Freelance Designer

What do you do for a living?

Although ‘design’ is the title of what I now do for a living, I neither trained nor qualified in it, so occasionally I still feel a ‘chancer’!
 
 
How did you get interested in what you do? What advice was available to you when you chose this career direction?

My lifelong interest was always to paint. There was no formal career advice as such, simply the desire to follow that which fascinated.... 
 
 
What was your journey to reach the role you are in today? 

After qualifying from Art School (Aberdeen) a career as a professional artist began. It worked, after a fashion, for the next twenty years. However, the arts are a wide spectrum and need and chance play a huge part. As well as exhibitions and sale of paintings and printmaking, roles in illustration, theatre design, and particularly in book publishing played an increasing part. Working closely with authors and responding to the need for visual metaphor to words has always intrigued me. With this and growing involvement in working for different publishers, the need to have an in-depth understanding of all the processes of printing, book production and design meant learning new skills. Being self-employed, formal training was unavailable, however it came nonetheless. I have to admit that occasionally it came through my making alarming errors and simply having to repair them!
 
 
Talk me through a day in your life... what sorts of things would it involve?
 
I am self-employed and work from home. Although no longer a painter, something I remain very grateful for is the sound training in the visual arts at art school. It still informs the essential grounding to all that has followed. This varies considerably from day to day. Most frequently I am involved in printed guides (and have just completed a series for a Kenyan wildlife trust to help train their rangers tackle poaching). Then there is website development for every form of need. Indeed, a day can be totally surprising and perhaps it is this variety and the need to respond quickly to the unexpected that I value most.
 
Was it your planned career when you were 18?

definitely not...
 
What did your mum and dad want you to do?

Their advice was anything but art, based I imagine on the reality that there is very little financial security in the arts. With my father being in the Armed Services, such advice was not surprising. Yet I was lucky in that they never vetoed my choice nor tried forcing me into accepting their views. Once qualified and practising as an artist, a certain resignation came I think!
 
What advice would you give to someone interested in your career?
 
I rather suspect that a certain degree of ignorance may be ‘bliss’ for a career in the arts! Not to advocate ignorance, yet perhaps because the process of becoming successful as an artist is something of a tightrope act. Arrogance, hubris and often downright stubbornness(! ) can all have a necessary part to play to enable an artist to work through the often alarming facts of a reality in which no one offers you a secure 'job'. An inner certainty is definitely key to becoming an artist therefore. Sometimes it is impossible to see beyond the moment you are in. In actual fact I have drifted away from artist into design, partly for financial stability, partly in order to work more closely with others, yet also because the freedom of the artist still remains (even if the price is a more restricted practice). In terms of advice therefore I would suggest that to be an artist you definitely need to ‘burn from within’ and ‘know you have to do it’ whatever anyone else will tell you to the contrary. For a graphic designer the creative dream can still remain a guiding light, the creative spark lies within the daily practice and the tightrope act is mercifully less stressful. For both artist and designer, I believe you must love what you do... it simply wont work otherwise!
 
What other directions could you go in /work in within your field other than the job you have chosen?
 
Choosing which way to go at any one moment is usually close to a sense of ‘this needs doing’ or ‘this really needs a solution’. The scope may be wide yet I rather suspect that I, like others, carry the tools of the trade with us unaware of what lies ahead. In this, perhaps like the old annual Hiring Fairs for the rural trades each year, we await whatever chance there is to apply our trade and skills to whatever opportunities or employers 'for our destiny' may be out there!
 
 
If there is anything you have not covered about your area of expertise, please feel free to add here. 
 
Perhaps if you can say with confidence “I would love to do that!” then an inner flame is born. To choose a profession, I might suggest that only that guiding inner flame is worth anything and it is best to forget the rest! However, if that is an artist's privilege, then don't believe me... but try it for yourself!