This week, Lilla Rogers announced the winner of the Global Talent Search. While I had been sending subliminal messages to Lilla to pick the wild card [ me! ] unfortunately on this occasion, it wasn't meant to be.
Lovely Tara won the competition & a heap of amazing prizes. Lovely online friends Flora & Rebecca both won a studio prize also. Their careers are set! I'm super happy for all of them. Really truly & I can't wait to meet them in NYC next year. Huge big hugs to my other finalist partners in special arty crimes; Petra & Lindsay. I bet they produced beautiful work & if they choose to share I look forward to seeing it!
Even bigger squeezy hugs to all my family, friends & supporters who have overwhelmed me with love & encouragement & made me feel super special. I think it might be expected that non-winners might fall in a heap but those that know me personally, know that I've conquered much bigger things in life. So I'm doing really great & I have so much in life to be grateful for & a lifetime ahead to make arty magic happen!
Whilst I don't want to dwell on all of this GTS stuff for too long as I have so much living to do & an exciting arty future to crack on with, it is beneficial to download thoughts, review what I've learned from this experience and recognise my strengths & limitations. Hopefully it might be helpful or interesting to other arty dreamers. Rather than ramble on as I usually do, I'll try & be succinct & ask myself the tough questions. Afterall I do love answering questionairres.
Was the competition worthwhile?
So much so, I cannot even express it properly. I loved the entire experience immensly. It was the best creative fun I've ever had.
Personally, I want to record to remind myself, as well as hold tight & dear, that out of 999 entries, Lilla picked me for the top 50.
I want to always remember that out of those 50 people, and over 10,000 votes, that I was the public's choice for the grand final of just 6 people!
I am super grateful for the judges specific feedback on my semi final entry:
- The facial expressions on each of the characters are fabulous! The small patterns peppered throughout the design…in the dresses, lanterns, etc…make the design.
- I like the detail in the images, the variety of animals and the little girl
- I think both mothers who buy the clothes and the little girls who wear them will like these images. Sometimes only the mother or the child likes the images and that causes problems.
I will forever love the judge/judges [ who are you? ] who said:
- This is by far the most exciting composition and I really enjoyed finding new details each time I looked at it.
- There are also several images and designs that will stand alone or have unlimited combination possibilities for additional product.
They GOT ME & understood what it is that I try to put in every piece of work.
I feel so lucky to have personal feedback from Lilla & her team including:
- Your work is top-notch
- We fell in love with you and your story
- We were totally blown away by your final assignment and presentation
- Your growth is phenomenal
- Your characters are so amazing
Those very personal & very special little treats that came out of this amazing opportunity are SO important to someone like me who has worked in creative isolation forever! I eyeball everything, I don't subscribe to the rules of colour theory, I just merrily create & take stabs in the dark at what I think looks good to me. The feedback reassures me that I am doing ok with my eyeballing but also, that there is a contingent out there that enjoys my work, my quirkiness & maybe even the old fashioned traditional depth & texture of my work. That massively helps my confidence and I am really starting to believe that I might get some work in the future.
And now here's where I get into the nitty gritty picking apart my entry. Arty illustrators, you might want to read on....
Despite all the warm fuzzies of how I got here & all the amazing feedback along the way......
Did I think I had a real chance?
Hmmmm, well technically I did have a 16.6666666% chance but I was very honest with my inner circle of peeps even before I submitted my final entry, that whilst I wished & hoped for this amazing opportunity, that I did not see it actualizing.
I did really hope that the studio would want to add someone like me with different work; artwork that is a little left of mainstream popular design. And take a chance on someone like me without commercial experience and without a deep portfolio of professional level artwork.
I did really hope that I would have the opportunity to be mentored by Lilla & her amazing team. The prizes were pretty good but none of that came close to the opportunity to be mentored & represented by Lilla & to be a part of her amazing family of artists. That is the real prize. I've always wanted to belong somewhere, to be connected to a group of working artists, to have the opportunity to be mentored. This was the closest I ever got to making that a reality, so yes of course I was absolutely wishing for that chance.
