The other day I posted this drawing on Instagram, and the cation read:
“Ok truth time – I haven’t drawn anything for 2 weeks. It’s a shame, I know. // I’ve been spending most of my time putting together my winter collection and other tasks, and you know how it goes. There is a lot of photoshopping, uploading, writing, posting, promoting, emailing, scheduling, packaging etc. etc. // Last night I finally doodled this while watching Netflix and it felt so nice. // I feel like I need to be intentionally creating work now more than ever. For myself and others who can use beauty and light in their lives.”
It was difficult to admit I hadn’t made any art (including doodling!) for two weeks!!! I mean, how can I call myself an artist If I don’t have a consistent creative practice? Isn’t the whole reason why I quit my day job to pursue my passion (=make art) full-time?
I get being an entrepreneurial artist means you need to have a strong business practice, and you don’t get to just make art all the time.
I’ve been focusing a lot on the business side of things because that’s where I had the least experience in, and I also enjoy the hustle of working on my business. But that doesn’t mean the only time I create art is when I’m designing new products or when “I have time” (well, look what that got me! Two weeks of not making art!!).
I had a wake-up call to me – in order for my business to grow, I need to nurture my creative practice more intentionally and put more time and energy into it. And business aside, I want to be a person who truly values creativity, and I want my action to align with my words.
So, here is the deal. I decided to start a new 365 day painting challenge!
You may remember between April 2014 and April 2015, I did a daily drawing project called 365 Day Happiness is, where I made a drawing about happiness every day for 365 days.
That project helped me find and develop my own creative voice, and I became more confident as an artist. I also got many cool opportunities through the project, like being featured in one of Lisa Congdon‘s speeches and starting a partnership with Sakura of America.
This time around, I’m not gonna have a specific theme, but I’ll paint or draw something for 30 minutes every day (my big inspiration for this comes from August Wren, who is on her year 3 of daily painting!) and share it on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
I’m excited to practice painting with gouache (i.e. opaque watercolor) and other media, and limiting it to 30 minutes a day makes it less overwhelming. What scares me the most about putting a time limit is sharing work I don’t think are great 😀 You know, because when 30 minutes is over, it’s over. I’m not gonna try to make it “perfect” before sharing it with my audience. No matter how much I hate it, it’s going to be shared! And that makes me feel SO vulnerable!! EEEEEK!
But, my goal is about showing up every day and not about making a masterpiece every day.
Like Jennifer from August Wren says, I’m not gonna apologize or make an excuse for work I don’t think are great. I’ll just paint every day, share, and move on.
Doing a daily project like this is a really good practice in letting go. And the thing is, number 1, people probably don’t think it sucks as much as you do, and number 2, nobody’s gonna remember your post 5 minutes after they see it 😀 They’re just not as emotionally attached to your creations as you are! So it’s OK 🙂
I want to do this for at least one year but potentially longer. I know once it becomes a habit, it’s just gonna be something you do every day, and you’ll start to miss it if you don’t do it. Painting every day is an awesome thing to do anyway even if I decide to switch my career at some point in the future!
When I had the inspiration to start another 365 day project, I thought about starting it on January 1st. But there is no real reason to wait, is there? I was afraid I’d lose a momentum or come up with excuses not to start if I waited.
So I just started my daily painting challenge 2 weeks ago! And here is a couple more 🙂
You can follow along on any social media I listed earlier although Instagram (@honeyberrystudios) is probably my favorite. Use the hashtag #yukosdailypainting to view my paintings so far!
Hope you enjoy! And feel free to join me in the daily painting challenge. I can use a company in this journey 🙂
I recently posted this video on Instagram and it resonated with a lot of people.
You are making a difference even if you are not making $
I often get anxious when I’m doing things that are not actively paying the bills, like gardening, making food from scratch, and taking my mini sabbaticals every 7 weeks.
I could decide to let them go so I can spend more time on growing my creative business (and I almost did give up on gardening a couple of years ago). We only have 24 hours a day, and if we wanted to create time for something important, you just need to say no to other things.
But really, I often get my creative inspirations from doing things like gardening and cooking healthy meals from scratch.
Gardening gets me in touch with the seasons and nature. It also gets me outside of our house regularly. I’m a homebody and would stay home for as long as I care to admit if I let myself 😀
I also feel empowered knowing that we’re able to meet at least a tiny portion of our basic needs ourselves.
Making food from scratch might take longer and could actually be more expensive than buying prepared or processed food, but it also helps me feel good in my body and mind.
Cooking is a very hands-on creative activity with an immediate reward (well, most of the time anyway) and gives me a break from a lot of thinking and computer work, too.
I also feel annoyed by other household chores, like cleaning and grocery shopping, but if they don’t happen, my working environment wouldn’t feel as good and productive.
Yes, as a creative business owner, I need to be making money and maintain a strong focus to achieve that goal.
I constantly think about how to create a life where I still enjoy the craft and have a sustainable business doing what I love. I need my life to be meaningful and joyful so I can continue creating work that brings others joy ❤
These other things, though they don’t seem to be directly helping me bring in the big paycheck, are part of what keeps my creative reservoir filled. And it’s my professional obligation as a working artist to do so.
If you ever felt guilty for taking the time out of your day to attend to “other” needs, think of how those activities are helping you to stay well-rounded so you can focus on your goals.
Remember, your creations have values. It makes people happy and feel warm and fuzzy. It makes them laugh out loud. It makes them think or cry. People are moved by what you create. It’s truly magical!
Keep putting yourself out there even if you don’t feel it’s making a difference today. Believe me, you’re making a difference by doing what you do!
