Dawn DeVries Sokol
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Never Thought I’d Be HERE Now

Some of you might already be aware of my coming-of-age art story. When I was a girl, I was told I’d be a writer. My brother was designated the artist by teachers and adults around us. I used to go with my mom to drop my brother off at whatever art studio he would take summer classes at. I loved the smell of oil paints, the way the light threw itself through the windows onto the bare floors, and the quiet chatter of students and teachers. But I also felt it was so unattainable, that I lacked the talent, the ability to draw.

Fast-forward, er, 30 years. Here I am. I’m no Michelangelo or da Vinci or Frida, for that matter. I am ME. I LOVE what I do. I slipped through the back door, made my way in the roundabout, and came upon it as a fluke really. Who knew I’d be here now? That graphic design would lead me, that the design actually came about THROUGH my journalism background. It was KARMA. I now believe I was MEANT to do what I do.

EVERYONE is creative. You don’t HAVE to do it as a career to be. Many artists play in their spare time, the time AFTER the daily grind. They just make it some part of their life. I remember watching Project Jay, a one-time spinoff of Project Runway, that showed how the show’s first season winner, Jay McCarroll, dealt with the show’s aftermath and his career. (I really wish they had made more episodes because I love Jay and his work.) He talks about how when you love doing something, when it’s a part of your soul, you HAVE to do it. He says, “If you have passion, you should probably take advantage of it.” I also think you don’t worry too much about what others think, you don’t worry about people looking down their noses at you. I did that for a while. I worried that people were looking at me, saying or thinking I wasn’t a REAL artist. But what IS a real artist? I’m beginning to realize it’s someone who follows their passion, they just do it, they DO overthink it sometimes, they have creative ruts, blocks, and whatever. They make it work for them. They do it no matter what. They don’t worry that many people think a “real” artist paints or draws realistically and everything else is “craft”. They just DO it. They realize there are all kinds of art and artists.

I feel like I’m at a crossroads. I felt that way last year, when I wasn’t getting much design work and was thinking of a real change. Something still creative, but not book design. But that feeling fell on the back burner this year when the design work began to appear again. Thing is, the book design work is my bread and butter. And I LOVE it. Yet I’m increasingly feeling as if I need to learn some new skills, such as web and interactive. Or branch into licensing. Or develop my type illustration. I LOVE that new doors opened this year, such as writing for Cloth Paper Scissors Mag, a DVD workshop shoot, and teaching at CREATE. I want to do more of the writing, although I feel like my “focus” is more prompt-driven and not technique-driven.

What are your goals for yourself? They don’t have to be career-oriented. But if you’re not evolving creatively, you’re not being true to yourself. I think we all need to evolve so that life doesn’t get stale. Why just work, draw a paycheck, and exist from day to day? Some have found, though, that by bringing their creativity into their work life, they’ve turned it into a “job” and therefore have killed the fun. I think it’s all how you look at working. You need to find that balance of creative and work. I know sometimes I get so overwhelmed by feeling as if I need to be creative all the time. It just isn’t realistic. I see artists who seem to be creative ALL THE TIME. How is that possible? It’s a high expectation to live up to, and if we try to, we could burn ourselves out.

So I say, go with your heart. If you’re feeling creative, go with it. If you’re not, that’s fine, too. The feeling will return. And if you feel a pull in a certain direction with your creativity, explore it. Leave your heart open and the creative spark will light a fire. Ruts are definite, they are real, and they do happen. If you never hit a rut, then you’re a wunderkind. And don’t ever tell yourself that you won’t be or aren’t creative in the way you want to be. Look at me. I was told I wasn’t artistic. I couldn’t draw a stick figure. I finally overcame that feeling. Sometimes it starts to creep in. That’s OK. I just look around me and realize it’s silly. And it’s all good.