Tuesday, 11 September 2012


I can only think about one thing at a time.

This is not easy to admit. I like to feel as if I have six sets of hands, all frantically working away at something different. But I'm pulled up short by the realisation that I only have one brain. Just the one. Sure, it has compartments; but there's still an organisational scheme of sorts, with each compartment fitting into a bigger box, until finally there are two. 'Work' and 'Not Work'.

In my usual day-to-day life it feels as if I do lots of things. But designing prints, printing prints, photographing prints, sewing bags or cushions, washing fabric, fiddling with pricing spreadsheets, updating online shops, packing orders, writing about prints on my blog: those are all parts of one thing.

Illustrating is a completely different thing. A whole complicated set of different things. Drawing, obviously, but also corrections, faxing (I know), scanning, delivering artwork, research, checking research, re-checking research, endless emailing of the same questions to the same people over and over again, and more admin than seems quite appropriate.

For people juggling a day job and a maker/designer job this is surely normal. Brain = 'Not Work' + 'Work' + 'Other Work'. For me, it's a stretch. Were this my regular life, I'd have come up with a system or two, perhaps even a timetable. If illustration were a full-time job, I'd have a schedule. I might not stick to it rigorously, but it would exist. Alas, educational illustration is not a full-time job. It arrives for a few months every year (and not even every year) and demands total commitment. Deadlines mean nothing, and everything. By the time the jobs start, they're already over deadline, and there's no way to schedule anything. Everything is urgent, everything needs to be done in less time than it actually takes. Everyone involved is panicking and over-worked.

I care deeply about good illustration, particularly good instructional illustrations, in school books, and feel proud and pleased to be able to contribute towards good books and education in general. The work also pays good, hard, cold cash, which my other work doesn't do very regularly. So I'll probably keep doing this.

If I could find a way to balance the two sorts of work, life would be good. Unfortunately, everything about educational illustration is beyond my control, so when it comes along I just have to swing with it. And do just the one thing.

And when it's over, pick up the threads of the other work again, and carry on where I left off.

I'll be back. Just not sure when.


Jan | Daisy Janie said...

We'll be here, Jesse! Ya gotta do what ya gotta do, whether your brain or your time want to play nicely or not. I appreciate your talent and am glad that you have differing ways to create work from it. xo

Sonya Philip said...

I struggle with balancing. Better to focus on one thing and do it well, rather than too many pots on the stove! (And you are absolved from comment responding too!)

Anonymous said...

Guess what, you actually have two brains. Left and Right. Do whatcha gotta do. X

Jesse said...

Okay, okay... one mind, then.

Jenny said...

I hear ya! Good luck with stuff :)

Ruby in the Dust said...

Good luck Jesse; you're a machine and if that's how you get there I should take a leaf out of your book! i just try to do everything at once and the result is plenty of unfinished jobs...