Things money can’t buy

Note: This was a post that I wrote for a local student magazine a few months back which I think would be useful to share here too. Enjoy!

Thomas Bayrle

Whenever I step into a classroom, the first question that I get asked is this: which profession in the design world makes more money: animators, graphic designers, or illustrators? Or how about multimedia artists or videographers? My reply was that there’s plenty of ways to make money – lots and lots of money perhaps. Not all of them are in the design industry. But all of it comes with a price. Heck, sometimes jobs that make the most money aren’t even legal, and you can bet that they’re dangerous. So again. There are plenty of ways to make money – not all of them are good. So herewith the question beckons: why all this talk about money first?

I can understand – I was once a student myself.

I was once so poor that I had to split a plate of economy rice with my friend. For those who don’t know what economy rice is, it’s a shop where they have 20-30 different kinds of side dishes that go with rice, ranging from meat dishes to vegetables, to other condiments. It’s popular with students because it’s fast and cheap – just grab a plate of rice and scoop up whatever you want and go to the counter to pay for what you’ve scooped. Back to the story: we had RM2.00 between us left for food. We went up to the lady in the restaurant and showed her the coins we had left and asked her what we could have from her array of dishes. I wasn’t sure if it was pity, or understanding – but she scooped what ever was left over from a few dishes and gave us each an egg to top it all off. We were thankful for the meal and conveyed our thanks to the lovely shopkeeper – whom we fondly patronised for as long as we studied there.

We weren’t flush with cash. We didn’t have shopping malls. And we didn’t even have McDonalds around each corner (this was in the year 2000). Money was tight – purchasing art supplies, books and endless trips to the printing house made sure of that. Whatever was left we scrimped on food. Bread was a staple at the time too – when we’re running out of time and cash, nothing fills you up faster than a roll of chocolate bun with a sticky black pseudo-chocolate filling with a side of lukewarm water.

It’s all very different now, of course. You have malls, left, right and centre. Fast food kiosks as far as the eye can see. Gourmet restaurants abound; and you’re spoilt for choice. Temptation in its many forms that clue you in on what money represents. And that’s just food. Let’s not even wander into the fashion industry, or the giant virtual malls that reside within the internet – one that offers a gateway to everything and anything your heart desires; open and available 24/7 with a mere click of a button and a working credit card.

I don’t blame you at all for thinking that cash is king. Money buys you lots of things. It buys you good food. Rad clothing. Fun toys. The best equipment and art supplies. And all these things make you happy. It’s a rather straight forward equation. Or is it?

The thing about money though, is that it doesn’t buy you freedom. When you’re doing things purely for money, you’re a slave to it. And it becomes your master. You’ll find yourself slaving away for him, in exchange for something that won’t be able to buy the things that truly matter. Things like love, friendship and time.

We’re living in a time where we constantly consume. We don’t create as much as we should, and this is a shame; because if we’re not creating, we are most likely consuming instead. Our eyes are fixated on screens while our wallets are empty. Our hearts grow heavy with greed; an endless, bottomless pit that desires more, more, more. The indescribable emptiness that spreads across our chest even as we move from one novelty to the next. One day we’ll find ourselves wondering what happened along the way that made us lose more of ourselves, little by little, piece by piece.

We’re all essentially broken – in fragments and bits, scattered around us in the people we love, the places we live in and the experiences we’ve yet to discover. Gathering those pieces and putting them together is what makes us human, and it’s what makes us special. We’re made up of everything, and yet we’re nothing. Money is merely an enabler and not the destination.

Do the things you’re good at, and the things that you love. Pick up the fragments and pieces of yourself through the work you do, so that you may put yourself back together. Figuring out how to do it is the best part about growing wiser. In the beginning you will be poor. You might have to share a plate of economy rice with a friend to get by (I hope not). But you’ll do better. The trick is to get better at the things you love, and to be nourished by the things you learn and the experiences you pick up along the way. Always endeavour to leave a mark. So much so that other people start to notice and respect you for what you do, and why you do it.

And you’ll realise along the way that the “why” isn’t always about the money.

It rarely ever is.

[Illustration: Thomas Bayrle]

One foot in front of the other

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We’ve all been there, haven’t we?

We made grand plans. Big, big plans. Ginormous plans that make us toss and turn at night, giddy with excitement. Plans that you try to hide inside you that could just burst right out of your chest in a big bloody showdown, much like in the movies. You know,  Aliens-style. But instead you grin. A secret smile that only you know why.

There’s a list. There’s even a list of lists. A list so long that you continuously add to it until it becomes this snake of a paper trail that makes you beam even more in excitement.

A dance in the dark, a skip here and there.

It’s BIG. Oh yeah.

But then.

Nothing happens. You might cross one thing, or two off that list. But then you forget.

Days pass. Weeks. Months. And then before you know it, it’s been a year. Where did the time go?!

