Regular jobs and illustration time

  • So I'm going in an hour to talk about a job offer. I'm a slave to GIANT art school student loan payments so I need a steady job at this point. I went for an interview for merchandise flow (stocking) but they were going to try to get me into the presentation team because I have experience. I have no idea what they're going to offer me. My problem is, I'm working on 2 books right now (both paid), one of which has a deadline next month. Anyone else facing this reality? I feel guilty either way.

  • SVS OG

    Yes I am facing this exact same sort of thing. I have contract/commitments on book projects which are taking up all of my time in a good way - but are not going to bring in quite enough money in the long term so I also need some sort of alternate job. And I find myself feeling guilty trying to figure out how I will be able to balance all of the commitments I have made and take on outside work. So I fully understand.

    I think I also realize I need to be asking for more on these book projects because if I can not make ends meet while working on them, its my own fault for selling myself so short. So I have that battle going on internally as well.

  • I do admire people who slog it out at a day job and then work hard at their dream. I just hope I can nail this time management stuff. Might be time to write down a schedule for myself and stick to it. I'm also not very good at running on low sleep. I turn into the biggest baby zombie crab. You make a good point about selling yourself short. That's a tough one...

  • SVS OG

    I don't have any easy answers @gimmehummus, it's tough carving out enough time to make the job you dream of come true, when you still have to pay the bills in the meantime... but good luck with whatever decision you make.

  • Hi @gimmehummus!

    I am actually facing part of your reality. I am actually a medical resident by day and "wannabe" illustrator by night. Eventually, I know (or at least I hope) I won't have the money issue (of course, right now after 10 years of university I am buried over my head in debts!). However I will ALWAYS face the time issue. Right now I don't have children, but I know it is going to be even harder when I do. But I also know that to be happy I need to find a way to illustrate children's book in addition to my day job.

    For me, the only way I can do both is keep I tight schedule, so I think that is a good idea! I am also a firm believer in doing more than one thing at once! I draw while watching TV with my wife, at the airport, when I wait at the dentist, whenever I have a free minute. I watch art tutorial when I am at the gym. I have developed a lot of tricks to "make" more time, and the most important of these is to not "waste" time!

    I know that our situations are not exactly the same, but I understand how you feel and I hope you will find a way to make it work!

  • SVS OG

    First off @gimmehummus CONGRATULATIONS on winning 3rd Thursday!!!

    This is a hard decision, and I think many of us can relate! Every situation is different, but with every big life decision it's good to ask if it moves you toward your goals or away. Some decisions don't seem to move us toward our goals but really do since they enable us to pursue art. I think the important thing is to never lose the drive and passion for what you want to do.

    Death of a Copier Salesman
    When I first got married I wanted nothing more than to have a full-time job as an artist, but I also needed to provide for my new family and pay bills. I did freelance art gigs and applied wherever I could and the job that I was offered was as a copier salesman. If you're not familiar with that industry let's just say that a lot of salesmen transition between copiers and used cars (no joke). I pounded pavement for 2 years, talked to hundreds of people, heard hundreds of 'nos' but it made good money and I worked hard to be successful. All the while I kept doing freelance art.

    I remember walking down the street in 90 degree heat in a shirt and tie past Laika film studio and just feeling so demoralized, wondering what the future held. Eventually, I did well enough at my sales job for us to buy a house. Our realtor was at a Blazer's game with a friend and one of the animations I had done came up on the Jumbotron. She mentioned she knew the guy who did it, and her friend just happened to be starting a video game studio and looking for artists. We talked the next week and that ended up being the way I got into a studio job.

    So even though selling copiers didn't seem to be moving me toward my goals, it provided for my immediate needs and because I kept at the freelance and the passion never died, it ended up putting me in a situation I could have never planned out, to accept my first time job as a studio artist.

    Now I've worked full-time at a game studio for many years and do 3rd Thursday contests at night, and take on crazy book illustration gigs because I know that if I keep at it, work hard and keep pursuing what I want, I'll get there, but it might not be in the way I expect.

