Post-Uni Blues

Education to Employment

My last blog post was 5 months ago, which sheds light of the nature of this of this post. I discussed how I had chosen to quit my PhD after much contemplation, in pursuit of a career where I could utilise my skills while learning independently. I mentioned how I had gone to an interview in London for a job role as a graphic designer for a menswear company, and was awaiting the outcome of the interview with much anxiety.

Complexities in my situation arose when I received a phone call the following day, inviting me for an interview as a content editor for a Newcastle based Menswear Company. I attended, and then on the same day was offered the role in London, which I accepted. While I was flattered that I had be chosen for the role, I was also filled an intense sense of dread at the uncertainty of the situation – having to relocate to a new, busy, city in the space of 3 weeks, leaving my friends, girlfriend and family behind – also migrating from an area that I loathe but have grown unhealthily comfortable (much like that of a marriage that is continuing for the sake of convenience over love). Anxieties over finding a new place to live on a 20k salary in the capital also arose, knowing by default I’d be in shared accommodation on a low-budget, in a city that I find intimidating due to the combination of its number of residents and my own social disabilities.

Following my Newcastle interview, I was given a Photoshop asset test, and 4 days later I was offered the role. Though unsure of what it would entail in full, I chose the Newcastle job, which despite being 2.5k p/a less than the London role, allowed me to be situated closer to those I love, and have some time to save for accommodation which I could utilise as a studio for my illustration – in addition to developing my own skills in the role.  My logic in choosing this role, (which is less creative than the other), was that neither job where a ‘dream job’ (i.e. freelance illustrator/artist), but both developed opportunities for skill development and increase my chances of further employability. Since neither where ‘perfect’ roles as such, I chose convenience over chaos, although It turned out not to be as convenient as it seemed.

Regardless of which role I chose, my intention was to do freelance in my free time, utilising my income as financial security while I hope to progress my freelance work. What I hadn’t considered was the carnivorous nature of full-time employment on time – not just the 9 – 6, 5 days a week aspect of the role, but the current commute that I’ve been doing since January, which takes 3.45-4 hours a day collectively. I’ve been living at my family home since January, while saving to be able to live somewhere independently in August/September with my illustrator friend. The location of my place of work is far from my home, and so after spending an hour in the gym and a making a very quick meal (more often than not a salad, for ease, health, and convenience) I have enough time to shower, and then have around 20 minutes of leisurely time – if I want to get to sleep for 11pm and assure 6 and a half hours sleep. This current routine makes being an active artistic practioner extremely difficult, and this shift in conduct leads to critical self-reflection, and ultimately to learning (or trying) to become comfortable and confident without having attachment to the notion of being an ‘illustrator’, or at least not a particularly active one.

Chasing the Dragon

The absence of creative output that had come as a result from my lack of opportunity to express it in the ways in which I am able, has forced me into a new lens to examine both myself and my work.  The questions arose; am I still a creative if not being active in practice?  Does being creative depend on the familiar route of output (illustration), or is it more a force that drives action and intent for other aspects of life? Is it enough to live creativity, with the absence (or limited practice) of action?

While I have produced a number of freelance pieces since beginning my full-time job, there has been little opportunity for developmental work. The pieces I have done have been enjoyable and great as technical exercises, but don’t ‘break through’ into the realm of creative exploration that my previous work has allowed me to in an academic context. While this perhaps may not be observable to those unfamiliar with my work and my process, it is to myself. My self-reflective methodology proved useful in a university context, but amplifies the suffocation felt from the ‘real-world’ working experience – resulting in a greater hunger for expression, and the feeling of a sense of greater restriction.

A selection of the work I have produced is discussed; the following piece was produced as a T-Shirt design for the spoken-word artist, ‘Scroobius Pip’, trying to use semiotic references to the esoteric and visualise with graphic clarity some of the abstract (but humble) philosophical ponderings of his works.

Scroobius Pip T-Shirt Illustration by Adam McDade

Similarly, the following poster produced for ‘The Psychedelic Society’ shows a less subtle reference to Hindu mysticism and it’s associations with psychedelia using similar techniques. The portrait and quote is of the author and researcher, Graham Hancock, and the posters purpose is to attempt to destigmatise some of the contradictory laws regarding psychedelic medicines and sovereignty over consciousness.

Graham Hancock poster by Adam McDade

Both these illustrations came about through exploring how the portrait (which I have come to form a comfort with) can be pushed into a new visual realm that is relevant in terms of both visuals and concept. The starting point was the following portrait of the French philosopher Jean Baudrillard, drawn directly onto a postcard from Dijon, France, in the 1920’s.

Jean Baudrillard by Adam McDade

While new methods have been slowly developed over the past few months, the methodology that I have found most successful in the past has remained somewhat stagnant. The work I have and am producing is satisfying on a level of practice, but not quite as much as a creative outlet.

With time restrictions stealing any opportunity for illustrative exploration, and thus creative satisfaction in the discipline, I have had to consider alternative outlets that are also convenient with my cyclical, socially consuming routine. As mentioned, I travel 4 hours a day, 3 of which are on trains, and so a benefit of this is that I have read a back catalogue books that I’ve had stored for a while but never got through. Most the topics are centered on my interests; consciousness, philosophy, psychedelic, etc. In addition to the fiction of Kerouac, Bukowski, Huxley, and Kundera, and esoteric texts such as the Bhagavadgita, and books on Buddhism.  As with my previous work, much of my inspiration has come from these areas of interest, and has manifested itself within my visual work, and the imagery with which I visualise concepts in accordance. While my hope is produce as much as I can, the current situation that I’m in simply doesn’t allow for that. The ‘flow’ state that is accessed when producing illustration has become a rarity, as the time to work has been limited to a few hours a week.

“The serenity to accept the things I cannot change, The courage to change the things I can, And the wisdom to know the difference”.

An alternative opportunity to focus on writing has arisen however. My job is computer based in its entirety, and with the temperamental nature of public transport, I assure that I arrive around half an hour early to allow for any delays that might occur in my journey. I have begun to utilise this time to get back into writing. This blog post has been written over a week on the mornings prior to work. Although this staccato style method of writing does interrupt rhythm, the flow of thought is constant, and so doesn’t affect the practice as much as getting into the headspace of producing visual work.

The blog from now will continue to be largely centred on my visual work, however with the frequency of the production being limited (at least for now), it will also include thoughts that arise from considering working in a ‘proper job’, and how that affects (both positively and negatively) the psyche. As previously mentioned, the attachment to the concept of being a creative is challenged in a job where you perform repetitive tasks (even on Photoshop). My intent is to elaborate on my attempt of figuring out my role (and identifying if there is one) in a culture that I don’t feel a direct participant of (both environmentally and in a broader cultural context). I hope to push visuals in the foreground and not lose sight of my aspirations to become a freelance illustrator exclusively, but think that while I’m on the journey, I might as well relax and make the most of the ride.


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