The importance of doing what you love
While I plan to use this blog to teach and share my experience as a children's book illustrator, I thought it would be best to start with something very personal: the path I took to get to the point I am now.
Straight out of high school I completed a diploma in Fine Arts only to concluded that while I loved creating, I didn't love the idea of self-marketing and working freelance. I was 18 and in need of a steady career. So I completed my Bachelor's degree in Education and I have spent most of my life teaching primary school internationally. I have the greatest respect for the teaching industry. It's exceptionally rewarding, exceptionally challenging and exceptionally exhausting. But upon hitting 30 and near burn out, I found myself spending more time exploring my initial passion: art. In a way, art has always been an escape and while I never saw it as a viable career option, I always knew it was more of a hobby for me. I am a storyteller, whether that be through words or images. It's a fundamental aspect of my personality that has served me well throughout my education career and will continue to complement my illustration career. Because of this, children's illustration for picture books just seemed like a logical choice but where to begin?
Fast-forward a few years and I'm living in Ukraine. I've taken a more flexible teaching contract and spend most of my free time drawing. I'm not at the point where I'm ready to quit my day job, but I am taking art more seriously. I'm exhausting my online course options, joining online communities and most importantly I'm talking to other people about art. I'm starting to consider myself an artist.
During this time, I decided I needed substantial goals and one of those goals was attending the Bologna Children's Book Fair. I wanted to immerse myself in the children's book industry to help understand what it takes to be a children's book illustrator. I've always loved children's books and it seemed like a logical transition for me to incorporate my knowledge of children and education with my passion for illustration.
Then COVID hit. Like the rest of the world, I found myself working from home and adjusting to a new rhythm but the main difference was a change in my mentality. Teaching became something secondary; That thing I had to do when I wasn't doing what I really wanted to be doing: creating. It became very clear to me that a massive change was needed. But big changes require an exceptional amount of courage. Luckily the world was changing along with me and it turns out that periods of uncertainties often present the perfect opportunities to take big risks.
So I took a leap of faith. I didn't renew my teaching contract and at the end of August when the money stopped coming in, I officially became a full time illustrator. I say this as though simply giving myself the title makes me an illustrator and that's not the case. A large part of this transition involved changing my mindset. During that time my husband and I moved back to Canada where I am originally from and I spent a proportional part of our first few months looking for 'normal' jobs, searching for steady income, falling right back into the same trap as I did when I was 19. I was putting more importance in doing what I thought I should do rather than what I wanted to do. But if you're going to do something you've never done before you need to think in ways you never have. And while that's often uncomfortable, I've slowly become accustomed to the idea of working for myself and that working as a freelance artist can be a viable way to make a living.
I never did get the chance to go to Bologna this year, but since hearing in February that it had been cancelled I have progressed in my career in leaps and bound to the point where the work featured in this post are the works I submitted to the 2021 illustrators exhibition. Over the course of 10 months, I have gone from feeling lost and searching for any sense of direction with a vague idea of what I wanted to do, to accomplishing goals and achieving dreams I never would have thought possible.
Which is a lot of words to say that it's never too late to change your mind and do what you love. I still have a lot to learn and long journey ahead of me, but at least I know I'm on the right path.