LISA MALTBY
LONDON BASED ILLUSTRATOR & LETTERING ARTIST

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Welcome to my blog where I post about all things creative, from my latest food illustrations, design work and hand lettering doodles, to articles about freelancing and creativity. I hope you like my posts.

Dear Bernard... Here's why I'll continue to be 'unprofessional'

dear bernard lettering

Dear Bernard,

Thank you for taking considerable time to write your post "Is Getting Over Ourselves Ever a Sure Thing?" where you wrote a step by step assassination of my latest blog post: Things I've Learnt About Pricing Creative Work. In it you described my post as infantile, whiny, psuedo honest and unprofessional. You wrote that I am too enamoured with myself and my talents and not grown up enough to be in this industry. I could go on with the other insults but I wouldn't want to cause anymore of the rhythmic banging your head on your desk that you describe based on my apparent unsuccess. How's is your head by the way, Bernard?

Admittedly, I am pretty unprofessional by your definition of the word. I probably should have opted for writing a ten step business plan instead of pinning a crappy little print on my wall saying 'wing it' on the day I registered with the Inland Revenue (bet your head's going crazy now, right, Bernard?), and I probably should have started a blog with a post about Van Goghs early influences instead of one called 'Why I Will Always Be Honest In The Creative Industry'. But, Bernard, it didn't stop the work flowing in. See, I write these posts and still make a living. I buy my children school clothes and I treat my friends to coffee. And as far as I know, they don't bang their heads against anything or smash their latte cup over their head when they see me.

I even have a mortgage, Bernard. See how grown up I am?

Here's the the thing though, Bernard, a lot of my clients liked the blog post - they found it funny, even. And those that didn't probably stopped working with me way before I started writing posts about my professional struggles (for the purpose of this blog post, let's use the term professional loosely here, Bernard). My clients work with me because they like my honesty and transparency and we have developed good working relationships. One of them even called you 'a bit of a tw#t,*' Bernard. Imagine that? An art commissioner saying such a word. I nearly wrote him a step by step critique of why he was unprofessional but I though you might like to do that instead.

*it wasn't twit.

 Where the  self-entitled, selfie  attitude began: me winning the Otley carnival art prize in 1989. I demanded a Curly Wurly and an ice pop on the way home. it's been a slippery slope downhill since then.

Where the self-entitled, selfie attitude began: me winning the Otley carnival art prize in 1989. I demanded a Curly Wurly and an ice pop on the way home. it's been a slippery slope downhill since then.

 The illustration I pinned on my wall the day I started my business.

The illustration I pinned on my wall the day I started my business.

Now, I'm not one for personal assassinations, Bernard, I'll leave that to you (and my clients). Despite my honesty I have never once mentioned any client names in relation to any negative experiences I've had in the industry. I write so as to be honest and helpful to give a leg up to those who may have experienced similar struggles as me. I support and encourage those coming into the industry enabling them to ask questions and, hopefully, enable them to feel like they're not on their own. If that causes clients to rhythmically bang their heads on tables so be it, but I think my clients appreciate working with someone who actively challenges the industry and shows a bit of passion. I had an overwhelmingly positive response to my unprofessional blog post. No other tables (or heads) were harmed in the sharing of the post.

posts
posts

And guess what, Bernard? While some prospective clients may be put off by my honesty, they are likely to be the type of people who think we shouldn't admit to having any weaknesses or making any mistakes, or perhaps they are people who take themselves a little too seriously (must be all that head banging). The so called 'Millennials' and 'Generation Z' are getting a lot of stick for their love of honesty – being broadly labelled as 'naive' and 'immature' in approach. But these are exactly the people that the advertising industry wants to target. Art directors want to work with people who connect with this bunch of so called 'Imature and inexperienced people', who crave authenticity. They are no longer fooled by professional bullshit; they want the real deal. The future of the creative industry lies with them. You can roll your eyes or embrace it. You can walk away or encourage.

