As for many freelancers, lockdown was initially a disaster for Andrew Townsend, a graphic designer, art director and artist based in the UK whose work ranges from book design to image making, expressive typography to branding and design for retail.
"At the start of the Covid pandemic, like so many other designers, all my freelance design work was cancelled," he explains. "So my side project The-Art-Form magazine, a limited edition magazine about art and artists, became my full-time project."
Each issue of the magazine features six artists, he explains. "All the artists answer questions about their art in their own unique way, giving an insight into their work and working practice. Some of the artists create drawings and original artwork in response to the questions."
Up to that point, Andrew had been working on the magazine for about five years, in his spare time, trying to release one issue a year. "It was a passion project – I wasn't dependent on the income from the magazine – so its creation was quite leisurely," he explains. "There were no deadlines or any interference from a client; it was an antidote to my commercial design jobs."
But suddenly, when the first lockdown was imposed, he had no income from his freelance design work. "The government support packages didn't apply to me because I'm set up as a limited company," Andrew explains. "No one was going to offer me any help – so I needed to help myself. I'd already started working on issue 04 of the magazine at the beginning of 2020, but now I really needed to finish the issue and start selling it."
He quickly completed issue 04 in the first two months of lockdown. "My distributor was still operating, but the shops and galleries they supply were all closed," Andrew recalls. "My only choice was to sell online from The-Art-Form website. Thankfully, when I released the issue for pre-orders, it sold incredibly well; better than any magazine issue before or since."
It helped that one of the artists he'd already lined up to be featured in issue 04 was the street artist Invader. "With over 600 thousand followers on Instagram, Invader is probably one of the world's best-known street artists, with fans and collectors all over the world," Andrew explains.
The success of the issue, Andrew says, has saved him financially and mentally. "It really helped me to focus on the magazine rather than the sense of impending doom and uncertainty that hung in the air during the first lockdown. I now devote one day a week to working on the magazine instead of trying to squeeze in a few hours here and there when not busy working on other jobs.
"This experience highlighted to me the importance of side projects," he concludes. "While working as a freelancer, it helps to have an income that isn't dependent on a client. My advice to anyone thinking about their own side project – just make a start and see where it goes."
Issue 06 of The-Art-Form is out now and features the artists Felipe Pantone, Aryz, Roby Dwi Antono, Julie Curtiss, Joakim Ojanen and Grace Weaver. The magazine is available to buy from www.the-art-form.com.
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