Q:is it true that "Maybe ever'body in the whole damn world is scared of each other." (John Steinbeck)? [even if you don't wanna answer, or don't know how to, it's still a nice quote :) ]
I think everybody in the whole damn world is scared of being rejected by each other, more than they are scared of each other.
Q:Hello, I am currently a second year undergrad studying graphic design. I would like to know what work experience you gained from external companies whilst at University yourself whether it be an intern, placement etc and also, how did you promote yourself as a professional creative after graduating?
I am kind of the worst person to answer this question. I lied about going to work experience at uni, and made a fake project to prove that I had been. My course asked us to get work experience outside of our chosen field anyway, because they were “wacky” like that.
I’ve met a lot of people since then who have done internships and work experience, and to be honest I really wish I’d done more. I think it’s definitely valuable to get “real life” experience while you’re at uni, because you can easily forget that real life is going to be there sooner than you think. For a lot of people it’s also a really great foot in the door. I know plenty of people who got their first job as a result of work experience.
There’s a new magazine you should read called intern: intern-mag.com
It’s all about internships in the creative industries. I’ve not read a copy myself, but it looks really nice and I’m sure it’ll have some useful information and opinions in there.
As for promotion, I didn’t really do anything special to promote myself after graduating. I just applied to a load of jobs all over the country and took the one I thought would be best for me.
I sent out my first self-promo as a freelancer last year, which you can see here. I think the best method of self promotion will always be making good work and showing it to people, so that’s what I try to do.
Q:How successful are your books? Do you self publish? If not how did you get your book deal? One last question, are sales of your books higher online or through traditional book stores?
I keep meaning to write more posts about this, because I get asked about book deals and things a lot. So I’ll do that at some point. But for now, here goes…
I have no idea how “successful” my books are, mainly because I’m not sure what a successful book is. That depends on what you’re using to measure success, and who is in charge of the measuring tape.
For me the major success is that I have books out there in the first place. I’m not even close to being rich from my books and I never will be. But I never really thought of money as success anyway. I am very aware of how important money is, and how much I need of it to exist. But having a lot of money has never been a goal of mine. As long as I have enough money to have “everything I need and a few of the things I want” I’m all good. I do make money from my books of course, but I’m sure it is much less than a lot of you imagine.
I know this will sound like bullshit, but another big success for me is getting emails from people who have bought my books. I get a lot of messages from people about them, and each new one is still an amazing and humbling experience. It’s a massive success to me that anyone chooses one of my books from the hundreds of millions they could have chosen. When they take the time to email me about it afterwards it blows my mind.
I haven’t self published a book yet. But I’m thinking about self-publishing Quoteskine Volume 2 at some point, so we’ll see how that goes. My first book was published by a UK publisher called Carpet Bombing Culture, and my second book was published by Perigee Books, which is an imprint of Penguin USA.
Both times I was approached by the publisher, which some people would consider being lucky. But I really do believe that you make your own luck. On an extremely basic level, the thing that got me both book deals was making stuff and showing it to people. Obviously that’s a massive simplification and I did lots of other things too, but I’m trying to keep this answer short. So I’ll write some more in depth posts about things like this in the next few weeks.
As for online vs traditional stores, I don’t have any concrete numbers. But I would take a guess that my books sell better online.
Q:You're not insignificant ok.
I wasn’t being melancholic, we are all insignificant.
We are tiny little specks, on a tiny little rock, hurtling through an unimaginably vast universe.
That’s insignificance, and it’s beautiful.
Q:How would you explain your basic life philosophy?
Insignificance is bliss.
Q:what are your favorite books? what are you reading right now?
Q:Just to say, I ordered your book 'the art of getting started' and it arrived this morning. I'm looking forward to starting it! It reminds me of Wreck This Journal actually, and I enjoyed that. It just challenges the perfectionist in me and that's quite tricky! :P
Thanks for buying the book! I really hope it helps you out, or at the very least is fun to work through.
It is really hard to tell that perfectionist inside you to shut up. I always struggle with it, and it’s stopped me trying a lot of things because I was afraid I’d never be as “perfect” as I imagined.
