So early last year I wrote a mega blog post about my first year as a surface pattern designer. I thought it would be a good idea to do this as a yearly activity, as it’s great to reflect on what I have achieved and also what I have learnt in the last year. So buckle yourselves in for part two of ‘how Anna spends her free time’!
I started 2020 quite optimistic about what I was going to do, and decided to start the year with a personal art challenge, focussed on the theme of tropical nature.
This was a great exercise for me, as I wanted to try some different styles and art materials and it was a good excuse to do this.
I was also feeling pretty confident that I was ready to start directly contacting companies I liked with my portfolio.
And then ofcourse it all went a bit pear shaped with COVID. We have been incredibly lucky here in Queensland, and I only had 5-6 weeks where my daughter was home full time. All my surface pattern design work was pretty much on hold during this period, and I instead looked for other ways to stay creative while looking after an active toddler.
I also got a bit unsure about starting to contact companies, as businesses were struggling everywhere and the little confidence I had in my work was not enough to start sending off my portfolio during such an extreme worldwide event.
So I decided instead to work on improving my portfolio and I also started a spreadsheet of companies I’d love to work with and that suited my aesthetic.
Over the middle part of the year I had a few amazing experiences that really boosted my confidence and made me no longer feel really weird when I call myself an artist!
First I put my hand up to paint a barrel for Reverse Garbage in Brisbane, which was just fantastic and a really fun project to be part of.
I then put together an entry for the Gorman Artist Search competition. This was a turning point for me in three ways:
- I absolutely loved the design and it has pushed me in a new direction with my style
- I got a lot of positive attention on social media about my entry
- I was able to license the repeat pattern of my design to a fabric company in Australia
Finally, I applied for the Designer Project with Digital Fabrics and was so happy to be selected as a feature designer. They did a wonderful job of promoting my work and made me look so professional!
After these three experiences I was definitely way more confident about my work and finally towards the end of the year I started sending off my portfolio!
My main focus is the sustainable swimwear industry and I did realise after contacting a few companies that I need to work a bit more on my portfolio to make it more suitable for this industry.
My main learnings of the last year were:
- I tried a few different art materials/styles for my work, and while this is fun I don’t think it necessarily helps me develop a recognisable style. Towards the end of the year I started to divide my artwork into personal/fun art, and art specifically for patterns which has really helped with my focus.
- Most weeks I had 2 days of about 5 hours each (daycare days) plus any free time at night or if my daughter napped at home. I spent a lot of the time feeling like I had a hundred things I needed to do, and so would force myself to stay awake at night, skip exercising to work instead, and basically just push myself to get as much done as possible. Surprise surprise I ended up quite exhausted and realised this was not a sustainable way to work.
- It is great there are so many surface pattern designers out there, and I would often see what other people are doing and think, oh I should look into that, or start doing that thing. Consequently, I was literally bouncing from idea (like different print on demand sites), to idea (like free online training) without any overall focus of what was most important, especially with my limited time.
- I had an extreme love/hate relationship with social media, where I would sometimes spend weeks not posting or engaging, or getting disheartened by what I saw everyone else doing/producing, to the other extreme of basking in the glow of online attention in the form of likes and comments (Instagram I’m looking at you!).
So what happens now I hear you ask! You will have to stayed tuned for my next blog post which will be all about my goals and business plans for 2021! A little hint, this year I am approaching my work in a totally different, much more relaxed and streamlined way!