Many years ago I dreamed about having my products out there. The idea of someone going to a store and choosing something I designed was so incredible but so far! I had no idea where to start, and I feel many people might feel the same. Fortunately today there are so many ways to create illustrated products, but it all starts with the right mindset.
1. Create courage!
You need courage to show your artwork in public, to make a lot of mistakes, and to feel ashamed of what you created last year. Courage is like a plant, you need to cultivate and make it grow on you. It’s not something you can buy, or that simply exists. You need to tell yourself: I can do it!
2. Learn all the technical skills
You don’t need to know everything right now, but you need to keep improving. Do you need to improve your drawings, colors and composition? Or maybe you need to learn how to use a software like Photoshop or Illustrator. Maybe you need to improve your product photography or marketing? Whatever it is, book some time in your calendar for study. It’s important to look one year behind and see progress.
3. Explore different ways of making products
Maybe you can produce them yourself, find a reliable supplier and get them to make you some small batches of products. But have you ever thought about printing on demand? There are many services like that where you can easily visualize your product and set up for sale for free. Another amazing option is selling digital illustrated products. Not all illustrated product needs to be physical. There are so many possibilities, try to open your mind!
4. Test your samples
Is the quality of the printing good? Is the product comfortable to use? I like to use my bags and hang my hoops. I also like to get samples even if I trust a print on demand service. It’s your reputation that is out there. Ask your friends and family what they think. Make sure you are happy about the quality before start selling. It’s not about being perfect. It’s about being up to yours and the customer expectations.
5. Open your shop
You can add your products in a marketplace like Etsy or Creative Market, or try a print on demand service like Society6. Market places are usually easier to create than a website, and they have some traffic on their own. For your own website or print on demand, you might need to generate some traffic yourself. And don’t forget to try selling in person at local markets and fairs, some people have a great time at those.
💪 It all starts with courage. Ready for it? Let me know in the comments!
Since 2015 I have worked in so many different color schemes, materials and techniques. It took me a long time to find my way, but I believe 3 things had the most impact in my artwork style.
While experimenting with materials and colours was important for learning (and it still is), I believe changing too much at once made it harder for me to see what I was searching for in terms of style.
If you look at the picture above, starting from the top left and following clockwise, you will see an evolution of my work in the last 8 years.
Today I can see clearly a a depart from realism towards the style I create now, but there were lots of opposite moments. There was:
Black and white vs neon explosion;
Realism vs cartoon;
Line work vs solid shapes
Pencil on paper, acrylic on canvas, ceramics, murals, digital art
With so much changing at once it was hard for me to take decisions. If you are trying to “find your style”, sometimes it’s a good idea to “freeze” a few variables. I think this is a good step after you experiment enough.
In 2020 I defined a color palette for my work and I’ve been keeping it since then. No colors outside this palette are allowed. I developed this palette based on some fashion collections I liked and also based on my own work. I might do some very subtle changes in a few years but never again going from extremes that don’t belong here.
Also in 2020 I decided to make all my drawings digital. I work just in vector and my lines are usually well defined. I had tried digital art before, using Autodesk Sketchbook and also Procreate for iPad, this last one is quite popular with Illustrators. But I was never satisfied with my results, I always found my lines blurry or the resolution lacking. I never really learned well. Somehow I find Adobe Illustrator very easy and intuitive, it’s almost a therapy to draw on it, and I’m always happy about how crispy and clean my designs look.
Fabrics became my main material in 2021. I apply my art to other surfaces, but first I make sure they look good in the fluffy stuff. Printing on fabrics made me learn about certain design choices. Small details usually disappear between the texture of the fibers. The same happens with embroidery, I always think about how my design are going to look when translated to threads. Printing samples and testing embroidery is a must for all my projects.
Finding a style can be challenging but there is no reason to suffer like I did. If you know someone struggling with their art style, share this post with them. And as usual, let me know what you think in the comments!
Discovering the best tools for working with digital illustration and social media is a process of trial and error. After many years exploring I got a basic set that works well from sketches to published work. Check it out:
1. Light Table
Forget about transfer paper and use any paper you like! It’s so thin and easy to move around you can use anywhere. I always create my first sketches on it.
Scanning drawings is way more precise and clear than taking pictures. I have a Multifunctional Canon Pixma now, but I want to upgrade in the future. The scanner is great but the printer I use mostly for documents, not for graphics.
3. iPad + Pencil
One of the best investments for digital work. I tried many tablets in the past but I adapted better with the iPad. If you plan to work on procreate this is the tablet to go. (it also supports Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop).
4. Paperlike Screen Protector
I love the precision of the iPad and pencil but it’s still slippery, specially when writing or doing something precise. Using a matte screen protector adds a bit of grip and feels better than working on glass.
Having a flexible tripod is great for recording time lapses or having your hands free when meeting people online. An essential tool for a digital illustrator.
Although you can do most things on the iPad I still like the comfort of having a computer to create mockups, update my website and do some last details. It’s light and thin and I carry everywhere.
Record time lapses, update social media, have meetings and publish everything.
