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.



When has your confidence been shaken?

The first half of this year has been challenging for me business-confidence-wise. I had virtually no sales or illustration gigs until June/July. I sold a set of stickers to my Aunt, but that was my only sale. I also had a few job inquiries, but none of them panned out. Compared to last year, I was making money from my art every month, pretty consistently. This summer I started selling some of my prints at Dundarave, a small print workshop that also has a gallery. In August I got two illustration gigs, one right after one another.

When you have no sales, for an extended period of time, you start to wonder if you will ever make a sale or get a gig again. To overcome the confidence blow, I just worked through it. I kept creating artwork, for personal projects or self promotional pieces. I kept marketing and promoting myself. I focused on creating a special mailer and postcard, to send to art directors. That marketing promotion paid off, as I got some repeat clients out of it (that’s where the two illustration gigs came from).

It can be discouraging when you have no work coming in, but keep going and keep creating, and eventually work will come to you (providing you’re marketing yourself, of course).

Art For Everyday People

One reason I am in the illustration field as opposed to focusing on fine art is the accessibility of illustration. Illustration is art for the people. You don’t need to go to an art gallery to see art, you can open a book or magazine or comic. Illustration is everywhere – in ads, billboards, bus stop ads, magazines, books, comics, on household goods, etc. Illustration is in the everyday life of people. Illustration can be in art galleries, but is not limited to it. Illustration can be a way for non-artists to express themselves visually. For example, an illustrated mug or household item, like a tea towel. Illustration is also the starting point of visuals for movies. The concept art determines the look and feel of the movie. I believe that everyone should be able to experience art, and it shouldn’t be limited to high art.

Doing work you believe in

I think as an editorial illustrator it is important to do work that aligns with your beliefs. Any assignment you get, you can look at the subject matter and see if you support that viewpoint. I think it would make me uncomfortable to illustrate on a topic I didn’t agree with; it would be a conflict of morals. When you work on an assignment that the subject matter is important to you, you are more enthusiastic about the concept, and are willing to work a little harder to come up with a good concept. An example of this is illustrator Holly Exley. Recently Holly decided to stop illustrating meat. Holly is a vegan, and cares about animal rights. By refusing jobs that involve illustrating meat, Holly is making sure she creates work that she believes in. I find this a good reminder to think critically about the assignments you are offered, and decide if you are comfortable illustrating that topic.

Also announcing this week that I am launching a new product in my Etsy shop! My Summer Reading notebooks are hot off the press. Head on over to my shop to check them out!


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