Growing more confidence as an artist/illustrator

One of my suuuper old drawings - drawn in ink on paper and coloured in adobe illustrator

One of my suuuper old drawings - drawn in ink on paper and coloured in adobe illustrator

If you start chasing a career in this field, you’ve probably read tons of articles about basically how to survive as an artist. Everything from finding your style, to passive income, to getting clients and more. It can all feel a little bit overwhelming, and this pressure can easily start to translate into your work. If you live in fear as a creative, trying to follow the rules for a successful career, it can really start to hold you back and actually prevent you from attaining what you’re trying to achieve. For example, if you start thinking that you need to have a concrete style within your illustration work, you’ll be repeating things over and over again and you won’t allow yourself to try new things like exploring new mediums or new ways of drawing things, and in turn, you’re being more and more held back and not letting your work evolve naturally as it should.

One of my black and white/minimalist drawings

One of my black and white/minimalist drawings

Since I started my career in this field, my work has seen a lot of change. I went from drawing in ink on paper and scanning it to colour it in photoshop, to black and white digital illustration, to full colour digital illustration to exploring with different mediums like gouache, watercolour and coloured pencils. Changing it up keeps it interesting for me, and seeing how much my work improves every time I allow it to evolve naturally makes it all worth it. It hasn’t always been easy to accept it though, if I felt like I hit a wall and needed to change something, the thoughts would consume me. Things like “what will they think” “will they still like my work” “will I still get clients” were all fear-based questions that would come to mind to the point where I couldn’t sleep. The more I accept the growth and change, however, the more confident I grow as well. For one, I’ve never had less clients because my work has shifted a bit, in fact my client list continues to grow and this year has been my busiest yet. I also feel more in tune with my work than ever before.

One of my most recent drawings, I really enjoyed creating this one

One of my most recent drawings, I really enjoyed creating this one

Like any new skill, learning about how to have a career in this field is just as important as learning how to draw properly. It’s also important to remember that things take time, and not to rush them too much. It’s easy to see other illustrators online and assume they’ve got it all figured out, but behind it all I’m sure they’ve had their struggles as well, even if they’re not vocal about it. Allow things to grow and develop organically, don’t resist wanting change and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. If you’re anything like me, this is probably what you plan to do for most of your life, and when you think about it in that sense, what’s the point in rushing or allowing fear to take the wheel? Confidence comes with time, and the more you can trust yourself to do the right things, the more confidence will grow.

Xx

Sabina


Mixed Media Illustration // Taking a Break from the Screen

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For a little while now, my eyes have felt tired from looking at the screen on my iPad, but every time I go to draw or paint on paper, I can’t get anything quite as crisp as I’m used to with my beautiful Apple tool, so I’ve been testing out some different combinations of mediums from acrylic to gouache to watercolour, and I think I’ve found the perfect solution for those times when I just need a little break from the screen but still want to create good pieces of work.

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Here’s what I did;

  1. Make a sketch on the iPad using the Procreate app. Making a sketch digitally allows you to modify and manipulate as needed, and then clean it up in a separate layer overtop - no messy pencil lines.

  2. Draw/colour the parts of the illustration that may be a bit harder to translate on paper. For me, I like to draw in the face (if I’m doing a full-body illustration, the face is really small on paper and is hard to get those details into). I also drew in the lines of the bicycle here, as well as her shoes and hair.

  3. Keep the sketch under your drawing but fade the layer opacity to about 40%.

  4. Print your unfinished illustration on watercolour paper, you might need to use a darker setting since the paper can soak up the ink and make it look pale.

  5. Now you can finish your illustration with whatever pleases you, and if you make a mistake, you can print and start again! I used a combination of watercolours, gouache, ink and coloured pencil to create this illustration below.

