Harnessing the Power of Facebook Groups for Artists

Harnessing the Power of Facebook Groups for Artists

I know, I know: there’s been a lot of news about Facebook lately, and not much (if any) of it has been positive. If you’ve sworn off the social media giant, that’s completely understandable! I don’t use it for personal reasons much at all anymore, especially since the newsfeed has turned into 90% ads. However, Facebook Groups for artists are actually great tools you can leverage to get your work seen by a much larger audience than just your friends and family. As you may remember, I touched on Facebook Groups in a previous post, but they’re so useful that I decided it’s worth going into a little more detail on the subject.

Facebook Pages vs. Facebook Groups

First, the basics: there are two types of pages you can connect to your personal profile: Facebook Pages and Facebook Groups.

Facebook Pages have their use. They are a great place for businesses to list up-to-date store hours, products, events, and so on. Customers can also leave reviews, which are useful for any interested parties researching a product or company. If you are trying to sell your art on a consistent basis, I do recommend having an artist page so you can direct potential buyers there when they have questions.

However, these pages have some definite drawbacks, too. The biggest issue is that Facebook’s algorithms make it almost impossible for your new posts to be seen unless 1) the few people who do catch a post share it widely, or 2) you pay through the teeth to run each one as a Facebook ad. For this reason, I’ve come to think of Facebook Pages as reference sources, not marketing tools.

Facebook Groups are far more interactive and far easier to promote than Facebook Pages. This is good news for you on both sides of the coin: if you join a group, you’ll often get notifications when someone posts something of interest, and if you create a group yourself, the people who join it are much more likely to see your posted work and information.

Facebook Groups for Artists: Join a Community

As an artist, joining a handful of Facebook Groups gives you an immediate community you can use to share your latest projects, ask for advice on anything that’s tripping you up, and discover new styles and materials you might want to explore. If you want great feedback on your work, comment on other posts as much as possible. People respond most frequently to the members who are most willing to help others. Bonus: if you respond frequently enough to develop a reputation as an expert in one material/technique/etc., you may even see people start tagging you when a related question is asked!

There are a ton of Facebook Groups for artists out there, and a simple Google search will turn up list after list of the best examples. I’ll plug Artists Trying to Make a Living Creating Art since that’s the one I use most. It’s a big, diverse group, and the level of talent you’ll see from the members is amazing!

This is also a good place for me to mention that I have my own group started: VanDuinen Studio’s Inspiration Club. Mine is still in its infancy, but I look forward to seeing it grow and develop over the course of time. Come join!

 

Become a part of the Inspiration Club

 

Facebook Groups for Artists: Lead a Community

If you decide to lead a community as part of your brand, I can tell you that it’s a big learning process! But it’s a fun process, and I have come up with a few pointers to help you breathe life into it.

1) Make it a closed group

Trust me, this will make the growth of the group go slooowly. But the beauty of a closed group is that you can set a few simple questions that potential members have to answer before you approve their request to join. If you’re like me and will be the only moderator of the group, this helps you ensure that you only have people involved who really want to be there and won’t set a bunch of virtual fires for you to put out.

2) Encourage engagement as much as possible

Just because someone joined a group doesn’t mean they’ll immediately jump in and start conversations. It’s a good idea to create a list of questions to ask the crowd each week. You don’t necessarily have to cover every single day, but a good handful will show people that you’re an active leader. I’m currently aiming for 3x per week. Plus, the resulting conversations will hopefully spark other questions and posts from the rest of your members.

3) Be present

Don’t just create the group and leave! I’m in several Facebook Groups, and the ones where the creator pops in and answers questions are by far the most popular and most helpful. It helps you develop relationships with your audience, too. If they know you and like you, they’ll be more likely to support you long term.

That’s all for this week! Once again, I invite you to join VanDuinen Studio’s Inspiration Club: a community built to support and encourage artists working with all mediums. It’s one of many in the sea of Facebook Groups for artists, but I do my best to make everyone feel welcome there. 🙂

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Nonno’s Corner: Home of the Needlepoint Pet Portrait

Nonno’s Corner: Home of the Needlepoint Pet Portrait

Hello, all! I had a different blog post planned and researched for today, but I’m more excited about the addition of Nonno’s Corner, your one-stop-shop for a needlepoint pet portrait. So, since I love following inspiration wherever it leads, I’m going to give you the rundown of those details, instead. We’ll return to the regularly scheduled programming next week. 🙂

The Story Behind Nonno’s Corner

My husband’s Italian grandfather, Joseph Ricci, is more commonly and affectionately known as Nonno. He is a man with many interests and hobbies, and one of those hobbies happens to be needlepoint. As you can see from this photo, he has a remarkable talent for it (the pattern is his own design!):

Needlepoint pet portrait of a horse from Nonno's Corner

Amazing, right?!

