Blog

One Week off Work to Chase my DBSL Dreams

Artist Stephanie Fowler of Design by Streetlight
Hi guys!

I’m closing on a week off of work that I took for myself as a birthday gift this year. I just celebrated 35 and it feels like a milestone. I touched on it in my Instagram post on my birthday, but there’s been a lot going on behind the scenes for me. At 35, there are a lot of big checkmarks that I am proud of in this life, but there are still things that I want to work on too.

There’s no full agenda for this post but I want to reflect back on a week off work, treating Design by Streetlight as if it were my fulltime business. Without further ado:

1. I am humbled by the amount of things I did not get done. I worked at this little business an average of 8 hours each day and the to-do list I set for myself at the beginning of the week is only half accomplished. This is not because of slacking, or distraction, it is genuinely because things take time, period.

2. I really could do this full time. Five days of this established a small routine. I went to bed about an hour earlier than normal and got up an hour later than normal, and didn’t require any daytime naps to get through. Mornings were usually spent sketching or painting and afternoons on business development. If I could do this full time, I would schedule in an afternoon once or twice a week in a cafe to change it up, but really my space was quite adequate to get things done.

3. I am surprised at how little time I actually spent painting. I read and hear other full time illustrators say this – but the bulk of the work is not about doing your craft. It’s learning new skills, marketing yourself, prepping Etsy products and learning SEO, things like that.

4. I could probably become a hermit quite easily if I didn’t focus on getting out. I went for daily walks and one day pulled out my bicycle and rode over to a cafe for a few hours. I had the oddest feeling of emerging into the world while doing it. After several days cocooned into my safe space, it felt vulnerable to be out and in the world again.

5. Two days in I bit the bullet and spent several hundred dollars on an Etsy SEO course. There was so much information in it that I’m still feeling a little overwhelmed. But I’m drinking the Koolaid here. There are people on Etsy clearing and I mean CLEARING six figures each year. The most comforting thing I hear them say is “I’m just a girl who wanted more – and if I can do it, so can you.” I have been that person in other areas of my life. I have done things I didn’t think I could do. In capoeira in particular – I NEVER thought I would get to where I am with it. I simply fell in love with the process and the rest of it unfolded over time. I don’t believe there are any real shortcuts to the things you want in life, you can only get started, fall in love with the process and keep at it. Day after day. Remember your why, do it for you and just keep going.

Design by Streetlight Doorway Prints

Doorway art prints available on Etsy

I have mentioned my day job a little before and without saying where I work, I’ll expand on it now. I have an amazing job. Even within the organization I am lucky to work for it is a sought after job. 35 hour weeks, amazing pay, telework every second day, every second Monday off and four weeks of paid holidays each year. I know. You would be hard pressed to find anything better.
But guess what? I. Want. More.
I want to keep working at this Etsy business, at this painting, and teaching it. At getting my prints into more retailers for sale. And I want to be the girl who surprises EVEN HERSELF and quits her amazing day job to paint full time. I hope I get to look back at this post in five years and say – check it out. The roadmap. It started that week.

We get one life. It’s easy to fall into cliche here, or to fall back on inspirational quotes – which I personally LOVE by the way – but the truth is we get one life. What do you want out of yours? I have my list of priorities and dreams. It’s also nice learning over time what I don’t want – my want’s and don’t wants complement each other rather nicely I must say.
But time is short. Even now, the days fly by. The years check themselves off. I sure hope the best days of my life haven’t happened yet – because I am working NOW to create them. Watch me go.

Art from the Unknown

Stephanie Fowler watercolor

Meeting Premier Rachel Notley

Hi! Just popping on here to say hello to anyone who may be finding their way here this weekend following the Art from the Unknown show taking place at McDougall Centre in Calgary.

Welcome to the site! My blog is not updated too regularly but be sure to check out my Instagram and if you like my work, there is a good selection of my prints available over here on Etsy.

So! It’s been a whirlwind of a year so far and we still have a few months left to go! What else can I get up to before 2018 closes out? It started with getting my work up at Cafe Rosso down on Stephen Avenue for the month of January, moved into teaching watercolour and urban sketching classes out of Recess Shop in Inglewood, to having my prints carried for the first time in a store – Outside the Shape, run by the powerhouse that is Francesca out of Inglewood also and then last night I met the Premier. Beat that!

To anyone reading this right now…just say yes. If you are just starting out, or are feeling stuck and don’t know what the next step is…I don’t have things figured out either. I am just continuing to show up, to keep putting my artwork out there and just keep taking that next available step. The coles notes of my story is that this blog began as fashion illustration back in May of 2012. Several years of putting out content to an invisible audience has helped me become braver with showing my work and to stand more comfortably in my place – not to mention adding hours and hours toward that 10,000 hour goal.

My amazing husband Frank. I could never do this without you.

I have two watercolour workshops coming up soon at Recess Shop in Inglewood if you’re interested in trying it out and spending a few hours with me! Classes are small – usually about 12 people and you will leave with an excellent base kit to get yourself started on the road to sketching. Otherwise, keep checking back here, or on my other social media platforms to see what I’m up to! This site may also be getting a facelift soon too :)

And then it got Pinteresting

My favorite painting produced so far this year – started in our beloved townhouse and finished during the first few weeks of living in our new old house. I have always wanted to see London, and crowded streetviews like this are what inspire me to paint.

Hi fam! I know, I know. Another post inside of a week, really?

The midway point of 2018 has meant a lot of things. I am an extremely goal oriented person, and yet this year in particular, with the purchase of the new old house – I felt thrown off course. All my regular routines had been out the window, all my goals had to fit in on top of tearing out a basement and juggling home fires. What had happened to my balance? It was time to revisit my New Years Resolutions. Yes – I am a firm believer in them.

