Nov 25, 2010

If you want my professional opinion, stfu.

I've posted about my verbal diarrhea before (here), where I tell everyone everything about myself, no matter how inappropriate or mundane (no one cares about my ruined fruit cup).  Today I'd like to address another kind of diarrhea (also verbal, don't worry).  This kind of of verbal refuse is the unnecessary chatter about the job you've just finished doing for a client.  It's fine if you're talking to a friend about the job you just did, the challenges you had to overcome, etc "Hi Stan!  Printing your tote bags was really hard but I'm such a good printer that I managed to do it!"  But a client who is nothing more than a client doesn't need to hear about how, you know, the white layer went on so thick that the black layer on top couldnt' get down to the fabric around the edges, and so you had to print the black layer twice, and normally you would lose information doing that, but such is your skill and mastery of the squeegee that you maintained the subtle details, blahblahblah.

Clients do not want to hear this crap.  Especially if said client knows NOTHING about your craft (and why should they? That's why they hired you).  Do you want to hear the ins and outs of the complex back end programming of your online store?  Do you want your insurance underwriter to give you a play by play on how they wrote the policy on your car?  NO.  You want them to shut up and do their jobs.  Not only is it boring for someone to yammer on about something that you don't know anything about, it also makes you sound kinda desperate, like Gil from the Simpsons.  "Close the deal Gil, close the deal!"  Well, you already did close the deal.  So shut your trap and just let the client enjoy the work you've done without you cheapening it by talking about how you did it and how good you must be for getting the job done.

Nov 18, 2010

The long and (very) short of it. And by "it", I mean sleep.

My glass of lemon mineral water I enjoyed by candle light while writing this entry.

It's been my first official week back to work.  All I can say is wow.  I'm tired.  Well, it's not all I can say, otherwise this post would be over now.  I've been up working in the studio and running errands since 7 this morning, and 12 hours later I'm finally sitting down for a rest.  What I want to talk about is reality, or at least MY reality.

I thought that working from home with a baby would be easy-peasy.  I had this vision of myself at my drafting table, baby on my back, working the day away like I used to.  In reality, I can only work for 2 hours or so at a time, because I have to stop to nurse the baby.  And, in reality, I can't seem to get her strapped to my back without her throwing up on my neck.  Twice (something about the bouncing to get her up high enough on my back).  Also, one requires a certain amount of rest in order to function the next day.  As awesome as night feedings are (who doesn't love to snuggle a tiny baby in the dark?) they are depriving me of something integral to my performance:  more than 3 hours of uninterrupted sleep.  The reality is, I have no idea when I'm going to sleep again, since I have no intention of moving Myriam from my bed any time soon.  I though that my life would continue on just as it was,  more or less, except I'd be carrying a baby.  Not so.

What I'm discovering is that things are different than they were, and they're different from how I thought they would be.  This reality is both new and unexpected.  Toss in a pressing need to work, and each day starts feeling like more of a mess than the last.  It's not the work, or the baby, or the bio hazardous kitchen that throws me off.  It's the things that I'm not doing, like watching a movie from start to finish, doing yoga in the evening, or drawing late at night.  It's the loss of the non-essential activities that I feel so profoundly.

So, here's my secret to dealing with a new reality:  give in and accept it.  Ohhh, you're more tired than you used to be?  Ohhh, you don't have as much time to spend on yourself as you did before?  Too bad.  Life is change.  Time passes, and each moment is different from the next.  I don't mean to settle into a life that's less than what you want and give in to defeat.  I mean in order to move forward in life you first have to accept it the way it is.  Then you can start to prioritise, find out what can't be helped, and learn to work around it to be happy.  I MUST work, so sometimes my house is gonna be a little...filthy in a way that the rats won't even come in.  I MUST take care of my daughter, so my late night drawing is gonna have to wait for a few years.  Instead of clinging to what I used to do, I'm accepting that things are different now and all I just have to do something else.  This evening, my yoga is replaced by cradling a baby and writing this blog entry.  That's a change I'm willing to make.

Nov 10, 2010

MacGyver the shit out of it.

