A letter to myself as junior in college

Written by Allison Hall

Dear Al,

You are currently in art school and life is busy and fun and you finally feel at home in Savannah. You’re probably a junior in college - that beautiful year where you’ve finally formulated a friend group and your friendships have reached a depth that makes you thankful to feel finally more known. This is a good year to show up to family functions because all the questions about how it is moving from Texas to Savannah are over and no one is really asking you about career stuff yet. You’re in the thick of your major, illustration, and the program fits you like a glove. The professors are very likable and it’s not a cut-throat environment compared to other majors. You can’t complain much- you get to paint and draw for homework and try a bunch of different areas of illustration. You’ve taken a printmaking class here, a fibers class there... Your roommates and friends are learning graphic design and writing and photography and textiles and everything just seems so creative and magical in this little city lined with Spanish moss oaks and cobblestone. As I’m writing this I’m realizing writing a letter to myself is kind of hard, and as a natural optimist it’s easy for me to just share the fond memories, but I want to set you up well and give you a little honest peek of the next few years. 

Here are some things I want you to know:

  1. You know how sometimes you put art on the back burner for other things? Like driving Young Life high schoolers around, hanging out at the park, or eating pizza in City Market with 13 of your friends squeezed around 3 tables? Ya, keep doing that. Keep doing healthy, soul-filling things. People, conversations, nature, books, serving, praying, resting.... these are the things that will fill you with joy and help cultivate inspiration. Breaks are so good. Take them a lot. Life is needed to be experienced to the full in order to make REAL art.
  2. Go to bed when you’re tired. All-nighters are not sexy, they’re ratchet. And comparing how little sleep you got with your classmates is so lame. Make friends by taking interest in their lives, not by complaining about how you didn’t sleep (because of your poor time management). You also cry in front of professors when you don’t sleep (remember when you got a parking ticket then bawled in front of your art history professor during your midterm meeting because you got 4 hours of sleep?).
  3. Your art is worth showing people. I know it felt weird when you made an Instagram account called @thesmallcreative in August of your Junior year. But that little baby step is so important. Post because people love being in on you pursuing your passion. It’s a portfolio account, you don’t have to even post that much. You can save the blurry selfies for the personal account and get the weird out there. But also, feel free to post the process stuff on the prof account too! People want to follow realllll people. 
  4. Your senior year of college you will start doing some craft shows. You will sign up for these because you want to see if you’re cut out for the “maker” life. Your first craft show of the holiday season will be at the community college in Downtown Dallas in their cafeteria. You will have paid a booth fee and $7 to park downtown. After an 8 hour day of sitting at a table that displayed everything you have made, you will had only made only $6 the whole day. Yes Allison, you made -1 dollars, not including booth fee, that day. 
  5. Remember how you made -1 dollars at a craft show? Keep signing up for craft shows. Yes, they’re annoying and the days are long and set up/break down is actually the worst- but you just need to be smarter. Please research the shows before signing up. Be sure the people showing up would be interested in your work. And know that you should do these to help cultivate local creative community. You will hate doing too many in a short time, so pace yourself out. You don’t have to do a show every week if you don’t want to. Let yourself sell work in these settings so you can meet other creatives and get your info out there. If you make a big profit, that’s fantastic- but know that the main purpose of these is to grow your creative fam.
  6. You. Don’t. Have. To. Be. An. Editorial. Illustrator. 
  7. I know floral patterns are everywhere, but you will discover that you love to paint flowers and that it gives you life so PAINT FLOWERS DAMMIT. 
  8. You will learn how to draw on a tablet and that’s really cool, but you’re unsure if you want to be glued to a computer all day. Your professor will tell you the recommended way to be a successful children’s book illustrator is to use digital illustration to speed up the process. You will then proceed to graduate college and you will use only watercolor, gouache, and paper and two years will pass and you don’t miss the tablet one bit. You also lost your Cintiq pen, but that’s beside the point. 
  9. You will decide to give freelance a chance post-grad. It seems like the move in order to be an illustrator, and you’re already getting gigs making invitations for the weddings of friends. Besides, all your friends are weirdly staying in Savannah another year. Buckle up, sweetie. 
  10. You will have to work random side-jobs while building up freelance. You will babysit every kid in your neighborhood, nanny 15-year-old twins, drive your professor’s kids to school... some days you will have watched for 3 different families in one day. You will have lots quiet, angst drives up and down the Truman parkway, contemplating life and everything you’ve thought about motherhood and if you’d ever be sane if you partake in it one day. 
  11. Stop charging only $4 per print on your Etsy shop. You friends will yell at you senior year for this (lovingly). 
  12. Your latest side job will be actually an incredible blessing. After your year of nanny-dom, you will fall into a marketing job for a local Chick-fil-A in Savannah, part-time. This job actually weirdly cultivates these gifts of event planning, community-building, and employee care that you didn’t know you had. You have a boss that you love to learn from and who understands your long-term goal of being a full-time freelance artist. Yes, sometimes your car will smell like chicken from that last catering order you dropped off, but you get a job with people from all backgrounds who you get the privilege of rubbing shoulders with and you’re learning so much about a good business. And you have consistent income so that art still obtains some joy. This season is weird but needed, keep working and don’t be ashamed that you’re not full-time yet. 
  13. When you get really sad that all your friends from college are getting married and you’re not, please know that God is worthy of trust. You really just wanted a friend to navigate scary adult things with, but I want you to know that you will be equipped and you will thrive in the season you’re called in at the moment. You are individually meant to learn how to be a grown up on your own; in a house full of fun, energetic, hilarious girls. And it’s going to be so so good and so so what you need. Marriage is so cool, but so is being on your own for a bit. Your needs will be met, and there is so much purpose for your big beautiful Dutch house full of entrepreneurial babes. 
  14. Your first mural gig will be for dog kennels in a dog spa
  15. You will travel home to Texas when you’re 24 years old for a mural commission that will fall through, but then you’ll end up getting coffee with some beautiful creative homies instead while you’re wandering around Austin and you’ll also meet a cool photographer named Chelsea :) 
  16. For God’s sake, please call yourself an illustrator when people ask what you do. It will take you way too long to get to this point of confidence. 

And there’s so so much. You’ll paint so many flowers and your printer will jam so much and your art crap will infest all over your whole house... but freelancing is a joy and a privilege. You get to create art for people and you’re learning so much. Get to know other creative people and don’t be scared of them - creative community is so important, these are like your coworkers. Being an artist is an isolating game but we don’t have to work like that. Make friends and get out of the house and find that creative rhythm. Talk to God a lot and make GOOD eye contact with people and draw flowers and stay in your lane, Al. 

And start your days asking for peace and purpose. 

“Fill me with creativity, ambition, and selflessness for the sake of Your glory. 


Much love,

Allison, the illustrator 

Photo by Chelsea Francis

Photo by Chelsea Francis

Allison Hall is an illustrator in Savannah, Georgia. She was born and raised in Dallas, Texas in a home that usually had markers on the kitchen table and forts in the living room. Allison has a BFA in Illustration from the Savannah College of Art and Design. Her summer camp background has influenced her work to be campy, nostalgic, and lighthearted. She loves projects that are beautiful, silly, floral, and that help people celebrate weddings or really happy days. Allison is also really good at rollerblading and spilling things.

Chelsea Francis