Case Study – Mentoring my sister!

On one of my latest posts, a video tutorial on ‘The Myth of the Slump’, I had a comment & question from none other than my awesome sister, who is a very successful, award winning tattoo artist.  

She runs her own very sought after studio in Germany, where she lives with her husband.

She said

“Jani here´s one for you, something I am personally struggling with at the moment….

I have been a full time (indeed extremely full time) commercial artist for nearly eight years now… spending all day every day, and some evenings and weekends fulfilling the wishes of my customers with my art. 

I am bound to create pieces based wholly on the ideas given to me. I have a measure of creative freedom but lets face it someone will not be happy if they ask for an apple and you give them a banana. (Unless of course you can persuade them that bananas are THE ONLY WAY FORWARD, which works on some but sadly not on all, some at most will accept a banapple.)

So now I am trying to get my own style going on….well I have my own style but i am trying to create my own pieces, with images based on my own ideas, on things that I like, that I really fancy doing….and then selling the ideas to my customers as original pieces in the hopes of getting to that sweet spot where I gain almost total creative freedom with every piece (or large project) that I do. There are many artists in my field who work like this.

My problem is this….after eight years of having my ideas fed to me by my customer base, I am finding it very difficult to come up with anything interesting….interesting and sellable. I have no ideas. All the skill in the world, I can draw anything I want to ffs. Without the limits placed upon me by my customers I am lost!!

Any thoughts on how I can break out of my commercial cage of Dooooooom and get it oooon with my own creativity?”

This problem is sooooo common with commercial artists & designers, the irony being that it is only by finding your own, unique style that you can really soar to great heights in any creative industry.

My sis is at a point in her career where she is well established and respected, and earning a very healthy living.  This is a blessing and a curse, as it also means there’s a lot of risk involved in trying something new.

Here was my advice:-

“First of all, you need to break out of your usual mediums and styles of drawing – so use new materials, if you usually draw small, go big (I mean HUGE).  Having good skills is a two-edged sword as it presents a strong temptation to stick to what you’re good at.  So, you need to do the things that make you uncomfortable, and be prepared to be a beginner again.
Input can be important too, so look at new artists and new styles you’re not familiar with.

Make sure you do your ‘not work’ creative stuff in a different space to the studio for a while – even take yourself out on a ‘creative date’ somewhere totally different every so often.

Do some observation drawing to start with, using materials you aren’t comfortable or skilled with.  Draw things you wouldn’t usually draw, either.
Work QUICKLY in a doodle stylee, rather than trying to be perfect.

Draw with your left hand, too, just to really get out of your comfort zone.

Move far from realism, so move around your subject as you draw, exaggerate features, draw the space around things rather than the things themselves, use unrealistic colours, throw in text, collage, texture.

In the words of our very wise Mum ENJOY YOURSELF!”

Are you stuck with something you’d like advice, support and practical exercises to move forward with?

I am not taking on any 1-1 mentoring clients at the moment, but you can join my group coaching journey, Blooming Creative, if you are wanting to make a living doing your art.

Please feel free to add your advice and ideas for anyone in a similar situation, in the comments section.


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Case Study – Mentoring my sister! — 4 Comments

  1. lol well it seems the goddess is making me take a time out right now….cant tattoo much with a broken left wrist! my right hand still works fine so we´ll see what comes of it!

  2. The originality thing is something I have never satisfactorily conquered. My first creative ventures were in writing at school and I was good, but only when the teacher supplied a subject or a first line or whatever. In all the time since then I have only had one original idea and I have never really been able to follow that story in any sort of satisfactory way so after many years of being limited by that I moved on. I have enjoyed my creativity and still do but feel now that I want to just go with the flow, see what comes and work with no particular medium or end in view, following up one idea or inspiration and get distracted or not onto another, I really like it much better than putting myself under the pressure to be “original”. Your sister, it seems to me maybe, is already there? She interprets people’s ideas in her own style and that is what makes it original surely? What is originality? I look at papercuts (my current medium and enthusiasm), the same subjects are dealt with in a different way by each different hand and as I get to know them, I can tell without looking who did each one even though the subject is the similar. What did the great masters do that was different? They all painted landscpaes, or portraits or whatever, but it was in their “style” that they were acclaimed.

  3. I think, after many years of pondering this, that we are not really very good at spotting our own ‘style’ and that it’s our mistakes that give us our voice – if that makes any sense?