Allowing yourself to explore, play and have fun as an artist

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I’ve touched upon the concept of joy, and having fun lately in my recent posts. What I’ve also come to discover lately is just how much progress you can make as an artist when you play around and have fun without the intention of making something good, so to speak.

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I discovered this recently when my style started to shift a bit, I was sitting on the couch with my friend just drawing away and I was drawing as I usually do in black and white but then I felt like playing around with colour and silhouettes. I had no intention of showing anyone that piece, since I figured it was too far fetched from my previous “style” but it turned out to be something great and something I’m really proud of.

I also mentioned in a recent post that one of the great ways to get out of a creative block is to play around with new mediums. Doing so allows you to get out of drawing habits you’ve developed and to explore new things. There’s just something about doing things that are unfamiliar to us that spark inspiration, a new perspective or a new way of thinking.

I try to allocate at least an hour every day to draw something just for fun or for a portfolio piece. As much as I love client work, it’s only personal work where you can try something new and step outside of the brief. Doing so allows me to improve my drawing skills, step outside of my comfort zone to try new things and make progress.

How do you explore and play with your artwork?



Living joyfully // finding joy in our work

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As I mentioned in a previous post, I am currently reading “The Universe Has Your Back” by Gabby Bernstein and it has really been opening my eyes as to how much I have been living in fear. The concept of the book is to shift the fear to love, and through reflection and meditation learn to change our energy so that we become more pleasant, live life with ease and allow our inner guide to take us through life.

Last night I read a chapter that was about joyful living. Gabrielle mentions in it that she measures her success based on how much fun she’s having. While most of us measure success based on money, recognition and outer opinions, can you imagine if we could all base our success on how joyful we are and how much fun we have with our work? It would be revolutionary.

I think when I first started my career, I did adapt this joyful living quite well, but as time has gone on, it has faded slightly into outer circumstances such as how many jobs I get, how much I earn in a year, how many followers I have, etc. Sometimes I manage to come back to joy, but it doesn’t often last most of the day.

In order to achieve more joyful living, I think the first thing that we can do is take the pressure off of ourselves to be something great. Like Eckhart Tolle said in “A New Earth”, some people get so attached to their jobs that if something happens to it they fall into a deep depression and even commit suicide in some countries because they’ve suddenly lost their meaning of life.

Taking the pressure off of ourselves to try to achieve something great allows us to focus on being happier in our day to day life. It allows us to enjoy our work, time with family, food, exercise, doing things that make us feel fulfilled and, well, joyful!

What I’ve realized is that taking the pressure off of myself to try to be this great famous illustrator allows me to just focus on the enjoyment of it, to trust that things will work out but to not be living into the future that doesn’t exist yet. I think once we let go of pressures and just surrender to joyful living, the successes will come effortlessly because our energy is welcoming, warm and people will want to work with us. We won’t be stressed or concerned about possible circumstances.

What would your life look like if you focused on having fun every day? What would you do? Where would you go? Don’t be afraid to think outside the box, and you can always turn to meditation if you start to feel overwhelmed.



How to get out of a creative block

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Perhaps it’s the winter blues, but as of lately I have been feeling a little bit lost, a little less motivated and a little less inspired. I have been drawing lots of tropical scenery, so that’s why I’m blaming it on winter… but either way, I think we can pull ourselves out of creative blocks just as easily as we seem to fall into one.

Here are some ways you can get rid of that creative block so you can get back to doing what you love and feeling inspired while doing it.

  1. Change up your space.
    I really believe that our environment affects our creativity, if your space doesn’t feel inspiring to you, change it up a bit! Get some flowers, move your furniture around, put up some cute prints *hint hint check out my Etsy shop hint hint*. For me right now, I live in a basement apartment and I don’t get that much light in here, so I’ve been decorating with mirrors and shiny things to make the light bounce around the room. I’ve also added plants and some additional lighting like twinkly lights to make it feel just a little bit brighter and more lively in here.

  2. Get your routine in check.
    Personally, if my life routine is off track, so is my creativity. Our bodies like routine and it’s best to stick with it when you can. If you’re not getting enough sleep, make that your priority for the next week. If you haven’t been eating well, pick a few new recipes to try.

  3. Try a different medium.
    Whenever I’m feeling stuck, I make lots of sketches by hand and paint anything that comes to mind with gouache. It feels like a bit of a release for me, and it makes me appreciate digital illustration again.

  4. Take a break.
    This is a given, but taking a step back from your work allows your mind to wander a bit and gives yourself some freedom to relax. Come back refreshed and full of new ideas.

  5. Get outside.
    Visit a local coffee shop, museum, greenhouse, anywhere that could spark some inspiration for you. If you can afford it, take a short trip to somewhere new and do some sight seeing.

  6. Go to a book store.
    This is one of my favourite things to do. I love going to book stores and finding books by other illustrators or just looking around in magazines and random book covers. I always get a little spark of inspiration.

  7. Find inspiration in unusual places.
    Where do you usually look for inspiration? Maybe you can find inspiration from something completely new and foreign to you such as interior design or architecture, culture or food.

  8. Ask for help
    Do you have other illustrator/artist friends? Ask them how they get out of a creative block

Creative blocks are so common and they’re nothing to get panicked about. I actually believe that the less you stress about them, the quicker they will pass you by. So relax and do something you can enjoy!



