Saying No

I received a phone call last week requesting a logo design. I’m usually excited about new projects, however this person expected the logo by Monday. They phoned me on Friday morning. I politely told them: no, it wasn’t possible for me to design a logo in two days. I usually need two to three weeks for logo design.

In the past I would have jumped at the opportunity for a new project, and would have bent over backwards to produce a logo on that ridiculous deadline. I have learned that clients who do not respect what you do, and do not respect the time it takes, are not worth it, financially or emotionally.

I have learned to say no to projects, and to let projects go. There is plenty of work to go around. I have learned to set boundaries for my own sanity. I only decide to take on projects that meet my criteria:

Respectable budget

Do-able timeline/deadline

I am excited about the work

It’s pretty easy for me to get excited about projects, because anytime I can get paid to be creative is awesome. So the more important questions for me are:

Does the client have a decent budget?

            Am I able to meet the deadline?

Sometimes I let the budget criteria slide a bit, because maybe it’s an awesome client or project that I can support, and I can get a really cool portfolio piece out of it. And, let’s be honest, sometimes any extra money I can get my hands on is good.





I recently bought a mug with “Hustle/Align” on it. “Hustle” is crossed out, and “Align” is underneath. This got me thinking about “hustle”; it is a popular term that implies always working hard and marketing yourself. Working on weekends and evenings, on top of your full time job. Doing this constantly can negatively affect your health; you will burn out. I think hustle is necessary, but only if done in balance with self care. Limiting which days and times you hustle is a good thing. For example, I limit my hustle time to two days a week, because I also work full time. I make sure to take at least one day off a week, as well as evenings off.

“Align” is also important. When marketing yourself, don’t market to everyone and think you can do any type of job. For example, when launching my business, I did graphic design as well as illustration. Recently I have cut out graphic design jobs (I only take them on if they come to me, and I am interested in the job). I focus my marketing efforts on illustration, as that is where I want to focus my work. Specifically, I focus on editorial illustration. I am aligning my work with my interests and skill set. This helps me feel fulfilled with my freelance work, and I enjoy doing more work outside of my full time job. Eventually I want to scale my full time job back to part time, and do illustration full time, but that is a long way away yet.

Thanks for reading!

Winding Career Path of an Illustrator

Watched a YouTube video by Kendyll Hillegas about the career path of an illustrator. In it she talks about the different phases one goes through with types of clients. Your first clients will be friends and family, then will be local businesses, and then move up to international or big clients. There were other phases in-between these. She also mentions it might not be a linear path; not 1-2-3. One might skip a step or go through the phases out of order. My path was out of order and looks like this:

  1. Friends & family
  2. Local non-profit magazines (non-paying)
  3. International magazine (The Progressive – USA)
  4. National magazines – Broken Pencil, Monitor (Canadian)

Kendyll also mentions it is likely you will need a day job when you are beginning your career. Make sure it is a job that doesn’t suck your energy, as you need energy to be creative. Your job can be full time or part time, but you must be able to have the energy to work on projects in your off-time. This is one of the reasons I like my job at the art store – it is not energy-sucking and I can leave work at work. It is not too mentally or emotionally taxing.

I also like that I have the option of working four days a week, so I can devote more time to my illustration business. I work at my J-O-B four days a week, work at my business two days a week, and take one day off. Of course if I have a client project, I work in the evenings of my J-O-B days if I need to. Depending on the client deadline, I can usually fit the majority of client work into my two days delegated to business. I may do e-mailing or admin work in the evenings – stuff that is easier on the brain after a full day of J-O-B work. At this point in my illustration career, I don’t have a lot of regular freelance work, so this schedule works for me. I’m expecting as I get more work, I will have to scale back the J-O-B, or do more juggling.

Creative Genius

I re-watched an old TED Talk video with Elizabeth Gilbert recently. In it she talks about creative genius, and the beliefs around the word “genius”. Before the Renaissance, a “genius” was something separate from yourself, also referred to as a “daemon”. This daemon would help the creative person with their work. So you would be referred to as having a genius, not being a genius. After the Renaissance, “genius” became associated with solely the person, not an otherworldly spirit. Gilbert says this put an enormous amount of pressure on the artist. If a work failed or wasn’t successful, it was solely the artist’s fault. Whereas with a “genius” or daemon, it wasn’t entirely the artist’s fault. The public could say, “Their genius wasn’t with them”. I think the idea of a separate genius or daemon is a healthy way of describing the creative “spark” or inspiration.

