*Part 2 of the interview with Ellia of Greenbeanbaby Art. Find Part 1 in our Autumn 2011 issue.*
mhc: What are your personal challenges working from home with kids around?
mhc: What are your personal challenges working from home with kids around?
ellia: Oh well, working from home is utterly ideal, although it is not always as lovely. Since I’m at home, I still have to take the dog out when no one else is home. If the cats smell up the litterbox, I take a break to clean it. I am here the whole time so I see every dish not cleaned, every speck of dust, and with my intense need for cleanliness, it is hard to not take a break to “pick something up.” If I worked outside of the home, I wouldn’t see any of this or have to walk the dog, so at times, it can be frustrating. It also means that I am in these four walls OFTEN. Ramel works outside of the home so when he gets here, he wants to relax here. I, on the other hand, have spent all morning - all week - in the house, and want to go OUT. And if I want to work at a coffee shop, that means having money to buy the coffee and well, it’s less costly to be in my own little studio with my own brewed coffee. It also means that if the kids are sick or need me, I’m only an earshot away. Even though they can respect my time and space, it’s hard to not holler for me when something is missing and they need to know where it is. While having a flexible schedule is wonderful, at times it can be a challenge to go from MOM-mode to ART-mode back and forth.
ellia: Well, I can honestly say I rarely miss them! I rarely miss an event, a milestone, and I never need to pay for daycare of any sorts. I can take short breaks from my work to read to them or play a game with them. Working from home means, we can take snack breaks, we can stop at the store for something, we can spend time together WHILE I’m creating an illustration. We can do art together. They will grow up and never say “Mom wasn’t there” because goodness knows, I AM!!
mhc: Do you often create with your kids as well? What do you create?
ellia: You would think with two artists in the home, our kids would be elbows deep into paint. But in actuality, we don’t do art all the time. Isabella LOVES art though!! She is a HUGE fan of rocks so we have taken to collecting them and then painting them. Of course, when I say paint, I mean that we add googly eyes and paper and ribbon on top of the paint! We have a ton of rocks to paint this summer, but as of now, she has 39 ALREADY beautified! Diego is into comic books, so over the school year, we made a book together. It was for a contest but it was such a wonderful project to work together on. We plan to make a sequel this summer. Ramel and he also did their own comic book, too. So, we do things like that aside from the usual coloring, making cards for family members, and busting out the messy goodness of paint.
mhc: Between you and me, what are your husband’s secrets to cover your back so you have the time and space to follow your passions?
ellia: Oh, it’s no secret! He takes the kids out of the house as often as he can! We have a store called Target, in which we do most of our shopping. He will take them there to browse, eat “sugar pretzels” as my daughter says, and he’ll bring me back a Starbucks coffee from there to help me stay energized. Some days, he will take them to a budget movie or to the park or to his grandmother’s house. He’ll keep them out of the house as long as possible in order to keep the noise level down and give me a quiet space to work. Believe me, it helps!
mhc: Any other tips for our readers on how to hold the space for their beloved artist? How can a family support and nourish their artist, i.e. you?
ellia: Well, again, he understands what it’s like to need space and support as he is an artist. But for those who aren’t married to an artist, it helps to explain to them how important it is to have a corner in the house or a room for you to work in. You need it free from kids, pets and your other “duties”. It needs to be a place that is conducive for creating and therefore not interrupted by other aspects of your life. Your spouse needs to be supportive even if they don’t understand that creating is MORE than just “making pretty pictures”. This type of work requires you to situate yourself in a balanced mood to work, meaning it’s not a mindless sort of job. If your spouse respects YOU, then they will respect your space, your need for peace and work time, and they will respect even your work.
mhc: Your husband is a creative soul, too. Do the two of you have any common creative projects brewing together?
ellia: Not at this time. He is just getting into his own illustrations again, and my projects tend to take up the bulk of my work time. We both have dreams of doing books and such, yet, they are slightly different. I’m sure, one of these years, we will be able to do some projects together as we do WANT to!
mhc: Artist Life & Schedules ... Can you be creative upon prompt, i.e. when the schedule tells you ‘NOW is the time’?