Create a better, more streamlined system for marketing
Explore new social media platform (e.g. Snapchat etc.) so I can interact with my followers more deeply
Continue prioritizing my health and wellness and take regular sabbaticals
Allow time for reflection and long-term strategies (every quarter or 6 months?) even if everyday busyness seems more urgent.
Narrow down my focus
Become more comfortable with taking a risk, don’t be afraid to make a mistake, and if I make a mistake, don’t dwell on the negatives. Learn the lessons, and move on!
Prepare better financially for slow times (e.g. In-person teaching is super slow during summer so maybe do more shows to create a better cash flow).
Expand my wholesale capacity and partner with more retail shops
Expand my teaching offerings both in-person & online
What I want to learn:
Research and learn more about product business/manufacturers/wholesale, to make my biz more profitable
Effective social media marketing strategies & apps
How to make better videos and shoot photos
Sewing and more fun creative projects for myself!
I’ve made an appointment with myself later this week to sit down and do a planning session for the next 6 months. I’m going to figure out timelines for my goals, break down my goals into baby steps, and make a plan of attack!
I was surprised that it didn’t take very much time to make a list of my accomplishments. It’s so nice to remind myself that I am moving forward even if the progress seems slow.
If you don’t have a boss to give you a performance review, I highly recommend you do this with yourself at least once a year. I bet you’ll feel inspired and motivated by how far you’ve come, too!
Last month I participated in the Shoreline Arts Festival for the first time.
Shoreline is a city that’s located just north of Seattle. The Arts Festival is their long running annual summer event (it was their 26th annual festival!), and I had a great time! Everyone I interfaced with, staff, volunteers, and people in the community, were very welcoming and friendly. I got the vibe that the community supports arts of all sorts, and it was so nice!
Their questions were really great, and it made me reflect on my inspirations, routines, and creative process. I don’t normally take the time to think about those things every day and wanted to share them with you! (I modified the original interview for the blog.) Perhaps it’ll inspire you to reflect on these yourself… 🙂
Hope you enjoy!
-Describe a typical day in the studio. Do you have a routine? What do you listen to when you do your creative work?
I work out of our small apartment in Columbia City (a neighborhood in SE Seattle) and my studio is usually my dining table 🙂
I usually get up between 4:30 and 5am every morning and meditate for half an hour to an hour. I sit quietly and focus on my breathing. My mind tends to wander, thinking about my day and what I need to do. When I notice my mind going elsewhere, I try to bring my attention back to my breathing and how I’m feeling in my body. Often my mind keeps wandering the entire time I sit, but it still helps me to start my day with calm and quiet mind.
After my meditation, I go to my workout class at the gym in the neighborhood or do some writing on days I don’t have my workout class.
I tend to do more of a “brain” work in the morning, like writing, marketing, and doing the finances etc., as I don’t naturally enjoy those tasks, and it takes more focus, and mornings seem to work better.
I often work on my creative/art work in the afternoon. I like to switch things up from doing a lot of the computer work in the morning to doing work using my hands in the afternoon if I can. I often doodle or sketch ideas in my sketchbook for fun, and I get most ideas for my art products (i.e. greeting cards and art prints) from my personal drawings. It can happen anywhere – at my desk in the home office, my dining table, or on the couch 🙂
Although I occasionally do writing at coffee shops, I hardly ever do my art work outside the home. Creative work feels more vulnerable, and I prefer to do it alone in the comfort of my own space.
I also set aside a couple of hours in the afternoon every week to read articles or do some learning, like watching a webinar. These are “fun” things for me and kind of a reward after taking care of my “business-y” tasks!
I make a point of not checking my email and social media until after my morning routine of mediation, workout, some writing, and breakfast because as soon as I dive into my email and social media, my mind gets cluttered with information. I have all the browser tabs and notifications off during the day so I don’t get distracted. I do manage my email and social media throughout the day when I have a small window of time between my other tasks.
One of the perks of being an independent artist is you have a lot of flexibility! Since my husband is also self-employed, we often take a break during the day to run errands or do some work in the gardens. When I had a regular job in the office, I would come home exhausted and then worked on my art after dinner and weekends, so we didn’t get to spend a lot of quality time together. I really appreciate being able to be around him more 🙂
I work until 5:30-6pm or so and make dinner if it’s my turn to cook.
As far as what I listen to while I work, I either don’t listen to anything or play some easy music on Pandora (my favorite is Laid Back Beach Music station) while I write. When I do more visual work, I listen to a couple of podcasts related to business or storytelling podcasts, like This American Life and Moth Radio.
-What is your artistic medium of choice? Why?
My favorite artistic medium is pen and ink, markers, and watercolor. I use Sakura Pigma Micron pens and Koi Coloring Brush pens a lot for my drawings. The Micron pens work so smoothly and consistently. Their Koi Brush Pens come in a wide range of beautiful colors, and I enjoy layering the colors to create subtle hues. They’re portable and easy to use when you’re on the go as well! Perfect to take with you when you’re out and about and do a little sketch.
I’ve always enjoyed painting with watercolors, too. I love how they create softness and radiant light on paper.
I also block print on fabric and paper. I love the whole process of drawing, carving, and printing. It’s very tactile, and I find the block printing process to be meditative.
-Who or what inspires your work?
I often find my inspirations from nature, animals, and food. I love to eat!! 🙂 I notice little things when I walk around the neighborhood, like leaves on the ground or beautiful flowers in my neighbors’ gardens. We also grow some veggies at our apartment and a community garden, and it helps me stay connected with the soil and seasonal changes.
