Tuesday, 12 June 2012

A New Direction?


I've been giving a lot of thought to what I want to do with my time these days.  For over three years I was secretly planning on illustrating children's books and in between being a Mama I tried to create lots of child themed artwork for my agent's portfolio.  It was always in the back of my mind that this was a Big Thing I was aiming towards and that it could happen at any minute and totally transform my life.

Alas, as those of you who read a recent post of mine will know, my agent and I have gone our separate ways; the financial climate has made it a tricksy time for getting book deals, and with less books being published and more artists clamouring for the same few jobs it was always going to be competitive.  My agent is a lovely woman who tried her absolute best and Im really grateful for the opportunity she gave to me when she took me on.

I'd be telling and enormous lie if I said that I wasn't upset when I first heard.  I felt deep disappointment and the dream I'd focused on for so long dissolved before my eyes.  It wasn't long either before those inner critics bubbled up to the surface with their negative thoughts ~ was it my work that wasn't good enough?  Was it my style?  Had I not produced enough work?  Am I just not good enough??  Of course, this was a knee jerk reaction to a Big Change.  I soon calmed down and was able to focus more clearly on the positive aspects:

I knew that the publishers who had seen my work loved it (a HUGE boost to morale) and I'd been 'discussed' on a couple of occasions for working on books.  For different reasons, and not for lack of trying (on both sides) the elusive book contract just never materialised.  Maybe I could have produced more work, maybe I could have studied the market in more depth - I could have done a whole heap of things, but I know I did my best at the time and gave it my best shot.  That, in itself, was good enough for me.

The other morning I was doing something rather ordinary (drinking coffee and watching the squirrel mucking about on the shed roof) when I was hit with a thought:

I'd invested a whole load of energy into something that I thought I really wanted to happen.  The very fact that illustrating children's books was a real possibility became a huge thing in my life.  Suddenly, that opportunity wasn't there any longer - there would be nobody taking my work to show prospective clients, nobody batting on my behalf anymore.

And right then I realised I felt space.  A big wide space which had been taken up with yearning and hoping and aching.  Right then there was space to think about What Happens Next? And I began to wonder which direction I wanted to take my life in.

In theory, I could do anything I wanted to.

When something like this happens to us, it's easy to immediately blame ourselves, feel angry or negative about the situation and let it eat away at us - but sometimes, the truth is we've got to travel our path and these lessons are sent to take us to the next level.

I'm a firm believer that where one door closes, another door opens.

A week later, a gallery contacted me and asked if I'd be able to exhibit some coastal themed work at their up and coming exhibition in July called 'By the Seaside'.  I'm now preparing my paintings, having them framed and ready to deliver up to Leeds in a couple of weeks.

Having this new space in my life to play with has allowed me to look at what I really want to do - do I really want to illustrate children's books?  Maybe one day yes.  Right now?  I'm sitting with the thought that appeared as I sat quietly in the garden the other day listening to the river gurgling over the stones.


It's as simple as that.  So that's what I'm doing.  That's what I love to do best.

Have you ever had a disappointing situation that has turned your life into something for the better?  Please share your stories in the comments, it's always lovely to hear from you.

PS ~ Just before I go, I want to let you know that my Blog has made an appearance in a fabulous one off publication called Simply Crochet!  It's on sale from Thursday 14th June in all good newsagents *excited face*

Look - here I am (at the bottom, in the middle) - lovely write up too!

See you next time x


  1. Hi Julia,
    I always love reading your blog, it fills me with calm and makes me look at what I am doing too. I'm sure I heard somewhere that the Chinese do not have a word for Bad News, their word means Opportunity, or something like that... (please correct me if I am wrong!) and I like to think that life throws these things at us for a reason. Congratulations on your exhibition, I'd love to visit it.

  2. Wow, what a great blog, to share that defining moment and its meaning. i can relate to those disappointing moments, the negative thoughts and the life changing things that materialise from them.
    Good luck and thanks for sharing Julia x

  3. Julia - having illustrated over 100 children's books since leaving college (some WERE weeny!) I have not had a contract for 2 years, despite the best efforts of my agent and a few trips to London for me. However (and it's a big however) I've filled my days to the brim with painting big canvases which is something I'd yearned to do for years. I'm happy and fulfilled and am delighted at having had the time to re-invent myself. I always think that if it's meant to be, it'll happen. Onwards and upwards!