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Winding down after a busy week: Reflecting on "Doing what you love"

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Since I am still in the early stages of my career, I don’t typically turn down many jobs that come my way. This was a bit of a harsh lesson for me this week as I had 3 events booked back to back and logo commissions as well as portrait commissions around it. I think with any new business the early years are really the time to hustle it out and do as much as you can to move forward. I know that one day I’ll be able to pick and choose the jobs that resonate with me the most, but for now I honestly just feel really grateful that I’m able to do this full-time and the places it has taken me so far.

It’s funny how we’re never satisfied as human beings, I remember in the beginning I would say things like “oh as soon as I get a commercial job I’ll be happy” or “when I can buy groceries with my illustration money I’ll feel successful”, but now that I’m here there’s so much more I want to do and so many goals I have yet to achieve.

I posted on Instagram this week about how your job doesn’t define who you are, and I think it’s true because who we are is constantly changing and evolving. Jobs are meant to bring us the income we need to have an easier life, and I know that when I was first starting I felt like if I wasn’t doing illustration full-time it meant that I wasn’t good enough yet and that I couldn’t validate my work until I was full-time. Isn’t that such an illusion? My point is, if you’re not where you feel like you want to be and you’re working a job that you don’t feel passionate about, you don’t need to feel like you have to find something you’re crazy passionate about and make a living from it. Most people are happy to work a day job and that means they can leave work behind them at 5pm or so, and go home to their families and enjoy life after work. I don’t think there’s anything wrong about that at all, and I think if I had this perspective of those jobs earlier, I might have made my career a little bit easier on myself.

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In the end, work is work, and whether it’s something you love to do or not, what you’ll remember when you’re in old age is the times you had with your family, your friends and loved ones, laughing about nothing, playing around with your pets and being goofs with your best friends.

I’ve mentioned it before, but artists tend to go through a lot of soul-searching work, since the root of creativity is deep within us and the more we can figure out who we are on this planet, the better we can access it. I love sharing my thoughts with my audience and I’m proud about where I’ve come so far as an artist but I think those of you out there who are still figuring it out or feel a little bit stuck should feel equally as proud of how far you’ve come. There’s no right or wrong way to have a career, you can jump around as much as you want from one thing to another or stay in the same job forever, but the focus should be more on being happy with your life overall and feeling like you have a good balance between your work and your life.

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Yes, I am doing something I love as a full-time job, but it’s important to mention that I don’t love every aspect of it, and that’s perfectly okay. In fact, there are many days I don’t love, there are days where I work until my eyes sting, or days where I have trouble enjoying time with people I love because something about work is on my mind, it’s easy to let it consume your life when it’s all up to you. I think it’s important to share these aspects of my work a little bit to shine a light on them and highlight the fact that no career is perfect. It’s all a big winding road and we are only able to see about 3 feet in front of us, but that keeps it exciting and keeps us on our toes.

If you are feeling a bit stuck in your career, maybe it’s time for you to start to find joy within yourself on a day to day basis. How can you improve your days just a little bit? No matter what you do, there will always be good and bad days, and that’s just the way of life, but how you choose to see them and to react to them is entirely up to you.

Be well :)

Xx

Sabina





Enjoying Life: 3 Ways to live like you're on vacation

Hiking in Yosemite!

Hiking in Yosemite!

This is a concept that came to me when I attended an event awhile back, where one of the women entrepreneurs speaking was talking about how she tries to live like she’s on vacation. What she meant by that is to do little things everyday that you would do if you were on vacation. What this does it bring you bliss and moments of joy, relaxation and happiness throughout the day. Imagine, if you could feel that way every day for the next month, how much would your quality of life improve?

Think about the last time you were on vacation and felt really happy, what were you doing? Where were you? Think about the environment you were in, the activities you did and the people you were with. Now, start to think about how you can incorporate some of those things into your everyday life.

