are you considering an art career?

There is so much out there in the art world that it is hard to know where to start.  Googling careers in Art provides you with a laundry list of possibilities, from being very hands-on (such as an illustrator, painter or designer) right through to working in Art related industry (gallery curation, architecture, industrial design) or helping people with/through Art (such as teaching or art therapy).

Here is quite a good graphic (Gale 2018) with some options to consider for a career in Art.

 

Where do I start?

For someone who enjoys Art and is a bit ‘creative’ (read slightly disorganised and away with the fairies sometimes), I must admit to loving a good plan.  The following steps will help you work out if an art career is for you.

 

  1. The first thing you need to do when thinking about a career in Art is to consider what you like/are passionate about and match that to career options.
  2. Do you like drawing/painting? Would something in the Fine Art sphere appeal to you?
  3. Is it more your thing to talk to others about creative topics? Perhaps teaching/writing about Art could be your passion.
  4. Are you drawn to helping others achieve their objectives through Art?  Maybe art therapy is an area that appeals.
  5. Do you like to reimagine/design solutions to enhance people’s lives?  How does furniture/jewellery design strike you?
  6. Check out the Careers for Art Students (Gale 2018) diagram for more ideas.  Do any of these areas spark interest?

 

  • Next, investigate pathways to your dream job/industry.
  • Do you need to study for a qualification?  How long will this take, and how much will it cost?
  • Are apprenticeships available?
  • Can you build a portfolio/reputation and sell via galleries/online?  Do you need to create a website? What about payment systems?
  • Can you enter exhibitions/competitions?

 

  • Before committing to your grand plan, test your passion in a realistic environment.  I would recommend volunteering where possible or trying a quick starter course to see if you like what you have decided on. Another idea is to go to industry conferences/symposiums and talk to people in your chosen industry.

Of course, you can also google anything these days and watch Youtube/instructional videos.

 

  • Finally, look at what opportunities are out there. Do an online job search and/or talk to recruiting experts in the field you are most interested in.

 

Love the one you’re with?

If starting a whole new career in Art isn’t practical, consider incorporating art/more creativity in your current job.  This may seem like a big stretch in some careers, but consider the following ideas…

 

  • Is your company represented at any conventions?  I once painted a picture when I was working in change management at an AHRI (Australian Human Resources Institute)  convention to draw interest to our stand.  People submitted their names and phone numbers in a bid to win the final picture.  They kept coming back to the stand to see how the picture was going… Not much pressure!!!
  • Are you able to work on projects that require more creativity than your day-to-day job?  Put your hand up to volunteer and see what happens.
  • Can you personalise your workspace?  You could treat where you work as a place to showcase your creative talents.
  • Does the place you work have a recognisable brand?  If not, you could ask if they would be interested in you designing something.
  • How does starting your own art/craft club at work appeal?  Even if you work on your own, it can be fun to set aside time at lunch/after work to gather with friends and switch your mind to something different.

Everyone has a story and an interesting pathway in life.  The following piece is an interview with Amy Lewis, someone who has been involved with artistic endeavors most of her life.  Amy currently teaches online drawing classes with a well-be bent and taking the occasional freelance graphic design job.

Creative Talent – Interview with Amy Lewis

What do you do, Amy?

I predominantly design and deliver mindful art workshops at the moment… Ahh, and then before that, um… I’ve always had a bit of trouble categorising my work.

You classify yourself as amylewisartist on Instagram.  Is that a catch-all way of covering off all your creative outlets?

I keep my graphic design work separate unless it happens to be relevant to my artwork. I did some typographic work with a nice logo that I recently shared on Instagram, but generally, I keep my art and graphic design work separate.

So how did you end up in the creative space? What’s your journey to being able to call yourself an artist?

I left high school at the end of year 11 and moved to Melbourne to take up a job in a multi-media business that had a recording studio.  At that time, I wanted to learn about audio recording and engineering because I hoped to be a musician.

The first week that I arrived at that job, they were just awarded a contract to design a website for the Heart Foundation and they asked if I could do that! So, I ended up teaching myself HTML and website design with the help of a site called Grease Monkey. I would routinely code websites and do a little bit of design work as well.

Most of the designs at this company were provided by design agencies, and I would translate them straight into a functional website. If we got a client that didn’t have a lot of budget for a ‘proper designer’ I would do some concepts. After I left that position, I started to freelance professionally doing mostly web coding with some design work (including a short-term contract with Telstra) but I didn’t have any training in the field. I would do stuff and it would work and the client would like it, but I couldn’t really articulate why things were working or why things needed to be where they were.  I was doing things pretty intuitively and doing things that I thought worked…I did a lot of research and reading about the user experience and things like that but in terms of the actual graphic design side of things I didn’t have any formal training.

