What's the Best Investment For Your Creative Business? Advice from 5 Successful Artists & Designers

If you are (like me) still in the process of building your business, you know what it feels like to run out of something. Time, money, help from others... resources are limited, and you have to make tough choices every day about what you invest in. Do you spend the two hours you have free scheduling social media, or developing your craft? If you have a little extra money, what do you spend it on when there are so many things you still need to do?

Last month, I shared the first of a four-art blog series where I asked established artists & designers to share advice for those of us just starting out. Today is the second part, and it's a good one! Today, we're going to talk about what's the best investment to make when you are a beginning artist or entrepreneur. Below, you will find the sage advice of Stephanie Fehrenbach, Ingrid Sanchez (a.k.a Creative Ingrid), Ashley Rayne (a.k.a The Wild Hippies), Jessica Roux, and Monica Lee-Henell.

 
What's the best investment you can make in your creative business, when you're just starting out? We asked 5 artists & designers to share their wisdom! More at danielleandco.com.
 

You can check out their advice below, with a little description of each artist and links to their websites and Instagram. Let's get to it!


"What is one investment you recommend a beginning artist and entrepreneur make in their business?"

 
Stephanie Fehrenbach shares advice on investing in creative business, on danielleandco.com
Work by Stephanie Fehrenbach, shared on danielleandco.com as part of a blog series on advice for artists, designers & creative entrepreneurs.

Stephanie Fehrenbach

Stephanie is an Ontario based artist who works with oils, watercolors, and other mediums and who I've always especially admired for her floral paintings; they are just so vibrant and full of movement!

InstagramWebsite

Invest in your website for sure! Your website is a reflection of you and your art, so make it the best you can. You don’t need anything really fancy, just a clean layout that’s simple, easy to navigate and lets the art shine. I use Squarespace and I love it! You don’t need to hire a designer -  the templates are beautiful and super easy to use for a non-techy person like me!

Good supplies are definitely worth it, but that being said...start where you are! You don’t need everything to be perfect right out of the gate. You’ll gradually build up a set of good materials as you go and start selling more work. Don’t wait for perfection to get started. Buy the best you can afford and keep making your art.
Ingrid Sanchez shares advice on investing in creative business, on danielleandco.com
Work by Ingrid Sanchez, shared on danielleandco.com as part of a blog series on advice for artists, designers & creative entrepreneurs.

Ingrid Sanchez

Ingrid (or CreativeIngrid as you might recognize her) is a Mexican artist based in London, who creates a prolific amount of work that is so bold & vibrant. The process videos of her painting large florals & abstracts are so captivating, I always look forward to them!

InstagramWebsite

Seriously, the best investment is time. A lot of people ask me about the brand of my watercolours or the size of my brushes. That is not important, but practice is. Because I say a lot, “practice, practice”, people think I don’t want to share the “secret”, but this is the secret. It’s not free, practice requires time, a lot of it. It’s a huge investment because no one is paying you and sometimes it can feel like a waste of time, that is why patience has to be present.

I will say to the beginners to take different workshops with different artists in different styles. That will really enrich the practice. To the entrepreneurs, something similar - invest in knowledge, hire someone with experience to teach you how to do things, that will save you a lot of your precious time.
Ashley Rayne shares advice on investing in creative business, on danielleandco.com
Work by Ashley Rayne, shared on danielleandco.com as part of a blog series on advice for artists, designers & creative entrepreneurs.

Ashley Rayne

Ashley (better known as The Wild Hippies) is a hand-lettering artist who is all about the positive vibes! Her colorful, cheerful artwork is shared on Instagram & available on Etsy. Her sense of humor is what sets her apart from other artists online, for me!

