2019: A Year in Review

As I did in 2017 and 2018, I decided to look back over my actions and progress in regards to my illustration career in 2019. My goal is unchanged from when I began this website in 2016: to become a full time illustrator (with maybe some writing and translation on the side) living a flexible, creative and fulfilling life.

Compared to previous years, I feel that more of the conversations I have revolve around illustration now, and people in my life seem to accept that that this is the path I am walking down. I have my portfolio, website, business cards and am on the way to obtaining my Illustration MA.

However, while I feel I am closer to my goal than before, 2019 has easily been the busiest year of my life. A lot of energy was eaten up by things not directly related to my illustration goals; including my full-time work and commute (which take up around 55 hours each week), and my wedding, which happened in August 2019.

My Illustration MA also required approximately 300 hours of self-study per term. While my studies are innately linked to my illustration aims, a lot of time was spent writing or researching; not necessarily painting or drawing.

With my energy pulled in various directions and limited time for making work, my social media stats also dropped considerately when compared to 2018.
Blog Posts: 8 (an 84% decrease from 2018, when I published 49 posts)
Site Views: 1819 (down 30% from 2019)
Instagram posts: 52 (a laughable 100% drop from the 104 times I posted in 2018)

I also only made one YouTube video, which was for my course and not publicly listed, despite intending to make 1-2 videos a month in 2019.

While these stats are not the only measures of activity, I feel they are revealing. Before starting my Illustration MA in September 2018, I was working in my own way, producing as much illustration work as possible, and working hard to build up an online presence. This culminated in me being accepted onto Falmouth University’s MA Illustration course. However, my 2018 creative pace has been simply unattainable in 2019.

While there are many benefits to formal study, one of the biggest drawbacks for me has been how much it has interfered with my ‘natural’ illustration style and confidence in my own abilities. Being encouraged to question everything about how I work sucked me into overthinking. This led to a big drop in confidence and a degree of creative paralysis throughout 2019. I felt a lot of pressure to ‘be creative’ as quickly as possible in whatever time I had available after work or on the weekend, without appreciating that creativity doesn’t work like that. The requirement to fulfill strict marking criteria also affected my natural working processes.

Through out the year, I tried to get out of this mindset by sporadically creating doodles, including the ones below, while listening to music or podcasts. While I had some success in ‘unlocking’ my creativity with this method, it sill didn’t change the fact that I was finding it very hard to make work outside the structure of the MA course.

Despite these difficulties, there are some things I was very proud of during 2019. My MA work was well-received and I finished Year 1 in September 2019 very happy with my marks and achievements. Below is some MA work based on sketches of Tokyo Tower.

I also feel that my work has evolved a little over the past year, or perhaps diversified. I have a clearer vision of the kind of illustrator that I aspire to be, and that’s something that will stand me in good stead in the years to come.

Including the zodiac-inspired images above, I created some self-initiated work to add to my Esty shop. I hope to do more of that in the coming year, and develop my fluency with this mixed-media style, which I enjoy working in.

I also handmade and illustrated all of my wedding invitations, cards and place settings, and made my own hair piece for my wedding in August, which saved a lot of money.

Initially, I was disappointed at myself for producing much less illustration work and social media content than in 2018. Looking back over 2019, however, I realise that I was simply very busy and overstretched, and that this was the best which I was able to manage. My full-time work as CIR on the JET program comes to an end in August 2020, giving me the chance to realign my career closer to my ultimate goals. I have high hopes for the coming year, and am excited to see what it will bring.

Wishing positivity and energy to everyone with creative goals in 2020. Here’s to a good year!