When I notice small everyday things that make me happy – like blueberries in our container garden glistening with morning dew or my cat happily napping in his favorite chair in the sunshine – I try to remember that feeling and express the joy in my artwork.
-What do you consider your biggest artistic achievement or accomplishment?
I’m a self-taught artist and began my practice in my early 30s. I was drawing and painting for several years as a hobby but never thought I could be a “real” artist. But last summer, I took a leap of faith and quit my day job to pursue my passion full-time!
It’s definitely not easy to make a living from your passion – I’ve experienced many ups and downs in the last year! But I feel so privileged to be able to follow my passion. I’m learning something new every day, and growing my creative business has been so rewarding.
-If you could only use one color for the rest of your artistic career, which would you choose and why?
Wow, what a great question! I would say black (though it’s not really a color…) if I had to choose one.
I love to create simple pen and ink line drawings and have phases every now and then where I create art with just black pen or sumi ink on white paper. No colors added. I enjoy the clean lines and how expressive simple black and white line drawings could be!
-What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten about being an artist?
A few years ago, I was studying Graphic Design at Bellevue College. At the time, I didn’t believe I could be a working artist and wanted a more practical “job” skills that were also creative.
While I liked learning designs, I also had this nagging feeling that it wasn’t something I loved.
On the last day of my portfolio review class, my instructor noticed how much I incorporated my drawings and illustrations in my portfolio pieces. She said I wasn’t a bad designer, but I should follow my heart and pursue art if that’s what I really wanted to do.
It’s kind of silly, but that one comment she made gave me a permission to follow my heart. It finally clicked for me that what I wanted to do was to make art, and that it was OK to do so wholeheartedly.
I met with a SCORE mentor the other day and got a few helpful business advice. (And no, it has nothing to do with banana split… :D)
SCORE (https://www.score.org) is a non-profit association that provides free or low-cost resources for small business owners, including free one-on-one mentorship from an experienced business owner.
I’ve known about them for many years but never used their services before. I just recently decided to take advantage of their offerings after reading a very informative newsletter from Meighan O’Toole and her positive experience working with the SCORE mentors.
I’ve been feeling a bit lost in my creative business lately and thought talking with an objective business mentor would be a good thing!
So I contacted them through their website and made an appointment to meet with a volunteer business mentor, Bernard, at their downtown Seattle office.
Bernard has been a mentor for 13 years and has built a very successful real estate business. I was a little surprised to be matched up with someone whose experience is in a totally different area. But he’s helped his wife grow her art business and has lots of artists in his family, so he was familiar with many of the struggles I’ve been experiencing as a new-ish creative business owner.
You might remember in January I spoke with a business coach and decided to focus on increasing the sales of my art products this year. (I talked about my process in this post if you’re interested.)
Though I still prefer making and selling art to be my main income source, I quickly realized running a product-based business is very expensive!
It requires certain up-front cost to have an inventory of products to sell, and it could take a long time before you actually start making a profit.
My sales have been increasing gradually over the last year (yay!), but I’ve been constantly running out of money to restock my products on the shelf (boo!)
It feels like I have an expensive hobby rather than a thriving and profitable business. Yikes.
I knew I needed to shift my focus and try to meet my short-term financial goals so I’m not actively going out of business!!
I shared my thoughts and feelings with Bernard, and he validated what I was going through. And that validation right there helped ease my anxiety quite a bit. I tend to think and analyze things very deeply in my head, and it gets overwhelming! Even one small external validation helped take the pressure off my overworked brain and offered me a sense of clarity.
After hearing my pain points, he gave me 3 pieces of advice:
Advice #1. Expand teaching to increase the cash flow.
Doing more client work is one option to fix the cash flow problem. You do the work, get paid, and move on, right? It’s a lot more straightforward than building a successful product-based business for sure…
But I hate client work.
OK, hate is a strong word… it’s just not my favorite. I talked about my high sensitivity and the struggles I have with conflict and rejection in this post, but making art that needs to align with someone else’s vision is very stressful for me.
I love working on a commission where the client trusts my process 100% and gives me a total creative freedom. It happens, but it can be a lot of work to build that kind of relationship with a client, and I sometimes wonder if it’s worth all the stress…
Teaching can also be a good source of income for an artist.
And teaching is definitely a better fit for me. It gives me an outlet for creativity and also satisfies my need to help people 🙂 As an independent teacher, I have a lot of freedom to decide what/when/how to teach, and I can experiment to improve my students’ learning experience as I see fit.
[My Follow-up Action] I’ve reached out to a few more art schools and art supply stores to inquire about teaching opportunities. My block printing workshop has been my bread and butter lately, and I have more ideas of what I could be teaching in the future. Helping people realize their creative potential is so rewarding!
Advice #2. Have my greeting cards and art prints available at more retail shops.
Bernard suggested I identify retailers who serve my target audience and pitch them my products to provide more buying opportunities to my potential customers. It turns out his wife is a jewelry maker, and he’s done in-person marketing and promotion going to galleries and shops door to door to sell her work.
Making cold calls/visits give me an anxiety – you know, I’m an introvert and am NOT comfortable with that kind of marketing!
I’d toyed with the idea of wholesaling my goods before but never took any action to move it forward. I just didn’t feel ready. I felt overwhelmed thinking up all the “what-ifs” – what if a major retailer wants to order thousands of my cards?? I can’t afford to fill that big of an order! And what if nobody wants to sell my products?? Sad face… 😦
While it’s fine to be cautious, I realized neither scenario was likely… 😀 I realized I had to start somewhere. I can start small, which has been my motto since I started my art business.