Creative ideas are strange; you can’t call them up at will. They come to you at inopportune times, like during a shower, or while driving. From personal experience, inspiration is something indescribable that comes at me unexpectedly, and I have to “grab” it by writing down the idea or doing a quick sketch. If I don’t jot it down, it disappears from my mind. Sometimes ideas come to me while I am working or sketching; those are the lucky days. Most times they don’t, and I have to show up and do the work to grind out an idea, and the idea will be mediocre. Great ideas are something I can “feel”; when I get them I get a little rush, and brain spark. On the days when my daemon shows up, these are the great ideas. I can’t take all the credit for them.

Entrepreneurship & Drawing

Entrepreneurship and owning your own business is a lot like drawing and making art. It is constant trial and error. You are always evaluating and correcting your course or path.

When you draw, you make a mark, or shape, or series of marks on the page. Then you look at what you are trying to draw. You look back at your drawing and go, “Hmmm, this line or shape doesn’t look quite right.” So you erase the line and make another, improved mark. You repeat this process again and again, constantly correcting, until you feel the drawing is finished. By nature of the process, the artist is constantly adjusting and changing course.

The same is true in business. You try one marketing strategy. It doesn’t work as well as you had hoped. So you try something else. Your new strategy sort of works, so you adjust, and try to improve your strategy. You repeat this process again and again, constantly trying to improve your product or income.

I thought about this after making my goals for 2019. I evaluated my marketing from 2018, and tried to improve or change it. My physical mailer worked, so I am increasing the frequency this year. My Etsy shop is sort of working, but could be a lot better. So I am trying a physical space this year.

Evaluate and adjust.

Grieving on Social Media


In September I worked on an illustration for Shameless magazine, for an article about “Grieving in the Age of Social Media”. The article questions if social media affects our grieving process; does it help or hinder it? On Facebook one can create a memorial page, where the Facebook page of the deceased is preserved, and friends and family can comment on their wall. Some people find grieving online helpful; while others find it triggering and become saddened seeing their loved one’s Facebook memories pop up in their feed. A quote from the article:

The question still remains: is talking to the dead on social media healthy, or does change how you can “move on” once that person is gone? Whether you believe one or the other, the act of communicating with dead, publically or intimately, has always been around. Some mourners may write letters addressed to their deceased loved one, speak at their graves or try to communicate with them in a religious setting. – Kaitlyn Severin

In doing the illustration for this article, I learned about how people grieve online. I didn’t know Facebook had memorial pages for deceased people. The article also talked about memorial posts for deceased celebrities, and how Twitter and Instagram are used by people to express their grief for people they don’t know personally, but are still affected by their death.

Very interesting article. Unfortunately it is not available online, so I can’t link to it, but Shameless magazine is available in bookstores across Canada (I think), so check out your local bookstore for the magazine if you want to read the article.

What are your core values?


I have been reading the book “Being Boss” and doing some of the exercises in it. The first chapter is on deeper parts of owning your own business. One exercise is on defining your core values. Step one is to go through a list of words and highlight any that resonate with you, without thinking too much. Step two is to look at your list of highlighted words and group together any that are similar. For example, one of my grouped lists is:




Keep whittling down the list until you get around five to ten values. My list of five values is:






Sit with this list for a few days to see how they feel.

Here are a couple of my core values, and why they are important to me.


Obviously this is extremely important to me, being an artist. But I think it can extend to other areas of your life as well. You can be creative with managing your finances, for example. Thinking about things outside the box.


This was an unexpected value to pop up, but after sitting with it, it totally makes sense. I think being comfortable with who you are as a person, and aligning different aspects of your life to line up with YOU leads to a happy life. I am going to use my career as an example of how this resonates with me.

My previous career was in graphic design and involved a lot of computer work, and sitting at a desk all day. I eventually got bored of this, and didn’t find it creatively fulfilling anymore. I decided to go back to school, and take a program in fine art and illustration. While at school, I discovered printmaking, and fell in love with it. After graduating from university, I started my own illustration business, and eventually landed a job at an art store. I also joined a local printmaking workshop, so I could continue printmaking.

Through this process of going back to school, I discovered that being an artist and image creator is who I am, it is a large part of my personal identity. I find my freelance illustration work extremely fulfilling, even though it can be stressful. I also love printmaking, and feel lucky to have a studio space with the proper tools, where I can create prints. I enjoy my job at the art store, as I am surrounded by art and creative people. My career at this point in my life feels aligned with who I am, and I am quite happy.