If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve been on my website for long enough to notice that I have a personal aesthetic that skews towards the whimsical, cute, and what is traditionally considered, feminine. I mean it doesn’t take more than a glance at my Instagram to note that. I like dressing in bright colors, wearing lots of pink, and putting cute stickers of Sanrio characters on my sketchbooks. And for my first few years trying to “make it” as a creative professional, this aesthetic started to feel like I had shot myself in the foot.
As a little post-grad baby just desperate to get any job, I often felt my personal aesthetic, the designs, color schemes, and motifs I enjoyed most, weren’t grown up enough to market myself as a professional. This led to a lot of imposter syndrome as I struggled to find work. Part of me questioned if I was too indulgent, and if I should have tried harder to make designs that were mass marketable.
There’s no doubt that creating niche work means facing the reality that making money is harder. However, for me, spending my creative energy on what I want to make, on what I’m passionate about, and what I enjoy, is my most basic dream and goal for a career. So it’s been a lot of struggles but I’m finally finding a place where I can see the upward trajectory for my work and I enjoy doing it. It’s taken a lot of creativity, not just in making art, but in finding places and resources to make my “job” look like what I want. I’m definitely by no means at the end goal of what I want, but I feel confident in where I’ve been and where I’m going. I don’t feel like I’m flailing around anymore, just trying anything to see what could work.
I learned the integral value of community, especially in creative fields. Nearly all of my freelance work has come from friends or friends of friends, that I made either in school, through artistic communities, or from my hobbies. If you are an artist in any capacity, I highly recommend connecting with local meetups, joining a community class, or even just engaging with other artists in online communities.
I also learned that once you complete whatever level of schooling you finish time works completely differently and you have to give yourself grace for that. Once you enter the “real world” there is no semester system. Goals are no longer accomplished and completed in tidy seasonal chunks, and whole years can go by with seemingly no progress if you are used to having tangible things like grades to count progress by. As an artist the idea of success can become such a burden, and taking on part time, or even full-time jobs to pay the bills can make you feel like a failure. I had to completely unlearn this way of thinking and do myself the kindness of understanding that building up a career, especially one in more niche fields, takes time. There’s no shame in working an unrelated job in the meantime.
Ultimately, through trial and error, (and therapy), I’ve learned to embrace the cute, the feminine, and the “childish” designs and works that make me happy and feel like expressions of myself. I’ve encountered people who find joy through my work, and support what I’m doing. I’ve learned that if you find there is not a space for you that fits what you want to do, you have the power to make your own space, to create your own communities and work and path. It may take time. It will be work. You will have doubt. But it is also possible and I am doing it and I can’t say I’d rather be doing anything else.