But at the end of the day, when I compared myself as a total package with the other finalists, I knew it was a long shot.
Deep down did I think, that Lilla & her team would see me as the right fit for them?
Personality, ethic, commitment, passion - yes!
Artistic style - I think they enjoy it & can see 'something' but I'm well aware I'm on the quirky, busy, arty side more than the clean design side. My work is a little bit more niche and maybe not as widely marketable/ sellable? But I don't think that is a complete deal breaker.
Strong consistent brand - No.
I thought I really got along well with them and I'm confident they think the same. I can imagine working/visiting/skyping them in that gorgeous office of theirs & making magic happen between constant laughter & stories. Of course lots of very very hard work too! But this isn't about friendship, I imagine they got along well with all the finalists! The competition is about adding the right fit artist/ designer to their team.
I know I could fit most places and I think they would have loved me & come to realise that I would have been a great choice, with great organisational & coping skills + artistically adaptable, even exciting. I know as a busy mum & lifelong high achiever of simultaneous hard working career + multiple creative projects, my output rivals many. But I don't think you can convince people of all those things by just telling them & asking them to believe you. I don't think you can demonstrate consistent strong brand by holding back your best work until the finals. I don't think you can convince people to select you based on possibilities.
To be a good fit in my humble opinion, I think you need to lay it all out on a platter & make it very easy for them to see that you are a great choice and that they aren't taking any risks with you. They need to see that they are buying that consistently strong brand over & over. When they put you up for a job, they want to already know what to expect. They don't have time for surprises that have the potential to not have that wide appeal. It would be a gutsy & bold move but probably not wise business, to take a risk on someone when there are other tried & tested, less risky, fabulous choices available.
If I was Lilla, and I've been boss lady plenty of times throughout my working life, I probably wouldn't have picked me either. And I've reflected on why that is, in my time away from my past career. Its the sensible thing to do to let potential gems go, to take the proven gem right in front of you. Its not personal, its business. I totally get it.
Was I happy with my piece?
I'm never satisfied. I can be completely head over heels in love while creating and feel on top of the world submitting but then the next day, I start to wish I had done things differently, or added this, or expanded on that. I get bored easily & want to keep pushing myself forward improving on the last thing. I enjoy being experimental.
Although all the trend boards were extremely tempting, I went with 'New Heritage' as I felt it had the most exciting scope to work on a full home decor range & include the texture I wanted. The work I had submitted in the competition had been quite pretty up until now so I wanted to work on something a little more edgy & rustic yet still retain all the home comfort qualities that I love myself. Maybe I should have worked on more pretty things, I love pretty things, but I didn't want to choose the obvious, I wanted to demonstrate that I love & that I can, tackle anything.
For this piece I calculated that I spent well over 130 hours on producing all of it. Every single element was created by hand. Some enhanced with textures I made from my own photos. Everything on my 2 pages was built from sketch, hand painted, digitized, assembled & then styled/presented.
I don't regret a second I spent on the entry. I wouldn't have been satisfied with anything less than what I offered. Working traditionally just takes longer. But I think its more delicious so I'm happy to do it. I don't think it was a case of submitting quantity over quality either. I think it was a good solid quality body of work with fine detail, timeless concept & lots of possibility.
In saying that, I am learning that with design, less is often more. I will definitely practice scaling back. After all the time & love I put into the tiny details, much of that was lost when my work was reduced in size. Just picking one major idea to present, shows confidence & comes with experience.
I still don't think I'm working anywhere near my full potential. I want to go higher, push myself more. Maybe I'll never ever be satisfied. But I see that as a positive thing too.
Did I think my final piece stacked up?
I can only comment on the entries I've seen. And my answer actually is yes.
I offered a large detailed art piece, a lot of illustrated mockups, lots of illustration, several animals & birds, more artwork within the piece, a large number of pattern suggestions, attention to detail & good presentation that met with the guidelines of the brief; sizing, landscape orientation, naming, inspired by trend board etc.
