Do what you know

Words and illustrations by Jenni Mazaraki

What is it that you do well? That thing that comes so easily to you that people are always saying, “Oh you’re so good at that!” You know, that thing that you do so easily that you are maybe a little bit confused as to why anyone else would find it so difficult to master?

I’m talking about the thing that maybe defines you just a little bit without you realising. Do you make it known to others that you are good at it, or do people recognise it easily?

I never used to sign my own artwork. It felt weird. Pretentious. Showy. I’d be apologetic about my art, making excuses whenever I was complemented. In the past I’ve felt apologetic about being creative. It felt as though I was wasting time on the job when I focussed on creative elements in my work.

Then I studied graphic design and there was no room for apologetic designers. You stated your case, briefly, succinctly, intelligently. You showed why your idea was effective, you discussed your work positively and created good feelings around it. You showed your expertise and helped clients see the value in your designs.

Confidence was key.

Maybe for others it was easy to talk about their designs, but I had to learn to do it. In my final year, I took my folio around to the design studios in Melbourne and learned the skill of showing my work with pride and enthusiasm.

Without apology.

I began to enjoy sharing my ideas with people. The creative exchange led me to pursue directions I hadn’t considered. I understood the value of signing my work to maintain ownership over my designs, understanding copyright laws as well as the unspoken etiquette amongst designers of acknowledging another designer’s work and influence.

I learned that I had to let people know what I was good at so that they knew they could count on me if they needed a designer with a particular set of skills. It wasn’t about being showy or arrogant. It was business.

forestboat1000

Forest boat, pen and ink by Jenni Mazaraki.

Now I don’t have time to be apologetic about my work. If I’m happy about something I do, I’ll say so. If something isn’t quite what I’d hoped, I learn and move on. So I encourage you to not be apologetic about your art. Not everyone is going to like it, but apologising for it is not your job.

Valuing your work shows value for the work of other artists and designers. Undervaluing your skills and services not only undervalues your work, but also undercuts other creative services.

So when there are times in your life that you feel a bit lost about your creative purpose, it may help to remember this:

If you don’t know what to do, do what you know.

This is what I think about when I lose focus and forget what my strengths are. I go back to drawing, to writing and design. I make art for pleasure instead of profit and then I remember what I’m good at. It helps get me back on track. And I am not bashful or apologetic. Creativity is my strength. What is yours?

(Feature image: House in a serviette holder by Jenni Mazaraki.)

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