ellia: Well, if I have an actual project to work on, then, yes. Often, these projects have deadlines, directions, and specifics that make it easy to get in the groove of art. But to work on personal projects such as goodies for the Etsy shop, or my own children’s book then it’s a bit more difficult. With the Etsy shop, there are times when I feel like “why make anything when nothing is selling?” and with the book, it means working on something for FUTURE pay. While money is NOT what drives me to create, illustrating IS my profession, so to expect payment is not unrealistic. Working on personal projects means no money to be made at the moment. It means investing time and energy into a project you love, so that also means, I need to be in the mood to work on it. Having the kids all day or cleaning up zaps energy, so to work on prompt for a personal project is much harder. But again, if it’s a project for a client, it takes less mental preparation to get into the groove as everything is already laid out.
mhc: What is your creative process? Do you follow some sort of routine?
ellia: After the house is cleaned and organized, coffee is brewed. A nice huge mug of coffee means I am ready for art. I don’t listen to music often but Netflix is ALWAYS on. I can work to Eureka, Battlestar Galactica, The Office, Ghost Whisperer, Desperate Housewives, Ugly Betty, and plenty of other shows. In fact, because I watch these shows, I can look at a project and remember what I was watching and even how I felt about the project. It adds memory to the making! My actual illustration process requires sketching, finalizing, figuring out the colors, and then finding papers. I’d say the routine is simple. I must add that my hair is always fixed and I’m always dressed when I am working. I treat it like a job outside of the home and it helps to not feel TOO comfortable!
mhc: What inspires you in your Life?
ellia: Everything! I love television and cartoons. Superheroes with their super-drama. Cute children’s books and cute illustrations are inspiring. My kids, my past, my present are all inspirational. Good coffee, pretty papers, new glue, new furniture. Old movies, old books, toys, artists, and vintage cards. It’s never one thing that inspires me, it’s a multitude of loveliness!
mhc: The way of an artist can be challenging, even lonely sometimes. What keeps you motivated?
ellia: All those things that inspire me? They are my motivation. Having encouraging friends and family, both in person and online, is motivating. And, as always, GOOD coffee keeps me motivated, too. However, I should be honest and say that having clients and projects keeps me forever motivated. What is an artist if they don’t have a project to work on? What is the point of creating if no one NEEDS or WANTS your creativity? Yes, it can be lonely at times but having a network online helps curve that loneliness. Taking a break from art curves the feelings of guilt, loneliness, and fatigue. I think artists these days can feel more inspired and less lonely with so many peope to connect to online that have the same goals, enjoyments, and profession as you. While Facebook can be a place of drama, I love using it as a tool to connect with other artists and people who appreciate art!
mhc: What do you do to keep balanced? How do you nourish yourself?
ellia: Oh, I think I might have answered this in the previous question. Keeping balanced can be tricky but it helps to take a break from art at times. I’ll play a game or go to the movies with my mom or a friend. I will watch something funny or go to bed early. Those days, I still feel a tad guilty for not working on art but it’s needed nonetheless. Ramel will bring me a cup of coffee, or he’ll make me a special dinner to keep me nourished both physically and mentally. Seeing how much he respects my time and art feels good and curves the guilt of being stowed away in my studio for hours on end. And it is often Ramel who reminds me to take a break to maintain the balance. He looks out for me.
mhc: Artist Life & Organizing Materials ... All these beautiful papers, and pieces of paper, paper scraps ... just how do you keep them organized? How do you store your papers?
Single standard 12x12” papers: These are organized in shelves by color and pattern. I have 12 of these shelves.
Teeny scraps: These are organized by color and pattern as well. They are put into small clear bags and stored close to my desk. So for the scraps, I have a bag of plain green pieces, a bag of patterned green pieces, and so forth. I try not to keep TOO small of scraps.
6x6” papers: Stored into one pile near my toys but close enough for reach. While it’s only one pile, it is also organized by color.
12x12” scrapbook pads: These pads are not organized in specific order but are merely stored neatly next to my studio. There are two piles. On top of the first pile, however, I put PLAIN single sheets of scrapbook paper which are often used for hair, skin tone, etc.
8.5x11” papers: These aren’t used as often but are also stored neatly nearby in a vintage metal shelf found at a rummage sale.