1. Activities:

What are some of the activities you love to do on vacation? Maybe it’s playing volleyball on the beach, and to translate that into your every day life you could find a local volleyball club or something similar like tennis, squash and more. Personally, I loooove to travel to warm destinations, especially during the winters here in Canada. I love the heat and humidity (I know that’s weird), it makes me feel much better and I absorb every minute of it when I’m on vacation. So what I do here at home is make sure I take a bit of time after my workout at the gym to sit in the sauna and absorb it all up. It relaxes my muscles, and I often do a little meditation while I sit there as well.

When on vacation, you’re also often seeing new things. Become a tourist in your own city by trying out a new coffee shop to read a book, or going for a long walk by the water if there is some, take some time out of your day to take a break and try something new whether it’s just a new environment or a different type of coffee.

2. Slowing Doooooown

Runyon Canyon in LA

Runyon Canyon in LA

Do you ever get to Friday and realize the week flew by without you even noticing? Chances are, you’ve fallen into a repetitive routine and are probably moving very quickly throughout the day. I’m all for efficiency, but there’s a big difference between being busy and being productive.

When you’re on vacation, you’re not frantically checking your email 20 times a day, or running to a meeting that you’re already late for, or skipping lunch because there’s no time. Try to focus on doing one thing at a time, give yourself lots of time to get to where you need to go so you can enjoy the trip there, and indulge in a really good lunch with some of your favourite foods.

Exploring Belgium

Exploring Belgium

Make time to read, to journal, to workout and most importantly, to sleep (how many of you sleep like CRAZY on vacation?). Enjoy the process of gradual growth and focus on enjoying life as it is right now instead of living into the future and frantically trying to get there, you’re in charge!

3. Your surroundings

As a girl who grew up in Canada with maple trees and pine trees, I get SO excited when I see palm trees and tropical plants. It signifies warmth and relaxation to me, it brings me a sense of calm because they bring me back to sitting on the beach admiring the hue of the ocean and the trees blowing in the wind beside me. It’s my ultimate zen.

Your surroundings are an important aspect of your life, especially as a creative. I don’t know about you, but working in a boring room is really difficult for me. I have filled my home with tropical plants that bring me so much joy. I have palm plants, banana leaf plants, all kinds of plants that I don’t even know the names of, but they remind me of warmth and make me feel closer to nature.

Visiting a museum in Sarasota, Florida

Visiting a museum in Sarasota, Florida

There’s nothing like fresh hotel towels, right? Why can’t you give yourself the luxury of really nice fresh towels at home? I wash my towels frequently and getting out of the shower to fresh towels and thriving plants is a little moment of bliss. This also applies to bed sheets, CLEAN your bed sheets, and replace them every once in awhile with new ones. You’ll sleep so much better and there’s nothing like crawling into a freshly cleaned, made bed.

What are some other things you like to do on vacation that you could incorporate more into your daily life? Take out a sheet of paper and write them all down, and see how you can start to fit them into your life for more moments of joy, relaxation and bliss! :)

Xx

Sabina

My Top 5 Brushes in Procreate for Illustration on iPad Pro (12.9")

I have been using Procreate for 95% of my work for about 2 years now, and I PRAISE about it because of how much time & hassle it has saved me. The Procreate/Apple Pencil/iPad Pro combination is a life saver as an illustrator. Not only can you work from your desk/couch/bed/coffee shop/beach/train/restaurant, you name it, but you can also store all of your artwork in one app AND come back to it again and again to make edits as you need.

Using Procreate has allowed me to provide limitless edits to my client projects, offer customized art prints, change/modify colours of an existing illustration to suit a brand who would like to use my work, and when my style was changing and evolving, I could come back to old drawings and give them a fresh modern look.

What I appreciate the most about Procreate is the “Streamline” option under the brush settings (every brush has it). This allows me to create smooth lines that carry through without any shaky wiggles in them, it’s arguably better than what I can do by hand on paper. Because I like to use a lot of clean lines in my work, this setting has worked wonders for me.