[My Follow-up Action] I’ve made contact with 5 retailers (galleries, gift shops, art museum etc.), introduced myself, and dropped off samples or emailed them my product info. And I already got 2 wholesale and 1 consignment accounts that want to carry my cards and prints! YAY!
It felt awkward to walk in to someone’s space and pitch my work at first, but really, you’re just asking a question. AND if your products are a good match, you’re actually helping to make their customers happy, which is what the retailers want! So it’s a win-win 🙂
I reached out to retailers that I’ve been admiring a lot – they carry beautifully designed, unique, and high quality products for home and gifts. And when they tell me they like what I create and want to carry them, I feel like I’m walking in the clouds 🙂 Such a nice validation and a confidence booster!
Advice #3. Lower the cost of production to increase the profit margin.
This is like – duh, but something I’ve been putting off tackling because it’s overwhelming to think about.
Since I don’t have a ton of cash to invest in up front, I end up just ordering small quantities of my products from the printers and keep ordering more as I sell more. I also want my products to be high quality, so the cost of production tends to be higher. Naturally, my profit margins are pretty slim especially when I do wholesale or consignment where I usually get 50% of the retail price.
I don’t want to compromise the quality of my products and can’t afford to have a huge inventory right now.
If I could order my products in thousands at a time, it will save on the cost per unit… It’s a conundrum, and I don’t know what to do about at it… :p
[My Follow-Up Action] Well, I haven’t really done anything with this except to casually think about it and then forget about it… I know it’s important for me to figure out the solution, though. If I keep doing what I’m doing, I won’t be able to effectively scale up, or worse, I’ll definitely drive myself out of business!!
I need to sit down and do more research on manufacturers and some serious number crunching. Two things I’m not excited about…but it’s not an option if I want my business to thrive! And if I work on my advice #1 to increase my cash flow, it will naturally help.
Our meeting was short and sweet but very helpful. I left their office feeling motivated and energized!
Support from family and friends are great – I couldn’t do this without them! No doubt.
But often when I get an unsolicited advice from people I know, I get annoyed and defensive. It’s not that their advice isn’t helpful – it’s more that I’m not ready to hear it. I get vulnerable and insecure. My focus isn’t on what they’re saying or how valid they are. I instead start wondering why they’re giving me the advice when I’m not asking for it. Uh oh, do they think I’m doing a bad job?? Do I need saving??
That’s why I find it so valuable to get an advice from someone who is not emotionally invested in your success.
First of all, I’m less defensive and more willing to listen when I’m actually seeking for an advice. And it’s easier for me to not react emotionally to their feedback when there is a clear expectation of our roles (i.e. a mentor and a mentee). I can accept their input as an objective observation and nothing more. It’s very refreshing!
SCORE has 320+ chapters throughout the US, and you can find your nearest SCORE location here. You can meet with your mentor multiple times, and if your first mentor is not a good fit, you could request to meet with someone else too. They’re there to help!
I’d definitely go back and use their services in the future when I’m faced with new challenges or need a sounding board outside of my regular circle of people again.
According to Dr. Elaine Aron, some of us (about 15-20% of the population) have a brain that’s wired a little differently: HSPs are more aware of subtle changes in our environments and reflect on the information a little more deeply than others.
It’s an innate trait for many people and goes beyond the stereotypical definition of “being sensitive” e.g. crying at the Super Bowl’s puppy commercial or being hurt easily etc.
Kelly O’Laughlin, the host of the podcast I mentioned earlier, pretty much sums up my experience on her website:
“We think about things deeply. We analyze information and don’t like making wrong decisions—in fact, we can have a hard time making decisions. We become overwhelmed easily by all the stimulation and information around us. We are incessantly bothered when our physical environment is uncomfortable. We are empathetic to the feelings of others. We are startled by noises easily. We are strongly affected by violence, horror, and abuse, in movies, TV, and in the news and this causes us to sometimes avoid it. We are often affected strongly by caffeine. We can be moved deeply by music, art, and nature.”
(I’m definitely not an expert on HSPs, so if you want to learn more, you can check out the research here. You can also take a self-test here if you suspect you might be an HSP.)
I appreciate many aspects of being a Highly Sensitive Person.
First of all, I’m easily inspired and deeply moved by small things in life. I believe this helps with my creativity.
Every time I catch a whiff of peonies on my kitchen counter, my heart sings. When I see a big smile on my block printing students’ faces after they printed their very first design on a fabric, it makes me want to cry. When I hug my cat and bury my nose in the fur on top of his head and smell the sunshine, I’m filled with happiness and joy (I know you totally smell your kitty, too!!)
I suspect many artists and makers are somewhat on the spectrum of being highly sensitive. After all, first step of creating a great work is to open up your heart and feel the feelings, you know?
It also makes being an artist more challenging.
Probably my #1 obstacle is my anxiety around being criticized.
I know all artists struggle with this somewhat whether you’re highly sensitive or not. When you pour your heart and soul into what you make, putting yourself out there and not being fully appreciated can feel extremely vulnerable.
My fear of being criticized has made me shy away from taking on more commissioned art/illustration work. It’s not that I don’t appreciate objective constructive feedback to improve my work – it’s the anticipation of getting criticized and receiving more subjective, unhelpful feedback that I get worked up about.
In order to mitigate this, I try to have a thorough conversation with my potential clients about my creative process and what type of inputs are helpful (objective vs. subjective) for me to do the best work before I taken them on as a client… And only when we agree on the process, we move forward with the project.
