How I track my business finances

Thought I would share a little bit on how I track my business income and expenses. My business income is not very high yet, so I don’t need to worry about things like charging GST. How I keep track of my business finances is very simple. I have an Excel spreadsheet for income, and another spreadsheet for expenses. It’s divided up into each month of the year on one page, and another page for yearly amounts. Each time I pay for something for business use, like a networking event or art supplies, I enter the amount into my expenses spreadsheet. I also scan the receipt to keep a digital copy (because the darn things fade so fast), and put the physical receipt in my expenses envelope. At the end of the year I sort thru all my receipts and divide them into categories and add them all up for my tax person.

For my income, every time I get paid I enter the amount into my income spreadsheet, and keep a digital and physical copy of my invoice in my income envelope. My tax person doesn’t always need the physical invoice copies, but I like to keep them for my records. I also use PayPal to keep track of my invoices, and who has paid me and who is unpaid. I use PayPal to send invoices, and it also keeps a digital record of all your invoices and when they were paid. I find this very handy at tax time.

So there you have it, my extremely simple income/expense tracking system.

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My customer base is slowly growing, and I thought I would share a few testimonials I received from happy customers. One client has bought some custom work as well as greeting cards, and the other client purchased a greeting card set. Thanks to Melody and Debra for the testimonials!


“Erin’s linocut printing is unique and modern!  I appreciate the thoughtfulness of her design and the quality of her finished product.  I enjoy giving her cards to friends and family, hand-picking who will receive an “Erin” card.”

– Debra

“Erin provided me with artwork to give away at a group I lead, YVR Authors. I wanted to give something that attendees could not find in stores. It had to be related to writing and it needed to be a beautiful keepsake. Erin created the print from something she had done in the past, printed and framed it for me to give away. She even came to the meeting to give it out in person. Everyone loved the work and meeting Erin. She is a great artist who can take what you have in mind and create meaningful art from it. After that experience, I have been back to buy more work including Christmas cards that I gave out last Christmas. I really enjoy giving something that is not found in stores; it makes it special for the people who matter most to me.”

– Melody

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Umbrella Greeting Card – The Story and Process

My umbrellas greeting card was inspired by rainy days in Vancouver. It was originally done as part of a school project on Tarot. My original project was to put a Vancouver spin on the Tarot imagery. The Swords suit tends to have negative connotations in Tarot, so I thought an appropriate Vancouver symbol would be the umbrella.

Too many rainy days in a row can affect your mood negatively. This is why Seasonal Affective Disorder occurs. I know during Vancouver grey winters if I don’t take Vitamin D and don’t get enough sunlight, my mood can drop.

Turning the umbrella pattern into a greeting card was originally suggested by my mom (thanks Mom!). It turned out to be a good idea, as it made a unique greeting card, and other people have purchased it.


The umbrella image was done in scratchboard, which is a subtractive method. Scratchboard is a surface coated with ink. The black surface is scratched away by a metal tool, leaving thin white lines. You can also create textured effects if you use steel wool on the scratchboard.


I created the umbrella image on the scratchboard first, which created a black and white image. Then I scanned in the scratchboard drawing and colored it digitally.

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The Importance of Greeting Cards


With everything being digital or online nowadays it can be nice to receive a handwritten physical card. The main way I use cards is for Christmas cards to send to friends and family. I sometimes send the odd birthday card, but that is generally for immediate family.

When I receive greeting cards in the mail, I appreciate them a little more because they are a rarity. They also take more time than sending a quick Facebook post. You have to pick out the card, then write your message inside, then go to the trouble of putting a stamp on the envelope and mailing it. I think greeting cards send the message that the person sending it thinks you are special, and you are a good friend.

Greeting cards can also be a way to make an impression on someone. I send Christmas cards every year to the art directors I have worked with. It’s a way to say I appreciate the work they have given me.

I tend to use analog products more than digital products. I enjoy reading a physical book that I can flip the pages, and smell the paper. I use a dayplanner in Moleskine form. I use a physical notebook (also Moleskine) to write my to do lists and thoughts. As I am writing this I am writing with a fountain pen in my notebook.

Greeting cards are analog, and I think they will continue to stick around, just as books have stuck around, even with the Kindles and IPads coming out.

Thanks for reading! If you want to check out my greeting card designs, visit my Etsy shop. As always, you can sign up for my monthly newsletter to receive updates and coupons for my shop.

