Hello, and welcome to my not-sure-how-many-step-plan towards becoming a professional creative entrepreneur. In these blogs, I’ll be writing about how my first year after graduation progresses. My name is Ellis and I just graduated from ArtEZ in Zwolle as an illustration designer. I also just moved to Hilversum. So that’s been a lot of changes recently. And to be honest? It’s pretty scary. Graduate life sometimes feels like learning to swim. Sure, I had all the swimming theory classes. But reality is something else.
I graduated with a project that I really enjoyed making. It was also difficult – not everything works exactly the way it should – but I’m still very happy with it. For my graduation project, I made a ‘Wheel of Fortune’ that people can spin. The wheel will stop at a symbol, linked to a video that will start playing. All the videos are about insanity and absurdity in a rational world. How not everything has to be 100% clear or correct all the time. It’s my small protest against a drab, outcome-focused world.
When I started my program at ArtEZ, I didn’t expect that I would graduate this way, with videos and a wooden wheel. Instead, I expected that I would learn how to draw and paint and use other techniques. And even though we did have classes in portrait and figure drawing, that didn’t turn out to be the primary focus of the program. Rather, the focus was on learning to let go. Learning to be creative. And god, that’s so difficult. I’m a real planner by nature, someone who thinks a lot before acting. To allow myself to be led by my intuition, to accept that things don’t have to be ‘beautiful’, to let colors clash and forms inflate, was a really big step for me. But looking back, that first year was actually very important. I wish that somebody had just said: “it doesn’t matterwhat you create, but rather that you create something.” Maybe somebody did say that at the time, but I wasn’t able to hear it yet. That would be my advice to any fresh first-year students: just create, no matter what it looks like!
Now, I try to apply the same mantra to the things I do. Just start! I can keep procrastinating, but then nothing will happen. So I just start and try to keep busy. People can only see your work if you keep making it. So that’s what I’m doing. I participated in a very fun little artist festival (festival Waanzin) in Hilversum with my wheel and costumes. It was delightfully non-pretentious, everything was super low-budget and still really great. I am also working on the Young Alumni program of the BNO (Association of Dutch Designers) so my work will be shown at section-C during the Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven. Then I have a meeting with the Katoenclub in Utrecht, so in a couple of months I hope you’ll be able to buy my work on a T-shirt as well. I also just opened my own webshop and you can subscribe to my new prints! (https://www.shop.ellistolsma.nl/) Recently, I made my very first quotation; and I bought a book about how to start a creative business.
It doesn’t contain anything you wouldn’t be able to find on the internet, but it does feel like you’re working well and seriously when you’re browsing it. Oh, and of course I’m writing these blogs, which also counts as keeping busy. Other than that, I’ve just been looking around. Making connections (although it isn’t my forte and I can see that the art world also has a bunch of people that I don’t really connect with) and updating my social media. The strange thing is that I’m very ambitious, but I don’t really have to do anything big. I don’t have to be famous. My real dream is just to work, full-time, at a place I can share with other artists. Maybe with my own graphic design studio and a little garden close by. Where I can hang out and paint and riso print. Where I can work on challenging commissions that keep me busy. I would love to paint a mural once. And to put my work on some interior design would also be amazing. I also want to keep doing prints and booklets. And to issue my own tarot deck, which I’m now working on. And I can’t wait to work with wood again (in my small and noisy house that’s become a bit of a problem). My dream would be to work at my own studio, without having an extra job on the side. But you can only get there step by step. At any rate, I’ve started swimming. Let’s see how far I get !