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Running your own Business | 5 tips to help your business thrive while keeping a healthy mindset

designCara Ord

Often when you run a business it is your baby. It is personal. Anything that happens to your business directly impacts you and so you feel like it is part of you, an integral part. Being a small business owner myself I understand this feeling, but don't get trapped. Yes; your business, how it runs and whether it thrives effects your livelihood and income. However it is not you. A bad review of your business should not feel like a personal stab. In reverse a personal crisis should not impact your business (with the exception of emergency changes in open hours). 

Running your own business. Make sure you keep a clear definition of what is personal and what is professional.

Self employed and entrepreneurs are abundant and passionate but often fall into the trap of being too emotionally invested. This often leading to the detriment of them and/or their work. Although it is definitely not all that is needed a good rule for success is not getting too attached. A business is a job and should be run efficiently and diligently. Being too emotional in it's workings can lead to poor decisions and the slow inevitable road to ruin. 

Do not consider your work as a part of you or as a friend or baby, it is a business partnership (literally). No matter what your business is, whether it is an Etsy shop for craft ware, a personal training company or a parts supplier, the same rule applies. Logic wins over sentiment.

Now to clarify I am not talking about changing your brand. If you brand is all about being close and personal with your clients and being 'like' a family figure then that is great, but your brand is the face of your business and shouldn't be your personal persona 24/7. I am talking about cutting emotional ties with your work. It is not only poor work practice but negative for your health.

Being too emotionally invested in your work and business can cause major stress and can be a trigger for anxiety and depression. You cannot keep all your eggs in one basket. A business is there for financial support and as an expression of passion, you cannot also use it as an emotional crutch or replacement for a life and relationships. Lead a balanced life. For your business to prosper it cannot be everything to you. For it to work it needs to have the opportunity of failure without ruining your life.

I am a work-a-holic, I know what I am talking about. I have been career minded since high school and I used to get my sense of pride and worth from work. I would for go relationships and friendships because I didn't think I needed it and the only way I felt successful is if I was over worked because then I knew I had given my all. This is such an unhealthy way to live. Although i didn't know that at the time.

So how did I get myself to flick the switch and get out of this unhealthy situation before it was too late? Well I didn't. I was stressed, overworked, started pulling all nighters and became a sufferer of anxiety and depression. It sucked. Only once I hit my low did I realise what I was doing wrong. By this point I did have a relationship (with my now husband) and he was the blessing which helped me most on getting back on track. But here are a few tips for helping you seperate your emotional dependance from your work or business before it becomes too late, tips to help you lead a healthy balanced life while being the super human you are making your business work.

  1. Have someone to make you accountable - now family is great for this but they can be too close. I recommend having a great group of out of work friends to go to where you can let out some steam and get advice as well as let down your hair with. Now introverts like me may be balking at the idea of socialising, I understand the pain. However it isn't hard. If you don't have one or a couple friends out of work, join a club or do classes for something you love. In a structured environment it is ten times easier to hit it off with someone and that way you will have dedicated time once a week to be social and catch up.

  2. Exercise daily - Now before I start sounding like a life guru or a personal trainer (which I am not) I am talking about light exercise. The kind which simply gets you out of your chair, your office, your shop and gets you moving. I take walks every morning before I get down to business and it helps to calm my mind, and most importantly seperate my ‘me time’ from my ‘work time’ giving me a healthy transition task to do before I get into my email inbox.

  3. Do not be your brand - I sort of touched on this earlier. But it is so important that you are not the brand of your business. I talk about Brand in my free ebook which you can grab here. You and your business are both individual personalities. Your brand/business does not have opinions like you do, no political/religious sway, it does not favour the food you do, do it's hair like your or like the same music. Your brand does not hit snooze, or read the books you do or go shopping. Your brand is not you so don't make yourself your brand. Your brand is the face of your business, you're its spokesperson, make sure that you make a definitive separation between the two (especially if you have employees). If you need help with your brand and making it work for you let me know, we can chat using the form below.

  4. Schedule - it is so, so easy to make your business a 24/7 thing. Having your email right there on your phone and everything literally a hands stretch away can make it so easy for you to work work work. This is why it is so important to schedule your time. Running your own business gives you freedom to live how you want to, it is not a license to work all the time. Schedule out when you want to work and your me time. This could be setting a simple 9-5 schedule for yourself or be more complex and having 4 hours of work split throughout the day, 7 days a week. Whatever you decide make a work schedule and stick to it so you have the opportunity to let yourself switch off.

