43 — All in & with the flow

14th annual review of my life

I’ve been doing a review of my life every year around my birthday since 2006. You can last year’s reflection about digging deeper, and the other 12, on busterbenson.com.

Green is when I worked at these companies. The y-axis represents approximate number of employees at the company, on a logarithmic scale.

Monday morning I woke up without a client project for the first time in ten years. For most of my career, my goal was to build my client list. And that work paid off. Over the course of 11 years I’ve worked with over 80 clients. For most of the last decade, I loved client work. I loved the challenge of art direction, feedback and the back and forth toward something final. I loved working with art directors, who are mostly incredibly smart, hard working, kind people. I even grew to love a tight deadline. I feel so lucky that I got to work on so many incredible projects. But in the past few years I started to feel really tired and simultaneously disconnected from my own creativity. I have always made my own work amidst doing client work, so that wasn’t exactly the problem. I just wasn’t doing it with enough depth or any sense of abandon anymore because I didn’t have the time or energy. And I felt increasingly sad about that disconnect. Earlier this year I realized I needed — at least temporarily — to turn my attention back to my own process & work, not just a little, but in full force. So with the exception of some book projects, I made a choice to stop making art for other people for awhile. This was not an easy decision. Client work is a huge part of my income. The relationships I have with some of my clients feel almost like family. Much of my own sense of success has been in direct relationship to the relative demand for my work, which has luckily been high. So if I stopped doing the thing I worked so hard at building over 10 years, who would I be? I started grappling with that question earlier this year. And I realized that my happiness, my connection to my well of creativity, was more important than my identity as a busy commercial illustrator. So I finished up the assignments I had before my vacation & have stopped taking on new client projects. This summer & fall I’m working on a couple books with generous timelines. I’ll continue to run my shops, teach & speak . But I’m entering a new phase with enough space for exploration. And while I’m scared AF, I’m also ALL IN. Shaking things up feels good. ❤️

You know what to do with these.



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Buster Benson

Buster Benson


Product at @Medium. Author of “Why Are We Yelling? The Art of Productive Disagreement”. Builder of new.750words.com.