Lisa Stubbs is a freelance illustrator, artist and printmaker from Yorkshire England.
Her work is inspired by a wide variety of lovelyness ranging though Japanese graphics, vintage packaging and the creativity of her children and includes screenprinting, stitch and textiles. She writes an eclectic & inspirational blog at ‘LilSonnySky and her work can be found on both Etsy.com & Folksy.com
In this interview, Lisa shares her experiences about marketing her work, the business of art, and success selling art online. She also shares her inspirations and processes.
Lisa. How would you describe your art
I’d describe my work as narrative, characterful, honest and with a sence of humour, I want people to connect and relate to my artwork I want it to make the onlooker smile.
Please explain a little about your creative process.
For my own personal work I carry a sketch book and camera around with me, if anything inspires me I jot it down or snap it! Then later I will work further on the sketch and decide what medium to create the final artwork in, which at the moment is mainly as a screen print or a fabric collage. I have three children who are a constant inspiration to me with their energy and fresh imaginative way of looking at the things, and along with their picture book collection and their own art, this fuels ideas for my sketch book too.
What is your workspace like?
Do you have a dedicated space to create? I have a studio next to my kitchen which is open plan ( you can see an image it of it here) Where I do most of my work, my screen printing is done at the West Yorkshire Print workshop where I learnt how to screen print.
Your Online World
Your blog www.LilSonnySky.Blogspot.com is packed full of fascinating and exciting work, inspiration and fun. It’s created on the Blogger platform. Would you recommend Blogger to artists starting to set up a blog or would you do anything differently if you were setting it up now?
The Blogger platform is perfect for me as it’s easy to use. I’m no whiz when it comes to computers and blogging along with opening Etsy & Folksy shops has been a huge learning curve, which I’ve really enjoyed! Because I don’t have a massive range of computer skills, Blogger has been simple and easy to use and perfect for my needs.
What did you find the most difficult or challenging part of setting up your blog?
The courage to do it!! I knew the technical side would be a challenge but I could learn that side of things and overcome any difficulties by ‘help’ links and trial and error. But the actual ‘ does anyone want to read about my work and inspiration?’ bit and finding an online voice that represented me was the hardest bit! I’m so glad I did, it’s been a massively positive learning experience and have met some wonderful ‘blogging’ friends along the way!
How useful do you find your blog in terms of promoting and selling your work?
Very useful, it’s been an online shop window for me and an open studio for people to see how my work is created and what inspires me, which I think gives my work a visual history of hows it’s been created before going onto my shops.
How much do you find your online presence crosses over into the real world?
Do you find contacts and promotions that you make online help your work offline too? Yes, I think the links and contacts I’ve made through people seeing my work on my blog and Etsy shop have been wonderful, and I have received many commercial briefs because of this. My Etsy shop and my Flickr account have been almost like an online portfolio and a way to show case my work.
Out of all the things you do online to promote your work, which has been the most useful or worthwhile?
That’s difficult to say as they’re all linked, I’d say my blog as a platform leading to other links, but my Etsy shop has been wonderful at attracting interest abroad, people come to look at the blog who have bought items from the shop first. So I’d say my blog and Etsy shop.
Approximately how long do you spend each day or week, working to promote your work on the web?
I’d say an hour to maybe 2 hours a day, it depends on how much work I have to do.
You have shops on both etsy and folksy. Do these work well for you?
They don’t do too bad really, considering this is all my own personal work and not my commercial work so I don’t put my full time and energy into it. I work as a freelance illustrator so my Etsy, Folksy, Flickr and blog are all side lines if you like, but they have helped and supported my commercial work enormously. Not just as a brief free zone to experiment and try out my own ideas but also as a shop window for potential clients.
Roughly what percentage of your total sales comes through Folksy and Etsy?
For me it’s not a massive amount but it’s growing. That’s due to time and my work priority’s. I think to be really successful on these sites you need to spend a considerable amount of time networking, joining chat rooms, subscribing to news letters, getting involved in Etsy promotions, Etsy Treasury’s and online communities, generally being involved with every aspect of it to get the word around about your work. This takes time which I haven’t got as my commercial work takes priority, but I’m very proud of ‘Lil Sonny Sky’ and if I can do this just with a small amount of time, just think of what you could achieve if you gave it your full attention!
