Academy of Art Alumni Panel Summer Expo ’16

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I was recently asked to speak at an Alumni Panel at the Academy of Art University in June along with a few other alumnis. We talked about our first jobs and how we hustled to get to where we are now. When I moved to LA in 2013, all I did was freelance and go from one contract job to another for two and a half years. I was constantly calling and bugging recruiters and always following up with people on a lead that I was hopeful on. I even wrote something on Linkedin about “How to Find Work as a Freelance Illustrator/Designer”┬áCheck it out, I’ve outlined 7 Steps that I used to go about finding work as a freelancer, worth a five minute read I promise!

The artist path and journey is never a straight one – and I think that is the beauty of being an artist and creative. Its part of the fun. From my experience, hustling to land my next gig kept me creatively hungry and gave me an edge. And did I really live my life on the edge for a while! Versus having landed a job and being too comfortable in a job that I wasn’t as creatively fulfilled. In the past, I’ve gotten some really amazing jobs– one job back in 2007 was an illustrator/product designer for Hurley Accessories in San Diego that I worked really hard on a test project before they hired me.

Being comfortable in a full time gig always bored me and never kept my interest long enough for me to want to stay there. I needed challenge, I needed stimulation, I need so much more than just going to a regular 9-5 everyday without purpose. But on the flip side of that I’ve also managed to stay at other jobs that I’ve very much enjoyed and liked– jobs that challenged my thinking and creativity, I was able to stay on longer. I’ve gone on to working with some really good companies in LA some include Hasbro Studios, Skechers USA, William Morris Endeavor, Fuhu Inc. to name a few.

Job security is great don’t get me wrong– but I also love the freedom of being able to have some down time in between freelance jobs or projects to be able to explore my own art.

Creating art is a spontaneous act and trying to control the creative process too much is just unnatural. Sure I think its super important to have a list of goals for the day, week, or month– but you also have to give room for growth and evolution of who you are and what kind of art you want to create. Patience with oneself and one’s own process is the most important thing. Too many times I’ve seen younger artists not being patient enough with themselves and also judging themselves too hard. Every new insight gives us an opportunity to grow and develop our understanding of the world around us.

Creating art for me is so sacred, the creation that comes from deep within me always has a purpose and meaning. I create beautiful work to inspire other people and that creating daily is a process of communing with my own spirituality and feeling connected to something greater than me.

There may be naysayers in your life– especially our families or people close to us that give us bad advice or force us to think in terms of being part of the “rat race” mentality, influencing us to get a full time job when in fact it may not be the best thing for us. But I always say try everything and see how you feel working within a company or corporate structure in a 9-5 job. But each and every one of us is boundless. We have so much unlimited potential inside of us, the best way is to guide that and focus it onto something that would truly give us happiness– and of course figuring out a way to make money from the thing that which gives us true happiness and the freedom to be our true selves.

It was very enlightening to have younger students approach me afterwards and tell me that my story spoke to them. I didn’t find art until my early 20s, having my son at 21 made it a bit challenging but thank god I had my family to help me while I attended college. Even though I had a few obstacles in my way, I still did everything I wanted, I still had the drive to want to be a better and successful artist. I had a vision of the type of life I wanted to create and providing for my son was motivation enough for me to want to succeed.

My main advice to younger artists or people just starting out as an artist– embrace your own journey. Sometimes we have a slow start but that also forces us to look deep within and to know what we truly want. Don’t let fear, negative self-doubt, and what others have to say cloud your own vision of what you want for yourself. It’s your life, at the end of the day you have to ask yourself what will make you the happiest. Build up your confidence as an artist and seek support from other artists/friends who support your vision. Find a mentor that will help you. I had a wonderful mentor for a year before I went to grad school that encouraged me to become a better version of me. Also, have discipline–practice your craft, let your passions fuel your creations and let it lead you where it wants to lead you. And please have lots of patience with yourself and know that this is all a part of a process and a bigger plan for your life that you probably don’t know about just yet. Let if unfold the way its supposed to. So that when you do finally stand on your own, your foundation and structure will be so solid that nothing can ever break you apart or tear you down.

~Diane

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