Monday 3 October 2011

The best terrible painting (and decision) I've made.

It's been a year.

A year since I left my management job with a dynamic art supply retailer I'd been employed by for 10 years.

Above is a little painting I did the following Monday, my first day as a full-time freelancer.  It's kind of a poorly-painted little oil painting I call Freelance Leap, and it represents my excitement and anxiety at leaving a secure job and diving into my illustration and social media work.

I'm still glad I made the change to challenge myself in most ways. But I cannot deny, times have also been much rougher than I ever imagined. It's been the best and worst year ever.

Reading Jesse Bering's piece on Bering in Mind, Half Dead: Men and the "Mid-Life Crisis" has me wondering about which option of Jacques' will happen with my creativity in mid-life (note to self: you're 37 you're already there): will my current state of anxiety propel me to greater heights like Bach? Or will I do a major about-face in my creative style, brining me larger success than before?  (The third option, dying somehow, is off the table as far as I'm concerned.)

Good friend and amazing illustrator Eric Orchard shared this piece on G+ yesterday, by Scott Timberg from Salon: The Creative Class is a Lie. It's an engaging piece, covering everything from retail jobs to writers. And it offers a ton of interesting things to think about for illustrators.

Up until now, my business model has been:
1. Make cool artwork, mostly for a niche scientifically-literate audience
2. Put online for people to view for free.
3. Take commissions for originals or prints from people who like it enough to want their own, or have a budget.

It works. It works better than not being online ever did. It works haltingly, in fits and starts, with many months in between. It's not enough to feed my family. How does this whole creative economy do that? Or all we destined to be like rock stars, where only a tiny few ever make it despite the public''s hunger for imagery and illustration?

I outlined in my Symbiartic post, It's Time for Illustrators to Take Back the Net that illustrators supporting each other when faced with image theft online could put the profession back on a path to respectability.  Would income follow?

I miss the guy I was when I did that terrible little painting, above. I'm still optimistic I might get to that amusement park in the distance, but my feathers are bedraggled.

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.

Print Shop 

--> Find me on Symbiartic, the art+science blog on the new Scientific American Blog Network!


Rudi said...

In regards to the "mid-life crisis".
I'm getting closer to 40. But maybe I'll do the unexpected and start mine early at 38 :)

Philly Art Girl said...

It's tough, I feel like I can relate to a lot of what you're saying here, but then sometimes I think, "what satisfaction would there be if I tried and succeeded right away? What would I learn?" From an outsider's perspective, it seems like you are learning and accomplishing a lot, despite the uphill battle!

Glendon Mellow said...

Rudi, we can start ours together.

Philly Art Girl, I agree I know an uphill battle is expected, and I am elated by the opportunities and projects I've worked on this part year in particular. But it's when we don't have enough money to keep the electricity on that the uphill battle feels like I'm rolling backward. Those are the times I've stopped and asked myself why a bright, hard-working guy like myself isn't doing something more supportive for my family, and just sucking it up. Give the goals of art and science communication a good-bye and go work in a stable office.

Posts like yours today, and advice like my wife's uncle gave me recently help me to take stock of how far I've come and that it may not be impossible after all. Gotta take a deep breath and slow down before I can see it though.

Solarpunk Gnome said...


Just started watching your blog, and I must say that I'm super impressed with your work! Thanks for making a stellar site, and best of luck in your endeavors!

e_journeys said...

I love the painting. I've got a similar metaphor, in which I step off the edge of a rocky precipice and float in mid-air rather than plummet to the bottom like a stone. As someone on the cusp of 53, I've done that three times now (at ages 24, 30, and 44). Each time has been considerably different. Even during my most awful, terrified moments, I am still thankful that I made those leaps. Keep on keepin' on.

Samantha said...

You are an amazing artist! Great painting indeed!

Glendon Mellow said...

Thanks Polk1986!

Thanks Elissa! It's rewarding to me mentally. I am happy about the direction things are going. My optimism flip-flops.

The jumping from a high height metaphor really suits the situation somehow. Butterflies in stomach.

Thanks Samantha!

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Posts over 14 days old have their comments held in moderation - I've been getting an unusual amount of spam for a guy who paints trilobites. I'll release it lickety-split though.

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