In the above picture you can see my whole set of gadgets (just missing the scanner). It’s super compact, fits in a backpack and it’s light to carry around. I always have with me when I’m travelling
I hope this might help if you are just starting! Please feel free to comment if you have questions.
I used to create all my videos on Windows Movie Maker and edit all my pictures on Photoshop. I felt like a dinosaur.
Now I do most things directly from my phone and it’s awesome and super easy. Create amazing content for your Instagram and Blog in no time and for free! Check my 6 favorite apps:
Make vídeos on your phone, add music, filters and crop! The free version has a watermark but works pretty well
Keep the colors of your feed consistent by using always the same filters. This app makes magic with my pictures
Add frames for your images and give your feed some air. It makes anything looks pretty! I use everyday!
Test how your wallpapers will work on phones or iPads, create mockups easily!
Organize everything, book posting times, share plans with a team and access from your computer (if you need)
Cut out photos, add text, create animations, add stickers and more. The free version has a watermark but it’s still pretty cool and easy to use
Bonus: Procreate Pocket
If you like to doodle and sketch on your mobile, for U$ 4.99 you can have Procreate Pocket on your phone. For me it’s Photoshop in my hands. I use for everything, for color studies, quick sketches and to retouch pictures.
I love practical things! How about you, what is your favorite app?
Many people start social media accounts and have no idea how to organize their posts or how to create a consistent presentation. Social media is everywhere and we are naturally attracted by high quality images and good quality content. In the last 5 years I improved the quality of my Instagram feed and I would like to share my tips.
All creators can benefit from a beautiful and organized feed. If you don’t know where to start, here are my tips.
1. Give a nice presentation
It can be the most beautiful drawing in the world, if your picture is dark, blurred and missing details, nobody will notice you.
2. Learn to use colors
Images in black and white are captivating but colors transmit emotions. If you don’t want to add color to your artworks, at least use colorful frames from time to time.
3. Try different techniques
Experimenting something new will boost your creativity and improve the quality of your work
4. Use your imagination
Copying other works and drawing from observation are important tools for learning but creating something new and showing your own vision of the world is what really makes your work pop
5. Give some air
Too many pictures in the same style can get a bit tiring. Alternate the way you show your creations, zoom on details, show your work space and make things more attractive.
Bonus: Show your face
People love to see who you are! From time to time show your face, your process and your opinions. Make it personal and really connect with people. It’s a social media space, not just a portfolio, so be social.
Did you like these tips?
Share with that friend who is just staring in art!
We often hear stories about people who change their careers for something completely unrelated and become extremely successful in their new areas. One of my favorite examples is the business entrepreneur Sara Blakely. Sara got a degree in law but was not able to pass the LSAT test. She spent seven years selling fax machines door to door until she finally invented Spanx and today her company is worthy one billion dollars. In numerous interviews, she looks to her past and explains how being repeatedly rejected and learning to deal with failure set her up for success. I also like Steve Jobs’ journey. In a very famous speech at Stanford University, he explains why dropping college and enrolling on a random calligraphy course was essential for the success of Apple later on. Even being fired from the company he founded contributed for his success, as he used this time to start other creative companies like Pixar, today a multi billion animation company.
I’m fascinated by this kind of journey because I’ve been in a career transition as well. Although I graduated and worked as an Architect, it’s been 5 years since I decided to become an artist. During this period I worked at a coffee shop, clothes store, department store and finally at an art studio. In 5 years I got some praise but also I heard multiple times I was wasting my talent. The fact that I served coffee at Starbucks for 2 years was a source of much controversy. Why would an architect with a masters degree decide to serve coffee? How would this contribute in any way for the development of an art career?
Deep inside me I knew I was learning from this experience but since I couldn’t see the outcome, many times I got anxious or frustrated during my journey. Looking back, I can finally see things coming together and the more I work, the more everything makes sense.
You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.
Here are 4 points to help you in your career transition:
1. Focus on what you can control
When I decided to become an artist, I got a part time job at Starbucks, and started classes at the Alberta University of the Arts. Every morning I wore an apron and served coffee, all afternoons and evenings I was drawing or studying. I had big dreams and was full of creativity and motivation. I couldn’t see clearly where I would reach, but I was happy and focused.
The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter into one of the most creative periods of my life
People around me couldn’t understand. I remember introducing myself to a new person saying ” I’m studying arts” and some friend discreetly would add “but she has a masters degree in architecture!”. I used to get upset at these reactions because I thought my friends were embarrassed from my choices. Today I understand it was not their fault. If I couldn’t see clearly the future, why would I expect other people to be able to see? This was beyond my control. In these past 5 years I learned to focus on what I can control, that means, what I want to study, how many hours I can dedicate to my practice, how I respond when I face a challenge. People’s reactions to my choices are beyond my control. I choose to don’t get upset anymore.
2. Keep track of your progress
I spent my whole first year exploring the city with a sketchbook and a black marker. In the beginning I used my phone to take pictures of my work and the environment around me. After a while, I noticed other artists presented their work in a more clean way. I got a scanner and stopped sharing pictures that were not art related. All my drawings were based on the reality around me and I was afraid of colors.
