Johanna Basford's sabbatical diary, week 7: A painful denial

Seven weeks in and the thing Johanna has been dreading the most has happened.

Over the past fortnight, Johanna has failed at multi-tasking but succeeded at tattooing a dog.

Johanna Basford is on a four-month sabbatical from paid work to concentrate on making herself a better artist, illustrator and all-round creative person.

Every week Johanna aims to publish a diary entry, which we'll be running on Digital Arts so you can follow the ups and downs – hopefully mainly ups – as she pushes her creativity and vision into new areas.

If you've missed any of the previous entries, you can find all of them here.

Week 7

Although I pre-warned my clients that I’d be shutting up shop for a few months, there’s been a reassuring trickle of emails; clients making enquiries, scoping out availability and sending through briefs.

I've replied with apologetic tones and expressed my hopes that we'd work together in the future – thought not without a severe twang of anxiety, mind you. Each is a missed opportunity, a client turned away unhappy, pounds not in the bank and my ink not on an awesome project. But I reassured myself that today’s sacrifice was for tomorrow’s gain.

Then it arrived. What we in the industry call "A Wee Gem" or "A Cracker". I believe the youth of today would describe it as “Totes Amazeballs.”

It was the kind of email that demands you lean in ridiculously close to the screen, wrinkle your forehead and read open-mouthed: fantastic brief, great client, prelim visuals look fab. A serious contender for commission of the year!

Then I remember; exhale sharply; lean back in chair; hide face in hands; emit a noise like a baby panda lost in Tesco.

Curse this bloody Sabbatical nonsense. What the hell was I thinking?

Saying ‘No’ does not come easy. In fact, for a long time I only ever said yes – until I got approached by a tobacco company.

A temporary moment of weakness ensues. I open iCal, squint at a few dates and think to myself, “If I got my head down and worked 20 hours a day, it might just be possible…”

Then I wise-up. I remember all the reasons that made me decide to undertake this Sabbatical in the first place: which boil down to short term loss for long term gain.

I compose the inevitable decline to the dreamy client. Close Mail. I pick-up my pen and focus, with a renewed sense of urgency and determination at what I had been working on – a series of hand embellished mannequins for my Inky Bodies series.

If I’m turning down jobs like that, I sure as hell better make it all worthwhile.

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