  5. Make sure you have a hobby which isn't work - I am the type of person which seems to turn all of her hobbies and passions into careers; design, illustration even iceskating have all become jobs for me. My advice is to have one hobby that will never be a job. At the moment for me this is reading, and in the future when I work with books (as an illustrator/designer) it will be knitting (I am so bad at it I know I can never make a career out of this hobby). Have something you can do that you can relax with and you don't have to do as part of work.

I hope my little bit of advice can help you relax. Please seperate yourself and your business. Your business cannot be everything for you, it is an impossible task, and you can't be everything for your business. Have fun and enjoy life. That is why you started this venture in the first place isn't it?

Till next week,
Cara

How to grow your Business | Giving back to your Customers

designCara Ord

It is so important to not be a taker but to be a giver. A business which just takes will eventually die out because you are not nurturing your audience. Think of a rainforest ecosystem, if the large trees just sucked up all the nutrients but didn't shed their leaves to mulch the earth the will eventually take all the good things out of the ground and die out themselves, strangling the young plants around them. SO giving is really important. The question is, how to grow your business? How do you give? You already sell great products and services, what more do you need to do? 

Well giving free advice and sending out free resources is actually a fantastic way to nature your audience. It helps you to build a community. Even if you are a 'teeny tiny' business like mine there is always something you can give. That is why I try and do a weekly blog, to share my insights and professional knowledge to help you.

Recently I have been thinking about small business, and what I can do to help out those of you who are independent creators and business owners. The first thing I thought was I want to support you and give you something that will help you promote and grow your business, expand your clientele and hopefully improve your revenue. That is when I decided to make my free resource 'A Guide to branding for small business'. It is a simple short eBook that you can use to help you get on your way in branding your business. The eBook explains what branding is and how it can help you market what you are offering. It even includes 5 tips to start branding your business, or improving the branding of your business yourself.

ebook: how to grow your business

ebook: how to grow your business

But then I thought, I can do more. Sure I just made this great resource (which you can find here) but I can help you one step further.

This is when this months brand new Skillshare class came into play. I had given back to you and I thought you might want an easy way to give to your audience. So along comes my new class:

'Creating an eBook | promote your business and give value to your customers'

how to create an ebook

how to create an ebook

Through this class I will take you step by step through the creation of a simple and effective eBook. I also add an abundance of tips on branding, content writing, social media promotion, creating visuals for your business and more. I am so excited to share this with you as it is brand new and I hope really helpful for you in your business journey.

If you would like to check out the class head here.

I hope both these resources are helpful to you and help you grow your business. if you have any questions feel free to contact me. I am here to help you out. 

Have a great week and I will check in with you next week.

Interview with Michael DiGiorgio | Inspiring Illustrators

Inspiring IllustratorsCara Ord

Following on from last weeks animal conservation theme we have the gorgeous work of nature illustrator Michael DiGiorgio. Michaels work depicts birds in all their beauty straight from our world. He searches for his subject matter and paints them in place using their real appearance, habits and movements to get a in depth idea of his subject matter. 

illustration of birds in brush by Michael DiGiorgio

illustration of birds in brush by Michael DiGiorgio

Hello Michael, Thank you so much for offering to share some of your wisdom with us today. Your work has such fine detail and really demonstrates the beauty of the natural environment around us.

You capture all your nature imagery from life. How did you learn to observe such detail in a moving subject?

When I was a young artist learning to paint birds, I went to see Don Eckelberry, one of the greats bird painters of all time. He saw my work and immediately sensed that I was copying photos. He suggested that I go outdoors and sketch birds directly from life in quick gestural sketches. At first, I was puzzled on how to capture fast moving subjects like warblers, but then as I persisted, I learned how to create simple gestural drawing with observation notes that became a sort of shorthand for me. I know teach my method to interested parties at my courses

What drew you to birds as your main subject matter?

Don’t know? I was born with a fascination of birds, and it’s carried over throughout my life. I guess the combination of color, song, and flight is the main attraction for me. Everything I do in life eventually comes back to my love of birds.

Can you talk us through your field kit? What is your preferred tools of choice when creating your illustrations?