At a recent family reunion in New Hampshire, Nonno pulled me aside and handed me a few samples of his work. He then asked if I thought a needlepoint pet portrait business would be worth a try. Needless to say, I immediately jumped on board. From this day forward, Nonno will be doing all of the needlepoint work, and I’ll handle the orders, customer service, and marketing for this adventure. I love his unique take on the pet portrait genre, and I can’t wait to see what comes of this collaboration!

Available Right Now:

Nonno has been very prolific already, so he has several portraits readymade based on photos that called out to him to be adapted as needlepoint. If you fall in love with any of these and want to add some animal art to your home, drop me a line and I’ll create a custom listing for you. (I plan on adding Nonno’s Corner directly to the store, too, but that’s going to take some tech work on my end. It might take a few weeks!) For the full pricing chart, please see Nonno’s Corner.

Does the butterfly look familiar? He used my marker drawing tutorial as inspiration – that should give you some idea of how well he captures images with his self-drafted patterns!

Order Your Custom Needlepoint Pet Portrait

The process is really simple! Check out Nonno’s Corner for prices and other information, then email me anytime with a selection of photos of your pet (or a friend or family member’s pet, if it’s a gift). I’ll loop Nonno in ASAP, and together we’ll figure out which photo will work best for adaptation. He’ll fill us in on what timeline makes sense (he works fast, but the number of orders placed at once will inevitably vary throughout the year), and we’ll ship it to you or your requested recipient as soon as it’s complete.

Questions? Concerns? Requests? Email me or use the contact form, and I’ll do my best to help you out!

Until next week,

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Tune Out Unsupportive Voices and Focus on Your Goals

Tune Out Unsupportive Voices and Focus on Your Goals

All right, this week we’re going to focus on a darker side of the artist lifestyle: you have to learn how to tune out unsupportive voices if you want to succeed. Doubt can trickle in from any angle, whether it’s from a co-worker, teacher, or a chatty cashier at the grocery store.

Storytime: back when I was in 5th grade, a teacher asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I said “teacher.” With an astounded look on his face, he responded, “Really? But you’re too quiet!” All I did was answer his question, but somehow I ended up feeling embarrassed and doubtful of my own capabilities. Now, clearly teaching a classroom full of 40 kindergartners did not end up being my passion, and I’m sure he wasn’t trying to crush my dreams. But this story stuck with me, and it does illustrate my point: even people with the best intentions can accidentally tread all over an idea or a goal that’s important to you. Sometimes their words end up in your head, transforming into an inner critic that holds you back from reaching for the next level.

So what can you do to tune out unsupportive voices and avoid being overwhelmed by negativity? I think the best way to go about it is to get to know yourself really, really well. I know that sounds corny, and I’ve scoffed at similar advice in the past. But really, where else will your confidence come from? You need your confidence to guide you through the murky waters of self-doubt. With this in mind, I’ve put together this list of 5 ways you can build your sense of self. Each item on the list has helped me tremendously, so I know they can help you, too!

1. Journal often

Admittedly, I have fallen way off the journaling bandwagon since I had Liv. I’m actively trying to work it back into my routine, though, because there is really no better way to get to know yourself. I don’t let anyone else read mine, so I can spill all of my mental garbage onto the page without worrying about what others might think. Sometimes I make up terrible song lyrics. Recently, I ranted a lot about how it feels to go without sleep for 730 days straight. Other times, I start a story and then switch to a more “professional” journal (or my laptop) to finish it, because it’s too good to be housed in my junk journal. There’s even a really rough sketch of my plan for a vegetable garden in there because it was the closest pad of paper lying around when I was struck with inspiration.

My favorite part about journaling is that there are no rules. If you use it to vent, great. If you just write the word “pancake” over and over because it helps you focus, go for it. Either way, you’ll learn more about how you work and how you think, which is the entire goal.

2. Check in with yourself

Every once in a while, it helps to touch base with yourself and gauge how you’re feeling at any given moment. What situations or actions make you feel the most relaxed? Which ones make you feel anxious? For instance, I lose all sense of time when I’m writing or drawing because I get into such a zone. Untangling a knotted ball of yarn makes me irrationally angry, though – part of the reason I decided against adding crochet to my larger business plan! Knowing your passions vs. your triggers will help you decide what route is best for you personally. When you know for sure that you’re making the best choices for yourself, it becomes that much easier to tune out unsupportive voices around you.

3. Find your tribe

It’s unlikely that your close family and friends will be passionate about the exact same things as you. Which is totally fine – the differences between us make us interesting. But it really, really helps your productivity and confidence to have like-minded peers to talk to when you need support, have questions, or want to workshop some of your ideas. It’s a lot easier to tune out unsupportive voices when you have a chorus of positive feedback ringing in your ear.

