clarity vs. obscurity

I have been phasing between clarity and obscurity, like the sky.

It has become very clear that obscurity is my true opponent when it comes to making a living in London. It is me against obscurity as I try to create a network of friends and colleagues. It is me against obscurity as I try to define exactly what it is I am trying to accomplish here. Obscurity clouds drift between me and clarity of purpose.

I have been drifting without destination, not just a drifter by default, but a dedicated drifter. I never graduated from fashion school and said “I’m going to be a Fashion Illustrator!”. Instead I tumbled from temporary job to temporary job, while posting my illustrations online, until I had enough clients that when I got laid off at my last “real” job I just shrugged and stopped seeking. I’ve never done the traditional route of chasing art directors, sending out promos, etc. – that would be too direct. Instead I inhabit fashion blogland, where self-promotion is an indirect art at best.

The past couple weeks, confusion finally caught up with me. London is like university in a lot of ways, and I haven’t been doing my homework. The ultimate master’s thesis for all of us is ourselves, isn’t it? Except I didn’t have a clear thesis statement, my notes were a mess, my abstract was too abstract, my subject was too subjective, and it was already four months (!) into a two year course.

If London is like university, Toronto was like high school. At a higher level, the obscurity is both an opponent and an advantage. I don’t have an established reputation I have to redefine, I get to start fresh, like a freshman. (freshwoman?) However, the approach that sufficed in a second-tier fashion city just doesn’t cut it in a fashion capital. There is a cultural adjustment that happens that nothing can really prepare you for. The way I worked in Toronto – the way my clients found me, the way I blogged, the way I drew – all need to be revised. I have to completely reinvent the way I do business, now from zero.

Luckily, it isn’t literally from zero. I have skills, I have experience, I have clients, I have a portfolio. I have a blog with a significant set of archives. So what to do with what I’ve got?

There are thousands of talented fashion illustrators in this city. When I try to suss out what the difference is between the ones who are successful, working illustrators and the starving artists, the greatest factors seem to be talent and tenacity, signature style, personality and positioning. Essentially, what separates the contenders from the crowd is the same thing that applies to bloggers, designers, and every other competitive, creative, independent field. For lack of a better word: better branding.

So I ask myself: what type of fashion illustrator am I, where do I belong? I have been playing around with a lot of different mediums and styles – for my professional work, I need to focus more on the style I love best. I am an illustrator who is fascinated with technical detail and construction, intention and attitude. I am an illustrator who loves the classic fashion figure format. I am the designer’s illustrator.

I am lucky because I am not just an illustrator – a significant part of my “personality and positioning” is wrapped up in blogging. Last week I took a long hard look at my blog and was dismayed. Like any blog that has been established for a while, it was cluttered and unfocused. I had let it drift too long into obscurity. I have been struggling with blogger’s block for a while, even if it isn’t apparent. It is time for a ruthless gutting.

So I’ve decided that I’m going to write the blog I’ve always wanted to read. I consider the early years of Gaping Void to be formative of my blogging philosophy – Fashion-Incubator has been a long-time mentor – more recently I’ve been following White Hot Truth. What these blogs share is candour, an exploration of making a meaningful living approached with curiousity, vulnerability, and ambition. The blog I’ve always wanted to read takes those tenets and applies them directly to seeking an independent, creative fashion career. Final Fashion is that blog, I just didn’t realize it until now.

Yesterday’s post stripped it down to the real place I am starting from. The new subheading breaks it down into five words:

drawing lessons for fashion freedom

There are so many fashion blogs out there, we all know this. So few go outside the borders of “how fabulous is my life”, “look at these shoes”, “OMG drama” to tackle the how and why of fashion ambition. In real life, everyone I talk to is obsessed with the same thing: how to make it in fashion, and we are not hungry for tips on landing the “dream internship”, we crave a genuine exploration of realizing creative potential in this fascinating, unusual industry.

This Monday morning I woke up with the sun feeling a greater sense of clarity than I’ve ever felt before.

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10 thoughts on “clarity vs. obscurity”

  1. Really strong couple of posts! ‘OMG drama’ – is funny, and true. Some are consumed by it to such an extent, they’ve forgotten they aren’t characters in a terrible soap. As far as I’m concerned, the only drama I like, is the weather.
    I’m pretty sure that if you write what you want to read, others will keep reading too.

  2. So awesome, Danielle. Love the self-talk/writing you’re doing – no doubt you’ll be able to stand out from all the other fashion ‘noise’; both in London and internationally.


  3. “I’ve decided that I’m going to write the blog I’ve always wanted to read”

    Yesyesyes! I’m so looking forward to this new direction, and I hope it helps you find that clarity you’re seeking. Let us know how you manage to work that magic – I could certainly use the insight, myself.

  4. D,
    I think you are so brave. I mean really and truly.
    I’ve been wanting to move to London for so long now, it seems like some ridiculous and constantly elusive dream. I’m starting to think it’s because fear at failing at something I want to do so damn badly will simply ruin me. Combine that with my love for a fickly industry I can’t help but wonder if I am setting my self up for certain death. But by reading your blog, and how honest you are, I can certainly say you’ve made me feel stronger. Sometimes we need to jump off a cliff to see how far we can fly.
    Wishing you all the best, and can’t wait to see what’s in store for you next!

    xo Kiwi

  5. Hey Danielle, love the honesty in your posts…Almost seems like through posting your challenges you lead yourself to the answer during the process. I thought that was really awesome.. I certainly know obscurity believe me.. I liked how you decided what you want and what you know you do best “I am the designers illustrator” ..Maybe making it in the bigger sea full of sharks is about knowing what you are, what you do best, and what you want??? Keep posting 🙂

  6. Danielle,

    Thank you for your honesty.

    I’m so glad you’re now writing the blog that you want to write. I’m so glad you’re staying true to yourself and to what you’re learning. I’m so, SO glad you’re posting about the things that no one talks about in the fashion industry. One of the things I never talk about that you wrote about yesterday is the need for alone time in order to enjoy your time with people…that is something I often experience, and I feel grateful that I’m not alone in that.

    Keep searching, and we’ll keep reading.

  7. Thank you all for your comments. Yes it really is like I am thinking out loud – thinking out loud is so much better when people respond to it! I’m glad that you’re all enthusiastic about the new direction. I am too.

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