I have a small half pan watercolor kit, a small water container, a soda bottle with water, a stool, and an Arches watercolor pad. Most of the time when I’m sketching in pencil, just a small sketchbook and a pencil. When I’m stationary and painting, I use my angled spotting scope.

How long does it take you to produce a piece such as your ‘Scarlet Macaws’?

Observation and sketches is the first and most important step. Second is photos I take of backgrounds and habitat. Last is the accuracy of the drawing, noting else matters if the drawing is off. Next choosing a style that reflects the subject, and then getting a light source to work with. I use skin I get from Yale Peabody for plumage and photos for the rest of the reference.

Working from life how do you decide what details to keep and which to omit, such as background busy elements or textures?

There are two type of marks you can make on a piece of art: one adds to it and one takes away from it. It is harder to leave the unnecessary out than it is to put the unnecessary in. It takes many years of doing this to know when to stop and how much to put in to bring your subject to life. Unnecessary detail communicates a lack of knowledge of the subject to me. 

Do you go out hunting for a specific subject or do your subjects find you? talk us through the process of your illustrations from idea to finished piece?

When I go out, I’m usually on the hunt for a specific subject. Sometimes on my way I find an unintended subject that is more interesting, and I paint it. But most of the time, I’m after a specific habitat and bird that speaks to me at the moment. If I can’t finish it in the field, I usually bring it home and then try to capture the experience in my studio and finish it. It’s often so much harder to get that feeling of immediacy of the direct observation and the freshness in the studio. It just sort of flows out of you when you’re in front of the original subject.

Have you had formal training in your craft? if so can you tell us a bit about your experiences?

Yes, I have a Bachelors of Fine Art and a Graduate Degree in Art. But most of my education came from Don Eckelberry and going out and learning on my own.
Learning how to paint outdoors with the challenging light, foliage, etc. is the best teacher. Don was very critical when critiquing my work. As he often said, if you want compliments,
ask your Mother.

He taught me how to place the bird in a convincing pose with enough background to suggest it’s habitat, but not too much as to take away from the subject.

does working professionally in illustration diminish some of your passion for the work you do?

No, it augments it. Having to work with world class ornithologist like Bob Ridgely, and working with world class artist like Guy Tudor has only made me better as a bird painter. But there is a huge difference between painting an illustration, and painting my own pieces. An illustration is solely for the audience, and their ability to compare my painting to the real bird. When I work on my own paintings, I’m recalling a personal experience with a bird, and I’m only trying to please myself.

How does your cultural background and environment impact your work?

I guess growing up in a somewhat poor Italian American family, I learned how to keep myself occupied by seeking out solitude in nearby wood lots, etc. My tight family life only encouraged my talent, and I fed off that.

Being a nature illustrator often featuring your pieces is nature journals and books how does your professional life work? Are you commissioned to capture specific specimens and then paid to travel in search or do you create your works and then auction them to publishers?

It takes many years to establish yourself as a capable bird painter. Only by honing your craft and proving that you can interpret your subjects in a convincing way and follow through a project in a timely way do you start getting noticed. It took me many, many years of doing small jobs, free work for nature organizations, and contacting publishers to get a major job as a field guide artist.
The initial contact is not from a publisher, but from the team creating the book; editor and the main artist. He is the one usually responsible for contacting other artists for the project.
Meeting Guy Tudor and Bob Ridgely was my biggest break, and that only came about after seeking such work, and being suggested as a capable artist. Once you get the job, you are usually assigned a group of birds group the editor, and then you work with them to make sure each bird is exactly correct.

Out of your published works which is your favourite and why?

Probably my recent work on the Birds of Brazil by Wildlife Conservation Society. I think they are some of the best bird plates I’ve ever done, thanks to the direction of Guy Tudor.

Part of series 'Birds of Brazil Vol.2' by Michael DiGiorgio

Part of series 'Birds of Brazil Vol.2' by Michael DiGiorgio

When you began as an illustrator how did you get your voice heard among the crowd?

Just ignoring everything and trying to become the best you can be. Being a professional bird painter is a profession next to impossible to make a living, so the ones who succeed are those who don’t give up and do it because they can’t help but to do it. Just find your own voice and learn to become your harshest critic. Once you learn to please yourself, then your ready to have your work out into the publishing world. 

Finally, what is your dream project?

Traveling and painting nocturnal birds like nightjars. They are among my favorite family of birds, and I’d love to travel to Africa and see them in the flesh.
After that it’s to have the time to paint my own work. I never seem to be able to break away from my illustration work long enough to do my own paintings.

