This is the fourth in the series of 5, of how I found my calling, if indeed it’s been found. After a few summer jobs that defied economic laws, a college party that lasted four years, and that first job that I got because of a pair of boots, I had decided to face my fears and try myself at being an illustrator. My dream… Vs reality :
After a few months of doodling, resketching, tossing stuff in the garbage and starting all over, I finally got some illustrations together that more or less resembled my first book.
I took a deep breath and decided that it was time to show my sketches to some professionals. I bought my ticket to Paris.
I’d already been, of course. I’d visited on vacation and always thought Paris was beautiful, rainy and… totally snobby. But I knew it was there, and no where else, that I would meet the people I needed to meet to move me along.
My friends insisted on giving me contacts and people to see and I refused all of them. Not because I was against getting help, oh man, no way, not at all. It’s just that I wanted the people I was showing my work to be as honest as possible.
I combed through magazine staff pages and in my most refined voice, called all the artistic directors.
Oh my god, it was so terrible to tap out those numbers. I felt so dumb soliciting these people with my work that had never received any kind of recognition.
During my first trip to Paris, I think that I must have had… One interview, max. People just didn’t have time. Ah. Yeah. I should’ve suspected as much. But hey, I was there, I had all my time. Time to go knock on some doors.
Of course, it was hard. Of course, it was raining. Of course, I spent a lot of time gawking in the pretty boutique windows (Aaaaah Colette!!! I’ll have to tell you all about it!!!) and broke as I was, Zara totally seemed like the promised land.
But I wasn’t the slightest bit sad. I had a dream.
I never dared to dream before, and I so I knew just how precious it was. My dream gave me life… It gave me courage.
And even if a lot of doors stayed closed, there were a few that opened. Each time, even if it was only five minutes with an AD, I learned so much. Even the AD secretaries taught me a lot! And in the end, I found that Paris wasn’t as gray as it seemed.
I came back with so many opinions and so much guidance. I knew my work was mediocre at best, but I had an idea how to make it better. I knew more about my newly chosen career. I had set foot in a few magazines, and a little face time with some artistic directors. My dream, facing real life.
It was tough still, I mean c’mon. Every three months, I went back to Paris for another cold shower.
I remember meeting the coolest illustrator. She told me so much… And you know, the thing that stuck the most? She said becoming an illustrator takes 10 years. Bollocks.
In the mean time (Goodness, this story is so long!!!)(tell me when you get tired of all this!) I started my first web site so I could share some of my drawings a little easier. The same way I learned how to draw by myself, I learned how to do my dot com all by myself. I learned html, all alone. I didn’t know just how much it would all come in handy… until later.
At the end of the year I had given myself to try being an illustrator, I got a phone call.
To this day, I still don’t believe it.
It was one of the best illustrator agents in Paris. She saw my site on the internet and wanted to meet me. I know you’ll believe me when I tell you that I started crying, and then drank some champagne, and then cried some more, more champagne, and then called my mother, more crying, and then… bought my ticket to Paris.
I remember so vividly the day we met.
It was in the middle of winter. It was 10 degrees outside . I had my favorite jeans on, a pair of black Moon Boots and a nice thick parka. I had my book in hand and visions of a glimmering future. I was so cold and oh so very very intimidated.
I went into her office. She gave me an amused look, took a quick look at my book, asked me a few questions, and then after a few minutes, she says to me…
“You’ll never make it. You don’t have the right look.”
Even 10 years later, I’m still taken aback by her comment. What seemed so utterly mean at the time, so snobby, so out of place… Merde. I was there to sell my sketches, right? Not to sell myself!!! I was beside myself.
I didn’t understand until much later what she was trying to tell me.
I didn’t understand until much later just how right she was…
Translation : Tim Sullivan