  4. Hi Julia,

    Your post today really struck a chord with me. I remember upon graduating trying to lug my illustration portfolio around to secure an agent or work or anything!...it all seemed to be an uphill struggle and being young, restless and naive I took a sidewise job in the advertising industry and ended up there for 12 years, putting my desire to draw and paint on hold. I'd almost given up hope of fulfilling my dream to earn a living from mainly drawing (that's all I've wanted to do ever since I saw Tony Hart on TV as a kid!). Then I grew up and took time out to have my babies and I saw everything a bit differently. My time working in ad agencies taught me that you don't really need an agent if its meant to happen for you. I've found putting yourself out there and having a go and going with the flow of whatever opportunities feel right, has got me on course to finally fulfilling my life long dream. Keep painting Julia, I can see that galleries are a good home for your beautiful paintings, particularly coastal ones....and you never know who might spot your work in a gallery and where that may lead...never give up and just keep creating :) Best wishes, Angie x

  5. You know what....it's the big publishers LOSS!!! And you know what...you've already sucessfully produced a fabulous self help crafters book....so why not go ahead and self publish your own picture book.....even if it's just to show the publishers that you can do it and that it's totally fantastic!!! and boy will thay want you!! You already have a great following of supporters who will buy it. Times are changing , yes and it's costly to have a book in print....make an e book...create your own app....you can do anything!!!
    I had a similar goal re my picture book stories/illustrations...but as soon as I started my 'smudge' business, they didn't seem so important anymore and I now I'm not so focussed on one thing and welcome any and all oppotunities no matter how far off my 'life check list' they are! My plan is to put my picture book together and self publish, promote it and sell it ...then show da big publishers what they're missing! teehee!!
    Congratulations on your exhibition! Your art is fantastic!!! best of luck in everything you do and may the universe shower you with wonderful creative opportunities and an abundance of happiness!! Ciara xx

  6. Good luck with your new direction Julia. Well done on getting in the crochet magazine too. Why don't you pop over to my blog sometime? It is getting rather lonely over there with lack of visitors!!! x

  7. I am sorry to hear you've had to go separate ways with your agent, but I am glad you have found such freedom from it. At the beginning of this year I put all my "big" dreams on hold and decided to just create for myself. It has been the most freeing thing! (I still have too many ideas though haha!)
    Helen x

  8. Thank you for this post! I have had the same thing happen to me about 2 years ago and it is hard to let those dreams go, but indeed, more doors open. You have given me hope that more doors will open for me and I'm looking forward to what will happen! Love your blog!

    Blessings - Julie

  9. I think maybe there is a lesson for me there.

  10. Keep your chin up. Everything really DOES happen for a reason. The rough spots will fade and as you say, new doors will open.

  11. Lovely to read your blog, I'm so happy for you. It's lovely to find that moment in ones life when things suddenly become clear and allow a refocus. I felt like this when I lost my parents. I was consumed with grief and the future seemed so unclear. Changing my focus from the past to the future helped me get through. I have travelled more and live more in the moment now. I take joy in small thing and know that my parents helped make me the person I have become.

  12. What's that quote from Johnathan Livinsgtone Seagull....? Something like " what the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the Master calls a butterfly"...? It's all a question of perspective.

    It's great to see that you have so much clarity on this and can see the space created by the changes you would not have chosen for yourself.

  13. I always believe when one door closes another one opens. It is always for the better. Still pursue your dream of a childrens book. It just isnt happening now. your work is beautiful and very different. Its your own. To be in a gallery is great and you never know where that will lead to. Follow your heart always. did I say" YOUR WORK IS BEAUTIFUL.

  14. I love your art! I think you would make an excellent illustrator of children's books. Maybe you should write a story for children, and self-publish your book. I've heard Amazon has a deal where you can list a book, and they will print it as it is ordered. I haven't looked into it. Keep on painting, because your work is very special!

  15. Hi Janine, just wanted to thank you for your kind comment - and for the tip off about Amazon, that's something that I'll make a note of for future reference; for now Im painting canvases of the sea and keeping things simple until I figure out exactly which direction I want to go in. Thanks again for writing, love J xxxxxxx

  16. Your email serendipitously popped in to my inbox after a horrid day of disappointment and immediately gave me a lift - thank you! I wish you the very best for your exhibition and love your work!

  17. I know what it feels like when things don't turn out the way you had hoped and I wish you all the best for your future. The huge space that you now see in your life is a place full of hope and new choices and possiblities. At times such a space will all possiblities can be quite frightening - which one to pick? But I believe if you stay yourself and fill yourself with hope and confidence there will be new doors and even exciting new doors that open on their own. No willpower of force necessary. It will happen at the right moment in the right time at the right place. I wish you lots & lots of luck!


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