InstagramShop

My advice to someone just starting out would be to take it slow. Do not go out and spend all your money on the newest tech, tools, or help. Make a list of everything you need, and a separate list of everything you want. Buy some entry level supplies until you are ready to upgrade. Buy only the essentials you do not already have. And take advantage of social media! Yeah, a website is great, but it can be expensive, and is a lot of work. Social media on the other hand is free and easy to set up.
Jessica Roux shares advice on investing in creative business, on danielleandco.com
Work by Jessica Roux, shared on danielleandco.com as part of a blog series on advice for artists, designers & creative entrepreneurs.

Jessica Roux

Jessica's work is subtle and lovely in a way that's hard to describe without having seen it first. With very consistent use of colors and technique, she focuses on nature in a unique way. What draws me in is how she illustrates animals with so much life and detail.

InstagramWebsite

Having a great computer setup is important to me - a big, color calibrated screen running Photoshop, Illustrator and Lightroom, a Wacom tablet, a high quality scanner, and a fine art printer are all great investments to make that will reward you for years to come. 
Monica Lee-Henell shares advice on investing in creative business, on danielleandco.com
Work by Monica Lee-Henell, shared on danielleandco.com as part of a blog series on advice for artists, designers & creative entrepreneurs.

Monica Lee-Henell

Monica's work feels ever-evolving, but always in a beautiful direction. I've followed along with Monica's work for years, and her vibrant, moody abstract and floral paintings always make me stop scrolling in Instagram just to admire them for a moment.

InstagramWebsite

Photoshop and a good understanding on how to use it. Whether you are taking your work online, creating your website or reproducing your work, good Photoshop skills are worth every penny.

The answers from each of these artists are different, and at first may seem contradictory. What I take away is the importance of picking something to focus on and invest in. As opposed to picking alllllll the things to invest in, and feeling overwhelmed and scattered. When you have limited resources, it's better to do 1-3 things really well than 4-15 things mediocre.

This is advice I'm taking with me into 2018! I spent 2017 trying out a lot of new things and experimenting. While I think full video tutorials are awesome and fun to make, I realized they doesn't play on my strengths and took a lot of time away from painting and blog writing. Those are the very things most crucial to my work! So, I'm letting the idea of weekly video tutorials go. Instead, I'm going to focus on quality blog content and building my online shop. This also keeps me from rushing out and getting expensive video equipment, and helps me to use what I already have.

Stephanie recommended using Squarespace as an affordable way to have an amazing-looking website without the cost of a designer. I absolutely agree; Squarespace is what I use too, and it is so clean and intuitive, I can't recommend it enough.

What's one investment you are making in your business? How have you narrowed down your focus, to be sure you're directing your resources where they are needed? Please share in the comments below!

- Dani

How To Set The Mood for Creativity: 5 Artists & Designers Share Their Wisdom

I love (love!) getting a sneak peek into other people's business. It feels a little voyeuristic, but I want to see it all; their studio or work space, the supplies they love to use, the mistakes they make, their habits - all of it. It's not just to be nosy; I also gain a lot from the wisdom and experiences of other artists! Particularly, those who are more established, or who might have reached a level with their work that I'm aspiring to.  Also, I'm a little nosy.

If I gain so much from this, I'm guessing you might too. So, I wrote down a list of four things I wish I could ask the artists I really admire... and then I just went ahead and asked them! Never hurts to ask, right? I was really excited when five amazing artists who I have followed along with for years in some cases responded! They include Stephanie Fehrenbach, Ingrid Sanchez (a.k.a Creative Ingrid), Ashley Rayne (a.k.a The Wild Hippies), Jessica Roux, and Monica Lee-Henell.

Not only are these five artists really talented; they are also really different from each other. With the unique perspectives they offer, I think this four-part blog post series is going to have something to inspire anyone - so please keep checking back for more!

 

 
How do you set the mood for creativity? We asked 5 artists & designers to share their wisdom, and how they create a space ideal for fine art inspiration, freelance illustration work, and productivity. From small things like a hot cup of coffee, to bigger things like establishing a routine, get inspired by these accomplished artists. More at danielleandco.com.
 

