The Perks of Being a Wildflower

Ironically subtitled “The Misadventures of a Non-art student/graduate” (also applies to anyone who is working a job that is not art-related but would very much like to). Or: “Fantastic Rackets and Where to Find them” *nervous laugh* I’m so sorry haha >< People always ask me about how I earn a living from my drawings, especially when I don’t have formal studies to back me up. So here’s a personal blog post about how not being able to pursue formal art education was not the end of the world for me (or you too, if you like).

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I’m a Bachelor of Science in Nursing graduate, and a board passer too.

Not being able to study art in college would possibly be one of my regrets in life, if I had any. But anyway, in the back of my mind, as an artist, I’ve always sort of considered myself a wildflower. Like the ones you find growing freely on the side of the road, in meadows and forests and rocky mountains. It’s a super cheesy metaphor, I know, but please humor me. :) Like a wildflower growing in the… wild, constantly adapting to the environment, finding and using whatever resources are available no matter how scarce they are, and just basically *trying* to survive on my own.

I’m not comparing art graduates and non-art graduates though! It’s just a little metaphor I used to use to console myself whenever I felt bad about not being able to pursue art studies. I always try to remind myself of the positives, like how wildflowers have their own charm just as roses in a garden do. Each person is given a certain environment to adapt to and a set of situations to work with, and how one deals with that makes the difference.

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Like what I said earlier, “wildflower” is just my fancy way of saying “a self-taught freelance artist with no (or very very little) educational background or formal training in visual/fine art”. Someone who won’t qualify in that first line of the hiring post: “Must be a graduate of an art-related course”. That sure sounds tough, especially when almost all design companies and art-related positions require a diploma (or at least here in the Philippines). That’s understandable, since the easiest way to effectively validate your qualifications is with a legal document that proves you have actually studied it and that you do know how to do your job. Quite reasonable, but, tough luck, because finding a job is hard enough with a diploma.. what more without one?

When I was faced with that reality, I asked myself, “How do I deal with this?”, and more importantly, “Do I even want to deal with this?” For me it was always about if I wanted it bad enough. I could’ve just gone back to nursing and applied to various hospital training programs that would have made it a little bit easier to find a job as a nurse . But no, I decided that I wanted to have a different life. It all boils down to one’s decisions, I guess. Whichever path you choose, it’s alright, just do your best. It was funny because as much as I was telling myself that “I’m gonna do my thing now, I’m gonna do great” lol, I was still so scared! :))) But I’ve made my decision, and I knew that I had to commit. So I went ahead and planted myself in the wildlands. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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🌻 Wildflower Survival Guide ~ by me hahah ~🌻

🌻 Finding my own nourishment (AKA self education )

There are no free lessons in life, so they say. Especially when I’m out there in the wildlands, nobody’s gonna water me or… nurture me with fertilizer (wow pls excuse my metaphors hahaha). I figured I needed to find a way to improve my skills on my own. Now, “on my own” does not mean that I just whipped up lessons out of thin air, haha. I went ahead and borrowed books from our foundation’s library, looked at pictures and artworks on magazines, studied other artists’ art and *tried* to do it like how they did (copying is one of the earliest form of learning!), I searched for tutorials on the internet, and when progress videos became popular, I watched as many as I could. I practiced every chance I got. I just kept on drawing whenever I could, and soon I began to learn what works for me and what doesn’t. I still do these things until now! :)

🌻 Look I’m a pretty flower too (AKA getting people/potential clients to notice my art)

In most cases, there are no people in the wildlands hahah, so I gathered enough confidence to get my stuff out there for the world to see. :)) I needed to sell myself, because nobody else was going to do that for me especially back then.

For some people, drawing for leisure is enough. While that’s good too, and I wish I could say the same for me, I needed to turn this “hobby” into a living. I was practically the breadwinner and I had bills to pay and I wanted to support my parents and 2 siblings too, and give us a more comfortable life. :) I personally see nothing wrong with wanting to be rich (lol) doing what I love, especially when I’ve been poor (below average?) my whole life. Good intentions all the way! ♥

Getting my art out there was sort of a win-win situation for me: I get to share my art to the world (I am still amazed and overwhelmed when someone from across the globe notices my art!), plus, albeit very slowly, people are starting to notice me. At first I did requests for practice, but soon some people were abusing it (realworld.jpg lol), so I stopped doing it altogether. I also started to make my own connections with other artists like me, and it was such a wonderful feeling to get to know them and learn from them too. I learned from these kind people how to properly do commissions, so soon I tried doing that too.

At first, of course I felt a bit of insecurity too (that’s normal, I guess?). Like, I kept asking myself if my drawings are really worth some people’s money? Well, I’d never have known if I didn’t try, so I just did it. It took quite some time before my first client (a group of friends who wanted to be drawn as Girls Generation!), and still very slowly after that, but I knew I was getting somewhere, and I was slowly learning how to price my drawings, and it felt really good.

