August 20, 2014

Pride, Work, and Necessity of Side Projects: Elizabeth Baddeley’s Curious Kansas City

What are you working on—on the side?

I keep up a blog called Curious Kansas City, where I draw and write (when time allows) about interesting aspects of my hometown of Kansas City.

But really, my side project is drawing on location. I do it everywhere I go. I actually just got back from a trip to California, drawing all the way! It all began when I was in grad school and took a drawing-on-location class taught by Carol Fabricatore. It met every Friday for a year and lasted five hours! I feel like I really never knew how to draw before that class! About a year after grad school, still living in New York City, I felt like I was missing an element in my illustration work. I was so caught up with taking and finding a photo reference. It was exhausting. I made an effort to go outside and draw on a regular basis.

When I moved back to my hometown of Kansas City last fall, I decided to continue this practice, but I wanted to push it. I wanted to give my drawings a more journalistic approach. That’s when I started Curious KC. You learn so much about a place while you are sitting in one location drawing for an hour or more. Images in journalism are so photo-based, but when you photograph something, you snap a photo then you’re done. Drawing takes time. You see a lot of people come and go, overhear a lot of conversations. People come up and talk to you, curious about what you’re doing. You get a different sense of a place.

When you live in New York City, you get all kinds of responses from people when you tell them you’re from Kansas City. Not all of them are positive. And trust me, I get a lot of raised eyebrows from KC folks when I tell them I lived in New York! It’s just the way people are when they don’t know about a place. I want to show people that every place is interesting. There are stories everywhere you go.

How do you manage to work on your side project(s)?

Wednesdays are my drawing on location days. And I stick to that. If I’m lucky, I’m able to squeeze in another day here and there. I seek out places to go and put them on the calendar. Since I am a full-time illustrator, I consider this part of my job. I have the mindset that I have to tend to this just as I would emails or updating my website. It’s mandatory. I’d much rather draw than email anyway. The work I do in my sketchbooks has greatly influenced and improved my more commercial work. I’m overly sensitive when people say things like “Gee, you must have a lot of free time.” This isn’t my free time. It’s my drawing time! But I also like to draw in my free time.

Why have side projects?

I don’t necessarily consider this a side project. It’s just another facet of what I do (that doesn’t happen to pay, ha ha). I got my MFA in Illustration at the School of Visual Arts. Studying there, and working with Marshall Arisman, completely changed my mindset when it comes to creating. When you create work that is important to you, versus what you think people want to see, it shows. Eventually, if you stick to it (and that’s the key), people will actually hire you to create that kind of work. No one is going to give you the perfect content to work with. You have to create it yourself. Working on Curious Kansas City is simply me creating the kind of content I want to work with.

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Diptych courtesy of Elizabeth Baddeley.

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