But recently I’ve been trying to embrace the imperfectionist that’s inside too. Perfection is always really boring, well at least I think so. I hate things that are shiny and smooth and look like a computer made them rather than a person. One of my favourite quotes on this subject is by Margaret Kilgallen:
"Even though I do spend a lot of time trying to perfect my line work and my hand, my hand will always be imperfect because it’s human. And I think it’s the part that’s off that’s interesting, that even if I’m doing really big letters and I spend a lot of time going over the line and over the line and trying to make it straight, I’ll never be able to make it straight. From a distance it might look straight, but when you get close up, you can always see the line waver. And I think that’s where the beauty is."
I agree with that, learn to enjoy those wavering lines!
Q:I'd just like to say that I really appreciated your latest post. Very honest and, oddly, inspiring. Thank you. :)
Thanks, it was much darker than I intended it to be when I started writing it. But it felt good to write, and I’m glad it was oddly inspiring to someone.
I am always pretty honest on the whole. But it’s still easy to get caught up in that modern condition of only sharing the good things and always projecting positivity, especially when you’re someone who uses the internet to promote their work.
I get so many messages from people who ask for my advice because they see me as someone who has “made it”, and It’s easy to go along with that. I am doing ok on the whole, and I can see how I look like someone who is in a position to give advice and encouragement with some kind of authority. And that’s what I tend to do, I genuinely believe all the positive advice I give people, it’s all the truth and is based on my experiences.
But I think it’s equally important to show people the other side of that. Life is hard for everyone at times, and I think we’ve become almost scared to admit that these days. Especially when we achieve any kind of “success”.
The internet makes it all too easy to see your dreams, and how supposedly easy it is to achieve them, so it can be a real kick in the teeth when you realise what a struggle it is. I take great comfort in knowing that other people struggle too, especially people I admire and look up to.
happy ok to admit that it’s a struggle for me sometimes. Hopefully there’s people out there who take great comfort in that too.
Q:Do you have someone you would consider a "best friend?" If you do, what qualities do you like about them the most? If you don't (I'm available for the role), what qualities do you like most in the people you surround yourself with?
That’s a really good question.
I have a few people I’d consider best friends. It’s funny, I always think that they’re really different people. But now I’m thinking of their core qualities, traits, and beliefs they’re actually very similar in a lot of ways.
I think the main qualities I like about them are they’re all honest, funny, open-minded and smart. I think all of those things are massively important in friends. Being inspiring is a good quality for friends to have too. All of my best friends are inspiring in different ways, and pretty much everyone I’d consider a friend of any kind is inspiring too.
Q:You've probably already answered this but I'm new around here, so... hi Lee! My question: How do you make a living? Do you have a day job? Love your work and online engagement!
I have answered it a few times I think, but how I make a living tends to change anyway. So it’s always worth answering it again.
I guess I’m “officially” a freelance illustrator and designer. So I’m self-employed and I work for a bunch of different clients. I kind of do anything and everything that comes my way though really. So it still feels a bit weird to say I’m an illustrator, or designer, or both. But I can’t think of another good word to describe it.
In 2013 I finally got to the stage where I was working on more projects that I enjoyed than projects I didn’t, which is awesome. So I’m working hard to make sure that trend continues in 2014!
Last year my new book played a big part in how I made a living too, and hopefully there will be more books in the future.
Q:What's the best way to do daily drawings without getting discouraged?
I think the first thing to do is define what you want to get from the project.
Do you want to get better at drawing, hone a particular style, try a new technique every day, be able to draw more realistic people, etc, etc…
I think the easiest way to get discouraged is to have no boundaries set. My boundaries, or “rules”, when I started out were that I would draw a quote a day in my sketchbook using felt tip pens.
The biggest stumbling block I had to get over was accepting that a lot of my drawings were/are shit. When I first started the project I genuinely didn’t think anyone would see these drawings. They were just for me, and putting them on a blog was simply a way for me to learn more about html and css.
So when I started getting a lot of messages telling me I was shit, I was like, oh yeah I am a bit shit maybe I should stop.
But then I went back to what I wanted to get out of the project. The big thing I wanted was to get an idea out of my head and onto paper everyday. The law of averages says that if you do XXX drawings then YY (or even YYY) of them will be shit.
