At the end of the year I like to review how the year went (fast: major renovation, full-time job, two young kids) and what I want to do differently in the coming year (not renovate a house). This past year had many challenges, time and my ability to squeeze it all in was the biggest one and I know I’m not alone on that front. One of the unexpected outcomes of this on-going time crunch is that I forced myself to stop and unwind creatively on a regular basis. I tried to keep time for exploration and unrelated to any project or client and just painted and drew what was in my heart. It may have been 30 minutes here and there, but I did it.
I painted what I wanted to see and and how I was feeling on any given day. The end result was some of my best work and a more clear definition of my style. I started to understand my color palette and what makes my work uniquely mine. I was able to study more clearly what I liked and didn’t like and what I wanted to change about my work. I’ll never stop growing and developing my style, but this year was a major leap forward for me. I don’t think I would have made time for this exploration if I had the luxury of extra time.
Lilla Rogers says “People buy your joy”. This echos what I said a few years ago when I started developing some of our products- I stuck to creating things that I would want to buy and that made me happy. Ironically enough, I have spent years keeping myself out of the equation. My creativity and ideas are involved, but creating for clients, whether it’s interiors, graphics, product development, or surface pattern design means that you create for the client and their brand, taste, office, or home. It’s always integral to the success of the project and this was ingrained in us when working for large design firms. It’s just part of the process and it’s never eliminated because this is commercial design.
Jump back to the creative wind-down days of the last year. No client in mind at all, just enjoying myself. I think this is the way most artists and surface pattern designers work. There are many courses and outlines teaching designers how to have a client and a market in mind when designing. It’s critical to success. However, it’s also important to have your own style and a look that is identifiable to you. This year I figured out that it’s almost impossible to find that style if you keep anyone other than yourself and your joy front and center, at least for part of the time. Don’t abandon the client and brand focused briefs that are part of your ongoing work, but do take time to explore and find your own voice. It’s good for the soul and there are unexpected wins!