And as for being bitter and whiney, I admit that when my kids eat all my toast in a morning I can get a little hangery around 11am if I've not got any biscuits in the studio. But that's as juicy as it gets. Though I was admittedly disheartened with my first unsuccessful job application over ten years ago, or the many rejections that followed, I didn't once bang my head on a table. Instead I worked my ass off. I worked late on my own where no one watched or cheered me on (you hear those violins, right, Bernard? Because I take them everywhere). And when I had children I was told I could wave goodbye to my career along with my flat stomach, but it only made me work all the harder. I went to portfolio meetings on four hours' sleep (on many occasions not realising that I had baby vomit splattered on the back of my jacket. I mean, I'm so unprofessional it's embarrassing).

But here's the thing, Bernard, when you report of my perceived unsuccess, I got work. And i'm still getting work. And while many old-school professionals didn't take me seriously in my field of work, many have been more than happy to commission me, and they are more than happy with the results. Though you seem to have been born knowing how to price your work, for me it has not come easily, as is the case for hordes of other creatives. It has been hard to find people who are truly honest with me, which has made me all the more determined to be transparent with those coming into this industry - to give them support and and honest outlook on life in the creative industry.

And when you mention me being too enamoured with myself and that I have a 'selfie' attitude to my work and money, if that was my main incentive, I wouldn't have stuck it out in the creative industry. Nor would I have found importance in working for charities and organisations for very little money, because I have always wanted my working life to have purpose and give something back to those around me.

 Doing art projects with children in Morocco. For free. I wore the same clothes for three days because my acrylic paints exploded in my suitcase on the flight there.  How unprofessional.

Doing art projects with children in Morocco. For free. I wore the same clothes for three days because my acrylic paints exploded in my suitcase on the flight there. How unprofessional.

 Here's me and my kids by this elephant I painted which sold for £7600 to raise money for the The Children's Hospital Charity in Sheffield. I had to see that money go towards saving lots of children's lives instead of taking my children to Disney Land, Bernard. It was so unfair.

Here's me and my kids by this elephant I painted which sold for £7600 to raise money for the The Children's Hospital Charity in Sheffield. I had to see that money go towards saving lots of children's lives instead of taking my children to Disney Land, Bernard. It was so unfair.

    This isn't me when I'm hangery, Bernard, it's a man holding one of my prints that he personally screen printed as part of a  project  that helps to teach the homeless screen printing skills. All the profits of which raise lots of money that go back into the project.

 

This isn't me when I'm hangery, Bernard, it's a man holding one of my prints that he personally screen printed as part of a project that helps to teach the homeless screen printing skills. All the profits of which raise lots of money that go back into the project.

 Me encouraging a group of millennials, Bernard. How naive.

Me encouraging a group of millennials, Bernard. How naive.

 Here's me at my first exhibition. I sold every painting, Bernard. And then, I gave all the profits to  The Snowdrop Project  - a charity that helps survivors of sex trafficking. And perhaps I was highly  unprofessional  for drinking too much wine that night, but no one banged their head against a wall or called me self-entitled.

Here's me at my first exhibition. I sold every painting, Bernard. And then, I gave all the profits to The Snowdrop Project - a charity that helps survivors of sex trafficking. And perhaps I was highly unprofessional for drinking too much wine that night, but no one banged their head against a wall or called me self-entitled.

And the thing is, Bernard, that aside from these things, I make a decent living out of working as an artist. Sometimes I pinch myself at just how incredibly privileged I am, but it hasn't come without a lot of hard work and challenges, as I'm sure you will have experienced yourself. And while you think I'm not mature enough to stick it out, I'm in this for the long haul.

So you see, Bernard, I think you chose the wrong person to pick on. Because I'm doing alright so far. And I will continue to be honest in my journey and share my highs and lows. If I irritate all my clients along the way, I'm more than happy to re-apply for the supermarket job I had in order to afford to go to university all those years ago. I'm a grafter like that, Bernard.

 Here's one of the sketches I did when I worked in a supermarket. Funnily enough, he was called Bernard too.

Here's one of the sketches I did when I worked in a supermarket. Funnily enough, he was called Bernard too.

ps. Thanks for counting how many times I wrote they in my last post, Bernard. To save you counting, there are 7 instances in this blog post. 

pps. How's your head?