I’ll tell you where it might have gone:

Kids. Chores. Being a household manager. Dogs. Cats. Canaries. Parents. Relatives. Simply put: we all have lives outside of our dreams.

Full-time work. Part-time work. Freelance engagements. Contract work. Shitty day at the office. Hey, all valid – we need to eat, don’t we all?

Facebook. Twitter. Pinterest. Youtube. Etsy. Ebay. No? Really?

It’s easy to let other things creep into the cracks of our already fragile plans, hopes and dreams. Nothing is holding them together quite yet.

It’s easier to see what’s right in front of us, and wanting to settle the problems that’s plaguing us before we can even try to grasp something that isn’t quite there yet. Not yet.

It’s easier to say we don’t have enough time, instead of being ruthless with how we spend it.

No time is ever perfect, no situation is ever calm enough. The baby will cry, the dog is sick (and probably vomiting all over the lawn), your house is in a mess, and you have 20 tabs open on your web browser. You’re everywhere, and yet you’re nowhere.

Breathe in. And out.

Close your eyes.

Lie down.

Face down if you feel like it. (it helps me sometimes)

Take some time to think about that BIG dream you’ve been holding on to. 5 minutes. 10.

And when you get up, instead of going straight to your kid/dog/chores/*insert whatever needs your attention*, how about you take that one small step and cross one thing off your list?

No matter how small.

One step.

And wouldn’t you know it: you’re already on your way, getting back on track.

[Illustration credit: Hilarious comics by Sarah C. Andersen]

Work/Art/Play – registration ends tomorrow!

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Some people have asked me why I came up with the Work/Art/Play online class. And it’s a great question because it was something that came together quite organically. It was a result of me being underwhelmed by the students that I taught in college – who I felt lacked real-life strategies and were unprepared for the world beyond graduation. Turns out it wasn’t just my students who had issues. A lot of artists mentioned to me that they had the same problem – no matter if they were self-taught or if they had studied the field before.

And so it all began.

Three years ago when I first taught a bunch of students at a local college, I didn’t know what to expect. I knew that I was supposed to teach them about creativity, and that I had 3 assignments that students had to complete in one semester. These assignments were to increase their creative thinking skills as illustrators, and while all 3 of the assignments were different in execution, the fundamentals of the projects undertaken was similar: how to create work that would sell.

As we ran through the assignments (I had designed them specifically for the class), I had more and more students come up to me – a lot of whom were overwhelmed, scared and unsure of their capabilities. Some weren’t even sure if they’d want to continue being an illustrator after they graduated, citing the lack of local opportunities and the horror stories of not being able to afford feed themselves and keep a roof over themselves as a new graduate.

So apart from tutoring them on the assignments, I began to include snippets of information and profiles of artists who were changing the world, one stroke at a time. I taught them new concepts and undid outdated ones – trading old beliefs with new ones that were positive and ones that served to propel them forward as opposed to ones that held them back.

Entrepreneurship seemed like a far-flung concept to them, one that was intimidating and hard-to-reach. So I started from the bottom, and slowly built a foundation that was easy to digest, and one that allowed to build their own future. The process wasn’t a quick one, I’d tell them. It would take time. But if you knuckle down and continue to build your dream slowly – even if you maintain a full-time job, the result could be quite magical.

It would happen before you knew it. You would inch closer and closer to being able to create the life you wanted. That you’d be able to work on the projects that you’re interested in, and you wouldn’t have to compare yourself with others because you’d be working on things that you believe in. Having the option to choose the work that you’ll do, and to be able to select clients would no longer be a dream. It would be real. You would be able to dictate your own time and enjoy your work.

So here’s what I’d like you to ask yourself:

What would you do if you could work on your own terms? How would it feel? What would you pursue?

What if you could learn strategies that work for you as an artist and illustrator in this modern day and age? What if instead of focusing on tactics that merely give you a short-term high, you took a good look at your career and plan out how you’d like to spend your days – in a fun, productive manner? What if I told you that you could take proactive steps to make your dreams come true instead of wishing for something or someone to aim their gaze on your portfolio and website, and then bless you with just 15 minutes of fame?

What if you could take control of that process, so that it’s thought out and methodical, instead of holding out on your work to get chosen because of a fluke?

I’ve designed Work/Art/Play to give you a roadmap on what you can do to effectively put your goals and ideas on track. I want you to make a difference. I want you to feel excited as you jump out of bed in the morning, and instead of merely waiting for other people’s approval of your work, you find the right people to connect with.

It’s a full on, 6-week immersive online class that’s now open for registration until tomorrow, Friday 7th August 2015, and everyone from anywhere in the world can join in. If you’re looking to build your own illustration empire instead of merely being a pencil pusher for someone else, then this is the perfect course for you.

Registration has ended, thank you so much! Click here to sign up to be notified when the next session begins!

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