A blog post by Monique Thompson
Monique completed a Bachelor of Illustration at Melbourne Polytechnic at the end of 2015.
Get a space to do your thang!
Renting a space in an artist’s studio is the best. It changes your practice from a hobby to your vocation. Making and creating is no longer done in the spare room, crammed in with vacuum cleaner and clothes horse. Having a studio to go to makes it all feel legit, especially when you overhear the industry of those painting / sewing / building and drawing around you, you learn a lot. Strangely, going to my studio took practice, I would find myself procrastinating about going there! I got great advice from weaver Jade Brockley - she suggested I just be there, without any pressure to create and just take time to read a book, listen to music or re-arrange my desk. I have always created at home so taking that very personal space and plonking it somewhere externally took time to adjust to. If you can create at home, that’s awesome and I admire your self-discipline, but for me, having a place where it happens means I’m much more productive. It helps that it’s in Collingwood, where there is so much happening on the street to inspire. Or at least a million choices for coffee!
Look after your mental health … and breathe
Finishing study and transitioning to the “real world” is always a big step. But in the creative fields, it is unlikely you’ll walk straight into a 9 -5 job in your discipline (and thank heavens for that, 'cos 9-5 sux!). However, the motivation to continue to be creative has to now come from within, rather than a deadline imposed by your lecturers. Going it alone means you have to face that anxiety and crushing self-doubt, and you need to self motivate, the sooner you get on top of this the more successful you will be. I’m not suggesting you can tick that off easily, but having some strategies to manage your fears or even just acknowledging them is important and was really helpful to me. An often used therapy tool in Psychology is Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) which challenges you to examine your thoughts and beliefs. Reading the book “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert was so useful to me as it provides new ideas and belief systems around creativity that allow for sanity. Since reading it I have become aware of how many toxic ideas about creativity society holds and reinforces, which are often crippling for the creative person. I try to use more practical, healthy ideas like: you become good at things by practising. Simple!
Find your role models, peers and cheer squad
Toiling away on a creative venture often is a solitary pursuit – certain aspects will probably always be. If I wasn’t surrounded by people who are supportive and understand, I fear I would go straight back into a 9 – 5, money-making focused life. Not because it makes me happy, but because it’s comfortable and "the norm". I keep in touch with people I studied with even if it's only on social media (which works really well for Illustrators!), we cheer each other on and I am inspired by their new ideas and approaches. The studio is excellent for peers and role models. I’m often in awe and the generosity of people who are creative, and I’ve learnt so much from those around me. My life drawing class is like a little squad: us toiling away on winter nights, pushing each other on, slapping each other on the back saying ‘congrats’ because sometimes a little pep goes a long way. In my wider network of friends and family, there are so many not-yet-out-of-the-closet-creatives, who have become awesome supporters.
Don’t hate on the client (at least try not to)
It’s been a really "fun" learning curve working with clients, particularly around branding, logos and web design. Of course it’s completely frustrating and baffling, as when we're starting out we all lack the language to talk about visuals well. I’m learning it has to be a conversation – multiple conversations – meaning you’ll have to come up with a lot of solutions. There is certainly a balance required – between being assertive with your client’s never-ending requests, but also being compassionate and empathic. The confused client doesn’t know what they want and finds it really hard to express themselves, but applying the idea of iterative design in practice means being patient and testing out lots of ideas with your muddle-headed-wombat of a client.
You’re not defined by your degree/s
Coming across the idea of a “multipotentialite”, a term defined by Emilie Wapnick, was a revelation. She defines a multipotentialite as a person who has many different interests and creative pursuits in life. They have no one true calling the way specialists do. (Check out her work). Studying a creative degree was as much about the art form (Illustration) as it was the permission I was giving myself to pursue another interest. Yes, I am an illustrator, but I’m also a speech pathologist, a mental-health-expert, coach, writer, web-designer, graphic-designer, supervisor, fabric-designer, and literacy tutor. My degree integrates into my ‘professional’ self, but also all the other parts that feed into me. I don’t have to give up all my other interests and pursuits and focus solely on Illustration because I have a degree in it. I am sure my Illustration is better for my other interests, and I know I feel a lot better for having them.
You can see more of Monique's illustration work and learn more about her speech therapy and other interests here