So that’s why I went back to TAFE when I was a ‘mature age’ student (aged 20/21) to learn graphic design.  My intention at that time was to continue with web and digital design but ended up falling in love with print design while I was there. This led to a career as a graphic designer…

Its so funny to say that 20/21 is ‘mature age’.

(Laughter).  Yeah, I was still a baby. 

You were just basically taking your time to find out what you liked to do.

Yeah, I took some gap years! (More laughter).

Well, I worked at the multi-media company for 2 years, and then started my own brand and freelanced for 2 years.  The good thing about it, was that I could enter TAFE without VCE results.  I did quite well in the course and won a couple of awards because I wanted to do it.  I think if I had done the course straight out of high school, I might have found it difficult to apply myself.

Do you think career choices that come to you later and tap into a passion enable you to give discretionary effort?

 Absolutely. It wasn’t just a box to tick; I was getting a lot out of it.

What did you do after the design course?

After I graduated from the graphic design course I continued to design and build websites, and gradually moved into doing more print work. I also freelanced at ShowAds for a while. I did some typesetting of Kmart catalogues for a while…I worked at PrimeLife in their marketing department for a little while … Yeah heaps of stuff.  I freelanced in London for a bit… Did some point of sale material… Even worked at the BBC for a few weeks typesetting textbooks and things… So did all sorts of stuff… Worked at a couple of ad agencies in Melbourne…Umm…

So freelancing was great. You could just go from place to place filling in for people.

I think it was after working at PrimeLife I started Amy Lewis Design. And yeah, probably a year or two after that I was employing people.

So how long did Amy Lewis Design go for?

Mmm…I guess 10 years. Something like that, yeah. We had some really good highlights of um getting quite a lot of work published in books and journals and showcased in that way. 

So, some of the books that I would have used at TAFE when I was doing research for assignments I ended up having our work published. One book in particular, an American one called, ‘Graphis’ I am quite proud of.  We have a little shelf at home of books with some of our work in them.

That is brilliant. What made you decide to move on from your business?

Um, I suppose I was just finding it more difficult to juggle the business with having kids and probably coinciding with people using more websites like fiverr.com (a marketplace for freelance services) and things like that.  So, it was difficult to find our place.  We were not quite big enough to be doing large corporate clients.  I didn’t really have the infrastructure behind me to be doing that kind of work and it was more and more difficult to find small to medium clients.

I think a large part of it was trying to juggle all of that change and then a baby as well.  We already had Kieran (Amy’s first child)… I think I lasted maybe two or three months after Georgia was born!  (Laughs).  And I was like, yeah, this is not working!  Also, I had been doing it for 10 years and I had a moment where I just thought I needed a break.

So long service leave?

Sort of, yeah… At the time I thought I don’t want to do this anymore, but I have been picking up some graphic design work lately and totally enjoying it. 

I can be more choosey now about what I am taking on and I am not actively seeking work, but I have a bunch of lovely clients that have never stopped sending me things and so it rolls on…

I find it hard to say no to work

How did the online mindful drawing classes start?

It all started because Phil (Amy’s husband) bought me some really high end colouring books… And some Windsor and Newton water colour markers for Christmas a few years ago. The books were printed on watercolour paper, not like normal colouring books at all.  They are beautiful, beautiful books. And I started doing that mindful colouring, and from there it was like, ‘Oh maybe I can do my own drawings.’

So I was drawing these really intricate feathers because they were detailed and I could focus on that in a mindful way.  I did that sort of stuff for quite a while, then started moving on to other types of illustration and drawing and intuitive painting… Um…. Which kind of then culminated in me doing … Um… My first exhibition which was not related to that in any way whatsoever

What was your first exhibition about?

It was a sign writing exhibition!  I had always been interested in the Art of signwriting, having admired the fancy scrollwork and writing on trucks from when I was little. A mentor of mine, noticed that I had played with signwriting in some of my pieces and she encouraged me to explore this.

I ended up having to do a signwriting course to put on my exhibition which was interesting.

What happened when COVID hit?

When COVID hit, I figured that people weren’t going to be buying paintings.  I don’t know what I thought was going to happen, maybe a world-wide recession… You know, the collapse of society!  (Laughs). I thought people aren’t going to be buying paintings during that.

I had the idea that people might do some basic art classes online because everyone was talking about learning ‘I’m learning German, and I’m doing Sourdough…” and all this sort of stuff, so I can teach people how to draw. But when I sat down to design the class I thought, I don’t have the headspace to learn German or make sourdough or taking on a new hobby but I would love to have a way to chill out and unwind. So, maybe people could find enjoyment in drawing in a more mindful way and so I designed a couple of classes, advertised it on facebook and got a whole bunch of bookings which was really fantastic.

