How to stay inspired when working with commissions (or any other client work)


This comes up all the time. I used to feel so burdened when painting commissions. It was a part of the professional art world that seriously depressed me. I thought in order to be an artist, you had to sell your soul. To make money, you had to ‘give up art’ and be uninspired and miserable (probably because for a LONG time- that was me). 


Between a lot of business readings, a lot of time spent creating, finding wonderfully talented role models who I consider great artists… I have slowly changed my tune. It brings me great joy to do what I love. Sure there are lulls, or times when a project is tedious and challenging (just like art assignments when you are learning something new and the struggle is real and raw). But for the most part, I feel SO FORTUNATE to be able to create, to get lost in my work, to create a world that’s a little more beautiful and infuse the magic that I feel, into my work, or your work, as the case may be. 

I think a big transition of this mentality was that I don’t think making money and making art are mutually exclusive things. This seems simple, but it was a HUGE leap for me, I thought in order for art to remain pure, the artist must remain poor. (This notion was actually given life in the early 20th century when an artist wasn’t making it and wrote off all great artists as “starving” just like him). But it’s actually very untrue. I started considering great painters with patrons, people who paid the artist to paint what they wanted, I began looking at great works of art as commissions (since many were). Picasso was also a very rich man and branded himself and his work beautifully (read “Real Artists Don’t Starve” by Jeff Goins). You have to flip that switch in your brain that art and money are mutually exclusive.

The second point is that if you are DREADING working on a piece, then either you need to pivot and find a style/niche that suits you better, or charge more. Part of the reason why I hardly do wedding stationery is that I prefer to create the pieces custom for each couple, so the illustrations can take me DAYS at a time… I also haven’t branded myself to be able to charge the larger amounts that would make it worth while to me. Not getting paid enough is a total energy killer and has made me regret projects with a VENGEANCE. Want to meet the unhappiest, uninspired Sierra? It involved taking on custom portraits for $20, or extensive logo projects for $300. 

Third, I think we must begin to be seriously grateful for the ability to create. Gratitude is pretty amazing and the fact that I can whip out money from thin air with projects and art is SERIOUSLY incredible. With this attitude I was able to plug away at my portfolio, have a daily instagram post and create so much content that I now have clients that know the kind of work I do, are familiar with my style and I get to create even more work that I love doing. It’s a really cool cycle of what came first, and I am glad I am finally to see the work pay off.

So, all in all, you can create HAPPILY and also make money. Your art can be your career without any loss of interest or inspiration. Find your niche and charge enough to give your piece LIFE, to make you SO ECSTATIC to work on it (this can take a LOT of work to do, but it’s possible), and last, be grateful that we get to do what we love. We live in a special time where passion and social media converge with public interest and instant publication and mass sharing.

Obviously this is just projection for what has worked for me, and is more of a reflection after talking about how draining certain commissions can be (because they can seriously be the WORST). I hope you all find the work/art/life balance that suits you and you create with brilliant excitement (or whatever works for you) regularly.

Collaboration is the Name of the Game

Okay guys. I am doing something currently that EVERYONE is adamantly against. Free work.

I’m finally at a point where I know exactly what I want to do. Where I want my focus to be, and currently don’t have the clients that I want. So I am 1. doing my #HashtagScarletLetters passion project. But also reaching out to boss babes that are KILLING it to see if they want to work with me. FOR FREE.

I know, what you’re thinking. I feel like I can feel the death stares from every graphic designer/illustrator across the globe right now.

This practice is DEFINITELY looked down upon. So I get it. I’m being a crazy woman admitting I am doing this. However, I feel like whenever I have known my value, was confident with what I wanted to do- and worked for free, it has paid off ten fold.

Gary Vee actually has a slight conspiracy that the reason why artists are so against free work is because it works and everyone who tells you to not offer things for free aren’t wanting you to become successful/compete with them.

Now. I am not saying that I do free work for people who come to me, know my design capabilities, understand my portfolio and want to work with me… without paying. I don’t do that.

BUT I am providing free value to people/brands that I love without any expectation of anything in return. And I am also seeking out women hustlers that are grinding, doing the work and are making progress in their business without great design, and offering them some great design that they can use.

If none of this works, I’ll come and let you all know. If it’s frustrating and no one appreciates it- I’ll let you know that as well. But currently, I am excited to work with some badass babes and do work for people that will love it.

GIFs

“Why are you going down the GIF (and Giphy) rabbit hole?” you might be wondering.

If so, you may have noticed an uptick in my posts about GIFs, or me talking about stickers that are available on any Giphy powered search. It’s because I am now a Giphy featured artist and am seriously in love with providing cool stickers for people to use. It feels like I am contributing in a different way… and a way that’s gaining traction.

I’m able to be creative, to give others fun things, see the need for certain stickers- and create them.

It’s really cool, and very different and I can’t wait for my giveaway to give someone a personal GIF that they can use in their stories.

