As of very recently, I made the very big and somewhat scary decision to leave my full-time graphic design job and become a freelance illustrator and designer. It has been a month now since I left my last job, but since my last post quite a lot has changed in my life, so I will spend a few posts bringing everyone up to speed. It's mostly for myself, as I haven't really given myself the opportunity to process everything, but for the very few who might read this blog (hi mom!), it may be somewhat interesting.
I had my first foray into the world of freelance illustration after graduating from illustration at Edinburgh College of Art. I worked on a number of competitions and commissions, (most of which I got off the back of my degree show). It was a really good experience but I had to keep a part-time job at an outdoor-goods retailer to keep me afloat. Looking back at the work I was doing then, while some of it was okay - a lot of it was really bad and I can't believe I ever thought it was good. I'm really glad I've had the opportunity to learn and improve since then.
I felt like I hadn't fully reached my potential or learned everything I needed to learn in order to be 'successful' so I made the decision that year to do a Master's degree. I chose to study the MA Advertising & Design course at Leeds University - a unique program running half in the business school and half in the design school. I learned a lot of things there about business and marketing and advertising. The door opened to me for so many new roles, and while I wasn't sure of what exactly I wanted to do, I was sure of things I didn't want to do.
My final project was mostly illustration led with the main portion of it devoted to creating branding and packaging for shampoo and I quite enjoyed working on packaging design so I decided to seek out a position at an agency that did packaging. After a few weeks of looking for jobs and feeling a bit distraught at not having any leads, I landed a lucky internship at an agency. Unfortunately, the location was nearly 2 hours of commuting away but the creative director was a great and kind person so I was able to leave a bit earlier. It was sort of a trial period to see if I would maybe fit in there as a full-time designer. I loved working there and I probably would have stayed for a while and moved closer, but at the time I was feeling restless and wanted more. After 6 years in the UK, I felt like I'd had my fill of rain, especially after a particularly wet winter. I felt like up until this moment I had been following the trajectory that had already been laid out for me from the moment of graduating from high school. I wanted to take decisions into my own hands and have a bit of an adventure.
I had been following the work of an agency in Colorado (the state where I grew up) and when I saw they were advertising for a designer, I stayed up until 2 am writing an application. I didn't really expect anything to come of it except maybe another internship as the position advertised was for a Senior Creative Designer and I was maybe a junior-level designer at best. However, I spoke enthusiastically about my willingness to learn and my thirst for adventure, and I think the director of the company liked that about me and decided to take a chance. I completed a test project for him to see my illustration skills and after passing that I was offered a job. It was an exciting time, I had wanted to return to Colorado for a while as it had been a decade since I had left and hadn't visited since. I had fond memories of the mountains and the desert and the sunshine. When you are on the foothills overlooking the plains to the east, the sky looks so big and expansive that you can feel its presence.
I sold and gave away my belongings, packed up my belongings into two suitcases and booked a one-way ticket. The hardest part was saying goodbye to my boyfriend Albert, who planned to come join me in a few months, and my friends who I had become attached to. I was very lucky that some family friends had offered me to let them stay with them until I got on my feet. On a cold winter's evening in January, I landed in Denver airport ready to begin my life in Colorado.
- End of Part I -