I'm not saying it was better or even as good. And thats hard to judge, I know art & design is about personal preference anyway. I am saying I think it was a solid offering & I didn't totally embarass myself.
But to completely dissect & pick apart some more now.....
I don't think I made it as easy as I could for the judges. I expected them to see my huge vision in the volume of work I produced & the way I presented it to them. I wanted to give them lots of options for a home decor range so they had choices. I thought setting it out like a catalogue was clever. I opted for more pattern suggestions, more objects, more styled vignettes, rather than offering a few stronger patterns. I can do that, but I did not.
I recognise now that it was probably an overload on the small space that was allocated, even though I set it out nicely & clearly with 6 little styled vignettes.
Feeling like I really needed to prove myself, I showed off more ideas when perhaps spending 30 hours concentrating on just a few well resolved stronger patterns & pasting them onto real life stock photo mockups would have been a better way to approach the brief. I concede it might have resulted in a more commercially marketable piece of work.
I did feel somewhat backed into a corner. I knew I had to demonstrate a strong brand & consistency. So I felt like the only way to demonstrate skill & consistency was to smother them in a large volume of detailed work & styling. Like I had to compensate for the lack of commercial pieces I have in my portfolio.
I can see too, that while I had to work harder to illustrate my mockups, that using real life stock photo examples is a better way to 'hand it on a platter & make it easy for people to visualize....' In hindsight it's how the industry ordinarily works. Straying from that formula probably didn't do me any favours.
I guess I could have reduced my art piece to make space for more solid pattern work. But I opted for more detail in the large art piece and then the reduced styled scenes in my mockups page. Maybe I'm being overly critical, maybe not critical enough. Maybe it just didn't make the grade. Maybe it just came downto personal preference in the end.
I could go round & around thinking about how I could, should, would re-do. But its done. Time to move forward.
Why do I think I didn't get selected?
Winning isn't just about the competition entries. I feel it's about solid competition entries + great person + consistent strong brand.
Art has been my passion for my whole life. Any abilities I do have, are natural, they weren't taught to me by anyone growing up, and they have progressed forward because I made it my mission to keep growing & exploring. That is consistency, hard work & determination. I am beginning to embrace that I'm self taught, that I never got to finish my degree & I'm not qualified. I think maybe in my cqse when I've been practising art & creativity my whole life, that a qualification is now irrelevant for me& perhaps at this stage of my experience, even a blessing. I don't even know when I'm breaking the rules which makes me an explorer & risk taker.
When I began raising my babies whilst simultaneously doing part time graphics, doing some teaching gigs, maintaining a blog, creating art & running my ETSY - I realised I couldn't make proper money spreading myself that thin. I knew I had to get smarter about selling my work, I knew I had step up my game & I had to get it ready for a commercial market. I've dabbled in everything, been scribbling forever & I have great passion for painting & collage but when I think about really practicing my illustration & pattern designs, Its actually only been 18 months. I'm proud of myself for getting this far, in such a short space of time really.
So in doing a self assessment.... one thing I don't have, is the commercial experience.
But I think the biggest single overriding factor is that I don't have the consistent proven brand. I probably have a catalogue of artwork pieces from my lifelong creative history as wide & as full as many others, but its very diverse. I don't have a large volume of work with a strong brand identity AND at the same quality & level of work that I am producing right now. I think its here where I most struggled to prove my value & potential worth in this competition. I need to work on that & make sure my website reflects my capabilities.
Thing is, its a little tricky to fix. I get bored easily. I don't necessarily want to be perfectly on trend with my styling, I want longevity and I like to keep re-inventing myself sometimes picking up trend flavour, sometimes timeless, sometimes experimental. I also love to work in many mediums. I AM a bit of a wild card.
I don't want to be pigeon holed into a specific market either. Whilst I think I would give the childrens book market a really good crack I want to be able to have a very diverse career. With my growth in the last year, I feel confident that I could tackle almost anything. I feel the momentum building and I definitely feel my best work is yet to come.
But an assessment can't be made of those potential abilities by people who don't really know me. Those abilities need to be obvious & they need to be proven. So this is where I need to direct my attention - leaving no uncertainty & proving my value to prospective clients.