But still, when I hit “send” to deliver my work to the client, I get pretty stressed out.
Even though I know I did a good job, I hear a little voice telling me maybe it wasn’t good enough or I wasn’t quite diligent enough to hit 100% mark for the project. And so when the client tries to push my boundaries and get me to be more “flexible” with my creative process, I become pretty overwhelmed.
When this happens, I take a deep breath.
I don’t always open emails from clients right away when I sense there might be some bad news… I need to mentally prepare myself for that 😀 I might skim the email first just so I’m not missing any urgent issues, or maybe they’re totally happy with it (gasp!). And then if they are asking me to change something (“We love this! But… “) I walk away and think about it for a little bit before responding.
I take some time to feel whatever feelings that come up and be a non-judgemental observer of the reactions I’m having.
And then once I do a self-therapy/meditation to soothe my anxiety, I read the email again and analyze the list of things my client has sent me.
Once I have the mental cushion, I can be more objective and handle the criticism more calmly and less emotionally.
I re-read the proposal and contract to see if I missed anything or if I misinterpreted the goals for the project. If their feedback is not clear or sounds subjective, I’ll ask more clarifying questions. I include my creative process document with the final deliverables usually but might offer some extra explanations to clarify my decision making process if needed.
I realize 99% of the problems occur because of unclear communications.
If I overlooked something we agreed on or either didn’t do a good job of understanding the scope of the project throughly or didn’t help the client understand the process clearly in the beginning, I take full responsibilities for that. And I do my best to fix the problems.
But if that’s not the case, and I’m fully confident that what I produced would meet their objectives, I let them know I’m not able to respond to their requests.
Saying no to a client is difficult, but I’m grateful that most of my clients are really awesome and respectful so they understand. If I chose to accommodate every little subjective/arbitrary request they have, my passion would definitely die and I’d be super burnt out in no time!!
I’ve had to grow a thicker skin in order to pursue my passion publicly and professionally, and it’s definitely a work in progress!
Understanding my high sensitivity allows me to be more compassionate towards myself. And knowing what triggers my emotional response helps me to identify and develop new skills so I can grow as a person and be a happy creative professional long-term.
If you’re a highly sensitive artist and have challenges because of that, know you’re not alone in the struggles ❤
I haven’t shared my drawings from the sketchbook for a while, so I want to do that today. (By the way, I share my drawings often on Instagram if you want to see my artwork more regularly :))
But I have to confess first. I haven’t been making a lot of art for fun lately… 😦
I had a client commission work that took a lot of my time and energy before I left for my 10-day silent meditation retreat, and before that all I did was marketing and promotion for my business!!
I know they’re all necessary and important to grow my business. And I’m learning that things come in waves and phases, so some days I do more marketing and other days I do more creative things.
I get hard on myself when I spend more time on business-y stuff and don’t make time for personal creative work regularly.
It makes me question, “What am I doing?? Why am I not making art all the time??” But that’s just how it is sometimes especially when you’re at the beginning stage of building a business, running the show by yourself. I try to be more patient with myself and try to enjoy the learning process of making my dream come true.
Anyway, I did manage to create some fun drawings and hope you enjoy them!
By the way, out of the cat face doodles came the cat dad Father’s Day card below 🙂
Along with the lack of personal creative time and energy, I was feeling kind of discouraged about my creative business – wondering if I was cut out for it and if I would see any success – making a living doing what you love is really hard!!
And then I went to see Lisa Congdon at her Joy of Swimming book reading in Seattle at the end of May and was totally inspired by her talk ❤ I came home with renewed energy and more confidence to keep working towards my big goal. So I doodled this the next day.
It’s a time when I intentionally slow down and focus on things I don’t get to normally. I might work on fun creative projects for myself or reflect on my business goals and processes during my mini sabbaticals.
You can see a couple of my past sabbatical report backs here and here by the way.
What’s great about taking a regular time-off is I can schedule work in advance around it, and it motivates me to hustle and stay productive when I’m “on.”
Because I work very hard on weeks between my mini sabbaticals, I usually enjoy my time off relatively guilt-free.
By the time my 7th week rolls around, I’m SO ready. I can definitely feel the burn and feel my time off is well deserved.
But what about the time when I’m forced to slow down outside of my scheduled time off?
Life happens. You try your best to “schedule” things and stick to them, but it doesn’t always happen according to your plan.
I had to face this during February and March of this year when I suffered a stomach ulcer. And it really forced me to slow down and take care of myself
It didn’t come easy. I felt so guilty slowing down even though I was in a lot of pain.
Before I knew I had an ulcer, I just thought I had an upset stomach for some reason. I’d been on a Candida diet for several weeks prior and just started adding some foods back in my diet again. So I thought it was a natural reaction to the diet change and tried to “wait and see” if it got better on its own.
Weeks passed by, and it got worse.
I couldn’t eat very much and was feeling weak. I was depressed because I couldn’t eat (and you know how much I LOVE to eat!) and was afraid to eat because the pain would come after eating. I wasn’t sleeping well due to the pain or the fear of pain.
I was stressed out and scared. Desperate for information, I looked it up on the internet, and it tells you all kinds of potential causes for your symptoms, including cancer…(which I believed wasn’t the case based on other symptoms but still scary.)
Our insurance coverage (we’re on Obama care) is less than awesome, so the potential medical cost would stress me out, too.
I felt bad and guilty laying around on the couch during the work hours.
I thought, my eyes and hands still work, so I should be able to do work.