Of course, if you’re introverted like me, searching for a group of strangers to meet at a coffee shop sounds like low-key torture. Living close to Ann Arbor, I know there are writers groups all around me, but I have yet to convince myself to try one. Instead, I’ve embraced the internet. There are Facebook groups for everything under the sun, and some of them are fantastic. Look for the closed groups where you have to answer a couple questions to get admitted. These are generally moderated well, so you’ll run into way less negativity and off-putting behavior.

There are two groups in particular that have helped me: Artists Trying to Make a Living Creating Art and Blogging Like We Mean It. Both of them are full of people ready to help with questions and support.

If you want to help build a community, I’ve recently started my own group: VanDuinen Studio’s Inspiration Club. I have lofty goals to use this group as a networking and workshop community for fellow artists, but I’ll need your help and participation to grow it!

4. Get off the internet for a little while

In direct opposition to what I just said, I’m also going to advocate for logging off now and again. The internet is a varied and opinionated place. This means that you’re guaranteed to find people who love what you do, but you’re also guaranteed to find people who don’t. And they’ll tell you loudly, clearly, and often, making it difficult to tune out unsupportive voices en masse. When you find yourself getting caught up in criticism from virtual voices, close the laptop, put down your phone, and walk away. Work on some art, read a book, play with your kids. Remind yourself that no one knows your story better than you do, so no one can make better choices for you. When you log back on, you’ll hopefully feel much better prepared to let rude comments fade into the ether.

5. Use what criticism you can, discard the rest

No one loves to hear criticism, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be useful from time to time. If you’re hearing a lot of the same criticism, for example, take a step back and evaluate your work. Is there another way you could do it? It’s often easier to let ego get in the way of really listening to less-than-stellar feedback, but sometimes your audience really does have a point. Take me for instance: I hate hearing that there are pieces of my stories that people don’t like, but when I take a moment and think about their suggestions, they usually do improve the flow or clarify the logic. All it takes is me getting over myself to see the light!

There will be times, though, when it’s better for you to completely tune out unsupportive voices. I got a lot of guff about my English major, for example. What would I do with it? How is that useful? Did I want to confine myself to academia? I didn’t let these comments change my mind, though. Instead, I got angry. No, I did not want to teach (anymore). Yes, it would be useful. An English major, designed to teach communication and critical thinking, would prepare me for anything. That anger led to a determination that has pushed me through all the twists and turns of my career so far. I leveraged that English major to score a position as a technical writer for an immigration law firm, and I’m using it now to grow this blog. Don’t be afraid to forge your own path in life, if the traditional road looks too uninviting. Use the words of your critics to fuel your fire.

6. Develop a mantra

A mantra can help you refocus when you find your confidence wavering. The mantra can be anything that speaks to you; even something as simple as “I can do this!” can help you find your sense of calm, especially if you pair it with some deep breathing. If you’re a visual person like me, it might help to look at a quote graphic with your mantra on it while you breathe. I took the liberty of creating one for the phrase “I believe in me.” If you want to save this one for later use, click here for your download link:

“I believe in me” Quote Graphic

There you have it – now you know a little more about how to tune out unsupportive voices.

None of these tips are foolproof. Self-doubt is natural, and outside criticism is inevitable, no matter how confident you are. But if you have a goal you want or need to achieve, it’s important to come up with techniques that help you tune out unsupportive voices that may get in the way of your success.

Have any of these suggestions helped you reframe your thinking? Do you have any tips to add to the list? Let me know in the comments below or via email!

Until next week,

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P.S. Want to read more about the artist lifestyle? Check out these related posts:

Find Creative Inspiration in Out-of-the-Box Places

Do Yourself a Favor! Take This Self-Care Challenge

A Simple System for Effective Time Management

Cozy Minimalism and Mental Health

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Draw a Butterfly: A Free Illustration Tutorial

Draw a Butterfly: A Free Illustration Tutorial

I’m back with another illustration tutorial! I previously walked you through how to draw a flower with watercolor pencils, but not everyone has those lying around like I do. So today, I’m going to teach you how to draw a butterfly using whatever set of markers you have lying around. If you’ve got fancy artist markers, great! (I’m jealous!) If your kid has a set of Crayolas lying around, go ahead and steal borrow them for this exercise – they’ll work just fine.

One note before we start: I’ve developed this tutorial to draw a more stylized, cartoon-y version of a butterfly. It’s a nice way to practice symmetry, experiment with color combinations, and practice a little bit of shading. If you’d like to learn how to draw a butterfly that looks more realistic, give me a shout and I will definitely put that tutorial together!

If you would prefer to view this tutorial as a PDF, you’re in luck! You can download it, save it, and print it HERE.