1] Solid competition entries + 2] great person + 3] consistent proven brand.
I think that is what makes an obvious choice for a winner of GTS. It's why I think I wasnt quite ready. Overall I think I stack up ok with the first two but I need to work on the third. 1 + 2 + 3 = why Tara, Flora & Bec made excellent choices.
Am I going to share my full piece?
I am currently preparing for Surtex and I am stockpiling artwork for my future prospective clients. I do need to earn money to help support my family [there are lots of mouths to feed & educate & clothe!!]. So because this is now my business & my potential livelihood, I need to consider what I tuck away for clients & what I share publicly, very seriously. I don't want all those hours of work to be wasted & just show all my tricks, patterns & ideas, for free. It's my hard work, blood, sweat & tears! Ok, so there was no blood, sweat or even tears, but there was certainly heart.
So at this stage my feeling is that no, I won't be sharing my full entry, until some time down the track. Sorry! But I have included a few snippets of things so you can get a little feel for my submission up top. Yes, that's a few little sneak bits taken from the 6 vignettes I created for my entry! Its extra extra busy here because I wanted to at least share a range. The styled scenes I created were much less busy than this. Of course I did all the usual standards including plates, bowls, cushions, kitchen linen, lamp shades etc. But I wanted to push myself a little further than that and as I mentioned in my last post, I created my own distressed/rustic furniture & fittings too. It was beyond fun!
If you happen to be an agent, art director or interested in licensing my work, you can always email me to get the password to my website secret vault!
So what do I want to do now?
My challenge now is to present that strong brand identity across a diverse range of commercial markets - showing my diverse abilities! I just need time to build on it all and then I will have more to offer. Hopefully I will be more convincing. Hopefully I will continue to grow & get better in my art practice.
I have never approached any agent, any potential commercial art buyer or any creative publication directly, with my illustration/ design/ pattern work. EVER! At some point I need to be brave & start doing that. So in the future & over time, here's my arty bucket list:
I want to do at least one childrens book. I want to someday also be published in Flow, Uppercase, Peppermint, Frankie & Stampington magazines. And anything else along those lines.
I want to do many fabric lines including quilting fabric ranges. I want to do a home decor range. I want to do paper products, something in the scrapbooking industry & have a gift line. I want to collaborate with other creatives and create custom fabric or packaging design/patterns for their products.
I want to get into childrens clothes & womens fashion!
I would love to run an eCourse on the way I work which crosses many mediums and is unique to me. I want to teach at an art retreat in Europe and the USA. I will continue to teach my children & help grow their love & passion for art. I will continue to help out at our school exposing other children to freedom of lovely art making.
I want to be open & ready to tackle all sorts of opportunities that might stumble into my path.
I would really love a mentor. Someone who believes in me & knows where I might fit best.
I will always leave my door open for Lilla - just in case she ever has a re-think & wants to take a chance on this quirky wild card! Through her eCourses, Lilla has taught me so much about the commercial world over the last 18 months & I will be eternally grateful. It took me a long time to get it, but I think I am finally getting it!
What is the Plan B?
Well really Plan B was winning GTS, I was not counting on it. Something as important as my future creative career is my responsibility.
My plan A is to show at Surtex, which is in NYC in May and as I said, I'm working on building my portfolio with new work.
I'll also be working away on a cool collaboration with a well known & talented designer, hopefully kicking off next week! I think her strong design skills & my arty infusion will make it a really fun project.
I'll continue doing graphics work to help support my family financially.
I will start working on some book ideas again that I've had in my notes for a few years & I'll get myself ready to pitch, maybe next year, we'll see.
I'll start dismantling much of the work I've created over the last year & make it into little things for my shop so I continue tapping into the retail market in a hands on way.
So I'm now looking forward to and will enjoy the rollercoaster journey ahead! I know it won't be easy but I'm totally up for the wild ride.
And ok, I may have just lied when I said I wouldn't ramble on... ha!
Watch this space, I'm excited!!