If I “took it slow” outside of my scheduled time off, I won’t be able to achieve my goals, will I? Nobody else can do what I do for me. And, I don’t have a paid sick leave any more!!
I’d press on even if I was in a lot of pain. I’d try to stick to my regular routine as much as possible.
I didn’t want to admit to myself that I needed to course correct because I didn’t think I could afford to.
Eventually, I saw my naturopath and got the diagnosis. She put me on a treatment plan, and I gradually started feeling better.
Putting a name to what I was experiencing helped shift my mindset. It gave me a permission to focus on healing.
When I thought I was just having a random stomachache, I was so annoyed and tried to ignore it.
But as soon as I learned the official diagnosis, it suddenly made it OK for me to focus on feeling better. It made my experience somehow more real and serious.
Like, finally I had a legitimate reason to slow down.
It’s weird I needed someone with an authority to tell me what I was experiencing was a real thing, and that I didn’t need to feel guilty about slowing down. But apparently, I did.
My work and goals were important, but it wasn’t worth sacrificing my health for.
I needed to prioritize getting better, and everything else needed to take a back seat.
So whenever the pain would come on, I didn’t even bother to get any work done. I simply stopped resisting. I just laid on the couch and did things to help ease the pain (heat pad, massage, tea etc.) for as long as I needed.
I also learned to use the time between my bouts of stomach pain to focus on my work. I had a shorter amount of time to work, so it naturally helped me to stay motivated and productive.
Fortunately, I responded to the treatment really well and have been feeling well since April! Thank goodness for that!
Nothing makes me more grateful for my health than having been ill.
You can schedule your sabbaticals, but you can’t schedule when you get sick.
When you get sick and your body is screaming for help, don’t resist it. Give yourself permission to tend to your needs. If you have a hard time doing that, like I do, let someone else tell you it’s OK.
And when you slow down to take care of yourself, stop feeling guilty about it. Guilt does not serve anyone, and it certainly doesn’t help you heal faster 🙂
If you’re level 3, you can still teach level 1 and 2. It’s actually better that I’m not a master block printing artist because I can understand better the struggles beginners might have.
In the spirit of sharing what I know, I wanted to tell you some of the lessons and tips I’ve learned about putting on an awesome workshop!
1. Develop a positive relationship with the venue owner and respect the facility.
I got introduced to Sally, the owner of IGIMO Art Station by a friend of mine late last year. IGIMO is an art studio in my neighborhood, and they offer lots of fun art classes for kids and adults.
When I pitched the idea of teaching the block printing workshop at her studio, Sally was super open and supportive. She made me feel welcome and so generously offered me to use her space in whatever way I needed.
In order for me to continue our positive working relationship, I try to keep an open and consistent communication with her and make sure we’re treating her studio space with respect.
2. Tell everyone you’re offering a workshop. Repeatedly. Everywhere.
I swear, marketing is all I do nowadays.
Because, you know, even if you make really awesome art or offer super fun workshop, it won’t matter if people don’t know about it!
I started promoting my workshop early on (about 2 months before?) on my social media, email list, and posting flyers in the neighborhood. And I did that multiple times.
By the way, I had a great return on investment with boosting my event on Facebook. I spent about $50 to boost my event post for like 6 weeks (roughly $1 a day) and got at least 3 sign-ups via FB (that’s $375 revenue). I’ll probably try that again!
3. Try to answer as many questions as possible up front by providing FAQ on your website.
When I posted the information about my workshop on my website, I just had a basic information, like dates, time, location, a brief description, and cost.
So when a very first student signed up, I sent her a welcome email and asked her if she had any questions. She did have a couple of really good questions I wasn’t thinking about, and I was able to incorporate them into the Frequently Asked Questions list I was working on.
Having some sort of FAQ is going to be super helpful because many students will have the same questions, and it saves you and them time if you can point them to the list instead of replying to their questions individually.
My FAQ includes informations like the day’s schedule, what to do about lunch, what to bring, what to wear, where to park, size of the class, and my cancellation policy.
I keep adding more questions/answers to the list as I go. You can take a look at my FAQ here if you’re interested in learning what I included in there!
4. Send welcome messages and reminders.
I just embedded simple PayPal button on my website (here is the instructions on how to do it. It’s pretty easy) for registration and ask them to enter their name and email. No bells and whistles there.
When I receive the notification for their payment, I send them a welcome message confirming the receipt of the payment, date/time of the workshop, and attach the FAQ in case they haven’t seen it.
Like I said earlier, I have a cancellation policy that’s included in the FAQ and want to make sure my students are aware of that in advance.
This is also a good time to see if they have any other questions my FAQ is not answering.
If I worked on any new block printing project or found cool resources between their registration and the class, I would share the information with the students on the list to get them excited.
I typically send them a reminder email a couple of times – once about a week before and then just a couple of days before the workshop date. Again, I’ll confirm the date/time and attach the link to my FAQ.
I know we all get busy and don’t read every email we receive (or read the email throughly), so I like to remind folks more than once.
I also include my cell phone number in the last reminder so they can contact me directly on the day of if needed.
When I’m setting up for the class in the morning, I’m not checking my email (and I never have my email notification on) so the cell phone is easier for any last minute communication.
5. Provide visual examples and inspirations before and during the workshop.
When you’re working on an art or craft project, it’s always helpful to have reference materials and inspirations handy.
If you’re new to the craft, the blank canvas can seem very overwhelming and your student might not know where to start.
So I’ve created a block printing design inspiration board on Pinterest (you can view it here) and share it with my students when they sign up.