  • SVS Team SVS OG

    Regular jobs can be such a pain LOL. Like the others said not one persons situation is the same. I try to keep myself on a tight schedule. I am web designer and tend to only go into the office 2 or 3 days a week, the other days I work from home. I have 4 kids (one with special needs) and all of them in many activities after school and weekends. I used to do a lot of free lance web design in the evenings (that has died down lots cause of all the free stuff out there now). I wake myself at 5am everyday to workout/shower/get ready for the day. Then get the kids up and ready for school. Then work till about 4ish. Then its back to the kids/dinner and running around. Get the kids in bed by 9 spend a little time with the wife. Then back to either side jobs or art till 12 (unless I lose track of time). Repeat.

    The key is schedule, as long as you can keep a schedule you will find time. I also set certain days to focus on different art pieces/side jobs. It keeps everything fresh.

  • There are actually many illustrators, writers, and creatives that have a FT day job, and do their passion work at night. Sara Zarr interviews a bunch of people doing just that in her podcast "This Creative Life", so that might be a good place to get some inspiration.

    I'm not currently working in art, but I am putting together my portfolio, and work a non-glamorous job to pay the bills. I accepted the job I'm at now because it's stable and right next to my house, so I have more time to pursue art (my previous job came with a 2 hr/day commute). I lucked out because I have good coworkers and the environment is nice, so I'm not tired when I get home. Sometimes you do what you have to in order to survive, but it does pay off to find work that still allows you time and energy afterwards.

    That being said, a few ideas to help with your immediate problem: having a deadline, and possibly a new job on top of it. When I get stressed for time, removing other time consumers can really help out. Let your family and friends know you have a very important deadline to keep, and that you'll have to rain-check on get togethers. Turn off the t.v, video games, social media, etc., and give your project your full attention, it'll go a lot faster. Buy disposable utensils and plates, and premade or foods (microwave dinners, bagged salads, apples and cuties, etc .) so you won't have to worry about cooking or picking up dinner. Also most clothing can be worn multiple times, just saying.

    These are temporary solution to a temporary problem, but it can really help out. I had to do these things when I moved, worked FT, and was doing home renovations all at once. I've also done some things (usually not all at once) when I had school deadlines, got sick, worked tons of overtime, family surgeries, and car breakdowns.

    Even working FT, if you treat your art with importance, like the second job that it is, it'll get easier. Figure out a schedule that works for you personally. I'm like you in that I can't function well on little sleep, and am less productive. I'm at my best when I stick to a fairly strict schedule.

    Hope some of this can help! Good luck.

  • Thanks for sharing your stories everyone. I'm so glad this place is here. Without it I probably would have flailed around on my own and then let illustration fade away. I really wanted to be an illustrator, and people told me I should, but I told myself it wasn't possible. "Yea right, I'll just go illustrate children's books..."

    I accepted that job yesterday but I have about 2 weeks before I start. That means I'll have time to get more illustrations finished. I'm not upset about it because we'll be one step closer to moving out of my parents' house! We moved back home when my husband's time in the Marine Corps ended. Last year was a tough one but it led me back to art. I had a miscarriage, left a job I loved, had to say goodbye to the military life and it all hit me hard. But things seems to be looking up!

  • SVS OG

    @gimmehummus Any one of those life events would set someone back... to have them all in one year is tough indeed. At least art is therapeutic and if it can earn you money on the side too then all the better 🙂

    It's difficult to know what are the best life decisions to make...previously I also didn't think I could make a living from art. When I had to make a decision about what degree to do, I was trying to be sensible and paid attention to the general school of thought back then, that it was really unlikely to make a living from art. So I didn't go to art school...but the process of doing a different degree made me realise that nevertheless, a creative life was what I truly wanted. So I spent the following 12 years trying to get back to that. I got a job working in magazines, started doing art freelance on the side, started a business, and went full time freelance some time after that. Now the business takes up all my work time.