Guys, they put so much thought into their answers and I know you're going to enjoy reading them as much as I have. I've taken those four questions and turned them into four separate blog posts, so we can really get in-depth with each one; today, we're asking how they set the mood for creativity.

You can check out each of the answers below, with a little description of the artist and links to their websites and Instagram. Enough from me though, let's hear from them!


"What do you do to set the mood for creativity?"

 
Stephanie Fehrenbach shares how she sets the mood for creativity on danielleandco.com
Work by Stephanie Fehrenbach, shared on danielleandco.com as part of the How Do You Set the Mood for Creativity blog post.

Stephanie Fehrenbach

Stephanie is an Ontario based artist who works with oils, watercolors, and other mediums and who I've always especially admired for her floral paintings; they are just so vibrant and full of movement!

InstagramWebsite

I find having my space set up and ready to go helps so much. So I’m not spending too much time cleaning or getting organized before actually getting down to work. Music is a must for sure! I find now, especially as a busy new mom, I can’t wait for inspiration to strike. I just have to take the time to work whenever I can. I think that’s the secret to creative living. Don’t wait for it. Just show up and make something, and keep doing that as often as you can. You’ll have good days and bad days, but I find actually making work is what inspires me most and gives me new ideas.
Ingrid Sanchez shares how she sets the mood for creativity on danielleandco.com
Work by Ingrid Sanchez, shared on danielleandco.com as part of the How Do You Set the Mood for Creativity blog post.

Ingrid Sanchez

Ingrid (or CreativeIngrid as you might recognize her) is a Mexican artist based in London, who creates a prolific amount of work that is so bold & vibrant. The process videos of her painting large florals & abstracts are so captivating, I always look forward to them!

InstagramWebsite

My working space is sacred, it has to be clean and organized. Before I start painting I smudge the space with palo santo, sweet grass or any herb I’ve collected in my trips, and meditate. It doesn’t has to be very intense, I am happy with a quick one just to open myself and the space for creation.

After this I am ready to go. I like working in silence during the mornings, but after lunch I usually play some music or listen to a podcast, my favorite:  ‘Art for your ear’ with The Jealous Curator.
Ashley Rayne shares how she sets the mood for creativity on danielleandco.com
Work by Ashley Rayne, shared on danielleandco.com as part of the How Do You Set the Mood for Creativity blog post.

Ashley Rayne

Ashley (better known as The Wild Hippies) is a hand-lettering artist who is all about the positive vibes! Her colorful, cheerful artwork is shared on Instagram & available on Etsy. Her sense of humor is what sets her apart from other artists online, for me!

InstagramShop

Working from a home office has its benefits (it is oh so convenient for parents with little ones at home), but it also has some major challenges. It can be a real struggle to get yourself into the working mindset, or getting yourself out of it when your family needs your attention. It isn’t as easy as driving to work, powering through the day, and then shutting down when you come back home. Working from home means you need to stay motivated and driven. It is much easier to just lay in bed for an extra 10 minutes (or an hour) in the morning. Much easier to take an extra long lunch break. Much easier to be distracted.

Keeping motivated is crucial to your productivity. I have a few small rituals that I do to get my mind and mood in the right place. First thing I do in the morning is make sure the house is tidy and clean. I can not focus when my mind is distracted by a pile of dirty dishes in the sink. Once the house is clean I make myself a big cup of tea - earl grey de la creme green tea is my go to - and head upstairs to my office. I will then sit at my desk and prioritize and expand on my daily task list (I make a quick list the night before that I work from). After writing out my schedule for the day, I light some sage and smudge (cleanse) my office and myself. Smudging really helps my mind relax and get focused. Finally, I turn on some noise - a pod cast if I am painting, my favourite playlist if I am doing some graphic design, or instrumental new age trance music if I am doing anything that involves reading and/or writing. All of this in combination get my creative juices flowing and makes for a very productive day!
Jessica Roux shares how she sets the mood for creativity on danielleandco.com
Work by Jessica Roux, shared on danielleandco.com as part of the How Do You Set the Mood for Creativity blog post.

