With May fast approaching I’ve realised it almost two years since I graduated from Belfast School of Art. To all the students graduating soon and to those pursuing a creative career, it can all be a little overwhelming. I remember being on a complete high and then what? I actually hit a bit of a wall. I didn’t know what I was expecting to happen but I knew I had to make the most of the big ball that I had began to roll.
Having no commitments and the freedom to explore, I literally threw myself out there. It wasn’t easy but little wins make up for all the rejections. Sort Design initially took me under their wing, collaborating with them to create Sow, Grow, Munch by author Jilly Dougan and what a little gem of a project it was! I was feeling super lucky to be able to illustrate with an amazing company and author on a project I was very fond of. From there I went on to collaborate with the National Trust and Mid & East Antrim Council on little dream projects and I even got the opportunity to part-time lecture the Foundation year Illustration students at Ulster University Belfast who were amazing and something I wish to pursue in the future. In between commissions, I also worked at The Creativity Hub, as I was curious about studio life and working within a team setting. Needless to say I loved that too. So it was a difficult decision to make, when you’ve explored and worked with so many great people, how do you channel all these great experiences?
"Full-time self-employment was an exceptionally scary thought – I wanted to work for myself but just didn’t know how."
The suggestion “why not work for yourself?” had been advised to me many times before, much to my dismay. I haven’t a business bone in my body! Full-time self-employment was an exceptionally scary thought – I wanted to work for myself but just didn’t know how. So when I applied and was successfully offered a residency at Blick Shared Studios I was delighted. Just what I needed to kick start my little dream. Initially a little shy and not having the confidence to do so, I was so lucky that this opportunity offered me the chance to test the water and my only regret is not starting out sooner! As well as being mentored, it provided me with an inspiring space to focus on commissions and personal work, as working from home proved a disaster, taking procrastination to a whole other level! So it hasn’t all been plain sailing but how else do you learn? It changed my whole perspective, with social media playing quite a big part in it all. So it doesn’t matter if you live on this small island of ours. Anything’s possible!
I love the randomness of it all. I’ve slowly found my way into illustration and like so many others I’ve learnt on the job. Experimenting between digital and traditional techniques, I like to combine digital collage and back to basics painting depending on my mood and the commission. Inspired by the simplicity of everyday life, I love to tell a good story with imagery.
"Just do it. Keep it simple. Quit procrastinating and comparing."
It’s easy to get caught up in the rat race and it’s not for everyone but taking the twisty route can be enjoyable to explore if you can hang in there and persist. It takes an incredible amount drive and energy to keep your inspiration alive and materialise your ideas. Essentially, there’s no right way of pursuing a portfolio career. Just do it. Keep it simple. Quit procrastinating and comparing. Socialise even after a long day’s work, as there’s lots of potential commissioners and collaborators out there if you go look! Less doubting and more doing! And enjoy it all.