This piece is featured in the collaborative project between WhyNot and Project See and B for Propel Youth Arts WA 2024 KickstART Festival in Western Australia.

Words and Art by Alysia Tay (she/her) 23 WA

‘Potential’ is about the story of my first art commission from 2021 – not what happened throughout the creative process or how I received the request, but the emotional effect it’s had on me since creating it and all the events following.

To rewind a bit, I’ll take you back to my childhood. I have always loved being an artist. Painting had always been the escape I needed through the lows of life. It helped that I thought I was good at it, even good enough to turn it into a career.

I pondered on the decision to pursue art in university or TAFE but ended up choosing a graphic design degree. In the blink of an eye, three years pass and I’m standing on stage at my graduation ceremony. Focused on money, I signed up for a two-year part-time post-graduate diploma in service design, whilst in my second full-time graphic design job.

It is now 2024, with a decent amount of graphic design experience under my belt… but not so much to show for art.

Can you guess how many more art commissions I’ve done since 2021? The answer is 0.

And I have no idea why.

Well, I have a few reasons I could think of, or should I say, excuses.

Studying whilst committing to a full-time job, on top of balancing time for socialising, hobbies and general adulting does leave me exhausted 99% of the time. You could call it procrastination to the highest degree, since with this schedule, I haven’t completed a single painting in years.

I wouldn’t say I regret any of the choices in my career so far, although sometimes I wonder if I had been influenced a little too far into the ‘traditional career/life path’ by family, friends and academics. If I were living my life for others, and not staying completely true to myself. The classic ‘I don’t think it’s a good idea to pursue art as a career, you won’t earn a stable income’ saying that artists are told by everyone except fellow artists.

And to be fair, I do love design and am proud of the work I’ve done. I’ve just come to many realisations recently that I love (and am much more skilled at) art more.

Looking back, this commission made me feel like I was capable of creating art for others who were willing to pay what it was worth, for my art to be hung in others’ living spaces and enjoyed for possibly generations to come.

It also made me think ‘I can’t believe I haven’t been doing this the entire time,’ which still never fails to echo in the back of my mind on a daily basis.

It felt so freeing to do work that I genuinely enjoyed from start to finish. And that’s not a feeling that finds most people every day.

Loads of other people make money from their art and their passions – and I’ve asked myself a million times, why couldn’t I? Did I need more courage, more faith in

believing in myself and my abilities? Perhaps I need to quit my 9-5 or drop my diploma for more time to focus on art?

I don’t have the solution just yet, and I think (to an extent) that’s okay.

The good news is my creative journey is not over yet. It’s merely just beginning. It’s ongoing. You could call this a case of ‘you think your time has passed but you’re never too old…,’ and you might be right. Maybe I need to chill and wait until my schedule dies down. Through this time though, I know I’m not alone.

I know many other creative people feel the same way as me. Filled with self-doubt, built-up guilt, resentment, pressure and inner turmoil. Obligations, responsibilities, worries about the financial climate and general life events that pop up might throw us off our path. But we need to remember that it doesn’t mean we should let it affect the direction or velocity of our path permanently.

I am very excited for my future and for what’s to come. I am ready to turn my potential into reality.

I can promise you that art is definitely involved.


Banner Illustration by Jodie. You can find more of her work on Instagram @jodie_ellin

Posted in