Interview with Nathan Ferlazzo | Inspiring Illustrators

Inspiring IllustratorsCara Ord

Today we speak to a man who shares my passion for animal conservation and uses his gifts to do what he can for the cause he loves. Originally an illustrator Nathan broke away and created his own business illustrating amazingly detailed animal portraits to support animal conservation.

Koala Illustration by Nathan Ferlazzo

Koala Illustration by Nathan Ferlazzo

Hello Nathan, Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions for us. Your unique and highly detailed work is so fascinating to view and your focus on wildlife and conservation connects deeply with me.

Your business Marini Ferlazzo is really inspirational, using your talent for a cause. How did you come about the concept for your business, and in what ways has it contributed to wildlife conservation?

I had always wanted to start my own business in art and design. It was 2011 when I began developing ideas after visiting a Eugene von Guerard exhibition in Melbourne. I was inspired by his immensely detailed painted landscapes and ink illustrations. I had always loved drawing with detail since I was a child, so I think that was inevitably going to be a key element of my illustrations. So I began experimenting with ink, drawing animals made of flora. I did more and more of these illustrations and felt this could be something more. If this was going to become a business it needed to have a positive impact that people could be a part of. I love surrounding myself amongst nature and I find animals fascinating, so of course the decision was easy, I wanted to support wildlife conservation. My mother and I teamed up to further develop ideas as to how we could convert these illustrations into products. In 2014, we launched the business and started off with limited edition prints and shortly after introduced greeting cards. We partnered with non-for-profits organisations and found that we could offer them a unique way to spread their messages and also raise funds for their initiatives. Anyone trying to push a conservation message or welfare issue has to compete with the noise of social media, it can be difficult to cut through and get your message to new people. This is where we found we could communicate in a different way and potentially reach new supporters for these important conservation issues. 

Your style is very distinct and highly detailed. How did you develop your style?

I had never used a traditional nib and Indian ink when I began these illustrations, I grew up drawing with graphite pencils, but I loved that it was something new, at least to me, and was hooked. It was a matter of trial and error, the earlier illustrations look very different to more recent ones. The more I drew, the more I understood what made an illustration work and what would compromise the form. That’s the trickiest thing, ensuring the form of the animal is still captured while completing removing all it’s fur, feathers or skin and replacing it with botanicals. 

How long does it take you to finish a piece? Do you research heavily into the Fauna and Flora forms that you use in your compositions?

The more detailed pieces take up to 60 hours to complete, which I do over several weeks. The fauna is always very carefully considered and researched, as they need to be relevant and also engage people so they’ll sit up and take notice. It depends on the collection, as to whether or not I research the flora. Sometimes I’ll include random flora, as it’s not always the focus of the collection. But for instance, the Australian range, it was important that people saw a complete picture of Australia within each illustration.

Was it a conscious choice of yours to work only in black and white. How has this impacted your art and career?

Yes it was. I experimented with colour in the beginning and really didn’t feel it added anything, in fact, it actually took away from the animal. I didn’t want people to be persuaded by the colour palette, I preferred they chose based on the animal they felt they most connected to. 

You do collaborations and commissions with your art. How does this effect your illustration practice?

I try to fit in one or two commissions each year so clients can get exactly what they would like. However, it’s getting more difficult to find a place for them, as it’s important that each piece can relate to a conservation message, and client’s projects don’t always have a relevance to our business. If we can’t make it part of our range it’s unlikely I’ll take on the commission. 

Is illustration your sole career or do you balance your creative work with other pursuits?

It’s my sole career at the moment, I love expressing myself creatively and working with my family. However, my type of illustration is a very slow process that can often feel quite static, so I have hobbies like martial arts, rock climbing and skateboarding – these activities allow me to release some energy and get my body moving!

Can you talk us through your transition from graphic designer to full time illustrator, what were some of the challenges? What are the biggest distinctions, you think, between the two creative careers?

Unfortunately, I never had a teacher explain to me the potential avenues of illustration. It was either become a struggling artist with a part-time job at the local super-market or become a graphic designer. I opted for the latter. I was a graphic designer for 8 years when I finally felt like I had achieved everything I had wanted to do – it was no longer fulfilling designing ads and point of sale for beer brands. I didn’t feel like I was doing anything of real meaning, nothing to contribute to the world in a positive way. So I went back to my passion – art. 

