Howdy Do It – Week 11


During my last year of college, I took a required class that broached the subject of what the heck one might do with a fine art degree. On the first day, the professor handed out a list of jobs he’d had. It was two pages long and included teacher, sculptor, plumber, electrician, construction worker, waiter, and many others, some related to art and some not. And then he said something that I think about all the time. He said, “if you want to make art, you shouldn’t go into an art-related field.” His point, from his own experience, was that working a creative industry zaps you, makes creativity feel like a job and a chore. If making art wasn’t that important to you, then maybe a career in a creative field would be the right thing. I took that to heart.

However, after trying both design/art related jobs and jobs that weren’t, I know I don’t agree. Personally. The truth is, I guess I’m not very good at switching back and forth… if I’m going to exercise the artsy half of my brain, it’s got to be done regularly, daily, as much as possible. Although I don’t paint or make wood cuts or art installations anymore, I can now immediately jump into a crafty kind of project after work. As soon as I began working as a designer, I started sewing curtains, placemats, and tote bags, and I signed up for a ceramics class. Because I’m creative for work, I don’t have to switch gears afterward.


But, I’ve also found that it’s easier for me to lie to myself and say that I don’t need to make art because my job is my art. That designing invitations, websites, and packaging fulfills that need. It doesn’t always. Last weekend, inspired by this, my husband and I bought a bunch of colored duct tape and starting wrapping cardboard. I was really stuck on a couple of my work projects, and doing something creative off the computer was just what I needed. OK, so it will probably end up in the closet, but whatever, because it was so much fun to make. It felt like being a kid, when you start playing with your toys and then suddenly hours pass and you’re not sure where they went.

The next morning, I was excited to delve into my design projects. I had all this new energy. And the main thing is that I know I’m on the right track. Spending all day looking at art and design, blogging about it, and designing is necessary for me if I’m going to ever make things in my spare time.

So how about you? Does working in a creative field zap you, or make you more more likely to pick up a paintbrush or camera?

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Howdy Do It came from “how do you do It,” the question Ellie & Margot found themselves asking about their freelance lifestyles, and so Howdy Do It was born, a weekly column about the things we do to keep ourselves organized, inspired and on track. Ellie will be here each Monday, and Margot will be over on Mint at the same time.


Laura B

I think it zaps a little of my creativity. For example, I just started working on a design business, building it through Etsy and all that fun and work. I normally make holiday and birthday cards for our family and friends and when it came to making Valentine’s Day cards this year I just wasn’t as inspired about it because I’ve been sending my creative juice on my illustration designs.


it is so true! doing something that isn’t “on my list” creatively fuels me. it gives me a chance to just play around and look at colors not as work but as inspiration. i often take a mini break in between illos to do something for me that may just end up on the studio wall. for no ones else’s eyes but my own- but isn’t that why we started in the first place? nice post.


Sometimes I feel like I can’t be creative when I’m off the job. Thankfully, those times are few and far between. I like to go to work and work on creative stuff there, and then when I come home the creative things I do are for myself and the ones I love. It’s a nice balance.


I think it comes down to how draining your regular job is. I have a BFA, and in the 10 years since graduation, an odd list of (mostly) art-related jobs: gallery director, psychic, picture framer, jewelry designer, and freelance design – and you can track how productive I was outside of work by the amount of emotional/physical stress balanced with pay. I thought that if I was doing my own work full-time, it would be more fulfilling for me – and while I managed to earn as much as my last full-time job, it was twice as exhausting because of the stress of making ends meet and that I had to sell, sell, sell – making the design aspect of my work tedious. I am now working as a full-time designer 40 hours a week with great pay/benefits, and I feel like I can be more creative now in my offtime – do more couture, more creative things, then strictly worrying about sales – AND b/c I work for a very big name company, I get to see my dayjob designs everywhere, so even more satisfaction.

please sir

I’ve been doing some fun things with this same duct tape and really enjoy the instant, creative ideas you get from it. The colors are great, it’s affordable and c’mon…you can do anything with duct tape. I wish my job was more creative and crave that creative high you get from a project. I feel like if I’m going to be doing a job, then it should be creative so I can do what I love and be immersed in it each day. I strive to find that job and balance.


I almost always have some creative project going on outside my work, but it is never the same variety as the paying gig. For instance, when I was doing interactive/flash design and programming, I’d come home and animate in after effects and c4d, reveling in the relative freedom. When I’m doing broadcast board design and animation, I’ve been all about screenprinting, letterpress, and drawing. As long as it isn’t the same technical aspect, I still find the creativity freeing and there’s always a new skill to learn.

Amma Brown

I guess I have to just wait and see when I graduate in May with my BFA. I think maybe art related but not totally “creative” field is what I will go for, like working at a gallery or in a museum. I feel like I would be inspired to create after seeing others’ creations.

Classes are kinda like that too. Sometimes its hard to work on a painting or print thats just for me. It happens, but rarely. Sometimes like Meghan said, it helps to switch it up. When I’ve been in the studio too long sometimes it really opens my creativity to just walk outside and take some pictures.

Will Miller

working as a designer and striving to make something honest/authentic/fun is always a frustrating pursuit for me. I, too, find myself thinking, on days when i’m just burned out, that it’s ok to rest. take a break. turn off from making something fun because my 9 to 5 can be considered a form of art making. those times are when i feel at peace with the fact my profession is so close to my heart. but those other days, when everything i make happens to be for jerks, scammers and/or dark-hearted people, i feel good i can always turn inward and make something for peace of mind. It always seems a battle and I always find myself wishing i was doing more of the one i’m doing less and never satisfied with either. that lack of satisfaction is probably what pushes me on on both sides of the coin and also makes me a bit of a crazy perfectionist workaholic. if i didn’t care about it it wouldn’t be what i consider my art or my craft.


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