The other day my 9-year-old nephew broke into tears when he was sketching in Sharpie and felt like his drawing was less than perfect. I told him this was a good thing! That the way he feels is the way all true artists feel – and that his tears meant that he was a true artist. (Then I questioned whether I was perpetuating the starving / suffering artist story to a child.)

It got me thinking about my own path as an artist. All the tears I shed while in art school and during my time as a junior designer at the ad agency I worked at. Tears because I couldn’t figure out what “grid” my teacher was referring to. Or because my logo sucked. Or because the printer kept jamming. Or because the gap between the stuff I loved looking at and the stuff I was actually designing was just so. damn. big. I used to study the spreads of Emil Ruder’s Typographie, pictured above, for hours on end. It felt  magical and heartbreaking all at the same time. It just felt so out of reach – it was a language I understood but couldn’t speak.

A decade and 10,000 hours later I don’t cry about graphic design. I speak it fluently. But now I have to decide what it is that I really want to say.

P.S. Check out our blog post over at Braid Creative on what Creatives Who Attract Dream Clients Do. (Hint: it’s not just about inspiring or becoming BFFs with your customer.) 

  1. I can’t even begin to explain how closely I relate to this. I cried and bawled through web design in college. I felt extremely inadequate learning graphic design. Now I’m in the working world, and thanks to my talented co-workers, learning so much and getting better every day.

    I’ve found out I’m not as terrible as I thought. We never are.

  2. Ffion

    I feel with your kid. Still feel like that more often than I’d like 🙂

    Like that frustrated young musician who puts down his instrument and says “But the music still doesn’t sound the way it does in my head”. His elderly teacher looks at him and says “What makes you think it’ll ever be any different?”

    Ah yes… artist’s plight 😉 At least we always have something to strive for.

  3. Maj

    I love your writing Kathleen!

  4. Dave

    I try to embrace the struggle of the process–call it pain, tension, whatever. It’s the friction that allows momentum. Like trying to get started on ice. If everything is smooth and slick it’s hard to move forward. Friction is our friend. That’s my perspective anyway.

  5. You write so eloquently about this! I get exactly where you are at, working out what should be said can be pretty hard!

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