Graphic design is something very different to being an artist, but it’s actually not too dissimilar to being an illustrator. Graphic designers work to briefs supplied by clients. You are constantly in a balancing act of what you feel works aesthetically and what the client wants, trying to reach compromises and finally communicate a clients message. When I began creating my own artworks, I was free of anyone’s expectations or design briefs, I was just expressing myself creatively. The illustration I do now is a mixture of the two, graphic design and art. I create my pieces free of briefs and clients, however, I still consider the viewer because ultimately the illustration needs to work on our range of products. There are animals I’d like to draw, there are poses I’d like to draw, but I don’t do them because they won’t transition well to products. To put it simply, a graphic designer works for clients, an artist works for themselves and an illustrator can be a mix.

Does working professionally in illustration diminish some of your passion for the work you do?

I think it has the opposite effect on me actually. Working professionally in illustration makes me feel like I have a responsibility to achieve a level of quality. Plus the people I meet who are involved in conservation, are all very passionate and inspirational people – that fuels my passion.

It is clear that wildlife and nature inspire your work, is their any other things or people that inspire you in your creative practice?

Many other things inspire me; my family, my grandparents, design, architecture, people in conservation like John and Angela Lemon of Painted Dog Conservation Inc. are incredibly inspirational. Anyone who pushes them selves to do the seemingly impossible always inspires me.

Out of your published works which is your favourite and why?

The Dingo. It reminds me of our family dog I grew up with, Oscar. He was a jet black Kelpie. When I look at the dingo illustration I think of Oscar, who I miss very much. 

Dingo Illustration by Nathan Ferlazzo

Dingo Illustration by Nathan Ferlazzo

When you began as an illustrator how did you get your voice heard among the crowd?

I attended markets, I walked into stores and showed them my prints and greeting cards and I posted work on social media. I wasn’t scared of rejection or criticism, I knew not everyone would like my work, and I was fine with that, but I knew there was a group of people that would appreciate it. 

Finally, what is your dream project?

Sitting down with David Attenborough and discussing a collection that he would like to see me draw to represent his life in wildlife.

Interview with Marco Melgrati | Inspiring Illustrators

Inspiring IllustratorsCara OrdComment

Our series in inspiring illustrators continues with italian editorial illustrator Marco Melgrati. Marco began his professional career in 2013 and loves his work as an illustrator which gives him the freedom to live as a world traveller. Marco has lived in Italy, Mexico, Russia and currently Thailand all through his creative gift and career as an editorial illustrator.

Illustration on social media by Marco Melgrati

Illustration on social media by Marco Melgrati

Hello Marco, It is a pleasure to be interviewing you today. Your pieces are able to convey such a strong message with visual metaphors and juxtaposition in uncluttered compositions.

Your work is predominantly editorial based, hitting hard topics related to world events. Are you commissioned for specific pieces by magazines or do you follow current events and create art to action to publications?

I am commissioned to do my work through the art agency I work with. However I don’t only work on commissions, I work on personal work as well. And sometimes it works out that the personal work I create some one wants to use or buy.

How did you come across your style?

I took a short course in Milano on digital illustration with my friend and got really inspired by the work of my teacher Alessandro Gottardo, an example of his work being ‘Shout’. This illustration course really shifted my attention into editorial styled work.

I now work both traditionally and digitally. Most of my professional work being produced digitally however I do do paintings for clients. I am actually currently an artist in residence in Chang Mai (Thailand) working traditionally, oil on canvas. I love to paint but for the kind of work I do it is easier and time saving to do work digitally with just my laptop.

How long does it take you to finish a piece? Do you research heavily into the subject and stories you are trying to convey? Do you draft our several thumbnails before deciding on a final concept?

The length of time it takes for me to do my work often depends on the time buffer the client has given me. For instance I am currently working on an illustration for Amsterdam magazine and I was given 3 days. Which means one day for sketch and the rest for client review and final artwork. 

I like to do my work and then walk away for a time so when I return I can see more clearly my mistakes. I like to take my process slowly so I can get my work perfect. The style I do isn’t overly detailed and the style I do is simplistic and means that developing the final illustration once the concept is created is fairly quick.

