November 29, 2017

Pride, Work and Necessity of Side Projects: Professional Picture-Maker Liz Nugent Happily Goes Into The Wild



What are you working on—on the side?

As a freelance illustrator, sometimes it’s hard to figure out where a regular project ends and a side project begins! I’m a big believer in personal work, so I always have a few creative irons in the fire alongside client work!

That said, my most organized current side project is my Virginia Native Wildlife series. I get a lot of inspiration from nature, in particular, walking in my local park. I encounter lots of unfamiliar flora and fauna—and I wanted to get better at identifying them all. I combine some amateur nature photography with research into identifying the observation, then draw it! It’s my love letter to Virginia, a way to learn something new and a chance to practice drawing plants and animals. I find the best side projects are like that, they scratch a lot of different itches.

I also recently finished a fairly intense Inktober in which I did 31 ink drawings/paintings in 31 days, and I have an ongoing large-scale colored pencil series.

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

I try to make it as easy and enticing as possible. I do projects that really appeal to me, and I usually have a few of them that I’m working on. That way, I can rotate through—when I get tired of one, I have something else I can work on instead. When my schedule gets busy, I’ve found that weekly goals also really help. I find I need more flexibility than “on THIS day I will do THAT.” but meeting a weekly goal of completing X number of pieces feels satisfying.

I also try to keep in mind that these things are a long game. My creative nature is to always want to try new things, sometimes it feels like I can’t keep up with one project. But, I’m learning that’s not really the case—it’s just that sometimes it might be 6 or 8 months before an idea sparks my interest again, and that’s okay!

Why have a side project?

So many reasons! First of all, as a freelance illustrator, you need to make the work that you want to get hired to do. If you have a dream project, the best way to accomplish that is just do a version of it yourself and get it out there! I also think side projects are an important way to get to experiment. Clients (understandably) require more predictable output, so it can be intimidating to try a new technique or idea with that work. Side projects let you go wild and see what sticks—it helps keep things fresh.

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Diptych courtesy of Liz Nugent.

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Read more about the joy of side projects.


This series, devoted to side projects, is delivered in association with Chicago creative agency 50,000feet—dedicated to helping brands and businesses soar.


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