(How to enter- just go to instagram, find my post about the GIF-away and tag three friends!) Do it! You won’t regret it.

And if you want to learn how to make them, or if you have any questions- leave a comment and I’ll go live and teach you my process 🙂

From Eh to Ecstatic

You may wonder why would I create a series within my regularly scheduled instagram postings. Or think that 100 pieces seems like a lot of work for a slightly random hashtag project. And you’re right. It seems random and difficult because it kind of is.

BUT the beauty of creating strict boundaries within my work helps create discipline and creativity. There is enough room that I can explore and remain curious, while giving me something to focus on when I feel drained of ideas or uninspired.

And at the end of this, I want to compile it into a book. For numbers 10-20 I want to letter your #fromehtoecstatic moments!

So, for #5 in my “from eh to ecstatic” is “from Texas to New York”. Which doesn’t necessarily go because I love so much about Texas and my little small town. (They are actually hosting a really cool festival this weekend that I am sad I am missing). But at the same time New York is so many things that Texas isn’t.

What’s in a Portfolio

I recently (as of this week) updated my portfolio. I’ve been working on a few self-guided events/editorial illustrations/marketing pieces for the past few weeks and finally felt like it was voluptuous enough to compile and share.

This can be such an undertaking, but having a professional, eye-catching portfolio for your services, is the very reason why you have a service to begin with. Because visually engaging content matters.

1. I used product mockups from Creative Market.

2. I created hand-lettered animations, illustrations and lettering for a variety of clients and uses

3. Use Adobe Stock for stock images and backgrounds to help you tell your story.

4. Figure out your website and what works best for you. I am currently using WordPress with Elegant Themes.

I spent a decent chunk of money getting my portfolio in place. There has been countless baby steps that have slowly made my portfolio more and more professional. Colors, the theme I use, the design elements to highlight the piece I am displaying.

My advice is to create tons of “practice” work that you can display. Want to do more editorial illustrations? Do a bunch of them as ‘practice’. Want to become your town’s chalkboard calligrapher? Do a bunch as ‘practice’ (and even give them away). You get the jist. Create goals, set boundaries and put in the work. It may feel like you are crawling, but at some point you’ll look back and be proud of all the compiled work.

“Things that all Female Entrepreneurs Need to Stop Saying”

I read a title that was similar to this the other day and to be honest, it kind of made my blood boil. It’s taken me a few weeks to write about it because I didn’t want to blog while frustrated or angry. So I sat with it, analyzed it and figured out why I dislike it.

The article pointed to things like “Women need to stop saying, “just”” or “Women need to stop apologizing” and my favorite, “Female business owners shouldn’t call their business their babies.”

The reason why this makes me mad is because men don’t have these articles written about what they should or shouldn’t be saying. It’s only women that are being asked to modify our language and actions to mirror how men speak. Again, ‘male’ is default, making ‘female’ wrong.

I think women need to find their voice, be confident in what they are asking and doing… but being polite isn’t a bad thing. If I’m late, I will apologize, if I was oblivious to your presence and got in your way because I was in the zone while shopping, I will say sorry. Though, I have done a lot to make “excuse me” my default in a lot of situations. Women shouldn’t have to apologize for their presence. But that doesn’t mean, that women saying, “sorry” is a bad thing. Why don’t we have more articles calling men out for NOT apologizing? For NOT having manners?

Why is critiquing women the default? Because we have always been critiqued? Because we have been raised to read article after article critiquing our make-up, our sexuality, our bodies our clothes? Because analyzing what women do wrong is more natural than calling out men for the ‘default’ behavior?

Also, the idea that women entrepreneurs shouldn’t call their business their babies is absolutely insane. I just heard a male entrepreneur say that same thing, and yet, there are absolutely no articles telling him to stop.

1. I often refer to my business as my baby because I am at an age where a lot of my friends have children, or are pregnant and it stops the “when are you having kids?” question.

2. I’m still in the throes of beginning my business. If I got pregnant when I first began my business I would currently be 39 weeks pregnant, and to be honest, I feel like the business is still gestating. It can’t stand on it’s own two feet yet because it’s SO new. In the future this business will be able to expand and grow, I am thinking ahead of how I can create systems to train others, how to set up my emails to be more automated while being personal, and create a sustainable business- but currently, it’s my baby. It won’t always be. But it is now. I’m not raising capital, or taking out loans, this is a grind, a hustle and it’s a little fetus that I have been nurturing and growing for the past ten months. My business is A BUSINESS no matter what words I use to help others understand it.

Stop policing women’s speech because we automatically assume male is default.

Women. Find your voice. Be confident. Don’t let others talk over you, stand your ground and be communicative. Whatever words or language you use, do so proudly. If your communication isn’t working- pivot. But you deserve a seat at the table and to be listened to whether you are polite, bossy or want to create open communication.