    Often I wonder what my life would have been like if I had chosen an art-related degree instead. Would I have got to the same place more quickly? (most likely a different place but more conventionally arty) Would I be better at art? (almost certainly) ..but taking the long/unconventional way round might have had other benefits too.

    So anyway hope this new job leaves you with enough energy to keep the illustrations going ...if you can keep that up then you'll get there in the end.

  • I work full time at a media studio but my job isn't always "artistically satisfying". I think a lot of artists can relate to this, but I need the creative outlet I get from personal and freelance projects (fun ones). Its tough to work 8 hours a day and come home to do more work, but if you let yourself relax and enjoy the process it's worth it..and in the long run you kind of get used to it. Get some snacks, turn on some music, put on your PJs loI
    I usually get home at around 6, eat dinner, and get to work until midnight. If you don't have kids or other activities you have to commit to, it's do-able especially if you get off work in the afternoon. Just make sure you pick projects that you'll actually enjoy doing! Which is one nice thing about having a stable job because you can have the option to choose only projects you want to do.

  • The job that I left was my favorite job ever. I did visual merchandising, signing and store events. We got to be so creative and independent and I was never ever bored. And I'm kind of an introverted person so it was weird that I loved it so much. You'd think I'd be more comfortable sitting behind a computer all day but I'm not. All my previous experience was in design and I hated it. I would always get laid off or I had a nightmare boss! Plus I was sick of art by the time I got home.

    As for future kids... I'm just starting out in illustration and my husband is going back to school full time in the fall... sounds like an impossible situation but I still want kids. I'm 32 so I'm more than ready to get this show on the road if you know what I mean. Can't I just have it all?! Ha! 😞

    @Dulcie I graduated with a BFA in animation 9 years ago and I still took a meandering path to illustration!

  • SVS Team SVS OG

    @gimmehummus where did you get your degree at?

  • The Illinois Institute of Art. I wouldn't recommend it. Too expensive (one of those for-profits) and they've already shut down over 30 locations.

  • SVS Team SVS OG

    I graduated with a BA in Interactive Multimedia from Columbia.

  • I went to Columbia for 2 semesters for illustration. I dropped out after someone stole my purse from the underground cafe. Couldn't take the city and the long train commute!

  • SVS Team SVS OG

    @gimmehummus yikes sorry to hear that your purse was stolen. I graduated in 2001. While I was taking a course there my teacher asked if I wanted a contract job at her company, i said sure i was looking for a job. 15 years later and I am still at that company. She is no longer there.

  • I am also in this quandary. I am a full time real estate agent with a solid business but illustration has been my passion since I was a kid. I am walking this out and plugging away at my first paid children's book, to which I am almost finished PLUS working 50-60 hours per week in real estate. I am pushing through as well in order to establish myself in the industry just as I did 10 years ago with the realtor position. Hard but necessary path for many of us. Hang in there and make it happen. You can do it.

  • I'm in this situation also...I'm the marketing director for an art gallery...It's great that I get to work around art all day, but I sure wouldn't mind working on MY art all day, lol. I'm just really lucky that the people I work for are really great people - so supportive of the marketing work I do for them and just all around nice.

    Even so, it's so frustrating to me that every other skill in the world allows a person to make a living doing it. But despite the fact that it takes years of dedicated effort to hone one's skills, only a select few are really able to make a good living at it. I guess that's not completely true that every other skill allows people to make a living: sports is like art in the sense that only the top tier are really able to make a living at it....and music. Nevertheless, the injustice is maddening...I work from home, so my job is like a dream job & I genuinely love it, but still, all I think about is creating my own art...

  • I feel like I did exactly what I didn't want to do - get trapped in a job I really don't like because of money. When they put me on the presentation team that only meant I'd be doing planograms. I thought I'd be doing signage and displays but really I just reset aisles and move boxes around too early in the morning or overnight. I wanted to do something more creative but not a single resume I sent out resulted in an interview so I took the easy route with retail. Now I regret that decision.

    I did finish one of the books and am still working on the second. I do see my personal work suffering and it feels like a big setback. I'm really rather angry with myself for this.

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