Real Talk: Glamorous Day in the Life of a Self-Employed Artist

Wednesday September 18

Thinking about the amount of administration work, marketing, and non-art work that goes into my daily life as a self-employed artist. I also work a part time day job at this point in my career, to help pay them damn pesky bills.

I am also battling a cold today, but am feeling much better, so managed to get a little bit of work done (at a slower pace, of course). Self-employed people do not have the luxury of sick days. If you are sick, and you are the only person bringing in the money, you still have to work, and do your best. Self-care is important, of course, but you have less options when you are self-employed. This is especially applicable if you deal with client deadlines, or in my case this month; teach classes (and did not have a back up plan). Clients don’t care if you are sick; they still expect the work to get done on time.

I started today by going for a long walk, to get out of the house, after being cooped up in bed for two days. I love walking.

When I got home, I edited my class plan for my dry point class, went over any supplies I will need to pick up, and prep I need to do. My class is a weekly class, so I have been editing my class plan each week, as it changes slightly depending on what we accomplish the previous class. I plan when I am going to do the bulk of my prep work, as I need to be in the studio. This week I plan to forgo my Friday off and plan to do class prep on Friday. Being sick for three days throws everything off.

Then I checked my e-mail, replied to e-mail, etc. This can take a while, depending how many e-mails are in my inbox. And I am a slow e-mail writer.

Then I remembered that I need to eat, so I had some lunch. I often work and forget to eat; I need to get better at this. One of the benefits of working a day job – someone tells you to go eat lunch.

After lunch I logged some expense receipts. Very exciting stuff.

I did some volunteer Dundarave schedule stuff, as I mixed up the winter hours changing, and needed to fix some things.

Washed dishes.

At this point it is about 5pm and I have done zero art stuff. Will probably do one more quick website/Facebook update, and then do a little painting.

If you are a full time artist and someone tells you how nice it must be to paint/draw/print/whatever all day, smack them in the face. You also run a business, and need to do business stuff. Otherwise, the money ain’t gonna come to you by magic. Although that would be nice, and I wish it worked like that sometimes.

The reality is, you will spend a good 60% of your time on business, non-art work. Maybe 40% – 30% on actual artwork. I would say this is a pretty good estimate, from personal experience, talking to other professional artists, and watching other full time illustrators on YouTube.

I still really enjoy it though, and find I like the business, admin side of things. Which is a good thing, because my goal is to be a professional artist/illustrator full time. And I understand that will take time. But it will be worth it.





Feel Good Drawing


This blog post is in response to a blog post by Elise Gravel, a Montreal based illustrator that I just discovered today, while doing research for a personal project.

Elise wrote about everyone having a “feel good” subject that they draw often. And to not feel guilty or repetitive about drawing the same subject. Drawing is supposed to be Fun, and I often forget that. Drawing very easily turns into “work” for me. I get bogged down with projects I “should” be working on, and end up not making time to sketch just for the fun of it. I have been working on this the past month, by making time every Friday to have my own personal “drink and draw.” I’ve been going to a local brewery, sitting at the bar, having a few beers, and drawing and painting to my heart’s content. It’s very relaxing, and I am reminded that as a professional commercial artist, I NEED to draw just for me, and no one else. Extra bonus is I get to try new craft beer every week.

So, circling back to the “feel good” subject in your sketchbook. Anyone who knows me, or follows me on Instagram, will not be surprised to hear that my “feel good” sketching is of Dinosaurs. Because Dinosaurs are awesome. And I grew up in Alberta, visiting the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller for family vacations. BEST MUSEUM EVER. Well, maybe one notch down from the Natural History Museum in New York.

Drawing done with Caran D’ache Museum Aquarelle water-soluable colored pencil, then a layer of brown-sepia-ish watercolor overtop. Watercolor set I have is Windsor Newton. Stillman & Birn sketchbook (Delta series)

Trying New Things = Growth

For those of you that don’t know, I am currently teaching an Introduction to Etching class at Dundarave Print Workshop (where I am a member). Below is a journal/thoughts entry.

I taught my first ever (solo teaching) class last night. I respect my past instructors so much more, because now I have experienced how much prep and planning goes into each class. If we’re counting hours, I’ve probably put more hours into prep than actual class time.

You have to think about so many things:

Material you are teaching

  • Timing (making sure you have enough time to cover the material in the class time)
  • Making sure students have enough time to work on project
  • Class dynamics (student personalities)
  • How to answer questions you don’t know the answer to
  • Handouts
  • Examples of what you are teaching
  • How to explain something to a beginner, when you have done it a million times, and no longer need to think about all the minute details
  • Safety and Personal Protective Equipment

I learned the “explaining to a beginner” part when teaching how to use a roulette, because I no longer think about how I hold the roulette in my hand, I just do it naturally. I’m learning that I do so many things on autopilot now, because they are habits, formed by years of repetition.

I also am reminded how stressful new experiences and situations are. I had so much anxiety the week before the first class. I had trouble sleeping, and I think the insomnia was caused by stress, both from teaching for the first time, and meeting a group of new people. I’m hoping now that I’ve gotten over the hurdle of the first class, my sleep will return to normal.

It will be exciting to see the prints my students create! It’s even cool that I can say “my students!”

Note: I did the prep and planning for the class with help and advice from friends and colleagues who have done a lot of teaching. Special thanks to: Maya, Melody, Tristan and others.   


Rain Poem illustration part 2

Last week I shared the rough sketch process, this week I am sharing the final illustration for the poster project I recently completed. These are the final images, I like the lightness of them, and they feel appropriate for children, as they were going into elementary schools.


This is the print for the kid illustration:


I cut out the image, and colored it digitally in Photoshop.

These are the prints and drawings I used to create the hands/heart illustration. I carved several hands separately, and collaged them together in Photoshop. The heart and raindrops I drew by hand in ink, and then scanned them in and applied texture digitally to create a linocut look. A little shortcut I use sometimes. 🙂

Thanks for reading about the process! Hope you found it interesting.

Rain Poem illustration

In March I was commissioned to create an illustration for Asian Heritage Month (April). The client was creating a series of posters with Canadian author’s poetry, and wanted Canadian illustrator’s work to accompany it. The posters went up in elementary schools in Ontario.

The poem I was assigned was titled “Poem for the Rain” (appropriate for me, living in Vancouver). This is the rough the client chose to go with.


These are the other roughs I presented:

These are some of my rough sketches that I scanned in, and then arranged digitally to create the roughs.

Next week I will share the final illustration. Stay tuned!

Armando’s Meats Etching

Started working on my little square etching of the Armando’s Meats sign from the Farmer’s Market. Pretty happy with it so far.


I did the linework with soft ground, to get a pencil line look. Then I did a very light aquatint for a little bit of shading around the sign, and some tone on the wall in the background. I’ll probably add some more shadows with the roulette.


Here is a process shot. This is blocking out the areas for the aquatint.