Kelly Turnbull on artistic Time Management
What say I?
. And so many feels, in so many different directions. Prep rant: go.
Working professionally, one of the absolute truths I would pass on to people looking to do make art a career: do what you can with what time you have, and when the time is up, let it go. It might haunt you to see a piece you know is not your best go into the great beyond, but that's the price of an Art Career. We have all heard that Perfection Doesn't Exist, but when it's our babies, accepting that is nigh impossible. Our scribblings are our face to the world, especially online, and who doesn't want to present their best selves?
The problem, of course, is that hired work is *not* your baby. It is not the sum of your true artistic self; it is the face of your professional self. This thing you are creating, even if it is created with love, is not yours to obsess over-- it is your client's. What I'm putting into a piece isn't always my heart and soul, but it is *always* my integrity as a working artist, and sometimes, integrity and perfection do not line up. Part of being honest, professional, honorable and a good freelancer is doing all your business with respect: respecting the images and stories you're working on, respecting the client's wishes, and MOST IMPORTANTLY, respecting yourself. A lot of the time, what you are charging a client for *isn't actually the finished piece of art*. That is the product they desire, but it isn't what's justifies the fee-- that would be your time, your energy, and your skill. The moneymakers, the things that define your professional worth. Respecting that means charging appropriate rates for appropriate time spent, taking care of your health, and cultivating a healthy divide between the energy you are willing to put into other people's projects and your own. That DOESN'T mean producing consistently subpar stuff-- it means being able to estimate how long something will take you, and charge a commiserate amount, and sticking to it.
One of the biggest secrets of being a Working Artist is this: sometimes, people don't want the best, they want good enough.
Obviously, every industry is different. My freelance work is difference from my in-house work, and I don't do animation or videogames at this point, so the corporate culture there might be different. But here's what I do know:
With freelance, I give a client couple of estimates for what they're looking for. A full color illustration will always have a base price, and what I will produce for that will be competent work. That's the respecting the client part-- no matter what, I promise competency. But I don't promise magic for that base price. They want magic, they pay for magic-- by the hour, usually. And I cannot tell you how happy it makes people. No. Really. Like with little kids, boundaries make clients happier. Boundaries? Code for respect.
My in-house work can be *exhausting*. I'm salaried, so I'm paid the same no matter how much I put out, but you better believe I need to keep up with production times, and that can mean completing 11 illustration in a day. If I dedicated myself to making each and every one of those drawings perfect, I would *die*. Or, at least, my creative self would. Art is exhausting, yo! It's different when it's yours, but after the first few times, money is no substitution for inspiration. Chugging that shit out-- and chugging it out competently-- is an invaluable skill. I've seen artists *far* better than I in technical skill be turned away from the job because they can't hit that magic spot of Good Enough in the allotted time. Inspiration is great, because it fills you up while you work; for every iota of energy you put into the art, you get half an iota back (MATH, bitches). I love my job, and the joy of having it is certainly fulfilling, but it is hard work, and I am bone-tired when I come home. My mental well is dry.
And *that* is why it's so important not to give 110% all the time . . . if you don't have a sliver of mental wherewithal after your work, you will never produce anything for yourself-- and I will venture to say that without that time to play, stretch your artistic muscles, and focus on things that interest you, it will take a hell of a lot longer to get better at your craft. Learning takes energy too, remember. And while work might be good for some lessons, and often for rote practice, breaking out of the mold of other people's ideas is 100% necessary to level up. You ever wonder why most of the prolific fan artists out there are in college or high school, and most professional artists don't do a lot of fan art or trades or the like? It's because they have learned, or are still learning, how to apportion their creative energy, and a lot of the time that energy goes two places (with luck): client work and personal work. Fan work is a wonderful luxury, and exists in this weird liminal place when the play part can really, really help you grow, but you never develop the skills you need for original work.
Not everyone fits this mold, of course! I have MAD respect for people like Kelly and Brianne Drouhard and E.K. Weaver who rock the fuck out a career, side projects, fan work and their own fun. But what you're seeing there isn't easy-- it's the result of years learning how to respect themselves and their time, a practice, heh, rarely perfected.
When you bitch about perfection, the only thing you're saying is this: I am not a professional, and I don't know what it takes to be one.