What You’ll Need to Draw a Butterfly:

  • 5 markers (any color combo you want)
  • A sheet of paper

Step 1: The Thorax

With Color 1, draw an upside-down egg.

draw a butterfly with markers step 1

Step 2: The Abdomen

Still working with Color 1, draw a petal shape coming off the bottom of the thorax. Mine is pretty pointed, but you could round that bottom shape out more if you prefer.

draw a butterfly step 2

Step 3: The Head

With Color 1, draw a round head on top of the thorax.

draw a butterfly step 3

Step 4: The Eyes

On either side of the head, use Color 1 to draw two ovals and color them almost completely in. Leave a tiny bubble white in each eye – this gives them a more realistic-looking shine.

draw a butterfly step 4

Step 5: Antennae

Now it’s time to give that butterfly some antennae. Still using Color 1, start near the back of the head, between the eyes. You could do a simple arc over the head, or you can make them extra curly like I did. I like the decorative effect it added.

draw a butterfly step 5

Step 6: Begin Filling in White Space

For right now, stick with Color 1 and start filling in the white space in the butterfly’s body. Don’t go too heavy, though – use quick, aggressive strokes that follow the shape of each body section to give it some texture. Leave a little white space peeking through.

draw a butterfly step 6

Step 7: Add Some Depth

It’s finally time for Color 2! This should be slightly darker than Color 1, and you can use it to finish filling in the white space on the body. You’ll notice I colored a little heavier around the connections between the body segments – this helps the body look 3D.

I left the eyes as Color 1 here, but I wasn’t happy with how it looked at this point. You’ll see how I fix that in a minute.

draw a butterfly step 7

Step 8: Add the Top Wings

Time for wings! With Color 3, draw the top halves of each wing. They should look like rounded triangles coming out of the thorax. I try to get them as symmetrical as possible, but one always turns out longer than the other. I’ve given up trying to fix that. Now I just roll with it as a personal drawing quirk!

draw a butterfly step 8

Step 9: Add the Bottom Wings

Staying with Color 3 for a moment, add the bottom wings. I like to use a rose petal shape, but you could make yours rounder if you’d like. The only thing that matters is size – they should be a bit smaller than the top wings.

draw a butterfly step 9

Step 10: Start Decorating the Wings

This is the fun part! This is where you can go really crazy with color combinations and decorative elements. (If you go off-tutorial here, I’d love to see the results of your designs!)

If you want to continue with the tutorial, grab Color 4. (My color 4 is the darkest shade I selected for the batch of 5, which definitely made a difference for the outcome.) Make a smaller mimic of the wing shape inside each wing segment. This can be done quickly and imperfectly; the differences just add to the charm.

draw a butterfly step 10

Step 11: Repeat Step 10

Do the same thing as Step 10 inside the first lines you made with Color 4. This gives you some fun shapes to color in to add contrast.

drawing a butterfly step 11

Step 12: Color in the Bands

With Color 4, fill in those contrasting bands you just created in Steps 10 and 11. I also colored over the eyes and added just a couple streaks of Color 4 to darken the shading on the body. This helped the body really stand out instead of getting overwhelmed by the colorful wings.

draw a butterfly step 12

Step 13: Color in Outer Regions of the Wings

Returning to Color 3, fill in the outermost regions of the wings. If you like how it looks at this point, you can totally stop here! I really liked how mine looked at this stage, but I tinkered a little bit further since I was aiming for the wow factor. If you’d like to join me in adding even more decorative elements and that fifth color, read on.

draw a butterfly step 13

Step 14: Polka Dots

A lot of butterflies have dots along the edges of their wings, so I decided to add a stylized version of that to my design with Color 4. Place the largest dots near the points of each wing, and then make them smaller and smaller as they head away from that point.

draw a butterfly step 14

Step 15: Color the Remaining White Space

With Color 5 (the lightest and brightest shade), fill in the small regions of white space left on the wing. I also added a quick streak of Color 4 to visually tie these sections in with the rest of the wing.

draw a butterfly step 15

And there you have it! You now know how to draw a butterfly anywhere you like. I used to doodle these all over my notes for school. Now, I doodle them all over my actual artwork. 🙂

Once again, if you’d like to save this tutorial for future use, you can grab the free PDF version HERE!

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How to Choose a Theme for Your Brand

How to Choose a Theme for Your Brand

When you’re a small business owner, one of the most important things you can do is develop a clear brand identity. Of course, that’s much easier said than done! There’s a lot that goes into branding and marketing and all that jazz – whole courses have been developed on this topic alone – but this post will walk you through the basics about how to choose a theme for your brand.

Step 1: Freewrite

I am a huge fan of freewriting when you need clarity on something. I set the timer for 10 minutes, open up OneNote, and write whatever crazy stuff pops into my head without stopping. It’s so simple, and I always come out with a new idea that I’m stoked to get working on ASAP. In fact, it’s how I developed my plan for this blog’s content!