As a disclaimer, Procreate is a pixel-based app, which, just like Photoshop, uses pixels to create the images. For illustrators requiring vector drawings I would recommend Adobe Draw (although I haven’t used it much it’s great for solid shapes and minimal drawings in my opinion). I choose to work with Procreate over Adobe Draw because it’s the most natural-feeling drawing app I have found to date. I put a matte screen cover over my iPad to make it feel more like paper as well.

Without further ado, here are my favourite brushes in Procreate, ranking from those I use the most to those I use the least.

1. Studio Pen

The Studio Pen is a classic, round-nib pen that provides flat & bold colour and has a sharp edge. What I love about this pen so much is that the pressure sensitivity is so awesome. What I mean by this is that the more pressure you put on the screen, the larger the pen will draw, and the lighter you go the thinner the pen line will be. I use this pen for both outlining and colouring in shapes.

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2. Dry Ink Pen

You might be thinking, why does this girl use so many pens? Everyone’s style is different, but for my work I really enjoy flat colours. I play around with texture but I always keep it quite subtle. The Dry ink pen has pretty much all the same qualities as the studio pen, except it has a bit of a texture which is really nice especially for more sketch-style illustrations. What I also like about this pen is that when you release the pressure it actually lets go of the ink until you apply pressure again which can give a really neat effect when outlining.

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3. Hard Brush

Located under the “Airbrush” category, this is a great brush for filling in shapes. It’s pretty simple and straightforward, doesn’t have much variation when it comes to pressure.

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4. Bamboo Brush

This is my one of my recent favourite brushes for adding texture. I also use it to outline shapes sometimes when I don’t want a bold line that I get from the studio pen. When you put less pressure on this brush, it acts as sort of a dry brush and creates more texture versus when you put more pressure it becomes more of a solid shape. It’s a really beautiful and organic type of brush.

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5. Noise Brush

This is also one I have been trying out as of recently, I love to use it to add subtle shading, or things like a bit of blush on a portrait illustration. I tend to keep this one really light when I use it, and mostly use it for finishing touches but for more of a textured look this brush can be quite versatile.

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What are some of your favourite brushes? Comment below!

Xx

Sabina

When to Give Up

When you feel like you’ve given everything you have and it doesn’t return the results you hoped for, or you lose your inspiration, the thing that triggers your passion, you might feel like it’s time to give up.

You’ve given it a good try, it’s been quite some time, it happened so quickly for this person or that person. You’ve hit a wall and you’re not sure what to do now so the right answer seems to be “give up”.

DON’T give up. This is the tipping point, when all else fails, when you can’t see what the future holds, when everything feels like it’s crumbling, don’t give up.

What do you think would have happened if Steve Jobs gave up? Or Picasso? Or The Beatles? The answer is, probably nothing other than huge missed opportunities for them… but the world wouldn’t be the same it is today. Your ideas, your creativity, your skill is important for something to someone.

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When things get tough, take a detour. Explore a new option, try a new medium, seek out a new industry, a new job, a friend, do something different to trigger your inspiration again. You’d be surprised at just how resourceful you can be when you apply yourself and think outside the box. Imagine it as if you’re taking a road trip and have to take a different route than anticipated due to construction. You’ll see new things, meet new challenges and obstacles, it’ll be an adventure and it’ll spark something in you that will bring you back to life.

When things get tough, take a step back. Remember what’s really important to you, write them down. What are your 3 core values? What or who would you literally trade your life for? What is it that has made you hit a wall? Perhaps you’re chasing fame and money instead of honing into your core values.

Don’t ever give up. You’ll look back one day and thank yourself for sticking it out. Our lives unfold before us in such unique ways, trust the timing of things and allow yourself to be open to change. One day, something will click, but if you don’t enjoy the days up until then you’ll regret having spent that time worrying and almost giving up.