I pinned variety of styles and designs, from intricate florals to simple geometric shapes, so the students who are not super comfortable drawing know that they can still make beautiful designs without any drawing skills 🙂
I also bring my favorite block printing book, Making an Impression by Geninne Zlatkis (it’s the most beautiful craft book I’ve seen!!) and some of my carved blocks to the class for reference.
6. Break down your process into small steps and document them.
Although I’m still relatively new at block printing, I’ve had many practices so far and no longer have to think about the steps when I block print.
So when I was working on a block printing project for Valentine’s earlier this year, I paused every so often and documented every step. I actually got a blog post out of it, so that was even more awesome 🙂 (You can read it here. )
While I was working on it, I tried to put myself in the shoes of someone who’s not familiar with the tools or processes at all. I also read a bunch of how-to articles on block printing to learn what processes others followed and tried to see if I was missing anything.
Having a documented step-by-step process also helps ensure that your students are getting a consistent instruction.
I also take notes while teaching the workshop on where students get stuck or have a hard time understanding my instructions so I can improve my teaching for the future workshops.
7. Have all the supplies ready and make sure they work!
When I was planning for the workshop, I wrote down every single item we were going to need for the workshop and researched where I could get them at a cheaper price.
I set a goal to at least order everything a month before the workshop date. That way, if something goes wrong or the shipment gets delayed, ideally I’d still have time to fix the issue… 😀
AND, when you get your supplies, make sure to open the package and see if they actually work. I learned the lesson the hard way with the linocut tools I ordered.
They came on time, and I assumed they were all fine. But the day before the workshop, I decided to take the tools out of their individual box and assemble them just to make sure it came with all the parts necessary.
And I found out 3 out of 8 tools had defects and didn’t work!
It ended up working out OK because I’d ordered extra (another important point!) and at that time, I had 5 students signed up for the workshop. But I certainly didn’t enjoy that “oh sh*t” feeling the night before my first workshop 😀
8. Provide resources and handouts.
I wanted my students to get as much value out of the workshop as possible since they’re paying to spend a day to learn something.
So I put together a packet for each of them to take home. It includes materials list, where to get exactly the same tools and materials we’ve used in the class, overview of the steps, tips, and other block printing resources.
After they learn the basics in my workshop, I want them to go home with confidence and continue exploring the craft on their own.
With the well-organized handouts and resources, my hope is that they will!
9. Walk around and check in with each student during the workshop.
This workshop is pretty hands-on, and students spend majority of their time working on their own project.
Some students are more vocal about their needs than others, and it’s easy for me to know what they need and help them.
I also try to check in with other, quieter students just as often – not because I don’t think they’re doing a bad job, but sometimes people are shy about asking for help, or they might otherwise don’t catch potential problem areas before it’s too late.
For this purpose, and since I’m still learning, I keep the class size pretty small (max. 6 students). I like the intimate environment a small class creates and believe it provides a better learning experience for my students as well.
10. Ask for feedback and testimonials. And don’t forget to take photos!
At the end of the workshop, I hand out a short feedback form. I ask a few simple questions, like what they enjoyed the most, what could be better, and if they’d recommend the workshop to their friends and family.
I also ask if I could use their feedback in my marketing materials, and most of them would say yes.
When the students enjoy the workshop and are excited about what they’ve just created, they are much more likely to give you a great testimonial. And including the question in the feedback form makes it more convenient for both of you!
Your students can also give you great ideas about what other workshops or services you could be offering. For example, a couple of students in the last workshop asked if I’d be offering any “second stage” block printing class or an open studio. And maybe private group sessions for adult birthday party! How fun!
I also try to take photos during the class (with their permission, of course) so I could use them for marketing/promotional purposes. It’s so fun to share the amazing work they do with the world 🙂
11. Send them thank you message.
Finally, a day or two after the workshop, I send a quick email thanking them for their participation and share the photos I took during the class.
I let them know they can contact me if they have any questions in their future block printing practice.
If they indicated on the sign-in sheet that they’re interested in joining my email list, I subscribe them so they can stay informed about my future offerings and updates.
I indeed learn so much by teaching!
And I LOVE it 🙂
I feel so lucky to be given this opportunity and am looking forward to teaching more in the future!
p.s. If you’re in Seattle area, you can join one of my workshops this summer 🙂 Check out the class schedule here.
I get a lot out of inspiring people through my art and love to help other artists by sharing and teaching what I know.
I’ve been blogging pretty consistently since last summer. A friend asked me for some tips on blogging the other day and thought some of you might also be interested in knowing what works for me.
I actually first started blogging in January of 2014. That’s when I started taking my art a little more seriously, and everyone was talking about how you needed to blog to make your business more successful. So I said, why not??
I didn’t have a clear goal for my business or blog back then and just shared things I thought people might enjoy.
Then I started my 365 Day Happiness Is drawing project in April of 2014 so that became the focus of my blog for a year.
Though I was posting my art every day, my blog was just another social media platform for me to share my art on, so I wouldn’t count that as “blogging consistently.” There was hardly any writing involved.
After I completed the year-long drawing project, I knew my next goal was to write more consistently. You might wonder why visual artists might need to write, but I knew I could build a deeper relationship with my audience if I shared my writing more. I also wanted to help other artists with more practical things, and writing would be a good way to do that.
I’ve written a blog post about why I want to write more here if you’re interested! (<– You can reference your own materials when you’ve written a bunch of contents, which is also pretty nice.)
