my 2019 art journey wins and fails

My Art Journey: Wins and Fails

A new year has just started, and it’s the perfect moment to review 2019 so you can face the next months in the best way possible. Ask yourself what went right, what went wrong, the things that worked, lessons learned…

And that’s what I’m gonna do in this post: I’ll go over my art journey in 2019. I started working as an artist, got my first freelance client, launched my Patreon, this website and more! Hope you can learn from my wins and my failures and apply them to your personal situation. Are you ready?

Let’s rewind.

2019 was my first year working as a full time artist. Taking this leap of faith hasn’t been easy because all the misconceptions about the so called “starving artist” and other similar prejudices.

When I finished my Architecture Degree I knew I didn’t want to work as an architect, so I searched for other studies I really liked and entered a Master in Graphic Design. This one was closer to my preferences, but I didn’t find my true passion until I discovered pattern art and realised I wanted it to be my job. And that’s where this story begins!

business cards (graphic design)
Business cards design I created during my Graphic Design master

More than a year ago (in 2018), with my Master in Graphic Design already finished, I was confused and looking for my true passion. I decided to participate in the Inktober 2018 challenge (click here to know what is Inktober about) and drew one pattern a day in my sketchbook. The experience was amazing, I enjoyed a lot and also got great feedback from my followers on social media. So I decided to continue down that path.

inktober 2018 - prickly pattern
Prickly pattern (Inktober 2018) by me @mariopatterns

Burning out.

I did some research trying to figure out how to make my career in pattern art. One of the options was printing my patterns on products (like clothing, mugs, notebooks…) so I discovered websites I could use to do that, like Redbubble or Society6. They take care of all the printing and shipping process and you don’t need to make any investment, but your profit margin is also very low.

I spent the last months of 2018 and first months of 2019 digitizing my Inktober sketches, learning how to make them tileable patterns and uploading them to my shops in those websites.

At the same time I started running my newsletter, writing blog posts on Medium (that you can now read here on my website blog) and posting daily on Instagram. I worked for many hours a day, every single day of the week, and had no time to rest. I grew a lot on social media and sold a few products on my shops, but I felt something wasn’t working. I wasn’t taking care of myself and had no real focus or marketing plan. I was spending all my time on the computer and not on my sketchbook.

laptop sleeve redbubble
Laptop sleeve from my Redbubble shop

Finding the confidence to teach on Patreon.

I read a book, “Marketing Playbook” by Lisa Jacobs. It made me think about the importance of knowing how to promote my work (sometimes even more important the the work itself) and helped me find some focus. I had to define how could I help people, the content I needed to create so I could as helpful as possible.

During all the years I spent at the Architecture school I got used to the creative process, generating lots of ideas, finding references and interesting concepts and expressing them through drawings. I realised that was my strenght, so I had to share it using drawing guides and exercises to inspire people to create. And Patreon would be the crowdfunding platform I’d use to distribute those guides.

I created a Doodle Inspiration Kit and 2 more guides to build a Trihexagonal Pattern and a Water Lilies Pattern, and offered them for free to my newsletter suscribers so I could test if they liked them. You can get a FREE WORKBOOK if you’re interested.

free doodle starter pack
Some freebies I created

The feedback was again very positive so that encouraged me to launch my Patreon on May 2019. I was feeling very insecure about it, but 20 people joined during the first days so I felt so validated and happy that someone was willing to pay for something I created. Since that day I’ve been creating Pattern Guides every month for you, and even if I can’t make a living from that yet… it’s been super rewarding and I have no plans to stop anytime soon. You can check out here the guides you get on Patreon for a small subscription fee.

I collapsed.

In June, all those months working non-stop got to me and I finally collapsed. There was a personal issue that triggered an anxiety attack and I decided to visit a therapist for the first time in my life. And let me tell you, it was the best decision I’ve ever made.

With the help of my therapist, I started to reflect on myself and realised I wasn’t a machine and needed to practice self-care. I decreased the number of hours I worked per day, and started taking days off and doing things that made me happy. I also realised the power of doodling to calm me down when I was feeling anxious, and determined I wanted to help everyone feel the same relief.

At the end of the summer, I lived one of my highlights of the year. Pilot contacted me to collaborate on 3 posts for their official Instagram account. They were my first big freelance client and ended up very happy with the result. Here’s 2 of the pieces I created for them.

islamic tales pattern pilot
neon lights pattern pilot
Some of the posts I created for Pilot

Pushing myself to create a website.

The partnership with Pilot made me see that I needed a portfolio website to contact other companies and move my art career forward. So in September I started building my own website having no idea of how to do it.

Meanwhile I felt I needed to improve the drawing guides I was offering on Patreon, so I started including step by step instructions and practice sheets in the Doodle Workbook instead of just the final result because I knew that would be more helpful to people.

I also initiated the #PhotoDoodleChallenge where I wanted everyone to look around, take interesting photos and doodle based on them (if you want to join and need help, I send out free challenge prompts to my newsletter subscribers every month).

I finished my website (the one you’re in right now) a few days before 2019 ended after a long frustrating process. I created it on my own starting from zero and I think it’s one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. That’s why I’m so proud of it and I’d love to look around and visit my tutorials portfolio, about me page or the blog.

how to doodle a snowflake
how to doodle a deer
Some of my doodle tutorials on Patreon

Lessons learned.

To sum up, I’d like to recap some things I learned during 2019 that I think could be helpful for you too.

> Self-care goes first: before work, success, money, followers and everything else.

> If you want things to happen you need to put yourself out there, even if you feel vulnerable and insecure. It won’t always work out but it’s the only way to move forward.

> Every difficult process takes time, don’t try to rush things or feel a failure just because you didn’t get to your goal the first day.

> Knowing how to promote your work and talk about it is a topic no one is comfortable with but is a important skill to have.

> A job that is also your passion is not the only option but it’s the one I chose. It takes courage and not everyone will agree with your choice.

It’s been an intense year. If you’ve been following my journey, thanks! Hope the new year gets you closer to your goals. I’m here if you need help or advice. HAPPY 2020.