When you’re figuring out how to choose a theme for your brand, freewriting is a great way to help you define your brand’s message. What are you selling/providing? What kind of customer do you want to attract? The more detailed you are in your description, the easier it will be to write all of the content you’ll need: product descriptions, blog posts, social media posts, etc. Just the other day, I spent ~10 minutes just listing all the words that came to mind when I pictured VanDuinen Studio. Now I have a go-to list of language to reference when I’m stuck on something for the site. That’s the best part about freewriting: you never have to share the crazy results with another soul, but you’ll end up with a secret treasure trove of marketing copy and inspiration.

Step 2: Research

I don’t recommend comparing yourself to others very often. After all, the best part about running a creative business is knowing that you offer something unique to the world. But when you’re working on branding, it’s never a bad idea to poke around other similar sites to figure out what you like and what you hate. What fonts are you drawn to? Which ones are impossible to read? What colors do you like, and which ones make you leave a site immediately? What logos stand out to you and why? Jot down your answers in the same space as your freewrite, and you’ll be well on your way to defining your brand and its theme.

Step 3: Create a Mood Board

This part is the most fun! A mood board is great for visualizing all the different pieces of your brand in one spot. To make mine, I searched for a mood board template on Canva. I use the free version and have no trouble getting everything done, so no need to invest!

How to Choose a Theme for Your Brand Mood Board

There are a lot of different elements you could add to your mood board, but the most important puzzle pieces are:

  • Colors. I recommend choosing 5-7 coordinating colors. This streamlines a lot of the decision-making when you’re designing your website, creating pins, updating your social media accounts, and so on. If you need or want some color combo inspiration, play around on Design Seeds until you find the palette that speaks to you.
  • Fonts. At the very least, pick two fonts: one for your headings/titles and one for your body text. Not all platforms you use will have the exact same list of fonts available. But if you have a mood board, you’ll at least have a guide for choosing the closest fit. Of course, the more money you’re willing to shell out, the more you can guarantee access to your favorite fonts.
  • Logo. Design it yourself, or contract it out – whatever you feel comfortable with! I had my cousin do mine since she’s a graphic designer and that is most definitely not my specialty. No matter how you acquire it, your logo will come in handy for immediate brand recognition. Put it on business cards and social media accounts, use it as your website icon, and so on. The possibilities are endless!
  • Photos. Whether you use stock photos or take pictures of your own art, you’ll need a handful of photos that are easily recognized as part of your brand. These photos come in really handy when you need header images, pin backgrounds, branded landing pages, etc. You will also want 1-3 good photos of yourself you can use as profile photos on any websites or social accounts you have.
  • Signature. This one is really useful if you plan on blogging or sending out marketing emails. (If that’s not part of your plan, ignore this item!) To make mine, I wrote my name in permanent marker about a hundred times, scanned it in, then cropped out the best one and digitized it using Gimp. Yay free software!

Now you know how to choose a theme for your brand!

We’ve made it through the basics about how to choose a theme for your brand. If you’d like a FREE CHECKLIST for an easy-to-read reference guide while you work on your branding, you’re in luck:

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Also, if you have any questions about any of these steps, feel free to drop me a line. I’ll be happy to talk through this process with you!

Until Next Week,

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P.S. If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:

Branding and Packaging for Your Creative Business4 Tips on How to Prepare for a Craft Show

Find Creative Inspiration in Out-of-the-Box Places

Find Creative Inspiration in Out-of-the-Box Places

If you’re an artist, chances are there are times when you feel too burned out to create new things, or you feel bored by your own ideas. Trust me, I’ve been there! Thankfully, the spark always returns one way or another. As a gesture of solidarity for anyone else who struggles to find creative inspiration from time to time, I’ve put together this list of some of the more unexpected ways I’ve jumped back into the game after a slump.

1. Reality TV (Yes, you read that right!)

For me, it’s Project Runway. I have logged many, many hours of Project Runway over the years. I am in no way a fashion designer; in fact, I can only successfully follow garment construction directions about 75% of the time. But for some reason, this show sparks my desire to create. I most often pull out my bead collection and make jewelry while I watch, but recently I tried my hand at designing my own fabric:

self-designed fabric

I’m obsessed! And I’m selfishly hoping the products I make with this fabric will sell really well, so I have an excuse to play around with that tool over and over again. I used spoonflower.com, for anyone interested, but there are a million similar sites that popped up when I Googled the idea.

So, if there’s a guilty pleasure show you like to watch, indulge yourself! You never know when and where inspiration will strike, so don’t limit yourself based on some self-imposed “worthwhile” meter.