And now I’m ok with that. I still post a bunch of drawings here I don’t that particularly like, or that are “technically shit”. But I never intended to do shiny gorgeous illustrations. So that’s fine, I’m getting what I want out of the project.
So I genuinely think that is the most important thing, and the only way you’ll stick with it. Right from the start, be clear about why you’re doing it, and keep reminding yourself of that fact. Over and over.
Q:what are your favorite books? what are you currently reading?
I’m currently reading Tai Pei by Tao Lin and I am drowning in commas.
I should probably add favourite books to my FAQ page, because I think I’ve answered it quite a bit. But anyway, some of my favourites are:
- Naive.Super - Erlend Loe
- Doppler - Erlend Lore
- Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas - Hunter S. Thompson
- It Chooses You - Miranda July
- The Book Thief - Markus Zusak
- Submarine - Joe Dunthorne
- The Perks of Being a Wallfl…
In fact, you can see a list of my favourites on GoodReads (sorted by rating)… I only started adding to this recently, so I’m still trying to remember what I’ve already read.
Q:How did everything happen for you? You've probably answered this before, but i'm always intrigued as to how people make it, and what was the most difficult challenge you faced?
Well I don’t feel like I’ve “made it” especially, I’ve talked before about how the internet gives us all a rose tinted hue. But I guess to some degree I have made it, I suppose it depends what your definition of making it is.
I definitely feel like I’m closer to making it as an illustrator/artist/other than when I was in a full time job. But I was closer to making it as a real life adult when I had a full time job.
ANYWAY, to answer your question, I have no idea. I don’t think there’s any one thing that helped me to get where I am, there are endless factors. I think a lot of it is down to luck and timing. But I also had to have talent, ideas, drive, ambition, and plenty more to make the most of that luck and timing.
Making it takes so much longer than the internet would have you believe. You just have to stick with it and believe in what you’re putting out into the world. I think the main reason anyone ever makes it in any field is that they don’t give up. It generally takes years of not making it to make it, and a lot of people aren’t ready for that.
The best example of that I can think of is sport, so many people have potential to make it in sport when they’re in school. But the people who do make it are the people who don’t get distracted by drinking, taking drugs, smoking, girls/boys, being cool, etc and work really hard instead. I don’t think hard work alone is the key to success, but it’s definitely a good start.
There’s a great quote from Lionel Messi about making it… "It took me 17 years and 114 days to become an overnight success."
I feel like that applies to everyone you see on the internet who has made it. It’s all down to working hard, sticking with it, and being ready to make the most of any opportunity that comes your way.
As for the most difficult challenge, every difficult challenge I’ve ever faced has been of my own making. The most difficult is normally convincing myself to get out of bed each morning.
In answer to your second question: What do you class yourself as: Designer, illustrator, artist or none?
I put illustrator on my business cards last year, because that seemed to fit best and I felt like I needed some kind of title. I think I’m more of a “creative” really than an illustrator or designer, but that sounds horrendous. So this year my plan is to not have a job title, make the work I want to make, and see what happens.
Q:What keeps you going? You have said in the past you don't have an significant other; do you have any children or family that really keeps your drive?
You’re right, I don’t have a girlfriend at the moment. I also don’t have any children, but hopefully both of those things will change in the future.
I think my family and friends do deserve a lot of credit for keeping me going. Family wise I have a mom, a step-dad, a brother and a sister who are all incredibly important to me. My dad died when I was 20 and, as silly as it sounds, that definitely made me appreciate my family much more than I did before that day.
My sister also gave birth to her first kid 3 weeks ago, so now I have a beautiful niece that I’m sure will help to keep me going too.
I also think I keep myself going, and I’m starting to give myself more credit for that. I think we should all give ourselves more credit for that. It sometimes feels like the bravest thing we do each day is to get up and keep going.
And, it might sound lame, but everyone who likes my work keeps me going too. So thanks.
Q:How do you get yourself out of a slump? Not so much limited to a creative block, but when you are literally not motivated to do anything at all, even easy things you used to enjoy/to do when you procrastinated.
- Hate myself.
- Wallow in it.
- Eat gross food.
- Cry a bit.
- Convince myself I’m the worst.
- Stare into space.
- Drink some water.
- Feel a bit better.
- Get on with it.