“I don’t want my art to be good or bad, I want it to be me.” My interview with Rebecca Green

In this remarkably honest interview for The Creative Shift Podcast, author and illustrator Rebecca Green gives us a behind-the-scenes look at how she continues to find her creative direction, and navigate growth in her career as a full-time author/illustrator.

Some topics we dig into:

  • How she finds the clarity to grow with her creative work, instead of feeling controlled by the market.
  • How she is preparing for a growth spurt in her career
  • Her love/hate relationship with social media.
  • How she uses collaboration to help her strategically reach her creative and business goals.

You can listen to the podcast by clicking ‘play’ below, or in the following places:

Some highlights of our conversation:

  • How even someone as successful as her feels frustrated, and that she is still searching for her style: “I’m constantly frustrated. I was telling my husband, ‘I feel like I’m on the cusp of something great, I’m about to arrive and make the work I want to make.’ And he said, ‘Yeah, but haven’t you been saying that for 10 years?’
  • The process she is using to shift from one style to the next: “It’s very difficult to change and grow within the confines of having client work. I feel like this past year was a huge transition for me, a transformative year. I came out of it on the other side feeling that something new is coming. It’s been a struggle to work [for my clients] in my old style. They hired me for something I had done before. They wanted, not this new work, but something they have been expecting. That has been a struggle for me. I’m finishing these projects, and clearing the next couple of months so I can completely transform my portfolio and present something new to get jobs in the future based on that new work.”
  • How she is trying to infuse her creative process with joy: “Making art is fun, but it’s not. One thing I’m trying to do is to not make struggle feel like a necessity in art, so that when I do have fun, I’m okay with that too. I think for a long time, I held onto the idea that it has to be hard, otherwise I’m not doing it right. I’m trying to let that go.”
  • How she is judging if her creative direction feels right: “I don’t want my art to be good or bad, I want it to be me. I want it to say something, I want it to have emotion.”
  • She is using collaboration with a close friend to help her create a strategy for her work moving forward. She has weekly calls with Meera Lee Patel (whom I’ve interviewed twice on this podcast here and here). This is how Rebecca is approaching it: “I have a plan. I’ve been working with a friend, Meera, Skyping on a weekly basis. We have spreadsheets with our three main goals for the year. I have been putting down what is my vision, resources, incentives to follow through on a goal, and what is my timeline. As a freelancer, as an entrepreneur, as an artist, often we can wait for the opportunities to come our way. But they will never be quite what we want. I’ve been very strategic: a portfolio reset, and a website reset is one part of that. I’m trying to be better at business.”
  • Why she feels collaboration is important: “You have a sense of accountability, you are not just floating on your own.”
  • How she stays focused on her own growth as an artist: “Every project or growth spurt or time I saw a positive shift, it is because I came back and asked, ‘what do I have to offer?”
  • How social media can stir up some complex emotions: “On Instagram I see other people’s successes, what is trending, and what is booming for other people. Sometimes that is really inspiring, but at other times, it feels really defeating to see all these other people really being successful while I’m not sure what I want to do. So there are times I feel I should be more business minded, and do things that I see other people succeeding at. But I never actually go for it. I have such a love/hate relationship with Instagram. I want it to feel true to me.”
  • I asked her if she knew how she went from 225,000 Instagram followers a year ago, to 258,000 now. Her reply was so honest with regards to how metrics like these can be confusing: “It’s funny, it seems like a jump from 225,000 – 258,000, but every day I look at it and think, ‘Well, I’m not at 300,000. I’m not at 550,000. I’m not at a million.’ That never stops. I remember when I was like, ‘I got 100 likes, OMG! I rule the world!’ Now, I’m like, OMG, I only got this many people… I try not to let it effect me emotionally. But I would not have a career without Instagram. The way that I grew it was meeting people face to face, moving to new places, and being in a lot of diff industries [such as magazines, books, retail, all sorts of collaborations.]”
  • How success on Instagram can leads to it’s own uncertainty and fear: ““I get nervous sometimes that IG is just going to disappear and I will be in this cave and not have the access to the outside world.”
  • How she manages the expectations that other people have on her art: “I remember the first time, it was probably 10 years ago, working for a client. I gave them what I thought they wanted, and they came back and said, “This isn’t your style. It’s not actually your work.” It was the first time I remember saying, “Wait, I define what my work is.” I have always been conscious about fitting myself into client projects. Sometimes it is amazing. Sometimes it is difficult. So far, following what it is I truly want to be making, that has always led me in the right direction.”
  • How she managed her time and expectations when she was first starting out: “When I first started, I would send out emails, I applied for agents, and I heard nothing for months. I would send out three emails, and I was like, ‘Nobody wants to work with me.’ So I was always went back to the studio and said, ‘I will focus on what I can control, which is the artwork.’”
  • How she kept creating and doing client work, even as she moved from Nashville to Japan. She described it this way, “Japan is so different from my life in the US, that it feels like a break from reality.”
  • How, amidst one of the biggest periods of growth in her career, she has adapted her creative process to her lack of space in her apartment in Japan. “I’m keeping it simple, but I dream of having a big studio, more than I’d like to admit.”
  • How living abroad is effecting her art: “Living in Japan has changed the way I think about art.”
  • Her advice about the value of the creative process: “There should be more of an emphasis on process and not the end goal. I don’t think you ever arrive. I don’t think you ever get to the place where you think, ‘Well, now I’m done.’ I will think to myself, ‘Why am I not where I want to be 10 years in, why do I still feel like a novice? How do I still feel like an amateur, like I don’t know how to draw?’ I think there needs to be more of an appreciation for the shift the change the process and figuring it out.”

Last year I shared my first interview with Rebecca, where we discussed navigating creative burnout.

You can find Rebecca in the following places: