I am a crappy illustrator. I realized this the hard way, after graduating with an illustration degree, taking a few insultingly low-paying jobs ($25 for a spot that took five hours was probably one of my professional low-points) and deciding that one of my worst fears had indeed come true--I'd devoted four years of my life studying something I wasn't meant to be doing in the first place. Fortunately, I recovered from this emotional blow, and found that I drew better when I didn't have the pressure of earning a paycheck associated with my art; and my work continued to evolve as I kept doing it, as it tends to do. And I still love illustration. I even love the way the word sounds (so flowery!), and looking at the work of other illustrators to steal color schemes and ideas. And although I failed at being able to draw for a living, I flicker with pride when I tell people I have an illustration degree, and bristle when I read art reviews that deride work for looking 'too commercial.' Illustration forces you to take shortcuts, to get your work to communicate directly, but still artistically--two objectives that can clash in a medium that often relishes in being vague.
As a result, I am now by default a "fine artist" which means I get rejected from galleries instead of art directors. It's a somewhat unnatural title, but I don't mind it at all if it gives permission to draw whatever I feel like, without needing to consider what I'm doing it ahead of time.
I was thinking about all this tonight as I stared at a blank sheet of perfectly square paper and tried to come up with some ideas for a show I was going to submit to this weekend, which required your work to be based on a well-known female artist. Since I draw so effortlessly now, I was certain that I could at least crank out a few decent starts, but I found myself facing the same dilemma I had when receiving an assignment from an art director--the moment there were parameters I had to adhere to, I was stuck. I drew some awkward looking shapes, sipped red wine and listened to an audiobook while starting off into space; I contemplated taking a nap and remembered that I had to run to the drugstore before it closed (which I did, but not before ruining both sides of the expensive paper with false starts).