As I was getting ready to prepare some screens this morning I realised how makeshift a lot of my studio equipment is.  See, when the idea first came to me to set up a screen studio, I was reluctant to do it without a $100G bank loan, a proper studio space in a commercial area, an 8 arm printing press, you get the idea.  I wanted to start BIG.  I thought that if I didn't have a studio worth 1/4 of a million dollars then I wasn't a professional, that it wasn't a proper business.  I quickly realised that I was wrong (read the whole story here) 

Now I see that when starting out, it's fine to start out small, and do what you have to in order to succeed.  I'm not saying set up a shanty hut to work out of with cheap crappy supplies, half of which were found at the dump.  I'm just saying it's fine to be resourceful when appropriate.  My lightsafe space for drying screens is the cardboard box that the screens were actually shipped to me in.  I make it light safe by draping 2 or 3 towels over the opening.  My fancy way to expose screens is rigging up a 500 watt light to one arm of my press and letting it hang over the screen, which is placed on the floor.  I clean screens at a carwash near my house, since I don't have a proper washout booth.  Amazing, right?  Learning to MacGyver could be the difference between going into business, and daydreaming about going into business.

It will be a cold day in hell when I get a $100,000 loan from the bank.  But by prioritizing the necessities (like a proper printing press, flash cure unit, ink system, and dryer) and jimmying up the rest MacGyver style, I was able to set up a (small) professional screen studio.  Now I can start working toward my commercial space and 8 arm press.  Or perhaps just toward building a lightsafe space for my screens, and installing a washout booth so I don't have to go to the carwash twice a week.  Baby steps though, right?

Nov 8, 2010

Don't be so stupid with your time, dummy.

You get used to living your life a certain way, then things change, and you have to find new ways to do things, create new habits, develop new routines, drop all your old ones.  I used to crawl out of bed around 9 or 10, relax around the house for an hour or two, then work as I pleased at intervals of my choosing.  Now I'm up at 7 or 8 in the morning to feed, change, and play with the midget for 2 hours, after which she goes back to sleep.  That's the magic time when most moms eat, bathe, check emails, smoke crack, etc.  That's what I've been doing too, up until now (minus the crack.  I'm a meth girl 'cause I love the way my face looks covered in scabs).

I'm realizing, however, that this new routine is going to have to change if I ever want to get any work done.  I've discovered that those magic hours in the morning when Myriam is sleeping are the hours during which I have the most energy.  By the time my next chunk of "me" time rolls around in the afternoon, I'm ready to crawl under a rock somewhere, never to be seen again.  Like an idiot, that is the time I normally allot for work.  Can you guess what happens?  That's right, NOTHING.  Nothing ever gets done.  Well, an old Will and Grace DVD gets watched, some potato chips get eaten, but that is all. 

So, here's my third tip for solving my time management issue mentioned here.  Don't be an asshole with your time.  Sounds obvious, but it's taken me 28 years to figure it out, even though I'm sure I've been told before.  Decide when your most productive hours during the day are, and reserve that time for working and nothing else.  If your productive hours are on Friday night from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m., then you'll have to spare your social life and be a freaky shut in if you ever want to succeed.  Luckily for me, my productive hours occur when the rest of the world is unconscious.  Too bad I'm the one who's unconscious on Friday nights, and I'm the freaky shut in.

Oh well.  I'm sure it wont' be long before my habits change again.  Maybe one day my afternoons won't be filled with Will and Grace, and potato chips, but Flight of the Concords and Cheetos.

Oct 30, 2010

I'm your private illustrator, your illustrator for money, I'll do what you want me to do.

One of my favorite people to work with is my cousin Becki.  She's a rad graphic designer, photographer, and screen printer.  The only thing she can't do is draw (her words, not mine!).  Luckily for her, the only thing I can do is draw (that's a lie,  I'm awesome at everything).  Thus, we have formed this great symbiotic relationship where she gets me to do line art for the stuff she can't draw, and I get money and exposure.  Recently, she needed a bunch of people drawn (including herself, she's the one laying down).  Here's what we came up with!

2 People relaxing by a tree.

Becki, looking mega asian.

A dude at a picnic table.

