Although not completely related to my area of study Lesley’s talk amazed me and I found it extremely enjoyable. Once a Graphic Designer she now describes herself as a ‘moderately successful’ artist and by this she simply meant that she earns a living off what she does – something she’s always wanted to do and done, only having worked a 9-5 job for 4 years in her 20’s.
Lesley had always drawn pictures for her friends since school so it was no surprise that she would go on to have a creative career. She studied graphic design at a technical college however she failed that course and although a set back at the time, now looking back she described that as a good thing now. It made her evaluate why she failed and came to the conclusion that it was her attitude and as soon as she worked on that, she went places.
Initially working in a record company doing typography she then moved on to working on book covers as technology became more prominent in the design industry. This is when she started doing collages and making things in her spare time. She sent slides of her work to everyone but it kept getting rejected, to which her friends did assure her was normal.
However, it was only when her mum became ill that everything changed. She was no longer money motivated and stopped graphic design completely, she just kept making things. Unfortunately her mum died and she had more work than ever, she sold a lot of personal things but was happy making her work. She went to galleries all the time and eventually built up a rapport with the owners. She showed them work, got feedback and eventually got her first solo show in a tiny basement. Although she didn’t get a lot of people to come from bigger galleries, she did sell a piece of work that gave her enough money for the year.
After featuring in a few more shows she found she was having a lot of self doubt around her work and if she was good enough. This is where Joseph Boisher was born, her ‘alter ego’ in a way. He was a modernist architect from the 1940’s who had a building collapse and kill people, resulting in him becoming a recluse. Obviously none of this was true but it gave meaning to Lesley’s work and with a documentary made and exhibition planned, everyone loved it. The team did fundraising for the exhibition and once the money was raised the exhibition was a great success, one of many that Lesley has now had.
She gave us so many different tips and advice throughout her talk and I think it is some of the best advice we’ve been given. Not only because of all her experience but because she has done it all from the bottom up and even changed industry at one point, which although she said wasn’t hard due to it all happening at the same time, still is a major thing to do.
Her first advice she summarised really well into a few tips which were:
- Don’t be put down by setbacks, everyone has them and you move past them. She summarised this perfectly by saying ‘it’s not what happens, its how you deal with it.’
- Have a really good body of work at all times and constantly fine tune it.
- How you present your work is extremely important and keep practicing presenting in front of everyone.
- Personality is key. You will have things that make you shine and focus on them.
- Collaboration is key. Work with everyone and become friends, everyone can help everyone.
She also mentioned how important making contacts is and how much she managed to network when she was younger, even if it wasn’t known to be networking then. To me this is an area that I worry about as i’m not overly confident with new people however she managed to make me feel completely at ease by giving some really good advice.
Her main points were to approach people with respect and admiration which may seem obvious but she also said to make sure not just to hone in on the ‘big guys’. This will make them feel used when ultimately the aim is to make friends and help each other out, another point which she kept saying. She’s still great friends with everyone she’s worked with. She also said to try and leave everywhere with a good relationship with people, even if that seems impossible, things should always be left on good terms. She summarised all of this as the ‘Good Will Bank’ and simply said, the more you put in the more you’ll get out which I think is a lovely way to say it.