An Interview with Multidisciplinary Designer Alana McDowell
Ahead of sharing her creative story with us at our next Blick Academy Creative Talk this Wednesday evening we thought it would be nice to ask Alana some questions and get to know her a bit better. Here she shares a bit about what inspired her to work for herself, what she loves about working for herself, how she defines success and more.
What inspired you to work for yourself?
Although working for myself was something I would have always loved to have done, particularly seeing the example my parents had set in establishing their own, somewhat modest business’ – being freelance or self employed was never really on my radar, it seemed like a risky move and quite frankly one I’m not sure I would have had the confidence to take own my own if some personal circumstances hadn’t lead me in that direction.
Sadly my dad became very unwell at the end of 2019 and after a short but tough battle he passed away just a few months later. I had quit my full time job in London working as the in-house graphic designer for an experiential marketing company prior to move home to NI and now with an impending pandemic, a lot of time to reflect on where my priorities and my passions really lay, along with no job to return to I took the leap to start pursuing my own personal work.
Besides a new found drive to make the most of my personal situation, I enrolled in the DigDeep program offered by Blick Studios, along with another creative community called Delicate Rebellion which both really gave me reason to look within myself and find that confidence to pursue my own work.
What do you love about working for yourself?
My favourite thing about working for myself is the flexibility it gives me in terms of my schedule. I am currently writing this at 9:30pm on a Friday evening, because that’s the time that I wanted to sit with myself and to work. Although I love routine, for me creativity doesn’t always fit within the walls of a traditional 9-5 work day. Often I am my most productive later in the evening, or I feel more inspired to take on a project when I know that I can start my day with a walk or a trip to my favourite coffee shop.
Another huge thing I love about working for myself is the creative autonomy. I love that for the most part, people choose to work with me because they enjoy the work that I already do and so that allows me to be instrumental in how a project really takes shape visually. I found I was often working to someone else’s vision when I worked in a company.
How do you define success and how long did it take you to find it?
Interestingly I recently did a personal workshop where this question was asked to the group and it was interesting to see how wildly varied the answer was. Which just goes to show that everyone’s journey and path and even end goal is often so individual.
How I define success is the ability to have creative freedom and personal freedom – to express myself and to take my work wherever I go. But almost above all is a sense of contentment that comes with feeling fulfilled with the work I am doing 🙂
I don’t think this realisation was immediate. It’s particularly difficult when pursuing your own path not to judge yourself against those who have a more rigid academic trajectory or a career that is more ‘stable’. And so in the past I have found myself comparing where I am, to those in my close circles or in my age bracket – to what I thought was expected of me or typical as defined by out-dated social structures. But in recent years particularly having seen traction with my personal work and how I have been able to carve out a life that really brings me joy I have completely redefined my version of success. And I wouldn’t change it for anything!
Although that’s not to say success is a single finish line or end goal. If a big part of your definition of success is feeling fulfilled, you need to continue to set goals, to find new clients and to do projects that excite you!
Knowing what you know now, is there anything you would have done differently when you were first starting out?
My only wish is that I had the confidence to start sooner, to know that it’s okay to pursue something that doesn’t look like the mold you were maybe taught. I often wonder if I had the courage or the knowledge that I could do exactly what I am doing now at 21 rather than 31 where could I be?
But in the same breath, I am very much a believer in the fact that it is the journey rather than the destination. And had I not had the same life and work experiences that I did previously, my interests could very well look completely different.
What are you working on now?
My biggest project right now is growing a new human – I am currently very pregnant! And learning what that means for my freelance career 🙂
So although I have 2 mural projects lined up right now, one for a regular client of mine, Jameson and another exciting exterior mural, I’m slowing down with the physical work to make room for personal ventures and hopefully some digital illustrations…My books are open!
You can sign up for our Blick Academy event which is on Wednesday 7th Feb at 7pm in our Hill St studios here: https://blickstudios.org/events/blick-academy-creative-talk-alana-mcdowell/