Here's what she did with my drawings:

It's great for her, because she can offer another service to her clients, and it's great for me because I love getting paid to draw!  I also love how little comittment it takes.  It's different than illustrating books, because it doesn't require me to devote 1/4 to 1/3 of a year to one project.  It's finished in a matter of hours or days, which allows me to work on my home business while still illustrating here and there.  So, if any graphic designers out there are looking to engage in some symbiosis, I'm always here!  You can be the shark and I'll be that shitty little fish that eats the crap off your teeth...

Oct 29, 2010

My daughter the tsunami.

Anyone that follows this blog is probably aware that I move at a glacial pace (as can be seen by the frequency with which I post on my blog).  Change in my life is usually slow and steady.  Well, this time change has been monumental, flooding into my life and rearranging everything, more like a tsunami than a slow moving glacier.  I'm talking about a 6lb 4oz baby girl named Myriam.

Thanks to my cousin Becki for taking an awesome pic.

Now that 6 weeks have gone by, it's safe to say that I'm eager to begin working again.  Easy to say, tough to do, when an 11lb midget would rather I spend all my waking hours (and sleeping hours) with her.  Seriously, I have to plan my bathroom breaks around when my spouse is home.

My new challenge, which I am keenly interested in overcoming, is learning how to manage my time with a house, a baby, and myself to take care of, as well as a business to grow.  My first tip is this:  Get or make a sling!  Here's a picture of me hand writing the first draft of this blog post with my angel on my chest.  I actually made soup while wearing her in this thing last night.  So convenient.

My second tip is to have a spouse who can take 9 months off work so you can work at home while he cares for the midget. 

All right, reel it in.  Do not make this blog into a mom blog.  I promise I'll still write about business, but you're going to have to put up with the odd "working mom" post.  I will leave you with a couple of pictures of my new studio spaces in the basement of my house.  They're coming along!  The only thing that I desperately want to change is the little blue room.  By all rights, it should be green, no?

My printing area.

The dry studio, for drawing and sewing.

Little blue room.

Jun 4, 2010

Mom's Milk Only please!!

Anybody that knows me well knows that I'm a major supporter of breastfeeding, and in a couple of months when my own baby arrives that I plan on breastfeeding her exclusively.  I thought it would be really nice to have something to put on her at the hospital to remind everyone that she is a breastfed baby, and not to give her any formula.  So I came up with these!

  I'm really excited about them because not only do I get a chance to illustrate and screen print, I also get to share my beliefs a little, albeit in a really gentle way.  They're available at my etsy shop.  And finally, here's a picture of me and my hybrid clone at 26 weeks :)

May 10, 2010

Just imagine that you are a hitman, and work that way.

Imagine for a moment that you are a hit man, or a hired goon of sorts.  You've been assigned a target.  Do you:

a.)  Find your assigned target, and dispose of said target in a timely and efficient manner


b.) Find your assigned target, dispose of said target in a timely and efficient manner, then think to yourself who else your employer might not like, dispose of those people as well, then think about who else you could  get rid of that might look good on your resume (what? she got Nine Lives Louie?  But I thought he was impossible to kill!) and dispose of them too. 

I'm guessing (hoping) that your answer is a.  You do the task assigned to you, no more, no less.  This is a good way to work.  Sometimes, in very special circumstances, it is fine to go over and above what is expected of you.  Like if you're trying to snag a really great promotion, or you want to do a really fantastic sample piece to impress a potential client.  However, constantly putting more into your work than is expected of you (or more than you're being compensated for) can quickly start to work against you.  We all want to look like fantastic skilled professionals, always outdoing ourselves and blowing our competition out of the water.  But when you do extra work, 2 things happen.  First of all, your time is money, and by putting extra time into a project you are essentially working for free.  The free hours you dumped into one project could have been paid hours you spent on another project.  Secondly, you run the risk of setting up unrealistic expectations of yourself.  If your clients come to expect all kinds of freebies and extras, they may devalue your work and will expect the same kind of perks with every project.  If you were a hit man and you wasted 3 people for the price of one to be impressive, then next time your client wants someone whacked, they're going to expect to either pay a third of the price or get another 3 for one. 