Jessica Roux

Jessica's work is subtle and lovely in a way that's hard to describe without having seen it first. With very consistent use of colors and technique, she focuses on nature in a unique way. What draws me in is how she illustrates animals with so much life and detail.

InstagramWebsite

Every morning starts with walking my sweet pup, Molly. It’s wonderful to get to spend that time enjoying some fresh air and spending time with her, and it puts me in a good mood to get work done. I love listening to podcasts while I illustrate - I’m into science, design, true crime, and history mainly, but here’s a bunch of my favorites: Science Vs, Reply All, Ologies, Natch Beaut, Lore, Invisibilia, Every Little Thing, Criminal, Creative Pep Talk, 99% Invisible, and 2 Dope Queens. I listen to music when I run out of new podcast episodes. I love checking my Spotify for my Discover Weekly playlist, and they recently made me a “Your Time Capsule” playlist that literally sounds like they stole my middle school mixed CDs. It’s got some No Doubt, Pink, Green Day, Destiny’s Child, etc on it, and it’s perfect do get some serious drawing done.
Monica Lee-Henell shares how she sets the mood for creativity on danielleandco.com
Work by Monica Lee-Henell, shared on danielleandco.com as part of the How Do You Set the Mood for Creativity blog post.

Monica Lee-Henell

Monica's work feels ever-evolving, but always in a beautiful direction. I've followed along with Monica's work for years, and her vibrant, moody abstract and floral paintings always make me stop scrolling in Instagram just to admire them for a moment.

InstagramWebsite

I am a coffee drinker! Even if I’m not sipping something about having the smell and warmth in my hand sets the mood. I do listen to podcasts but am very careful to make sure they don’t set the wrong tone in my head, if that makes sense! So sometimes I just listen to romantic music. When I am really problem solving or need complete concentration, I need silence though!

I found it so fascinating that two different artists referenced smudging their spaces with sage or other herbs, to prepare it for painting. This has never occurred to me, but I'm intrigued and happy to experiment with it! Overall, what stands out to me is how we use rituals (even if it's just a cup of hot coffee or a walk outside) to get in the mindset for creating work. Creativity is all about having the space and ability come up with fresh work, and I loved reading about how others do it. Too often, I feel like I'm cramming work in between grocery shopping and soccer practices, and then feeling frustrated when it isn't coming to me naturally.

Also, those were some great podcast suggestions! I love listening to podcasts, and definitly added some new ones to my list.

How about you? What's one thing you do to set the mood for creativity before you work? This week, I challenge you to join me in being more intentional when creating a space and time for work. Find what works for you! Making sure you have a cup of tea to sip, trying to work a different and quieter time of day, putting on some great music or cleansing your work area - please let me know about it here or on Instagram!

- Dani

12 Ways to Use Those Cool Digital Art Patterns

Right now, it seems like the world is FULL of funky, cool, quirky downloadable patterns. Anything your heart desires has been turned from a painting or linoprint into a pattern; woodland creatures, polka dots of every type and size, floral designs of every possible garden variety... digital art patterns are ubiquitous. Part of the reason must be that they are just so fun to make. After I created a few of my own and listed them in my Etsy shop, it occurred to me... what all do people do with these things?

A few of the uses are obvious, such as putting them on fabric and them sewing with them. After a little research I found there are so many other possibilities, I thought I'd share it with you, too. Surely there is a quirky owl pattern you've been eyeing and have just been waiting for the perfect opportunity?

(FYI, this is not a sponsored post - just my own ideas and links to artists & services I admire!)

12 Ways to Use Digital Art Patterns

1. Fabric. Yep, just like I noted above. With so many designs on the market from so many amazing artists, there's no need to limit yourself to whatever designs your local fabric shop has in stock. You can design a seamless pattern out of your own artwork or purchase a digital one from an online seller and have your own fabric whipped up! The most popular service for this is Spoonflower. While the fabric will likely end up costing more than what you'd pay for something off-the-rack at your local craft store, the design options are just so much better.