The Importance of Having Multiple Streams of Income

As a professional artist, it is important to have multiple streams of income. If you rely on only one source of income, it will be very difficult to make a living. I think even as a normal everyday person, it is good to have more than one source of income. That way if one source dries up, you still have several other streams coming in. Currently I have four sources of income. They are not all active at the same time. My sources of income are: my job, freelance editorial illustration, gallery sales, and my Etsy shop. Eventually I would like to lessen the hours at my job and focus more on the other income sources. In the long term, I would like my Etsy shop to be passive income, and editorial illustration and gallery sales to be my primary sources of income. But that is a long way down the road yet. But that is what I am working towards. I think three sources of income is probably a good goal to work towards. That number of active incomes is a good amount to juggle. Currently I usually have two sources of income active at any one time. Always my job, which is my primary source of income. Then I will also have one illustration job on the go (if I’m lucky). One or two times a year I will have a gallery show, which generates income. My Etsy shop is always open, but not always generating income. I find this is a good amount to juggle at the moment. Sometimes I have more than one illustration job at a time, and that can get a little crazy with also working four days a week. So that’s my thoughts on sources of income. How do you manage your income?

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Monitor Illustration – The Creation Process

In my last post I discussed the ideation process of creating an illustration. In this post I will go through my creative process for the physical illustration.

Once the rough sketch is approved, I start on the final illustration. The process begins with tighter drawings for the different elements of the illustration. I tend to collage my illustrations together digitally, so I draw the different pieces separately.


Once my drawings are done, I transfer them to the lino block, to prepare for carving. To transfer the drawings I color the back of my drawing with graphite, and use a ballpoint pen to trace over the drawing, transferring it to the lino block. Then I start the carving process. This is the most time consuming part of my process, and can take anywhere from one hour to four or five hours, depending on the detail of the drawing. To carve the lino block I use a Speedball lino cutter. I prefer the Easy Cut black lino, but sometimes use the beige lino as well. I begin carving by carving out the outline first, then move on to the interior of the drawing, carving out the white bits.


Once the lino block is carved, it’s time to print. I print using black ink, and then color digitally in Photoshop. If I printed manually in color, I would have to carve a different block for each color, and it would take way more time. I only carve the black key block. To print, I roll out the ink on a piece of plastic acetate with a brayer, then roll the ink onto the lino block. For ink I use the water-based Speedball block printing ink. Once the lino block is inked, I place a piece of Mulberry rice paper over the block and press it down. I use a wooden spoon to rub the back of the paper, to print the image.

Once all my pieces are printed, I scan them into the computer. Then in Photoshop I cut out each element and collage them together to create the full illustration. For the background I have a couple texture files on my computer, that I tend to use and recycle. Once I have the black and white version of the illustration, I color it. In Photoshop I use mostly the “Multiply” layer filter, and the “Screen” layer filter.


Once the illustration is colored and complete, I send it off to the art director, and it’s ready to be printed in the magazine!


I have a process video on my website, if you want to watch my illustration process.

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Monitor illustration – the Idea Process

With any editorial illustration I do, I always start with research and thumbnail sketches (small quick sketches). Thumbnail sketches are to roughly draw out ideas. They are for the artist’s eyes only. In the thumbnail stage you want to get as many ideas out as possible, and not censor yourself too much.

These sketches are from the Monitor commission I recently completed. I was assigned a full page illustration and a spot illustration. The article is on marijuana legalization in Canada. At the time I didn’t have the full article to read, I only received brief notes from the art director. So my sketches are very general, and visualize marijuana legalization in a broad fashion.

Here are some thumbnail sketches that I started with. The page with the pill bottle is sketches for the spot illustration, which I was focusing on the medical aspect of marijuana. The second page is some ideas for the full page illustration. I was playing around with the idea of a revolution style poster. The third page is focusing on the medical side again, but this time for a full page illustration. I always include written notes with my thumbnails, it helps me conceptualize things.


The next stage is to create roughs of your best ideas. These roughs are what the art director will see, and how they will decide which direction to go. The first rough is the one the art director chose to go with. I also think it is the safest rough, conceptually. But seeing as we didn’t have the written article, probably a good choice. I visualized marijuana legalization in Canada by replacing the maple leaf in the flag with the marijuana leaf, and the Canadian flag is formed by the smoke.


The second rough is my favorite, the revolution poster style illustration. I was thinking of old Chinese propaganda posters. But instead of workers, I have marijuana growers and users. I was thinking of the marijuana legalization as a revolution, a new chapter in Canada’s history.


The third rough is focusing on the medical side of marijuana use. There are many health benefits to marijuana use, so I included drawings of the body and brain, along with a marijuana leaf. Some benefits include: relieving chronic pain, stimulating appetite, easing nausea during chemo treatment, relieving muscle spasms, and reducing seizures.


So that is a summary of my intellectual creative process for the Monitor assignment. In the next post I will go through the physical creative process of creating the illustration.

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