I feel like I'm in that situation right now.  I'm working on illustrating a coloring book in which the illustrations are supposed to be VERY simple.  So, I quoted the job based on how long I thought these simple drawings would take me.  But when I got down to it, I started doing some really detailed images and trying to come up with some really cool ideas.  Well, now the job is taking me way longer than I anticipated, and I feel unfairly compensated.  It's totally my own fault, and I can't go back now and say "uh, I'm doing more work than you requested of me, so can you pay me more than we already agreed on?"  The time that I'm putting into these elaborate drawings is free time I'm giving to my client, and in the mean time I can't even buy myself a pair of socks.  I should be putting my hours where they count instead of putting myself in the poor house to impress my client and have a good portfolio piece. 

I'm not saying not to give 100% to every job you do. Doing shoddy work, as I stated in my last post, will make you look like a crap sack who isn't worth hiring. But doing too much work may make you look like a pushover who can be taken advantage of.  Perhaps I need to take my own advice, and work like a hit man.  BANG,  BANG,  BANG.   3 simple drawings in an hour or two, just what I'm being paid for.

May 5, 2010

Have conviction (not a conviction, the character trait)

An important lesson I've learned over the years is that you should choose your challenges wisely.  You aren't going to win every argument you get into, so only get into it when it's something you feel strongly about.  My mother got it right.  She didn't care for the way I dressed as a teenager, but knew it wasn't important so she didn't fight with me about it.  There was, however, one pair of size 36 second hand beige wool old man pants that she hated.  She felt strongly about it, and refused to be seen with me in said pants.  It was important to her, and she stuck to her guns, thus she was never seen with me in public wearing the old man pants (she would use her knee high horse-decorated upholstery riding boots against me, and we would both end up changing outfits as a truce). If she had fought with me over every ugly sweater, or every time I wore hiking boots with a dress, she would have been one tired lady.

The same is true when agreeing to do things for others, whether it's a favor for a friend or a job for a client.  If you say yes to every piddly little thing, you're going to be one tired lady too (or a tired gentleman).  Don't accept any challenges that you don't know for sure that you are able to, or have the desire to see to the end.  To be respected as a professional, it's imperative that you put as much effort into every job you do as you put into fighting for your right to party.  The more half assed jobs you do, the more you look like a crapsack who isn't worth hiring.  Don't take chances pumping out sub-par work, you never know who might see it and how it might affect your reputation!  In my past, whether I was working as a filing monkey (hate) or a screen printer (love) I always put the same amount of effort in: all of it. 

Some important things to consider when deciding on whether or not to say yes to the request are:
  • Do you have time for this new project as well as other projects you're already working on?
  • Can you finish it by the deadline set?
  • Is it worth your time? (i.e. will you be getting paid enough for the time you put in)
  • What does your gut tell you?  Do you really want to do it or not?
If the answer to the last consideration is yes, then all the others might not matter much to you.  The final question is usually the most important to me.  We've all thrown common sense out the window at least once to help out a friend, or do something really fun right?  If the answer to ANY of the considerations is "NO", you should seriously think about saying no to the request, or else you better have a really good reason for agreeing to the task.  If you do end up accepting the challenge, then see it to the end!  Just think, if my mother lacked the conviction to continually say "No, Jillian, those pants are ugly and you look like a homeless 68 year old man who crapped his pants" then she would have had to be around a 15 year old girl who looked like a homeless 68 year old man who crapped his pants.  It would have slowly chipped away at her happiness and life force, just like doing a job your heart isn't in chips away at yours.

Apr 26, 2010

What I've been up to.

Well, it's been a busy busy winter! There's been lots of creating going on chez moi. I've finally gone ahead and put up an Etsy shop, and I've also been working on ANOTHER book. This one is a kid's coloring book though, so most of the drawings are really simple and don't take more than an hour or two to complete. It's based on Newfoundland, so it makes me really happy to work on! Here's a few images of what I've been up to this past winter!

Working in the studio,

Illustrating in the kitchen,

Making cute headbands, (view them all at )

and making a hybrid clone of myself to help me in the studio!