Xx

Sabina

Exploring, playing with mixed mediums

Yesterday I spent the afternoon and evening creating everything and anything using pretty much all the mediums I own. I pulled everything out and made a huge mess and it felt so great. As much as I love my digital illustration, sometimes I need to feel that connection to paper again, the brush soaked in paint and chalk all over my fingers. It makes me feel like a kid again and makes me feel so alive! I hope to incorporate more traditional illustration into my work, even if it’s just selling them as artworks, I think painting with my fingers and making a mess will always bring me so much joy.


How to become a full-time freelancer after College/University

Dislcaimer: this is what worked for me personally! Everyone’s journey and timing is different, pick and choose the things that could work for you.

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Being freelance might sound pretty amazing right? Get paid to work from home in your pjs? Or travelling the world without putting your career on hold? Let me tell you right now, if you plan on working in your pjs, you won’t hold on to your motivation very long and you will soon fall into a slump. Yes, you can travel the world and do what you love no doubt, but being freelance requires discipline and work. That being said, the more you put in, the more you get out, so if being a full-time freelancer after University is what you want to do then keep reading.

  1. Start NOW

When you’re starting a freelance career, it’s basically like starting a business. Start while you’re still in school if you can. You’ll thank yourself a year from now that you got all the tweaks and mistakes out of the way while you were a student. I started my career during my last year of University, and during that time I took on unpaid work, made mistakes and learned all the nitty gritty things while I had a valid excuse of being a student. I also worked super hard to develop my skills and utilized the school system resources for help and support when I needed it.

2. Network, network, network

It’s probably the last thing you want to hear, but 98% of the jobs you get will be from people who know you either personally or through a mutual connection. People like people, and the more you can network and build relationships with professionals, the quicker you’ll get your work falling into your lap. Over 3 years later I still attend the networking events I did while I was in school, and have made great friendships and working relationships through them. Sometimes all it takes is to be in the right place at the right time. Don’t be afraid and get out there.

3. Line up a part-time job (or two!)

For the first few years of being freelance, the work isn’t steady, and if you have rent to pay and a student loan to pay off, you need to make sure those needs are being met and it just can’t be guaranteed with freelance work. Having a steady income to start will give you peace of mind and allow you to pursue your freelance career at the same time. After I graduated, I worked part time with a start up and also held another part-time job at a pet store downtown. I knew they were both temporary and they allowed me to pay the bills while I gathered whatever I could with my illustration work. Then, when things became a bit more steady, I weaselled my way out of one after the other. My best advice: don’t rush it.

4. Be your brand

Take a look at the way you dress, the way you style your hair, your makeup, when you’re making any public appearance, make sure that you could be ready to bump into anyone of importance. The more you brand yourself in accordance to your business, the more people will remember you. Ask yourself, “how am I showing up online?” “What could make me look more like an illustrator?”. Also, ALWAYS carry business cards with you. I don’t care if you’re just going to the gas station, become an opportunist and always be prepared.

5. Maintain client relationships

If someone has invested their time and money in you, make sure they feel valued and would want to work with you again. If you make a mistake, own up to it, if a problem arises, fix it. Your clients will be the ones referring you to other potential clients, make sure they have something good to say. One person’s opinion can kill your brand.

6. Never stop learning

Just because school is over doesn’t mean you should stop learning. In fact, you need to learn more now than you’re running your own business. Enroll yourself in courses on how to manage finances, taxes, or drawing classes, updated software, etc. The more you invest in your business to become better at what you do, the more value you can provide and the more customers you will obtain as a result.

7. Have fun!

Being freelance is something to feel proud of! You’re officially your own boss, you can make your own hours and sometimes set your own deadlines as well. As much hustling as you’re probably doing, make sure you remember to have fun. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably doing something you really love, and not every day will be great, but enjoy the process of growing, leaning and achieving successes along the way. Reward yourself for surpassing milestones and share the joy with your clients. At the end of the day, work is work, remember to enjoy your life by spending time with people you love and care about, and to take care of your wellbeing as well.

Xx

Sabina

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?

Xx

Sabina

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.

Xx

Sabina