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Penelope Illustration One Year Anniversary It's been one year since I left my full time job as an art director. One year ago today I took the leap into freelance illustration. I left my steady paychecks and my 401k. I left stability for this adventure. And I have to say, I don't regret it at all.

It's been really really hard at times, though...don't get me wrong. I've made some bad decisions and gotten really burned by a few clients. I've spent a few days in bed crying, wondering why the hell I did this...I didn't think I could go on being self-employed. And I wanted to give up. But after the initial dark cloud passed, I learned how to pick myself up and move on. And then never to make those same mistakes again. The clouds cleared and I was left standing, a stronger and wiser person.

But mostly it's been wonderful. I've learned a lot about myself. Like, if left to my own devices, I will work around the clock. I've also learned that this is not healthy. At all. I've also learned that when you're in business for yourself, you really own your successes. And likewise your failures. It's all you. This messy, beautiful package.

But the thing I really wanted to talk about today is...somewhat embarrassing. I wasn't even sure if I wanted to...well, many of you have been watching my evolution and growth as an artist, so you already know how much my work has changed and evolved and grown since I started. Looking back, I wonder what ever gave me the notion that I could do this. Sheer will, maybe?

I'm not even sure how to talk about this. So I'm just going to spill.

I feel like a year ago my work sucked. There, I said it. I wasn't very good. And I got a lot of rejections that shattered my fragile heart (and ego) like thin glass. At the moment of the rejection I felt like my world stopped, but after the shock wore off (or I just simply got over myself) I realized that they were totally right to reject me. They were looking at my work objectively. And of course, I was not. And it forced me to...and that was really uncomfortable.

Here is an example of my work when I started (please be nice):

I went through a self-induced period of intense growth. Trying different mediums and surfaces...acrylics, oils, paper, pastels, panel, watercolor. I hit a lot of brick walls before I found something that I felt was working for me. And I've pushed in that direction now for some time. Reinvention. Reincarnation.

And here's where I am now:

I think my style is more "me" now. It fits better with my sense of self. It feels more natural and right to me.

That said. A year from now, on my 2nd anniversary, I will probably be writing something very similar to this...about how far I've come in the last year and how much of a dumbass I was on this day. I realize that I still have a long way to go...and that I'm still growing and evolving. I know I don't have all the answers. Hardly. And I'm okay with that. I'm pretty good at learning as I go.

I want to say thank you very very much to everyone who reads my site and has watched me grow (and been patient with me through the hard times). Thank you to anyone who has sent me an encouraging email or left a nice comment. I really do appreciate it. It means a lot to me to have you rooting for me. It keeps me going. I hope that in talking about my whole experience here, I have encouraged you to follow your dreams, or, at the very least, add some creativity into your life.

So, here's to one year.