We had the good fortune of connecting with Abigail Ducote and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Abigail, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
This is tough! I know I am fortunate to have a deep-seated passion for my work (and a long list of hobbies) but that passion can be a slippery slope to overtime, burnout, and the guilt of missing important events with family or friends. I gave myself a pass when I was in college, but now that I have more control over my schedule, it was time to curb the workaholic cycle. It’s helped to know that I’ve already been there. I’ve already spent every waking minute on design or art…and it didn’t make me necessarily “happy” or a better artist. The times I’ve felt the most inspired and done my best work, are after I’ve gotten some rest or done something that doesn’t involve a computer screen. I had this thing about always being “productive”, which naturally wrote off stuff I used to enjoy like hiking, reading, or laying outside and staring up at the sky. But when I realized I needed that stuff to be a better and happier artist, it helped me feel less guilty about the time spent away from my desk. I still don’t adhere to the 9-5 schedule, and every now and then I’ll “treat myself” to an all-nighter, but I’d like to think I’m slowly recovering from the “workaholism”. It’s a daily battle! And I think it always will be.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Haha, well I think “What sets you apart from others” is the question artists ask themselves until the grave! I definitely love to hear when a client will say “your work just really stood out to me”. I feel like I do put a huge emphasis on creating work that doesn’t already exist. A large part of the research I do before a project is to see what’s already out there so I can find a unique path around it. I think being a traditional artist first, then graphic design second helps with that because as soon as my hand moves the pen, something fairly new is born. Most of the sketches will be garbage, but after 30 minutes of sketching I can usually find at least the seed of a good idea. Another thing that I’ve noticed sets me a part from colleagues IS the fact that I’m both electronically inclined, and love to draw things by hand. Some of my friends who are full-time artists and painters, hate the digital / administrative parts of their self-employment. For some reason, I love both sides of the job! There are definitely days where all I want to do is create invoices and spreadsheets, instead of drawing or setting type. Was this career path easy? Depends on how you define that, I guess. After listening to friends and colleagues share their experiences of racism, sexism, and other roadblocks they’ve faced to start a business, I’ve come to realized my path was extremely easy. Opportunities came my way that I didn’t have to fight for. This has always felt like the right path for me, but it still doesn’t feel easy every day. Sometimes I daydream of a regular office job with a boss and a regular paycheck. But I know if I was at that job, I’d just be daydreaming of this life I have now.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Oh man, don’t ask this forest-dweller anything about the big city! I’ve lived in Georgia all my life and still give myself an extra hour to get lost anytime I have to meet a client downtown. Ya’ll city folk are amazing; I don’t know how anyone survives down there full-time! I have a distant memory of skirting the line at The SunDial with some friends a few years ago. We managed to make it up to the top despite being extremely under-dressed. I had a little moment of hysteria in the glass elevator (terrified of heights) but the views from up top were gorgeous and the slowly-spinning restaurant was pretty fascinating. Other than that, my favorite place to go is the Georgia Aquarium or High Museum of Atlanta. So much inspiration to be gathered at either of those places, and they changed things up so frequently that there’s always something new to see. (This reminds me, it’s probably time for another visit.)
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
So many people to blame for the life I’ve been able to lead! First, my parents. My mom’s a landscape painter and regularly held art classes for all the neighborhood kids. My dad’s a handyman blacksmith (and master problem-solver) who works for himself. As long as I’ve been alive, my parents have both made a living working for themselves without any kind of “marketing strategy”. My dad showed me first hand that if you simply show up and do good, honest work, the work will find you. I understand now what a seemingly fragile “business strategy” that is, but it’s kept him busy for years and has begun working for me as well. Next is a host of art teachers, professors, and friends that have all added wood to my fire. I’ve always felt so supported in this career path, but definitely didn’t truly value what a gift and privilege that is until recent years. And lastly, my clients. For the years I’ve been in business, I really should have more horror stories than I do. My clients continue to be the most patient, lovely, and easy to work with humans on the planet. When you work for yourself, your clients really make-or-break what kind of life you have, and they’ve made mine such a joy.
All are mine except for the ones re-named with “Cred to Kelsey Butcher Photo”. Link to her website is kelseybutcherphoto.com