At the start of this blog post, I mentioned the subtitle “Fantastic Rackets and Where to find them” (hahaha), so, I’ll talk about some of the “rackets” I used to do in my early wildflower days lol. Ok so I used to:

  1. Do some graphics for a private server online game (I used to play a lot, and when the developers went looking for a designer/artist to do some paid work/graphics for their website, I applied HAHA they even made me a GM *_*)
  2. Submit stock illustrations (surprise!) – just simple doodles like flowers, trees, fruits, etc. earned me around $25-$30 USD a month. (not bad)
  3. Do fixed payment contract commissions. There are websites where you can choose if you’re a “client”, or an “artist”. “Clients” will put up “hiring” posts (simple jobs like small doodles, etc) in which the “artists” can take up. Meanwhile, “artists” can upload their profile/portfolio, and “clients” can contact them for work. All work done have a fixed price of either $5 or $10, and payments are done safely through PayPal. (example: fiverr.com)
  4. Make my own rackets. :)) Sort of the same as my commissions, but more categorized and have fixed prices as well. (Kinda like adoptables)

After quite some time, somehow my artworks must have reached some companies, and they contacted me for small projects. Soon the projects became bigger and I was finally able to save money. From there, I just sort of tried to keep it going, saving some of the money for my *plan B* :))

🌻 Bearing my own fruits (AKA Plan B :)))))

It wasn’t long before I finally decided to create my merch brand, “Whimsicute”. I was inspired by local brands like Papemelroti and Artwork, and international brands Swimmer and Tokidoki, which sell items produced out of their own designs/art. That is my “plan B”, if ever I stop doing client work. It was also kind of an end goal for me, having my own little shop, selling wonderful things produced from my own drawings.

During the early stages I used to sell bookmarks and stickers to my friends, but little by little I learned how to be more organized. My friends and I created Kawaii PH Store, which houses all of our brands as of the moment. We conduct garage sales every month. It’s sort of like a private mini bazaar, held at our own Kawaii PH Headquarters. We all pitch in for the rent. :) Sometimes we attend bazaars and conventions where we sell our stuff too! We like to bond over selling hahaha

🌻 Taking care of weeds (AKA Dealing with negativity)

By “taking care” I mean eliminating and disposing of, LOL harsh. Anyway, here are some “weeds” I have encountered:

  1. Numero uno are the freakin’ art thieves. Being out there in the open with no legal manager or company to protect me, I’ve been a favorite target of art theft. INB4 I get messages and comments like “you should be more careful”, or “put bigger watermarks”, or “crop your artworks”. *sigh* Believe me, no matter what artists do to protect their artwork, these thieves will find a way to steal it, what with all the modern technology and advanced image-editing software available out there. I’ve done everything, nothing would stop them. Plus, getting legal protection as an indie artist is ridiculously expensive! These realities have made me decide to CALL OUT any stolen artwork I see, no matter if they “didn’t mean it” or whatever. I’m just so fed up. *grim chuckle* Hopefully publicly exposing them will make them more careful next time, like how people always tell artists to be careful, because apparently it’s our fault because we “uploaded art to the internets”. aghh >:I (Important advice for artists and clients: Educate yourself about copyright laws! ^^)
  2. Freeloaders – “Why make me pay this much for a drawing when you didn’t even pay for a formal art education???”-anonymous. Well, as much as I’d like to indulge your ignorance and give out free/super cheap drawings, I can’t and I won’t, because 1.) It won’t be fair to the clients who pay for them, 2.) It won’t be fair to the artists who sell their work too, 3.) This is my way of earning a living, so asking me for a free/super cheap commission is almost equal to depriving me and my family of a meal. *_*
  3. “Belittlers” – or those who consciously or subconsciously belittle wildflower artists, especially newbies. At first I didn’t want to admit it, but looking back, I’ve realized some sticky situations that probably wouldn’t have happened if I was more “up there”.  Yes, I know now what they were up to. I’m usually very observant but it sucks that sometimes my kindness gets in the way of that. @_____@ So, I have learned how to professionally handle these kinds of people, how to politely say no, and how to assert myself when a line gets crossed. It’s very important to be firm and strong!
  4. “Did you copy this from..” Well, this is always bound to happen to anyone, not just wildflowers. Sometimes, when it involves a posted artwork that is actually inspired by an artist that I like (though not copied from any of their work, because hello that’s a terrible thing to do and I don’t do that – copying is only ok when learning, not posting and claiming as my own), I respond with “No but thank you, I love their work”. However, when the accusation is based on nothing that I’m guilty of, I point it out clearly by saying, “No, this is my original work”. Whether they believe me or not is none of my business. :)

Ahh, being a wildflower sure is hard, that’s why we must have a strong resolve!

🌻 Managing time and the importance of REST (AKA I don’t have a metaphor for this?)

Juggling client work and merch production and real life (and a day job, if you have one), can get crazy. The trick to a healthy schedule is to not make “productivity” my goal. Yep, you heard it here. I know because I’ve been there, obsessed with making each day more productive than the previous day. Agh it wasn’t healthy at all for me (maybe for some, but for me I found it toxic and unhealthy, and I felt burning out fast). Soon I found that spending some time (or a lot, or as much as I want) taking a break from doing anything is very helpful. I was able to think more clearly and plan more effectively. It might be because I’m getting old? Haha *3* I’m starting to appreciate the beauty of slow living recently. I get to see the world clearly, not just a messy blur. I try to sneak in just a little bit of drawing everyday though, but it doesn’t really matter if it looks good or bad. :)) Also I draw and paint a lot more slowly now (a bit slower than before), and after finishing an artwork, I’ve never felt better.

~~~ CONCLUSION ~~~

I think the overall lesson here is that whatever happens to your career as an artist, whether you failed to enroll to that course you wanted so much, or if you didn’t get that job at the design company, is actually up to you. Like I said, we are all given a different set of situations, some more difficult that the others, but the real difference is how we deal with them.

I have yet to see whether I’ll stay a wildflower forever, just minding my own business, or if I find a group of other flowers so we can build our own garden together and nurture each other (back with the metaphors wahaha). That has yet to come and it would be so cool if it does. 🌱

Aah, that was a lot. I hope you had a good time reading!

Cheers, Chichi ♥