So here are my 6 tips on how to blog consistently:
1. Have a bunch of posts in queue before you start publishing
I have to say this is the best blogging advice I received and follow to this day. So many people want to publish consistently and have the intention of doing so yet have a hard time keeping up.
Why not have a bunch of posts ready to go before you start publishing them? It helps with the consistency and creates a buffer for when you need it (e.g. you get sick, other life events etc.)
It may be hard to fight the instant gratification of finishing something and sharing it right away, but it’s worth it. I like the feeling of not being on a deadline all the time!
When I was publishing my blog article once a week, I had about a month worth of posts (4-5) ready to go. I still have the same number of articles in queue, but since I post more often now, I would like to build up more reserves when I have time. My goal is to have solid 2 weeks in a queue at any given time.
2. Determine the “why” for your blog
Just like having a clear goal for any other creative practice, it’s important for you to clarify your purpose, i.e. your “why,” for writing.
What do you want to accomplish by sharing your writing on the internet? What value is your blog going to provide for your audience? Is it going to help someone? Is it to help yourself? Is it to document your progress with your goals? Is it to share your life with your friends and family?
And when I say value, I’m not just talking about helping people make money. It could be something to make people laugh or cry, stay healthy, find solutions to what they’re struggling with, help them cook a healthy meal for their family, entertain them with your stories, amaze people with your creations, or inspire them to create a fulfilling life for themselves.
You want to find the “thing” for you. And don’t worry about creating something new that’s not already out there…because…it probably is out there already! That’s not the most important point. The important thing is recognizing you have a unique voice and perspectives on things that only you can deliver for your audience.
Having a clear goal and direction for your blog will help you focus on what to write and makes it easier for your audience to find and connect with your contents.
3. Try to write in your authentic voice
When you’re writing to reach people and connect with them on an emotional level, you want your authentic self to show up and not the formal, grammatically correct self (unless that’s your brand personality!)
This is something I struggled with a lot in the beginning and still do especially as an English-as-a-second-language writer. Because I learned proper way to write textbook English growing up, rather than learning it naturally in everyday life, I have a hard time breaking the rules and knowing what’s acceptable and what’s not.
But I wanted my audience to get to know me through my writing, and I want my writing to be friendly, warm, and approachable. I want my readers to have a consistent experience whether they’re reading my blog or looking at my art.
In order to accomplish that, I follow these tips:
Write the way you speak. You still want to be careful not to be too disruptive with informal grammar or typos, but you want your writing to sound natural when you read it out loud. If you read your sentence out loud, and you’re tempted to say it differently, you might want to consider changing it.
Imagine you’re speaking/writing to someone you know. I pretend I’m talking to a couple of my close friends when I write. It helps my writing to be more personable.
If you want to grow your audience through your blog, publishing on a consistent schedule will help. You want your audience to look forward to seeing your contents and make your blog part of their routine.
When I set my goal to publish a blog once a week, I decided I’d publish every Sunday morning at 7am. There are many statistics out there about when you get a higher engagement for your blog etc. I didn’t really worry about the stats, though, and chose the day/time based on the fact that people tend to have more time to read on weekends.
Earlier this year, I increased my goal to 3 times a week so I can share more about my art and processes on top of my self-help-y contents. I thought publishing on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Sundays would be a good schedule for me.
I wanted to avoid Mondays because it’s a busy day for most people going back to work etc. and your inbox tends to get flooded with emails that come in during the weekend. So Tuesday or Wednesday seemed like a better option. And by Friday, you’re ready to transition from work mode to a weekend mode, so you’re more likely to consume contents for fun and inspirations.
At least that’s how I ended up choosing those 3 days for my blog. I must say these are not scientific facts… 😀
Even if you don’t officially announce your schedule to your audience, having a consistent publishing schedule helps with your own accountability.
And if you do let your audience know and stick to it, they will learn to expect your contents on certain days of the week. For this reason, I would recommend publishing your blog at least once a week. It’s just easier for your audience to track.
5. Schedule time to write consistently
In order for me to stay ahead, I schedule time to write daily. Especially since I increased the frequency of my posts, I’d run out of my reserves if I become lax about it!
On my typical work day, writing is usually the first thing I do in the morning. Your brain is clear of information clutter and I can focus a lot better in the morning. I usually write 1.5-2 hours per day.
I know some people batch their writing, like for example, you can designate every Wednesday as a writing day, and you take care of all your blog writing that day.
I haven’t tried that method yet as that seems a bit much to me. Like making art, I like to write in stages and parts, then leave and come back the next day to add/edit. It helps me to look at my writing with fresh eyes, and I stay more productive that way.
6. Just start writing
If you’re wondering what you should write or if you’re a good writer or worried about what people might think of your writing, just start writing something.Anything.
Oftentimes, you don’t know what you should or can write about until you actually start. And the blank page cant be very intimidating!
Like many things in life, starting is the hardest part. Just start writing about anything, like what you ate this morning and how you prepared it. Or how you’re struggling to start writing and how you’re feeling as you write.
Remember you don’t have to share everything you write! Write for yourself. Start journaling about what you do. And the more you do it, the easier it gets. You will start seeing some themes emerge and you’ll find your voice.
And, if you need ideas and inspirations for a blog post, you can get a list of 62 potential blog topic ideas in this Seanwes podcast episode! It’s totally saving my life as we speak!!
Writing never used to be something I enjoyed. I avoided it for a long time because I wasn’t comfortable. Now it’s part of my everyday creative practice, and I get a lot of satisfaction from it. Who knew??
I’m gonna share my writing workflow and tools I use on my next blog post! Stay tuned 🙂