2. Gardening

“Nature” is often listed as a source of inspiration, I know, but I’m going to get a little more specific than that. I’ve discovered that gardening is A) a much bigger job than I thought as a kid and B) that its components lend themselves well to creative reflection. Gardening takes planning and research: mapping out the space, deciding on the best plants for your climate, finding the best mixture of colors and textures, etc. It’s the same type of process I use when I’m putting together a composition on paper or canvas, so I often want to transition to drawing after I plan a new flowerbed.

Gardening takes a lot of repetitive effort (so many weeds….), which to me is relaxing. That enjoyable monotony gives me the time to mull over whatever stresses the day has thrown at me. Once I make it back inside, I’m in a better mental state for making art.

Gardening also provides ample subject matter – I love depicting flowers in any medium (including the fabric design, obviously!). In fact, I pulled the name of an iris out of a gardening catalog and used it to inspire my latest short story.

3. Highway Driving

This one may sound the craziest. When I picture a highway, I think of industrial complexes, concrete expanses, and hideous billboards. I never set out on a long drive expecting to find creative inspiration. But lo and behold, my family was on the road a couple of nights ago at sunset, and the view was beautiful:

highway driving for creative inspiration

The pastel blue and pink caught my eye, and I snapped several of these passable-but-not-great photos in an attempt to capture enough of the sunset to be able to reproduce it later. Sometimes being stuck as the passenger for a 6 hour drive isn’t such a bad thing.

4. Out of the Mouths of Babes

My daughter is an opinionated child. Has been since she was born. And she’s persuasive, too, because lately I’ve found myself drawing the things I know she’ll like the most! I’ve always liked butterflies and moths, for example, but her obsession with them has definitely convinced me to include them in more pieces than ever before. I even gave her some framed art for her second birthday, which she still points out when we’re in her room:

find creative inspiration in children

She (thankfully) loves it, and I love watching her respond to art from such a young age.

Find Creative Inspiration: The Takeaway

Even if you’re in a creative slump, don’t despair! As long as you keep an open mind, you’ll eventually find creative inspiration even in the unlikeliest of places. And, if you want to jumpstart your creativity with some easy but fun projects, I have a few tutorials you could dive into:

DIY Memory BoxHandmade Beaded EarringsHow to Draw a Flower

Have you found any unlikely sources of inspiration in your life? I’m always looking for new ideas! Leave a comment below or connect with other artists in the Inspiration Club.

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How to Draw a Flower (Step-by-Step Tutorial)

How to Draw a Flower (Step-by-Step Tutorial)

Hello all! I am back from my New Hampshire vacation with this step-by-step tutorial to guide you through how to draw a flower. This particular tutorial uses watercolor pencils, markers, and a touch of ink, although you could follow the basic instructions with any medium you want. It’d look great with paints, colored pencils, pastels…you name it! You can also scale this tutorial however you want; use it to make greeting cards, or draw it large enough to hang on your wall.

*Please note: There are a few affiliate links below. This means that, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission of any sales made. For a full description of how these work, please see this page.*

If you would prefer to save and print this tutorial, grab a PDF version here:

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What You’ll Need:

Materials for How to Draw a Flower

 

Step 1:

Draw the center of your flower. I did it as a small cluster of circles, but you could do one larger circle if you prefer.

Step 1 Draw a Flower

Step 2:

Draw 5 petals. They do not have to be anywhere close to perfect, especially if you’re using the watercolor pencils. We’re just doing a vague outline at this point.

Step 2 Draw a Flower

Step 3:

In a coordinating color, draw 5 more petals behind the first set. Again, no need for perfection! If you go really off course like I did, you can lighten the lines with a kneaded eraser* (possibly my favorite tool in my kit).

Step 3 Draw a Flower

Step 4:

Color in that first set of petals. It will look especially great if there are some darker lines toward the center, since that creates a nice little shading illusion.

Step 4 Draw a Flower

Step 5:

With the coordinating color you chose, color in the second set of petals. Again, make sure you’re adding some darker lines toward the center. That contrast really helps!

Step 5 Draw a Flower

Step 6:

With a small paintbrush, paint over the watercolor pencil with water. This helps smooth out the colors, and you can create a nice feathery effect at the tips of the petals if you want. I find that the less perfect my petals are to begin with, the less it matters when I get unintended smudges on the page…

Step 6 Draw a Flower

Step 7:

Now things really get fun! I wasn’t fully happy with the flower when it was 100% watercolor, so I grabbed my markers next. I started adding some color where those original darker lines were to really solidify that shading effect. As you can see, I chose extremely bold colors for this step – feel free to choose colors that are closer to your original two if you don’t want quite this much contrast.

Step 7 Draw a Flower

Step 8:

Even after adding the marker, it still didn’t look done to me, so I grabbed my gold calligraphy ink* and dip pen next. I didn’t want to go overboard with this, but I added some lines (following the shape of the petals) to fill in more of the white space.

