• Jemma Jose

Inspired or INTIMIDATED?

I feel quite fortunate that I can call drawing my full time job and that I can engage with art and other artists on a daily basis. My love for digital art began in school, when I discovered the wonderful world of DeviantArt and since then, I have trawled in the internet in search of illustrations, portfolios and resources that I can bookmark for some point in the future when I need inspiration.


I have been influenced by a lot of amazing artists. I got into digital painting thanks to Loish and her art style has been the benchmark for everything I have ever wanted to draw. Other artists who have shaped me include Tove Jansson, Michelle Czajkowski, Tracy J. Butler, Jenny Clements, Glen Keane and other Disney animators and Lucy Knisley. There are many more, whom I have recently discovered and consider influences too, but the ones mentioned are my originals, who inspire me just as much now as they did over a decade ago.



I use the word 'inspiration' a lot, mostly when I think about how my work has evolved. My drawing style was first influenced by the Disney movies of the 90's ( movies that I would watch over and over again till my folks got sick of renting the VHS cassettes) and the first drawings I even remember making were of Ariel from The Little Mermaid. To this day, movies, music and art play a crucial role in my development as an artist.


The process of inspiration should ideally go something like this:


DISCOVER AMAZING ART

|

FEEL INSPIRED

|

MAKE ART MYSELF


And it would be great if it were just as straightforward. However, one of the pitfalls I experienced with ‘getting inspired’ was having secondary feelings of inferiority. In other words, having that inspiration turn into intimidation.


Artists share their work because they want others to enjoy it, in whatever way they choose, and they don't do it to make other artists feel bad.

So, what happens exactly?

I do feel the creative juices flowing when I look at cool and exciting art and I count on this feeling to get me in the mood to create something myself. What's difficult to control in this situation is a feeling of inadequacy which eventually leads me to compare myself to other artists. That's when the intimidation kicks in.


The flow chart below should give you a good idea of how such a thought process goes:



Wow! this is really great art >>> Omg! I totally love this artist >>>They are so talented >>> hmmm...Definitely more talented than me >>> Shit! why can’t I make that kind of drawing? >>> My art has so many things wrong with it >>> I just suck > This all sucks! >>> Who am I kidding? >>> I’ll never be like that artist...


Before you know it, what began as admiration has quickly turned to despair. When I started out, I thought this was the only way of dealing with it. That feelings of shame were natural and this is what people referred to as being competitive and I should use it as a means to improve my skills. Nothing could be further from the truth.


Artists share their work because they want others to enjoy it, in whatever way they choose, and they don't do it to make other artists feel bad. We all want to connect to the world around us, and as artists we have an exciting medium through which to do so. I have also found that the art community has more generous people in it than not, who want to share their experiences for those finding it difficult to figure things out. I tell myself this whenever I come up against feelings of insecurity and it has helped me get through those dark periods when I have deemed myself and my skills worthless.




My WORST year

I had just finished my Masters degree (2015) and decided to freelance, full-time. I was thrilled at the prospect of becoming an independent, working woman! And a routine that developed very early on was 'using' social media to both share my work and stay inspired. I told myself that keeping up with the hundreds of artworks being posted on various feeds everyday was crucial to staying connected in a field that is largely lonesome. Also, it was good sense to stay informed on everything, all the time. This was really easy to do because there are so many platforms on which art is being thrown x and I found myself jumping from one post to another, gushing about how brilliant it all was.


Over time though, all this scrolling without taking a moment to process the influx of information produced some awful side-effects for me:

  • Any kind of attention other artists got made me feel miserable. I felt they always got more than me.

  • Their work seemed to literally pop-up out of nowhere, which made me think it was all done effortlessly by them whereas I have to always struggle to make something even half-decent.

  • I felt that only luck mattered and it went to everyone except me.

  • Since social media is open to everyone, there are all kinds of artists on it who draw everything from politics to fanart, and I found my focus being pulled in every direction, wanting to do it all but ending up feeling exhausted and frustrated by it.



For a whole year after I graduated and started freelancing, I made about 10 artworks for myself and worked on even fewer client projects. All in all, it was one of my least productive years as an artist, though I did spend an enormous amount of energy complaining about how my life sucked when compared to everyone else. At one point, I hadn't drawn for a couple of weeks straight.


In hindsight, maybe it's good that I went through this because I did get sick and tired of being sick and tired all the time. I had reached a place where I was willing to make a change in my behaviour. I believe it happens to everyone at different points in their lives — when a revelation finally clicks, and for me that point was two years into this rut that made me want to reexamine my choices and see what was not working.



It seems so obvious now that 'not drawing' was making me miserable. Drawing helps me think and I feel well-rounded as a person because it's a daily task that brings meaning to both my personal and professional life. So, choosing to stop because I felt bad wasn't doing me any good. I had to engage with my craft on a regular basis. And I mean ACTUALLY pick up my pencil/stylus and engage with it.





The social media feeds will continue to throw up great content and it was time to seize that inspired feeling and do something with it.


Always a student

I now think of inspiration as being the first step to learning and when I am open to learning, I can never get intimidated because in this scenario, it's not about who is better or worse, it's about objectively looking at what I want or like and figuring out how to get there. When an artwork inspires me, before I get carried away by my oooohh-ing and aaaaaah-ing, I stop and ask myself, what about it appeals to me so much:

  • is it the composition or colour palette?

  • is it the characters?

  • is it the scope of the project or the subject matter?

When I start looking at it objectively, I can understand where the attraction comes from and what I can do to get my artwork to that level, if that is what I want. Or I can simply enjoy the artwork because I like it. In this way, my work is never bad, it is perhaps lacking in certain areas and that is always ok. I can't be a master at everything all at once.


A lot of effort has gone into redefining what inspiration means to me. If it's a way for me to feel bad about myself, then no matter how many artworks I scroll through, I will never find the one that will change my life and make me awesome. Because, if I'm being honest with myself, this version of me doesn't want to improve, it just wants me to have a constant pity party.


I can now view the internet as an ever expanding treasure trove of learning content, rather than a bottomless pit of despair, though I need to add that this wasn't an easy or even short journey for me. Once I understood what I needed to change, I kept going back and forth with it, until it did change. It took time for me to make it a habit. And I have to say, it's made my engagement with social media a lot more fulfilling!




What are your thoughts on using social media? Has it impacted your relationship with your craft or job? Have you found ways to engage more meaningfully with social media? I hope you'll share your experiences in the comments below :)

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Hello! My name is Jemma and I'm a children's book illustrator based in Chennai, India. Welcome to my blog, where I share tips, tutorials and advice related to all things illustration. I hope you will find some helpful resources here. 

 

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