Often the client will give me the article to work off or tell me a synopsis of the topic. After that I will research the topic online (especially if I find it fascinating) and search for images surrounding the topic to get a feel for the work I need to produce. After this I sketch out ideas and thumbnail sketches. After that I send a small selection of my sketches to the art director of the project, 3 to 4, I want to be as direct as possible and make the choice for the art director as easy as possible. Once the art director has selected their preferred sketch I create a final illustration for them.

Your colour selection within your works is very coherent and often limited to a small palette, do you plan your palettes or does you art just flow and have its own mind?

My colour palette is both planned and transforms with the art. I often pick small colours for a question of time. I want to make my image as impactful as possible with the simplest illustrative form. Too many colours make your work overly complicated and less colour helps you with creating a message and directing your viewers attention. In editorial you want an immediate reaction from your audience and control of colour makes this reaction easier to control.

Through an online store you sell prints and products featuring your illustration in a print on demand basis. How does this practice help or hinder your artistic career? Do you ever run into licensing issues with your work?

I sell my products online through Society 6. It is a nice way to have a little bit extra cash flow, I can decide how much money I want to make on my products and that just adds on the the companies price for the consumer. I try to keep my work as close to base price as I can.

Some people ask me to recreated traditional paintings and such on my prints I sell through my store, which I hop to one day offer. However I enjoy using the store because without the ease of print on demand I wouldn’t be able to offer these products and sell my work in this way. It is a way to make money on works I already have created. My store is not a main source of income and I could not live off it but it is a little bit of income audit just adds up overtime. 

I sell work I have previously done for magazines so creating store content is of no extra cost for me. Unless the magazine has asked specifically for the copyright I am free to use the image in anyway I want including selling it on to other buyers and clients. In most cases the magazine does not ask for the rights for the image.

How did you get into the editorial illustration sphere? How has your career progress to reach this point?

After the course in Milano I knew I wanted to do editorial illustration. Illustration was what I was good at. I can reach more people with this illustrations than with paintings in a gallery.

I started working professionally in 2009 in my home of Italy. It was almost impossible though because life is expensive in this part of the world and I was often having to find little jobs to flesh out my income and couldn’t concentrate on illustrate. 

I moved to be with my brother in Mexico city where the lifestyle was cheaper so I could live off my work, working through a US illustration agency. with just one piece of work I could survive for a month. In Mexico I could just focus on my work and improve and gain more clients, from here on it was only illustration work.

The only skill I have in my life is drawing and any way I can keep doing this as a profession I will.

Have you had formal training in your craft? if so can you tell us a bit about your experiences?

I did art in high school and went to an art college studying in fine art painting. After I did a short course in Milano in Digital Illustration in 2008 taught by Alessandro Gottardo. I have always done art and painting, I didn’t just wake up one morning and decide this is what I will do.

does working professionally in illustration diminish some of your passion for the work you do?

You always love your work, but sometimes there are commissions which I am not interested in and although I try to make the best work I can even when the subject doesn’t interest me. 

Although as a whole I don’t think my passion has declined being a professional illustrator. Just knowing that your work isn’t just for you but for a wider audience keeps your passion alive and motivated.

How does your cultural background and environment impact your work?

My culture is not  huge impact on my work. I travel a lot but unless the illustration is about a specific place the place and culture aren’t a huge impact. The place I am isn’t a muse, however, the more you travel the more you see stuff from another point of view. 

You cannot tell where I am when I make my illustrations, I take advantage of my ability to travel with this career and my current life situation but it doesn’t greatly impact my work. I have been from Milano to Mexico, Russia, Lithuania,Thailand and on. I highly recommend travel, but more as a benefit to your life experience rather than your art.

Do you have advice for illustrators beginning their creative journey?

My advice is to keep working, keep trying. Until you try you don’t have a chance. Follow your passion but be realistic. Combine what you love with something that is professionally possible, you aren’t just creating art you are working in a profession. Adapt your passion to allow you to create a business and job from what you love. Leave yourself open to adapt a little bit and leave a little room for reality, this is the difference between a hobby and work.

Out of your published works which is your favourite and why?

My Favourite piece would be a political piece I did turning a politician into Pinocchio. I enjoyed creating it, it was humours and clever. I enjoyed doing this piece as the magazine it was illustrated for often has interesting philosophical topics which I enjoy.

Illustration on Political voice by Marco Melgrati

Illustration on Political voice by Marco Melgrati

When you began as an illustrator how did you get your voice heard among the crowd?