Step 8 Draw a Flower

Step 9:

To tie in the gold a little better, add some small lines coming out of the very center and some longer ones going down the middle of the second set of petals. You could also add a bit of gold outline to the circles in the center cluster.

Step 9 Draw a Flower

Step 10:

Sign your work, and you’re done!

Step 10 Draw a Flower

There you have it: now you know how to draw a flower! Feel free to share your creation by email or on the VanDuinen Studio Facebook page. If you decide you want to save and print this tutorial, you can download a PDF version:

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And please, if you know anyone who might appreciate this tutorial for how to draw a flower, share away! Let’s build this artist community together. 🙂

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P.S. Did you like this tutorial? You might like these posts, too!

DIY Tutorial for a Customized Memory Box

DIY Beaded Earring Tutorial

Creative Packaging Ideas: Inspiration Round-up

Creative Packaging Ideas: Inspiration Round-up

Hello, all! I’m back with new content for you today. In a previous post about branding and packaging, I mentioned how important it is as a small business owner to make your products stand out. Today, I’ve got a round-up of several creative packaging ideas you can tweak to fit your brand. A good goal is to make the customer feel like they’re opening up a gift (even though they paid for it). After all, you appreciate their business – it’s nice to show them that appreciation!

1. Include a Thank-You Note or Card

Branding with thank-you notes

I first noticed this practice from ordering from other Etsy sellers, and I love it. Some sellers include a handwritten note or a pretty little thank-you card along with the purchase, and it really stands out. Many include an offer code for a discount in their shop to encourage repeat business, which is also a great idea. I’ve begun doing the same, penning my thank-you on the backs of the cards pictured above.

2. Use a Custom Rubber Stamp

One of my favorite bloggers, Lindsey Bugbee of The Postman’s Knock, has a great tutorial on how to design a custom rubber stamp. You could include anything you want on the stamp: you could make one that says “Thank You” to save time, you could make one with your brand name, you could use your logo design, etc. Just keep in mind that whatever you choose, it should be instantly recognizable as part of your brand. You don’t want to confuse your customers!

3. Make Your Own Gift Bags

If you’re prepping for a craft show, you might want to give some thought to the bags that customers will use to take your goods home. Sure, you could bring a stash of plastic grocery bags that I’m sure you have stuffed in your pantry or garage (guilty as charged). That’s recycling, that’s good. But what if you had unique gift bags ready to go that fit your color scheme and brand identity? If you’re feeling inspired and want to put in a little extra time and effort, this is a great video tutorial from Søstrene Grenes.

4. Create a Pocket with Gift Wrap

When I was scouring the internet for these creative packaging ideas, I noticed a lot of tutorials for 3D paper flowers, animals, etc. These made great-looking packages, but I have definite doubts that these details would hold up very well in the mail. It’s best to keep your designs 2-dimensional, and this is a perfect way to do it. (I think the people over at Søstrene Grenes might be geniuses!) With the crisp, clean pocket this tutorial demonstrates, you can tuck your thank you note, a little sprig of (silk) flowers, a paper snowflake, or anything else you come up with right on the front of your package. I’m dying to try this one myself!

5. Include a Handmade Envelope

If you send a business card or an offer code with each package, this is a memorable way to do it. Choose any craft paper that fits your brand identity, and off you go! If you don’t have an envelope this size already on hand, you could totally print out one of her tutorial photos and trace the image to get the right shape.

That’s it for my list! Do you have any creative packaging ideas up your sleeve you’d like to share with the rest of us? Feel free to leave a comment, post to my Facebook page, or email me.

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Branding and Packaging for Your Creative Business

Branding and Packaging for Your Creative Business

Please note: this post contains affiliate links. For a full description of how these work, please see the full disclaimer.

This post on branding and packaging is part of my business evolution series. For anyone else out there who is wading through the logistics of starting a small business, I’m going to share the lessons I’ve learned. Hopefully, your journey to success will be a little bit shorter than mine!

I’ve touched on presentation before in my post 4 Tips on How to Prepare for a Craft Show (the first post in the series), but this week I’m going to go more in-depth into the nitty-gritty details that add up to a brand. I’m talking about the tags you put on your products, the bags you send home with your customers, the notes you include in packages. All of these are important puzzle pieces in the way you present yourself to your customers. After all, since the majority of your customers are not close friends or family members, these details are the only things they know about you!

Detail #1: Product Labeling

When I was prepping for my very first craft show, I was a stay-at-home mom with no idea whether or not this would be a lucrative endeavor. Branding and packaging were not on my priority list at all. To mitigate the financial risks I was taking as much as possible, I went with the cheapest options available and scribbled the prices on with a permanent marker. These tags got the message across, sure, but they were far from attractive:

Having done a mountain of research on marketing in between that first show and my most recent one, I decided that I was going for a more cohesive, brand appropriate look. Back to Michael’s I went, this time buying tags that were specific to the items I was selling:

New, professional tags for packaging

Not pictured: the cute tags I found for my crocheted items, which can be found here.* The earring cards are also easy to find.* On all of these tags, I used a calligraphy marker to write the prices not only legibly, but also attractively. Bonus: if I do decide to move this business into the realm of calligraphy service in the future, I’m already on track with brand recognition.

