I graduate from college today.
I'm not going to lie: I'm terrified on pretty much every level I can think of. For my entire life I've lived in the cosseting embrace of structure - living in my parents' home, and then school, meant that even lazy summer days had a beginning and an end. I knew my bounds, and I liked them because I knew exactly how to operate within them.
That's all gone now. I'm applying for jobs, I'm keeping track of the art I need to work on, I have a white board for to-do lists, I have a seven-page printout of publishers and art directors to contact... and that's all great, but it's also completely in my hands. If I decide to watch some stupid show streaming online for a day instead of drawing or applying to jobs, no one is really there to stop me. Even if I decide to do art all day - sounds awesome, right? - no one is there to remind me that I have to take care of my wrist, that I'll burn out if I do that all day every day, that I have jobs to apply for, that I should be self-promoting, that I should be doing the million and one things that go into being an Actual Real Adult. With school in session, I could work crazy hours for the entire weekend because I knew that I had the structure of the week to temper it: when and for how long I was going to be in class, or at work at Admissions, made sure that I broke up my art-making time. It even made sure I had some impetus to keep a reasonable sleep schedule.
In a month, I'm going to be attending the Illustration Master Class. I'm so excited I can barely talk about it without making excited! hand! gestures! but beyond the obvious reasons, like the list of instructors and how consistently amazing the student work has been at the end of each previous IMC and the idea of an entire week devoted to the most brutally rewarding art boot camp I've heard of, I'm looking forward to having another brief period of working within structure.
I can't help but feeling a little cowardly in that regard: if I want to be a freelancer, the name of the game is going to be self-direction. In the past, I've prided myself on my self-direction in everything from really unstructured classes to my use of school breaks and even last summer - but that was all self-direction within a larger structure. What those examples of self-direction tell me is I can do it; they just doesn't tell me how big I can do it.
This month before the IMC is going to be a little telling in that regard, because what I have to do has no real relationship to the Painting-A-Day. I have to do art every day, yes - but I also have to apply to jobs, and contact art directors, and do the dishes, and prepare to move, and buy groceries, and figure out the other aforementioned Actual Real Adult things that need to be done and do them. In my Painting-A-Day project, it honestly didn't matter what I did for the entire day as long as I got my painting done; in fact, I wound up watching six entire 23-episode seasons of Criminal Minds in less than a month for that reason.
I'm lucky to have the IMC coming up not only in what it will do for my art in that week, but because it cuts this month into a discrete period of time that I can use to adjust and define my new normal. I need to figure out exactly how long it takes me to thumbnail, to
sketch, to get reference and do a fully rendered drawing, to prep my
surface and paint - because for the past year of having the methodology I
do, it's always functioned around my classes. I'm going to have to figure out where I can cut into my sleep schedule and where I can't. I'm going to have to see what job I get, and how it will affect me.
I'll reiterate: I'm terrified. I'm not stupid enough to pretend this is going to be easy, or that I'm actually prepared for the challenges that I'll have to deal with. But people have done it before: people graduate from art school every year, and though thousands give up or wash out, not everyone does.
That will be my beacon. It remains to see how strong it is.