June 19, 2014

Creative Process Journal: The Challenge is Ours

Just last week, I spent a few days at the Illustration Masterclass in Amherst, MA.

So, what is the Illustration Masterclass? It’s the brainchild of illustrator/artist Rebecca Guay. I suppose the twitter post about it would go something like this: “An incredibly nurturing and immersive program for artists of all levels looking for instruction and motivation from the world’s best professional artists.” I realize I just failed twitter’s 140-character limitation, but that is exactly my point. It is so much more than what you could possibly convey in words. Besides the continuous interaction with the best of the best, there are demos and lectures and non-stop, around-the-clock creating. I was invited up to lecture about the business of illustrators and art directors, review portfolios and provide some feedback on the projects being created. It was incredible to watch the transformation of the student’s work—even in my short time with them. IMC is a testament to the idea that ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’.

I thought I would begin writing a series of posts based on some of the points from my lecture. Here goes:

“Love what you’re doing, not just what you do.”

We’ve all heard the concept of ‘doing what you love.’ But, just any career in art won’t do for most. We’re artists afterall, with specific tastes and visions and voices. It’s not enough to pursue a livelihood in art. The happiest you will ever be is if you are creating the things you WANT to be creating. So, you could decline the job offers which come your way choosing to explore your personal art but that is impractical. I also realize that as an illustrator you should be commissioned for your vision, but things aren’t always so. But, there are things you can do…

Within the parameters of the job, use it as an opportunity to challenge yourself. Use this job as the one where you finally explore painting water masterfully, for example or pushing past your limitations in terms of design, composition, atmosphere, etc. Also, find an emotional connection with the work you propose so that there’s an immediate personal connection with the work. It’s really the best motivator and the result will not only have strengthened your abilities but your art will have a genuineness you just can’t fake.

You might just be surprised with the results, and so will your client. Your goals should always include:

  1. the project (obviously)
  2. an emotional connection
  3. developing your own personal challenge

That’s the stuff portfolios are made of!

Keep drawing!


Illustration Masterclass students and faculty, 2014
Photo by Dave Palumbo

Follow me on twitter: @kalamuhzoo


  1. nice capture!

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