How do you get people to visit your shops on these sites? What promotion do you do to let people know about them?
I have links on my blog and links in posts. I also leave comments on other blogs and I’ve got involved with online competitions and projects, ( here and here) Offline I have exhibited at local Art fairs which have info of my shops and blog,
Your Arty Business
Which marketing strategies have been most helpful in advancing your career and selling your work?
Investing time to learn new ways of working and experiment, this has been the best way I’ve advanced my career – not really a marketing strategy I know but by doing this everything else has just naturally followed on. The contacts I’ve made and the work I’ve sold has all been through constantly pushing myself work wise to better myself as an artist and reinvent ways of creating my ideas. My Etsy shop has been an out let for this and it’s this work that has got me noticed more than ever and got me more work. So I’d say experimenting, being open minded and inventive has been my best marketing strategy!
In a normal day, how much time do you spend on creating and how much on business related stuff?
I’ll spend the first hour of the day online, then stop and do design work making use of the day light and then on an evening spend time at my mac doing the online stuff or keeping up with the books! this is tricky with a young family so the creative time has to take priority as I can’t do this with the children around. This balance seems to be working ….. at the mo!
Can you offer any advice to someone who is just starting out down the road of self employment as an artist?
Just work really hard! invest the time you need to get organised and target who you want to notice your work. Have a clear idea or goal and then list what you need to do to achieve that goal, personally and commercially. Buy the Artists and Writers year book which should be your bible as it’s packed with loads of advice, case studies and contacts. Believe in yourself and your work otherwise nobody else will and don’t be afraid to seek advice and help, there are tonnes of resources out there, local free courses on book keeping, marketing, time management etc. Get involved with organisations like The Association of illustrators or local Art organisations, we have the Art house in Wakefield, or WYPW who have monthly news letters with lots of opportunity’s for artists! and be positive, don’t see problems as mistakes, they’re just lessons on your journey to achieving your goal!!
Do you make a living exclusively from your art and creativity or do you combine it with other work too?
I earn my living as a commercial freelance illustrator and I have just got an agent purely through my personal work online which is wonderful as it makes me nearer to my goal of becoming a children’s book illustrator.
Working for yourself
What has been the biggest obstacle or difficulty you have faced whilst getting established as a self employed artist?
How did you overcome this difficulty? I started as a freelance illustrator 14 years ago which seems like a life time ago! I think for me I found juggling time difficult and being jack of all trades, understanding accounting, time management and computers and solving technical problems were all new skills I had to learn. The only way to over come this was to go on ‘new business’ courses. I went on lots which were free at the time and great as I met people in the same boat and learnt from their mistakes as well as my own. I could pick the brains of professionals in their field for free. Today I think local art associations will run similar workshops which will be better as they will be tailored to artists needs.
What is the best thing about working for yourself as a self employed artist?
Now I have a young family it’s been wonderful to be flexible time wise, I can work around my family, school runs and swimming lessons! Also just being able to get paid for something I absolutely love doing and being my own boss! I feel very lucky!
And the worst?
It’s a very solitary profession! The radio and the blogging community are my studio mates! but I get around this by going out to screen print, I also help out now and then at the school my children go to doing art classes which helps to brake up blocks of time spent on my own.
Do you have any advice for creative people who want to work for themselves or set up a business selling the products of their creativity?
The same as before really, work hard, seek advice and help, believe in your work and research your market and competition, write down your goal then list what you need to do to achieve it. And be positive! The person who doesn’t make mistakes is unlikely to make anything!
Finally, please share something that inspires you.
My children, picture books, song lyrics, Japanese graphics, fabric, tumblr, vintage packaging. I find inspiration in so many things the list is endless! it’s ever changing, but my children mainly and their art the confidence they have when drawing and their imagination is just magic!
Thank you Lisa for sharing your work and practise with us. Don’t forget to visit Lisa’s blog at ‘LilSonnySky