Studying colors was the biggest change of all. I went from simple black and white sketches to very colorful compositions. The architectural style gave way to experiments. Acrylic paintings, pastel drawings, watercolors, pointillism, chalk markers. Animals became my favorite theme because they could be so colorful. I learned a lot. Working at Starbucks made a huge impact in my art. Since I was constantly drawing chalkboards for them, I brought the black background to my paintings and also started learning about typography. The experience of working in this huge company also taught me many business lessons, the most important of all was understanding what a vision is and why I should have one if I wanted to grow.
In the beginning of 2018 I developed my own vision, I want to make the world more interesting. Everything that contributes to my vision is given priority, anything that doesn’t help me achieve the vision is abandoned. Many times I discarded artworks because I didn’t think they were interesting enough. The vision should be something huge and abstract, not a simple goal. I’ve been following this vision since then.
Looking to the past I noticed I didn’t have a consistent style. I was all over the place. I decided to experiment again until I could find “my style”. I also wanted to understand the meaning of “interesting” for me. At this point I already knew I wanted to work with limited colors, mix them with some black and white and use more patterns. First I got inspired by fashion illustration and later for art for kids. I tried digital drawing, unexpected colors, printmaking, stamps and stencils. Experimenting and going out of my comfort zone was essential to discover what I liked or not.
Much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on
I finally understood what I consider interesting. My whole life I loved to read and I have read lots of books. Many years ago I even had a blog about books and movies, I used to analyse how people tell a story. I discovered the most interesting thing for me is storytelling. All my illustrations should be part of a story or be the story on itself. The techniques and style has been compressed to just follow the story. This is what I’m working on now.
3. Looking back to move forward
Keeping track of my own art, constantly reviewing it and comparing with other art I like was essential to identify opportunities for growth. I archive my drawings and the process to arrive at the final piece. Stephen King expresses this idea much better than I when he speaks about writing. The same could be applied to any form of art:
“You have to read widely, constantly refining (and redefining) your own work as you do so. It’s hard for me to believe that people who read very little (or not at all in some cases) should presume to write and expect people to like what they have written, but I know it’s true. If I had a nickel for every person who ever told me he/she wanted to become a writer but “didn’t have time to read,” I could buy myself a pretty good steak dinner. Can I be blunt on this subject? If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that. Reading is the creative center of a writer’s life. I take a book with me everywhere I go, and find there are all sorts of opportunities to dip in …
Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
In 2015 I simply copied the reality around me, without thinking so much. The exercise of studying other people’s art and process lead me to improve my own process and make it much deeper. Today I define my theme and start with some loose sketches and simple written notes. As I get to the first concept, I study what other artists did, as well as explore my own memories. When I feel I have a stronger visual base, I advance on my drawings and add more details, while I transform my written notes into a text. The process is a collaboration between memories, references, drawings and thinking. For me, an idea is a person climbing a narrow gap between two buildings. It departs from the pavement, made from my memories and references. It puts the feet on the wall of the first building, my drawings. Get some impulse and put a feet on the second building, my writing. It keeps climbing dangerously with the support of both building, writing and drawing, never losing sight from the floor, my memories and references. Will the idea trip and fall back to my mind? Or will it reach the top? Can my ideas fly?
4. Be excited about what you don’t know
Understanding there is so much to learn is the best way to discover new techniques and approaches to solve problems. My career changed in some unexpected ways, one discovery led to another and I’ve seen myself walking on paths I’ve never imagined before.
Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know.
Improvement can only exist if I’m willing to see new ways of doing things. As we plant the seeds of our destiny, we imagine and plan where we are going to reach but so many discoveries on the way lead us to unexpected paths. The circle of choices is open but it’s my mind that closes its border. I’m the one who creates this invisible ceiling and says – here is where it stops. What if I could see there is no end?
Changing the mindset is the most interesting way to grow and discover value in our own experiences. Imagine how many combinations you can make with each piece of the knowledge you already have.
Good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.”
Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
Today I feel I’m combining everything, there was no right or wrong path. Skills from all my previous jobs, ideas from all my hobbies, memories from all my travels, slowly all my life experience is getting compressed and molded into new matter and transformed in illustrations. The unexpected is great. The mystery and vastness of the future are fascinating for me.
Do you wonder what the future holds? Do you ever wonder where you will be in 5 years? If I could look through the crystal ball, I would visualize an immense maze of ways and possibilities. The maze of our destiny is so vast it simply doesn’t have an end. It’s infinite. Walking on the roads of my destiny, every single day I discover new possibilities, every single moment I can make a new choice.
All these experiences together brought me where I am now. Working with large companies and learning about business helped me understand how I should guide my own career. Being open, trying with different art supplies, techniques and ideas helped me improve the quality of my artwork. The love for reading made me understand how a good story is important for me. Being excited about the future motivates me everyday.
Would you like to see your career growing in ways you never imagined before? Here is what I see so far:
Focus on what you can control
Keep track of your progress
Look back to move forward
Be excited about what you don’t know
I hope you enjoyed reading this post! Leave a comment or share, I would love to know how you are approaching your own career growth. Thanks for your visit!