 
Spoonflower  has an easy-to-use interface, and offers more than just fabric.

Spoonflower has an easy-to-use interface, and offers more than just fabric.

 

2. Home decor. What do you do with all that fabric? Cover your home (and the homes of your loved ones) in it, of course. You can make pillows, tea towels, wallpaper, curtains, dust ruffles for under your bed... you get the idea! Below are two examples of artists who used their painted designs to create a pattern they then applied to home goods. Yao Cheng (one of my favorite artists and sources of inspiration, ever) sells throw pillows and tea towels on Etsy and her own website. Kelly Ventura has worked with Chasing Paper to share her designs on wallpaper.

 
Check out  these lovely throw pillows  in Yao Cheng's shop

Check out these lovely throw pillows in Yao Cheng's shop

 
 
 
Kelly Ventura's collection on Chasing Paper  offers both colorful and muted options

Kelly Ventura's collection on Chasing Paper offers both colorful and muted options

 

3. Invitations & events. Whether you go DIY or work with a designer, there are lots of opportunities to use patterns to add color and interest. Check out the wedding suite below from Freshmint Paperie on Etsy, that uses a pastel floral pattern. You could DIY something similar with a pattern of your own, and for a cohesive look coordinate similar patterns and colors into decorations, favors, or even fabrics at the event.

 
A pattern can make invitations more or less formal, depending on what you choose. I think this suite by  Freshmint Paperie  strikes a great balance between the two!

A pattern can make invitations more or less formal, depending on what you choose. I think this suite by Freshmint Paperie strikes a great balance between the two!

 

4. Website design. As someone who loves to paint AND blog, this is my favorite way to use a digital pattern, hands-down. You could use one as a background pattern on the site as a whole, but whenever I see someone add it to smaller design elements, I can't help but notice. On Rebecca Atwood's site, pictured below, doesn't the pattern behind the "Join Our Newsletter" just make it stand out? Paper & Oats uses a pattern in some of her blog post images; it's a great idea when you write a blog post but you don't have a photo available that makes sense to share with it. (Side note: Paper & Oats is a great website to check out if you are running your own creative business, she shares so many useful ideas and guides!)

 

 
The neutral pattern on  Rebecca Atwood's site  keeps it looking professional and calming, but adds so much interest.

The neutral pattern on Rebecca Atwood's site keeps it looking professional and calming, but adds so much interest.

 
 
 
Paper & Oats  shows how you can use patterns in your blog post images; I love the modern and professional black & white look.

Paper & Oats shows how you can use patterns in your blog post images; I love the modern and professional black & white look.

 

5. Personalizing electronics. I just recently took 10 minutes to update by iPhone, iPad, and Mac backgrounds and feel a little ridiculous for not doing it before. My favorite source for ready-made iPhone & laptop wallpaper is Design Love Fest's Dress Your Tech series. Below is a great example of using a pattern to make these, so don't be afraid to make your own as well! You can use Canva's templates and not even have to worry about the dimensions.

 

 
This pattern by Melanie Johnson  available via Design Love Fest uses a tone-on-tone pattern and is definitely worth a download!

This pattern by Melanie Johnson available via Design Love Fest uses a tone-on-tone pattern and is definitely worth a download!

 

6. Presentations. Whether it's for your own small business, a presentation for a corporation, or a slide show at your kid's graduation there are so many opportunities to improve your PowerPoint slides! Canva offers presentation templates that incorporate free patterns they provide, but you could swap them for a pattern of your own, or just insert a pattern into any PowerPoint or other presentation software you use! My favorite is that watermelon print. I can't imagine a scenario where I sit through a presentation on eating watermelon, but still. It's cute.

 

7. Scrapbooking. Whether you print out the papers for a traditional physical scrapbook or add it to a digital one, patterned paper is a scrapbooking staple. Craft stores may offer a plethora of different papers, but finding ones online open up a lot of more options. You can get as specific as you want; I designed patterns of watercolor cabbage and lettuce, so if you're a... cabbage farmer?... there is a paper just for you! (You might want to google "digital scrapbooking" because there are some pretty cool things out there I had no idea about.)

