"Whoever is patient has great understanding..." Proverbs 14:29
In our culture of instant gratification, it's hard not to automatically expect immediate results from our work.
Here's how the process usually goes:
1. You set out to create something that will get you noticed.
2. The daily grind goes on for a while and people don't seem to notice.
3. You're putting your heart and soul into this work, spending countless hours practicing, researching, and producing the best creations possible, and yet,
4. People still don't seem to notice.
This season can be extremely discouraging. I'm here with you. I feel your frustration and empathize with the despair and loneliness that ebbs and flows through this time. Being patient with the process is hard. I believe that now is the best time to share what I'm learning with you. I haven't "made it" as an artist yet either. This is a unique position that won't last forever, so I hope my following insights are authentic and relevant to your needs.
1. Expect to Encounter the Unknown
Dealing with the unknown on a consistent basis can be a scary lifestyle. It's not for everyone. You won't know the exact day and time when success happens. All you can do is be faithful and keep moving forward. You're still here. You're deciding to go for something that isn't predictable, safe, or measurable. This is incredible, because that's all most of us are only too happy to settle for in life. You're an inspiration.
2. How to Know if You're Pursuing the Right Thing
What if people aren't recognizing you because you're pursuing the wrong thing? How would you know?
1. Look at the marketable genres out there and niche accordingly.
For what I do, it's sci-fi and fantasy book cover illustration. There are many genres: book cover illustration, editorial, advertising, etc. Within each of those genres are more niche categories like fantasy, sci-fi, horror, historical, medical, political, etc. The more specific an expert you are, the easier it will be for clients to recognize and remember what you do for what they need.
2. Show your work and get expert feedback
Research the successful artists and art directors in your genres of interest. Go to events where you can meet those people in person and ask for their feedback. For what I do, I would go to conferences like Spectrum or Illuxcon. Even if you don't know what genre you should go for, just showing your current portfolio and asking for advice is a phenomenal way to make significant strides forward. You'll receive insights that will help you take the next step in the right direction.
3. Set "Mile Markers" For Yourself
To see the finish line of your work-in-progress would be nice, unfortunately, this is not always a possibility. Set "mile markers" for yourself instead. They will serve to place you along a route from Point A to Point B. By following the markers, you will save yourself from unnecessary frustration and wandering. For example, I have steps that I loosely follow for each illustration being created. If I didn't have the steps, I wouldn't know how far I'd have until it was complete. Following each step lets me know how much farther I need to go. Steps, or markers, are solid progress notifications that keep you moving forward.
"Genius is nothing but a great aptitude for patience." Georges-Louis Leclerc, Conte de Buffon
You've opted to play the long game. Don't expect to see rewards right away. This route requires a lot of hard work. Consistency, quality, output. Be patient with the process. Be patient with yourself. At first, people won't notice you. Then, they will, however, their tendency will be to suppose you'll only be around temporarily. Not you. You stay. Not only do you stay, but you continue creating and putting your work out there. Eventually, people will come to recognize and acknowledge your efforts. Your intentionality will draw people to listen to what you have to say, but only after you've built a track record that proclaims, 'I'm sharing my insights and experience with you and I am here to stay.'
"It does not matter how slow you go, as long as you do not stop." Confucius
In 2016, I worked a desk job at an insurance company for a year. During that time, I created only two illustrations. Looking back, I feel like I failed, but the facts speak otherwise. I may have created only two, but I haven't stopped. I'll keep creating until I reach my goals, and then set new ones. You can too. Don't give up.
You're doing better than you think you are. Keep going!