I never meant to be a designer.
I took all the high school courses to enable myself to enter any university faculty. I took chemistry and physics and calculus just in case. I took English Literature because it was really recommended as a basis for first year English. My teachers’ unspoken expectations seemed to be that Linsey should be studying something serious and worthwhile. Like science. Or maybe computer programming.
Studying art seemed a highly unlikely path to financial self-sufficiency. Kids took art for the easy A, or because they couldn’t handle the “real” courses, (like chemistry and physics and calculus), not because there was any particular future in it. Or so it seemed to my grade 12 self.
My dad said glibly, “Be a brain surgeon.” I certainly had the grades and the intellectual potential. I’m not particularly squeamish and I do love knowing how things work. I now know that I’d fail miserably at the decision making. I like lots of input and time to consider alternatives. I’d never manage having to make split second life and death choices.
Of course, my dad was looking out for my financial interests. Dad was the first person in his family to graduate university, he’s never held a mortgage (until he co-signed mine), and he chose a career with a secure job track and a great pension.
I am certain that, “No, Dad, I think I’ll get a fine arts degree and see where it takes me,” was not what he was super excited about hearing. Not that he ever once let on.
(Did I mention my younger brother is an animator? I’m sure that throughout our 20’s, our parents didn’t wonder so much if Kent and I would move home as when.)
However, they’ve always been 100% supportive. They hang my paintings and drawings in places of pride in their house. They were the first investor in a previous business. They lent me money when I went through my separation and my life was in pieces and my bank account held the wrong kind of zeros. They even come over and clean my house when I get snowed under with client work and children and activities and holidays.
No one has ever, ever suggested that maybe I should change careers. For that alone I am so, so grateful. They always believe in me.
Despite the insane amount of family support, I frequently find myself looking around and wondering how the actual hell I ended up here.
Sometimes life seems like a lot of accidental decisions and it’s not that bridges get burned behind you, it’s more like the map is erased after you pass each fork in the road. The only available way is forward but the streets don’t have names and the destinations are shrouded.
Even though I’ve made a living as an artist for nearly 20 years, most of that time self-employed, I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop. Is this really what I’m doing for the rest of my life? Is it finally time to get a real job? (Sidenote: I don’t know what a real job is.)
There are lots of conversations on the Interwebs about “limiting beliefs”. One of mine is that being an artist is a bit light-weight. I take on UX work and software interfaces to prove I understand more than just colour theory. I have a library full of business and marketing books and my Twitter feed is dripping with entrepreneurs. I regularly give design and branding advice and tie it to audiences and product development and sales and revenue.
It’s a constant battle to do more, know more, justify more, differentiate more.
Not just a designer.
Like there’s something wrong with being able to make beautiful things.
I’m sitting in Starbucks right now and there’s an Oprah quote on my cup. “Know what sparks the light in you. Then use that light to illuminate the world.” Yes, this is extremely eye-rolley, but today it feels a bit like the universe is speaking.
Because making stuff has always been my spark. It doesn’t have to be my stuff either, I am equally (sometimes even more so) excited about making stuff with other people as I am creating for me. I know the hours I spent drawing after my marriage exploded was a big part of what both saved my sanity and pulled my heart back together.
Artists are some of the people I most admire. I stalk them on Instagram and Etsy. I bookmark their portfolios. I favourite them on Dribbble. And I never ever consider any of what they do anything less than magical.
Design isn’t always easy. Being creative on demand while merging your vision with someone else’s can be ridiculously challenging. But there are moments where time stops and the work flows and the results are brilliant. I have thank you notes and client testimonials and some work I’m really proud of to prove that art and design are both relevant and crucial. That just because it (sometimes) feels easy, doesn’t make it any less magical.
I’m a fan of owning decisions. Becoming a designer may not have been one driven, conventional, conscious choice but more a series of seemingly inconsequential, but no less important ones. Loops and forks and twists in the life line that continue to lead to one place:
Artist, without justification.
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