The start of an illustration career is very difficult. Many times I would send out work and no one would answer, it was a bit frustrating. My work started to flourish and increase when I found an illustration agency which found work and clients suited to me and sent it to me. Agencies take  percentage of your profits and advertise your skills and style in return to help you bring in work. Working with an agency was super valuable to begging my illustrative career. Now I can live while doing this work which is a dream. Being an illustrator and freelance is strange because you can be elated an excited with a lot of work to do and at times down when not much work is coming through the door, it is a strange work, very unpredictable.

Finally, what is your dream project?

My Dream is to do work for New York Magazine. I aim to improve my work, do work for magazines I love and find projects that challenge me. I have also been making tattoo designs for a friend and although tattoos are not fro me I have really enjoyed doing this as well.

Interview with Tamara Campeau | Inspiring illustrators

Inspiring IllustratorsCara OrdComment

Welcome everyone to the first interview in our new blog series 'Inspiring illustrators'. Every week we will have a new interview with a professional artist working in the ranging field of illustration. I am more than delighted to introduce illustrator Tamara Campeau as our first amazing professional, sharing with us her experience and passion for her craft.

Autumn Illustration by Tamara Campeau

Autumn Illustration by Tamara Campeau

Hello Tamara, welcome to the blog, I am looking forward to what you have to say.
What are some of the biggest challenges you find in being a professional artist?

Hi Cara, thank you for having considered me for this cool project of yours! I’m delighted to contribute.

To answer your first question, I would say first thing that comes to mind, the business side. Something I’m working still to perfect and become well versed in. Other then that, I would say sketching regularly sometimes could become a challenge because life just happens such as house chores, grocery shopping and errands etc. 

Your style is a combination of analogue and digital techniques, Can you run us through how you create an artwork from start to finish?

My process starts with a quick thumbnail in my sketchbook, something to get the general gesture and feel of the piece before taking the next step. I then create a cleaner version of my initial gesture, cleaning up the lines and adding detail as well as making more final decisions about the lights and darks of the piece. I will then take this more finished sketch and scan it into my computer to work into the image more on my Cintiq tablet. Sometimes I will work directly from my sketched line work and other times I will draw the line work digitally. I will then proceed to doing gray scale studies to figure out the lighting and contrast of the image. Once satisfied, I then research reference images relevant to the subject matter of my illustration in order to have a more accurate representation.  After all these steps are completed I then move on to the final stage that being color application. 

The whimsy of your work naturally lend itself to children’s book illustration? Was this always your intention or did you just fall into this category of illustration? 

No. When I first studied in illustration at Dawson College in Montreal (2004-2008), I did not know what I wanted to do. The program was pretty vague; they showed us a little bit of everything in the industry of illustration such as technical drawing, 3D modeling, narrative, editorial and many others. By the time I graduated I had an interesting skill set but yet I had no idea what I really wanted to pursue as an illustrator but I definitely knew I wanted to further my education in illustration or fine art. So I ended up taking some time off and traveled a bit. I can’t remember exactly the moment I knew I wanted to be a children book illustrator but I remember looking at books in the children section at the local library in downtown Vancouver, and realized I could do this type of work and it looked really fun to do. From that point on I became obsessed with children books and their illustrators and started researching that industry and working on my skill sets. Before going back to school in 2013, I had tried freelancing a bit as a children book illustrator for about a 1-2 year period while working odd jobs. I finally got my first gig to illustrate a book just a few months before starting university at Sheridan College. During my studies I had freelanced a tiny bit in the summers for small publishing companies and editorial. To conclude, not at first, but eventually children book illustration became my intention. 

Your work has a beautiful quality for story telling, how do you convey story in your illustrations? Do you have a system or advice for developing the world in your works?

Once I have an idea in mind and a thumbnail decided on. I will do a lot of research on my subject matter. Research is important because it makes your environment more believable to the viewer. When researching and thinking of the environment the character is living in and what he/she does in its everyday life I think of representational elements that would best describe the characters personality. I’m trying to describe who they are within the world they live in without using words. I leave it to the audience to put the pieces together. If they can, it means I have done my job properly in the end. My job being a visual communicator.

Where is your favorite place for creating?

Um well most of my work is done digitally, and I work on a 27 inch Cintiq, so I can’t really be mobile when I work on a finish piece. However, when working in my sketchbook, I do enjoy (with a nice coffee) drawing in café shops. Other then that, I like to doodle, while watching a movie/show, it’s relaxing and therapeutic for me. 