8x8” papers: These are stored next to the former size. They are also stored in a vintage metal shelf found at a thrift store.
Giant papers that are over 21x36” long: These are stored in a giant portfolio in my closet. These aren’t used as often but are good for BIG projects.
Basically, I like to keep all my papers stored by size then color and pattern.
mhc: Can you share a bit of your knowledge about papers, their qualities, which scissors for which project and any other useful tips when working with paper?
ellia: Wow, this might take a whole other interview to explain but I’ll do my best to consolidate the answer. Personally, I use both the hot glue gun and a UHU brand glue stick for all my projects. Rubber cement, white glue, or even decoupage glue doesn’t work as well as the UHU glue stick. The hot glue gun can be tricky at times but it’s permanent and dries fast. With paper, I find that any scrapbook paper works well in illustrations. It doesn’t fade, and while it can buckle, some papers are thick and quite sturdy. Construction paper is the only paper I don’t EVER use. This sort of paper fades fast and rips easily. It’s great for kid projects but not for illustrations. As for scissors, I use a variety of sizes and shapes. I have scalloped edged scissors in 2 sizes which are always used to make a dress hem lacey. For eyes and other circle items for a project, I use hole punches of all sizes. These are incredibly handy and convenient.
As for tips on working with paper, patience is key. You don’t need a ton of glue and you don’t need perfection to work with paper. It’s about feeling relaxed and having fun with this sort of medium.
mhc: Your dream project: If I had a magic wand and you were offered your ideal project, your absolute dream project at this very moment, what would it look like, what (and maybe who) would it encompass?
ellia: Oh, I’d get a phonecall by a HUGE publishing company, telling me that they NEED my art. They’d set up a contract instantly and I’d be set to write and illustrate a series of children’s books. These books would be wanted by all the major bookstores and online sites. On top of that, I’d have a series of little toys to go with it, either dolls or PVC figures. Even moms and dads would want the toys for their own collection. And with all this going on, Amy Poelher would call me and tell me about a story she has brewing up. She’d ask if I could illustrate it, and she'd send me and the family to meet her. And the rest of my career would be set for life because, by the end of it all, there would be a cartoon series and more toys to go with all my books!
mhc: What are your dreams for the future of Greenbeanbaby Art?
ellia: As I’ve stated earlier, I’d like to make a few jewelry items to sell. But even though I dream of writing and illustrating books, it won’t take a magic wand for that to happen. (Now, stumbling on a contract instantly and having Amy Poelher request my talents? Well, that is DREAMING). I do plan to illustrate a FEW children’s books. My goal is to write a few of them, too. In fact, I’ve already written a story and have laid out the type and sketched the character. It’s turning out lovely but only a couple of people have seen it as it’s a work in progress. Yes, getting published is one of my main goals!
ellia: Embrace the love and encouragement of those around you who support you and your dreams. The world of art is filled with highs and lows, frustrations and unexpected circumstances. But it’s also filled with inspiration, creativity, accomplishments and lovely surprises. Having a good support system makes it ALL worthwhile!
mhc: Your message for our creative readers, crafty souls, moms, solopreneurs:
ellia: Don’t compare yourself with others. If you start an Etsy shop and see someone who sells 500 items monthly, you mustn’t think you are a failure because you sold only 1 item. Comparing yourself with others will CONSTANTLY make you feel like a failure. It took years to find a system that works for me and it may not work for someone else. Some people can work on art to a house full of loud kids. Some people can’t work at home at all! Some people can produce a million illustrations in the time it takes you to produce one. And if you compare your life to others, it just belittles you, your work, and in the end, you are frustrated. Finding inspiration and motivation is one thing, but comparing is a killer!
mhc: And finally: what is the one question you’d love to hear from an interviewer but just never get asked?
ellia: HAHAHA, I really don’t know! I’ve never been asked if I wanted a job! HAHA but seriously, every interview has been purely wonderful and full of amazing questions!
mhc: Thank you so very much, Ellia, and Magic Rainbow Wishes to you!
*Don't forget! Ellia is offering 40% off your purchase from her Etsy shop! Use coupon code MHCLOVE at checkout to receive the discount. Offer expires August 15, 2011.*
Stay tuned for a free download and tutorial from Ellia later this week!