Discover more from The Accidental Expert
One for You, Two for Me
For whom are you creating?
I really hate drawing cars. So, it makes perfect sense that I spent nearly four years drawing a regular column for Road & Track magazine.
My pal, John Hendrix has a spread in his brilliant book, Drawing is Magic (buy it and thank me later), that requires the reader to list all of the things they love to draw. If I were writing that list, cars wouldn’t make it into the top 100.
Why did I accept all those Road & Track (R&T) commissions? Simple: money. I was a freelance illustrator with a newborn and another child on the way, so if people wanted to pay me to draw, I drew.
But here’s the trick: I still made the drawings for ME.
It really wasn’t difficult. I focused on the things I LOVED to draw and found ways to bring those ingredients into as many assignments as possible.
I love to draw people, so you better believe that people showed up in nearly all of my R&T drawings, regardless of whether they were required for the story.
I love playing with different brushes and making different marks, so I was constantly introducing interesting textures and painterly brush strokes into every illustration wherever I could (like in the Jaguar XKE illustration in the header art for this article).
I really, really love drawing cats, so yes, even they showed up.
In the end, I looked forward to the R&T assignments every month. I knew I was going to find a way to make them my way and to make them fun.
This is an approach I have used time and again in my work and I believe it helps to create the following positive (and often lucrative) loop:
If you’re making what you like, you’re enjoying the process.
If you’re enjoying the process, you’re likely making better work.
If you’re making better work, the client is happy.
If the client is happy, three things can happen:
They will hire you again.
They may pay you more because they prefer what YOU do.
They will tell others about your good work.
You may think there isn’t room to infuse everything you do with the stuff you love. But if you pay close attention, you’re probably already doing it, though perhaps only in quiet ways. Turn up the volume. I’ll bet all of you have snuck names of friends or pets into a piece of writing, whether for school, work or even a published novel. Or maybe a lot of your illustrations contain a color you love, even if it doesn’t make sense to use it. These are common enough. Can you do more of this? Louder? With more confidence?
Guiding assignment work or client projects towards your happy place, creatively speaking, is a skill. It can be developed with practice and a bit of cleverness, and it is well worth the effort. Everybody wins when you put more of yourself into what you do; the end result is more original, it’s usually of a higher quality, and both you and the client are happier.
So, check in with yourself when you’re working on anything, big or small: are you bringing what you love into the mix?
Thanks for reading. I’ll be back next week to continue my in-depth writing about the weird adventure of selling my one-man digital brush business to Adobe.
Until then, take care of yourselves and each other, remember to be kind, and I’ll say, Ciao for now.
Kyle (who can be found everywhere)
The Accidental Expert is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.