Detail #2: Packaging

You have to send your products home in some kind of packaging. Why not make it pretty and brand-specific? Personally, I’m big into recycling, so I haven’t actually bought packaging for my products. Instead, I’ve curated a collection of nice boxes and small bags that match the aesthetic I like for VanDuinen Studio:

VanDuinen Studio packaging

I have logo stickers to add to every package I mail out, and I send home a business card in every bag or box, too. The more customers see a logo, the more likely they’ll be to remember it.

Detail #3: Business Cards and Logo

Speaking of my logo, I’m doing everything I can to make sure it’s instantly recognizable as part of the VanDuinen Studio brand. I had help with this aspect – the owner of Megan Made It Designs (AKA my lovely cousin) was kind enough to turn my crude sketch into a streamlined, beautiful, professional design. (The details of that process are in this post if you’re interested.) I then used the Vistaprint business card tool to design my cards. This turned out to be really easy and fun to use, even for someone like me who has no background in graphic design! I love the way they turned out:

VanDuinen Studio branding with business cards

Having these cards has made branding and packaging for the studio so much easier. I use them as a reference whenever I’m making a decision about what works for the brand.

Detail #4: Thank You Notes

These are totally optional, but I’ve always thought they were a nice, personal touch in the packages I’ve received from Etsy sellers. I recently grabbed this pack of scrapbook paper* on super-sale at Michael’s, and lo and behold, there are a few pages of small cards designed to look like vintage seed packets:

Branding with thank-you notes

I love them, and I’ve already started adding thank-yous in calligraphy on the back when I ship to customers. (Again, working that calligraphy skill into the brand!) This is also a great way to include offer codes for return customers – another trick I learned from fellow Etsy sellers.

It’s a huge learning curve, this business of mine, but I’m up for the challenge! Do you think there are any branding and packaging details I missed? Any secrets you’d like to share?

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*This is an affiliate link.

Do Yourself a Favor! Take This Self-Care Challenge

Do Yourself a Favor! Take This Self-Care Challenge

Why is self-care important?

This past April was one crazy month. There were birthdays. There were two weekend trips. There was a craft show combined with a drop-off for my May art show at Go Java. There was a massive effort on my part to get this blog up and running. I took ZERO time for self-care, and I’m feeling exhausted just remembering it all!

As you may remember, I have posted in the past about the neat little organizational system I developed to keep this business under control. I print out a blank calendar page for every month, and I schedule two tasks for each day, keeping the mantra “variety is the spice of life” in mind so I don’t get bored and lose focus or momentum. Well, I have an update: I was scheduling two high-level tasks EVERY SINGLE DAY, which is crazy-making! I never scheduled myself a weekend, or even just a mid-week break. In other words, the system works, but only if you schedule some easy days here and there.

My reasoning behind this schedule was two-fold: one, it was only two measly tasks a day, right? Anyone can do that and still have time to relax! (Spoiler alert: I’m a mom. Such logic has no place in this realm.) And two, weekends are often my most productive days, because hubby can take over kid duties for larger chunks of time. (This may be true, but he also likes to see me and have family time. Imagine that.)

Lesson Learned

Long story short, I realized that I absolutely had to schedule myself time to relax. To reset, I took May “off.” Instead of pushing forward with everything I had planned, I used that month to dial it back and try to find the balance that allows me to not only achieve my goals, but also to recharge, relax a bit, and let the inspiration come to me once in a while, instead of actively hunting it down or forcing it. And you know what? I’m guessing many of you could benefit from the same action!

The Self-Care Challenge:

I have a challenge for everyone reading this: take a deep breath, and schedule in one extra hour of self care for the week. Just ONE HOUR. It’s doable, I promise! If you’re like me and keep a detailed planner, marker in that down time for yourself. Even if you’re not, write it on a post-it and stick it somewhere you’ll see every day. Take a walk, go to the library just to browse, play an old video game you haven’t dusted off in years, do some gardening – whatever takes your mind off the daily grind. Personally, I’m scheduling in time to relax by designating Wednesdays and Sundays as my “anything other than VanDuinen Studio” days. I feel better just thinking about it.

If it helps you to have accountability, feel free to email me when you start. If I have a free moment, I’ll even check in with you throughout the week to make sure you’re sticking to your plan.

What are your favorite hobbies or escapes? What is something you’ve been dying to do but have felt too busy lately?

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