Ask my family. I go through change kicking and screaming. Change is good. I get that. If you aren't changing, you aren't growing. If you aren't growing, well, then you are dying on the vine. I get it, I get it, I get it...but I still hate going through the process.
This year's SCBWI-Carolinas conference left me clinging to the tee-tiniest little tendril on that vine. I'd felt like I'd grown so much! I thought I had my big girl panties on when I sat down for my portfolio review with that AD from that publishing house. Little did I know I was gonna need a diaper by the time she was through with my work. I wanted to go crawl in a hole.
How could this be? Didn't I just win Third Place in this year's regional art contest? Wasn't I proud of the work in my portfolio? Weren't friends going ooooo-ahhhh when I posted pieces on Facebook and my blog?
Then came the agent rejections: "Although I like your children's faces I feel like the true Jennifer Bower style is still emerging. Work on being more consistent with your characters."
And another: "Your work is nice but you appear to have several different random and haphazard styles going on. I don't really get a sense of who YOU ARE as an illustrator....................................."
So what does all of this have to do with the month of November and PiBoIdMo and SkADaMo. Writing and Illustrating are more than just about writing and drawing - but about problem solving. This first week of participating in both challenges made me realize - I am my own problem. As I drew daily from the PB ideas I'd written down I saw for the first time what others, in the industry, were seeing. A SCHIZOPHRENIC STYLE!!!!!!
I had 7 days of sketches that all looked like they had been done by a different hand. How does that happen??? I'd worked for HOURS on that horse, only minutes on the zebra, the magical golf playing princess looked like my alter-ego took over that day, and the pink firetruck at the county fair looked like I had regressed back to age 3.
I realized something...
In my race to finish - to get to that prized goal of 'full-time freelance illustrator' status I had not taken the proper time to really know me & exercise my own style of illustrating, in private, before plastering it out for all the world to see. I've been like a middle schooler in PE trying out for every sport with a ball...only I was trying on every style of illustrating that I loved and admired in others.
So in my PiBoIdMo notebook along my scribbles and doodles I found myself writing notes. They look something like this:
1. Loves nostalgia.
2. Loves rural life.
3. Has always felt like she was born decades too soon.
4. Could live in cowboy boots if you let her.
5. Has loved more pets than people.
6. Loves watching people.
7. Has a potty mouth and a wicked sense of humor.
8. Is a very linear processor and thinker.
9. Loves asymmetrical order.
10. Is easily overwhelmed by too many choices in the deodorant aisle.
11. I am a minimalist by nature and hate knick knacks.
12. I am an introvert with a huge case of social anxiety.
13. I get too caught up in the abnormal need for affirmation from my peers...and influence by too many voices other than my own.
14. Loves old b/w movies.
15. Loves anything from the 1930-50s.
In a few simple bullet points I saw the makings of a mission statement. By writing out the mission statement I suddenly realized I had a FORMULA to follow based on my 'passions' and my 'strengths.' I knew with clarity how I wanted my lines to look.
AND THEN I GOT EXCITED!!!!!! And then I drew THIS...
That's 'Red', the Irish Setter my Dad had as a kid. *pets* He has been talking to my 13 year old a lot about growing up in the 1950s. *nostalgia* I love the simplicity in this small composition at the bottom of my Moleskin notebook. *minimalism* I love the stylized geometry of shapes. *linear/asymmetrical* - [do ya'll see where I am going here?]
From my list I am able to clearly see the direction I want my work to head and begin to build the resources I need to help me succeed. Here are some of this things I am doing (or have done):
1. Pick a singular color palette and stick to it. I've chosen 'Atomic Age' colors based on my passion for Mid Century Modern illustration, Vintage Golden Books and the colors I tend to pick anyway. I just narrowed down the palette.
2. Deleted the last three years worth of blog posts. WHY? Remember, I don't like clutter. I need a clean slate. I need to move forward. Those posts of trial and error were like dust bunnies lurking in the corner. They embarrassed me in some weird way. I felt the need to clean house and say, 'See. I am no longer neurotic."
3. I wrote a NEW 'About Me' statement based on my mission statements & I changed my name. Jenn Bower. Succinct and to the point. Easy to remember. Easy to find. Affirmative. Next year my website name will follow.
4. I am taking my time with my sketches because that is how I roll. I am a processor and sloppy copies just don't work as well for me. They make me feel too out of control.
5. I deleted out a lot of my online accounts. What the hell is an introvert with social anxiety and an incessant need for affirmation doing with all of those online accounts anyway???? Not enough drawing, for sure.
6. I wiped out my portfolio of everything that I had even a 1% doubt about. They are not time wasted but tenure earned in the process of creating my style. I've learned a lot of what I am NOT ABOUT through their trial and error.
7. I am not giving up.
*I promise that this is my last long-winded post, ever*