As an illustrator my life generally revolves around deadlines and collaboration with others. While this works pretty well for me, sometimes I need to take a step back and make art for myself. It is usually never planned; my life is super busy between teaching and book-making. Those flashes of inspiration are stolen gems and it is always surprising and thrilling when that work finds its way into the world.
As an instructor at Craftsy.com, I have the chance to review other people’s classes for free. One class that stuck out to me was Matt Rota’s Mixed Media: Pen, Ink, & Watercolor. I also know Matt from his time teaching at MICA and having finished the SVA MFA program. The class is fantastic and helped inspire me to make “Dogwood”. It was a piece brought on by thoughts of Georgia and spring. My motivation was simply to “make something really pretty”, which was a nice break in my usual routine of making something that looks good and enhances the content of whatever story is being told at the time.
My agent loved the piece and when we were thinking about images to include in a set of holiday cards she was putting together, we decided that image would be perfect in the collection. A few weeks later, Design House Greetings contacted us about licensing it for the summer. This holiday season was also extremely productive thanks to a Huffington Post feature on black-owned shops on Etsy. I made a small fortune selling prints through my etsy shop, which usually sees trickles of activity throughout the year. Most of the work that sells on my etsy shop is work that I have done for me.
As I tell all of my students and aspiring illustrators, make the work that you love making the most outside of your commissioned work. You will be surprised at how well it can serve you.
I have had to remove the “Dogwood” cards from my site, but the fine art print is still available. Design House Greetings works with super secret clients, so I can’t tell you exactly where, but look for the card in stores across the country this summer!