8. Party decorations. Hop on Pinterest for a ton of inspiration in DIY party banners, cupcake toppers, table centerpieces, and more. You could use your own custom-made patterns or one you've purchased to design and print all sorts of things - I think this can be especially handy for a very specific party theme. If your kid is really into the dentist or moths for instance, why limit their party theme to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? (Those may have been weird examples.)

9. Art prints. One of my favorite pieces of art hanging in our house is a print-out of sample African patterns I ordered on Etsy years ago. I don't think it was designed with the intention of being framed, but there is something eclectic and different about it that I enjoy. A pattern can work especially well as wall art, because it gives the sense of continuity and fills out the frame in a way most images don't.

 

This navy pattern  is so bold and really makes a statement, from Hello Gorgeous Wall Art on Etsy

This navy pattern is so bold and really makes a statement, from Hello Gorgeous Wall Art on Etsy

Amistyle Art Studio on Etsy offers prints of  this colorful leaf pattern

Amistyle Art Studio on Etsy offers prints of this colorful leaf pattern

This Scandinavian pattern  is modern and really sophisticated, from Stellaire Studio on Etsy

This Scandinavian pattern is modern and really sophisticated, from Stellaire Studio on Etsy

10. Photography backdrops. Whatever you're photographing, an interesting backdrop can make the difference between ending up with a professional, unique image and something amateur. Below you can see examples of using a patterned fabric or paper as a photography backdrop for product images and flat-lays, but a quick search can turn up adorable newborn photos and other subjects using the same techniques. Besides, doesn't that same white background on every single Instagram photo start to look boring?

 

 
Clip It Up a Notch shared their  tips & tricks for food photography , using this patterned backdrop

Clip It Up a Notch shared their tips & tricks for food photography, using this patterned backdrop

 
 
 
Pixel Steps shared  20 flat lay photography background ideas  including this bold print

Pixel Steps shared 20 flat lay photography background ideas including this bold print

 

11. Personalized gifts. Finding the right gift is always tricky, but personalized ones always feel extra thoughtful. Notebooks and planners make great gifts for just about anyone, but especially someone starting a new job or school where it's likely to be extra-useful. Sonia Cavallini creates and sells various stationary (see below) using her whimsical patterns and sells them on Etsy. If you're looking to make your own, services like Vistaprint can create custom notebooks and make it easy and affordable.

 

 
Check out  Sonia's website  for more inspiration!

Check out Sonia's website for more inspiration!

 

12. Packaging design. If you're someone to makes & shares things (whether as a hobby or a business) it can be extra fun to offer personalized and creative packaging. Whatever you make (knitted items, candles, homemade spice mixes...) you could incorporate a pattern or design into gift tags, wrapping paper, cards, etc. I've even made holiday gifts for friends and family in bulk, and then added little extra packaging to make it feel special. The tea company Saudade kicks their packaging up about a 1000% with their colorful, bold patterns.

Saudade Tea packaging that is borderline psychedelic

Saudade Tea packaging that is borderline psychedelic

How cheerful are these Saudade tea packages?

How cheerful are these Saudade tea packages?

If you're looking for a good tutorial on how to make your own digital patterns and textures, I highly recommend you check out Teela's tutorials on her blog Every Tuesday, particularly How to Create Hand Drawn Seamless Patterns in Illustrator and Create Seamless Watercolor Patterns in Photoshop.

You can check out some of the digital patterns I've designed myself on my Etsy shop.

Are you a digital pattern designer, or just love to collect them? What all do you use them for?

- Dani

 
A round-up of creative and affordable ways to use those fun, quirky digital patterns you see everywhere! from danielleandco.com

A round-up of creative and affordable ways to use those fun, quirky digital patterns you see everywhere! from danielleandco.com