New Year’s Card Struggle

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know I do more than graphic design work. I also paint, doodle and draw. Weirdly though, I get the most satisfaction out of my work when I’m creating something for someone else. As an artist, I don’t know if this is a feature or a bug, but it definitely helps with running a successful freelance business. Sometimes, I forget this.

Take this abstract painting I created for my wife, Erin, last year. She requested it, and I got to work.

abstract painting on a white wall
48″ x 36″ abstract painting

I would never have thought to paint this picture. It’s not an original “idea”. At first glance, there’s nothing “me” about it. I copied the color palette from some other painting I found on Pinterest.

It took longer than expected (she’s a closet Art Director). It also turned out way better than I imagined. She loved it. And it resonated with many other people too. In fact, it’s one of the things I made last year that I’m most proud of because it’s beautiful AND it was a crowd pleaser.

Truthfully, I feel embarrassed about that latter confession. Artists sometimes feel like everything they make has to be completely “original”.

Back to my painting: A few months later, a friend commissioned me to do a similar painting for his wife as a Christmas gift. She loved it too.

picture of abstract painting being held by someone in a parking lot
Commissioned Abstract

What does this have to do with a New Year’s card? Well, every year I do a New Year’s card for ABD. It helps me stand out from all the other holiday cards hitting the mailbox in December and spares me from Christmahanukwanzus.

Each year I’ve tried different things, and I’m usually pretty excited about it because for once, I tell myself, I’m the client. This year, I was stumped. Fresh out of inspiration. Suddenly it was Dec. 15, and still nothing.

marker illustration of a pig caesar
Pig Caesar

I had plenty of ideas, of course. But none of them felt right. I landed on a nice little piggie character (to go along with the Chinese year of the pig). I was kinda excited about it, but it still felt forced. Would it really resonate broadly with my target market? I asked my Art Director for a second opinion.

She was not a fan and suggested I create a nice calendar.

I pouted.

She was right, though. I got to work on a simple calendar. It suddenly occurred to me to repurpose my abstract painting. I showed it to Erin and she loved it. I added a “crummy commercial” for my biz on the other side and hand wrote “Happy New Year” on each one.

2019 calendar front and back
My 2019 New Year’s Mailer (front and back)

Like the original painting, it was a big hit.

In retrospect, I wasted a lot of time getting to this final product. I was trying to be too original. I had forgotten my own motto: I am NOT the client. Or my other one: Keep It Simple Stupid. Or my other other one: if middle-aged women think it’s pretty, there’s gold in them thar hills.

I’ll work on that self-fulfilling original idea on my own time… or more likely, next December.

Oink,

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P.S. If you received one of my calendars, I’d love to see how you’re displaying it. Take a photo and post it on social media. Be sure to tag me on Instagram (@andrewbartondesign).

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