Had you taught a drawing class before this?

No.  (Laughs).

How many of these classes do you run each week?

At the moment I’ve got 3 sessions a week. 

So, it’s really happened organically.

Yeah. Yeah, definitely. Without COVID I wouldn’t have woken up and thought, ‘Gosh, I’d like to be delivering drawing workshops remotely.’ (Laughs). It happened a little bit by chance. I knew that I couldn’t go out and work because we were all locked down and it was before people were really hiring remotely.  I also needed to have something that could work around home-schooling because I was doing that too…

We could do a whole chapter on home-schooling!  (Lots of laughter from both of us).

I wanted to contribute financially, but I also needed to have something during the week that was only for me.

Could you include typography in your wellbeing drawing classes?

I think I’ll keep that separate. 

I’m starting to realise that what I find beautiful isn’t what everybody finds beautiful. It’s been an interesting part of designing the courses, that I’ll sometimes go ahead with a type of design because everyone is enjoying it even if it’s not what I would want to do personally.  If I was doing it for myself, the aesthetic might be a bit different and the content might be a bit uglier than what some people find beautiful. (Laughs).

Is creating for yourself more enjoyable than for a class?

Painting for yourself is relaxing, but I found it difficult during COVID to sit and meditate on what’s speaking to me today… I have something that’s been on the wall behind me almost all last year and I haven’t finished it.  I don’t know what to do with it! I should take it down.

I have a commission piece sitting around that I do know what to do with, but I still haven’t finished it!

(Both laugh).

You need head space.

I remember someone once saying something that really connected to me, ‘When you are having trouble finishing a picture, just let it hang.’

That’s true.

Sit with it. Let it ruminate, let it speak to you.  It will tell you when it’s ready to be finished.

Yeah, yeah.

Even on commission pieces I sometimes reach a point where I think, ‘For God’s sake, just hand it over.’ But I have to reach the point where my gut says let it go… And at that point I’m ready to rip it to shreds. (Laughs). Maybe, I have to hate it to let it go because otherwise I couldn’t let it go…I don’t know. 

If you could go back to the start of your career (not your unfinished picture), would you choose something different?

Oh, that’s a hard question to ask someone having an existential crisis

(Both laugh).

I don’t know. I think that one of the things about me is that I’ve got lots of things that I’m into.  I love cooking, I love cycling, I love visual arts. I’m curious about stuff.  I like to know stuff about stuff. And then I want to give it a go.  Now I’m in a double bass phase. So, I’m doing music again and I’ve somewhat learnt the double bass.

It’s taken me a long time to be comfortable with not focusing on just one thing. It’s ok to pick up new things and let the old ones drop to the wayside a bit, because I can always pick them back up again later, 5 or 10 years down the track.

People sometimes say, ‘Oh, it’s such a shame that you aren’t doing this or that’. Like playing music. It’s not like I’ll never do that again.

Do you have a typical day?

No!  Well, the workshops at the moment provide structure to my week.  Part of it is life with a young family.  I had all sorts of things planned, but Georgia had 3 days sick last week.

What do you see the future holding for you as an artist?

I don’t know!  I had planned two exhibitions for last year (2020) that were cancelled and a couple of others where I entered things in group shows/exhibitions.  I would like to try and stand some of those back up again.  I’ll also continue my wellbeing drawing classes. Um, I guess last year has shown me that you don’t really know what is coming next.

In terms of my art practice, I haven’t done any of my signwriting painting for 8 months or longer. I really, really miss working with typography and working with the paint in that way… 

It’s nice to do something different.

It really, really is. Yeah.

After writing this piece I am seriously considering exploring art therapy… Or maybe sign writing?  Or… Mmm… Perhaps I had better take my own advice and make a plan (after first finishing my current commission piece).

I love talking to people about what they do and thought that it might be helpful to share insights into different professions and artistic influences. Please look for my next interview in LifeonLine.com.au

Bibliography

Gale, Amiria. 2018. 150+ Art Careers – The Ultimate List. 18 October. Accessed December 7, 2020.

 

After writing this piece I am seriously considering exploring art therapy… Or maybe sign writing?  Or… Mmm… Perhaps I had better take my own advice and make a plan (after first finishing my current commission piece).

I love talking to people about what they do and thought that it might be helpful to share insights into different professions and artistic influences. Please look for my next interview in LifeonLine.com.au

Bibliography

Gale, Amiria. 2018. 150+ Art Careers – The Ultimate List. 18 October. Accessed December 7, 2020.

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