Oh, the irony! // Signing with a new agency, Youtube channel

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How ironic, the day after I part ways with my agency is the day I sign with a new one.

I’m very excited to have signed with Inky Illustration agency, who are based in the UK. I have heard great things about them and I quite like their current roster of illustrators.

Despite my lack of success with my prior agent, I feel that I now know what to expect when it comes to agencies and I’m excited because it allows for new opportunities to arise while I continue to work on things from my end.

I have been thinking a lot about having a youtube channel for a long time now, and I started to make videos not long ago but quickly fell out of it since I didn’t feel that it resonated with me at the time or that I knew what I was talking about.

I was living in the heart of Toronto, paying thousands of dollars a year in rent and frantically trying to figure out how to make things work. I’m not very patient you see, I like to make things work quickly and efficiently, so I didn’t want to give up on being a full-time artist because I knew that the less time I had to work on my stuff, the less opportunities would come by.

Now, I am in a much better situation, living back in my home town for awhile, paying less than half of the rent I was before and I have much more space to work and a dedicated space for my studio (did I mention I was working in my hallway of my condo?).

I remember when I first started I would always watch illustrators on Youtube to see what their daily life was like, how they got work, basically all the works of an illustration career. There is no blueprint on how to do this job, it’s just figuring it out one thing at a time, so these videos helped me greatly. I hope that by starting my Youtube channel back up again it can not only help other artists but also perhaps continue to “humanize” me more and connect with people online on a more personal level. I can share little thoughts I have, tutorials, materials, finances, anything and everything I’ve learned over the past couple of years.

I have been thinking a lot about how much I rely on client work to bring income to me, not that I don’t enjoy it because I very much do, but I don’t think I am taking full advantage of what’s available for me online. Things like Skillshare, Patreon, Youtube, Etsy and Society6 are all great ways to earn an income as an artist while developing personal work and also doing client work as well. They all take a great deal of work, and the more you put in the more you get out but I think Youtube videos and paying more attention to my Etsy shop are a good way to start.



A fresh start! // Parting ways with my agency

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About 9-10 months ago, I had signed with an illustration agency here in Toronto. I’m not going to mention who they are out of curtesy, but I had high hopes that they would bring me all the success I was looking for! I’m not here to bash the agency at all either, nor do I feel that the experience with them was negative in any way! They taught me a lot and I’m really grateful for the time that we did have a contract in place.

The thing about being an entrepreneur of sorts, is that no one else in the WORLD is going to care about your work as much as you do. Which isn’t a bad thing! You have to develop such a passion for your craft and pretty much fall in love with it head over heels, but no one else is going to feel that way about it, as much as you might want them to.

I’ve learned this lesson several times over already, but I still hoped that the agency could give me that leverage to bring me those large-scale projects, I felt like they gave my work some kind of validation. As a young, eager illustrator, I could sometimes cling onto anything in hopes that it will bring me more success.

The problem for me with the agency was that they wanted me to bring them any commercial projects that I obtained on my own, because a lot of companies apparently try to bypass working with the agency by contacting the illustrator independently. I completely understood why the agency implemented this rule in the contract because I’m sure if they didn’t everyone would just skip through in hopes of a better deal.

What made me a bit frustrated was that after all the networking events I go to, how much time and effort I’ve spent to get my name out there, people who want to work with me likely don’t appreciate when I spring it on them that we have to go through the agency. It makes everything all the less personal, and I like to get to know my clients a little bit as well, even if it is just over brief emails. I strongly believe in having a good relationship with people and feeling connected to others in a way. This also helps me understand their personalities and what they might appreciate seeing in the illustrations. I felt that when I had to go through the agency I lost all of that and it made the whole process feel so dull.

Perhaps I’m just a bit ambitious, but I genuinely just like to get to know people and when a client works with me, I want to make sure the whole process is enjoyable and that I spend lots of time in back and forth communication with them to make sure they like the illustration. I like to think that one client can turn into 3 more (word of mouth will always be the greatest tool!) and that each client can potentially turn into 5 projects not just one.

All this today, I’m very grateful for my time with the agency, and maybe one day I’ll find another one that will work for me, but for now I feel a bit of a weight lifted off my shoulders. I’m going to focus on expanding my work into this new style I have been working on, and continuing to network and market to potential clients. I have high hopes to illustrate a children’s book this year, and I hope I get to do just that!

I also just want to mention that this was only my experience with the agency, for some they work really well but I think the key is to find an agency that already has the right client base similar to your demographic.



When all else fails

If there’s one thing that all illustrators have in common, it’s a love and passion for what they do. In this crazy world things are constantly changing, new jobs are replacing old ones and technology is giving us more access to information than ever before. The thing that will keep us going when things get tough, confusing, scary or flat out failing, is our passion.

When all else fails I can still come back at the end of the day and remember my love for drawing. When the world feels like it’s collapsing around me, I can still allow myself to get lost in a painting and forget about it for awhile.

When all else fails, remember why you started in the first place, and go back to that feeling of excitement, mystery and drive.



When you trust that things will work out

When you trust that things will work out, something happens to your perspective of life. You are suddenly more open to people, opportunities and events. If you’re in a state of feeling like you have to control everything and thinking that only things you do or don’t do will affect the way things happen, you are releasing so much tension to the world, and you can’t see the opportunities that are right in front of you.

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