What is some advice you could give to artists starting their education or deciding whether to take part in professional art classes? As you have done several professional courses for illustration, did you find structured learning beneficial to your artistic practice?

I would say it depends on the person’s determination. There are many artists that are self taught and are very successful. But not everybody can do that. In my case, although very determined, structured learning was beneficial for me. But my maturity level also influenced my success as a student. When I first went to college and studied in illustration I was younger, early 20’s, and was not that serious about my education and it showed in my work. Having taken some time off made me realize what I really wanted to do. And that made of me an overall better student and me much more determined and focused when I went back to school. Therefore, I would advise, if you are uncertain about being an illustrator, if you can, wait! Take some time off. And really figure out what you want to study in first. Because once you do, you become that much more committed and focused on your education. Especially if the school your going to is going to be expensive make it worth the buck! For the most part, art schools are quite expensive!

If you had one key piece of advice that you would give an illustrator beginning their professional journey, what might it be?

Persistence. And draw everyday. I know it is a boring and simple answer but it is the truth. Especially drawing. Once your drawing skills get higher in caliber, everything else seems to fall in place to some degree.

What is some of the inspiration behind your work? 

I would say Disney movies definitely from the 90’s, such as Pocahontas, The Lion King, Hocus Pocus, Fantasia, Land before Time, A Bugs Life. In literature, Winnie the Pooh, The Bernstein Bears, Little Critter series. Especially Bernstein Bears and Little Critter I remember never really reading the words just holding the books close to my face and looking at all the details the artist would put in the illustrations and being so mesmerized by it. I would find other little stories happening in the backgrounds of the illustration aside from the main event. I love that so much. And when I can, I try to incorporate that concept in my own work.

Do you carry around a sketchbook at all times for those moment when inspiration hits? Also do you prefer to sketch analogue or digitally?

I do carry a tiny sketchbook with me in my bag. That said, for the most part I typically set a place and time for sketching only. I definitely prefer to sketch traditionally then digitally. I work digitally primarily when it is to create and finish an illustration.

Out of your professional and personal works which is your favourite and why?

I like a few of my personal pieces. Two pieces I did recently actually, about autumn. A top view of a girl laying down in a bed of fall leafs and another top view of the same girl looking in a puddle of water. I like them because they are simpler then my typical work. It was a bit of a challenge because I had to holdback sometimes but none the less they were fun to create. Other reason why I enjoy them is the concept behind them and my use of negative space. And lastly, one piece I still enjoy is one I created last year around the holidays for a school related greeting card competition. The theme was holidays. I did a toy storefront view and theirs a mother and her boy and their dog looking through the window on a winter night. I really like this piece because of the narrative, and also I was able to really play with lighting and warm colors versus cool colors.

Christmas card Illustration by Tamara Campeau

Christmas card Illustration by Tamara Campeau

Did you always intend to be an illustrator, how did you know it was the right career for you? When starting out did you partner your creative work with part-time jobs to help kick start your work financially?

When I first went to college in Montreal, I had applied in a fine arts program and I got rejected. That really hurt at first and I was starting to question my existence! As a result, I went in a general visual arts program. In the first year, I came across these students that were selling artwork in the hallway. Different types of artwork I had never seen before on different surfaces and rendered in different ways. At the time for some reason when I thought of art, I thought it was only drawing and painting. I remember seeing this alligator rendered on a black scratchboard, it was so beautiful. I asked the student selling what is this for?, he replied, ‘oh were selling this work to raise funds for our Illustration grad show ’ I was like what? Illustration what is that?.  Anyways I researched the school curriculum about the classes this program offered and was immediately amazed and in love. The following year is when my illustration journey began! 

Finally, what is your dream project?

As weird as this sound, I never thought of a dream project. I’m always focused on just being an illustrator and getting work. I guess I should think of that. However, I would like to eventually illustrate a children’s book for Scholastic. Does that count as a dream projectish? 

If you would like to know more about Tamara and her beautiful work please head to one of the below links.

Portfolio  www.tamaracampeau.com

Instagram  #tamaracampeauillustration

Society 6 Shop   https://society6.com/tamaracampeauillustration 

Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/tamarasillustrations/  

Behance  https://www.behance.net/tamaracampeau