2017 was a year of monitoring and moderating life progress everywhere.
12 instagram posts a month? Check.
3 capoeira classes a week? Check.
Yoga? meditation? Check. Check.
Building up the one day home savings? Check and cheque, if you feel me :)
Average number of hours spent painting in a week? I would bet 12-15.
Average number of hours in a month spent learning Etsy? Hmm…3 to 4.

Etsy started doing this magical thing for me last September. In fact, it was September 17th, my mom’s birthday. I had two sales come in that day. After a year of off and on attempts to learn my way around, play with SEO and actually one really focused month of sorting out policies, about sections and the ins and outs of a listing, it had sat mostly dormant. But September 17th, two total strangers purchased art prints, and I knew it was the start of something. The next sale came two weeks later, on October 3rd. Amazing what you remember, huh?
It was a slow and steady build from there. I began to frantically add listings, revisit SEO articles, comb through old sketchbooks for paintings that upon second thought, could totally sell on Etsy (and at this point a lot have!). My best month was December, with 16 orders. January was a close second of 15. February was quiet but then March was better and April even better! May 2018? Silence. 23 days without a sale. A few since then and actually a few large orders – the best one so far was on June 9th, when someone bought 5 of my large prints. 5! To have more days like that I would be over the moon! Queue EVEN MORE research about Etsy SEO! Buuut life gets busy. The basement is clean, but the garage is full. We cut down a tree and knock out the power line (yes, we did). And the new (old) home owners list goes on.

You know what else happens this year? I turn 35. Somehow, that girl who drew her first fashion illustration in February of 2012 is now nearly at the halfway mark to 40. And you know what? Life by traditional standards is pretty awesome. But it’s not entirely mine. My kick ass employer? Will own me until retirement if I do nothing else. But what if I step into my own power and ability and really see what spending hours on my fledgling art business could do? What if I slow down the capoeira focus a bit and turn it over to art and business for awhile? Then what?

Well, we will see.
I’ve been listening to podcasts by Cathy Heller and Jenna Kutcher – both linked here, because if you are reading this, these are lighting a fire under my SOUL. They are both telling me that it is time. Time to step into my power, time to take creative control over my future. I’m taking the bull by the horns, and the first step is learning about Pinterest Strategy. I’ve just signed up for Jenna Kutcher’s Pinterest Lab and I am muddling my way through SEO plugins and claiming my site for Rich Pins (full transparency…I need Frank’s help to figure some of this out. I am not a code monkey.) But I’m going to see how it goes.
I’m sharing this here to be open about it. Because everything I read online is HOW people did it, not AS they did it. Maybe you’re reading this, I have no idea. That post from a week ago has already had several views, and I thought I was just publishing out into the black hole of the world wide web.

So…I’ll be here. And here on Pinterest. Oh, and always here on Instagram – it’s my fave. But check out that Etsy store while you’re at it. Today is July 5th, I am buried in html how to’s, and I have 97 sales on Etsy. I’ll keep you posted on how life is going. Because I’m trying internally to push myself to the point of no return – the point where my kick ass, totally secure, retirement portfolio building day job gets blown out of the water by an online empire of my art in all it’s glory. Okay? Okay :)

2018 – The Halfway Mark

Hi! Wow! Was that six months already?

I’m just kidding. I believe it. What has happened in the last six months?

The House

The biggest life change is that we bought a house! A sixty year old, desperately in need of love and new plumbing home. It’s so full of potential I trip over it every time I wander through the kitchen and stare out of it’s windows into the unkempt backyard. All that aside – we’ve talked about this for several years now. The one day home for me was always going to be an old house with good bones in need of some TLC. I’d say we got exactly what we asked for and learned a thing or two about plumbing issues in the process, hah. We moved in mid-February, and since then have managed to tear out the entire basement, replace about 90% of the plumbing in the home, partially renovate the main bathroom and really get down to business with landscaping. It’s going to be years to see all of our dreams through (and come true) on this one. But that’s what makes it special I think. I catch myself looking around at all the things we have yet to do and have to remind myself – we’ve been here for four months! And really to think of what we have done in that time is no small thing, believe me.

Watercolor Workshops

So – I’d alluded to getting past my fear of reaching out to the world with DBSL this year. Recess Shop is newer in town, located in trendy Inglewood and celebrating the art and lost tradition of all things stationary. I reached out inquiring if they would have any interest in carrying my prints, and instead was offered to opportunity to teach watercolor workshops there! I’ve done three so far and it’s feeling like a smashing success. This was something I had to learn over time with capoeira as well – while at first I was hesitant to teach, the rewards you gain from seeing other people find their footing in a new passion…truly there are just no words to describe it. I’m having fun with them and debating seeking out a second venue to offer an additional type of workshop through. More on that if I do follow up.

Etsy

On January 2nd, several things happened. I got to hang my artwork up at Cafe Rosso on Stephen Avenue. We put an offer in on our house. And I celebrated my 50th Etsy Sale! Nearly six months later and I am at 97 sales. Sale #100 is inevitable, and yet feels just out of reach. I wish I could say I have cracked the code on this platform, but I still have yet to figure it out. I had an amazing month in April, with sales trickling in every few days. Then May and June slowed to nearly a standstill. My current plan of attack is simply to get as much work available in there as I can. Research to date tells me once you have 100 items in store, with proper SEO you can expect a sale every day. We will see. Things change on this platform all of the time – SEO practices, algorithms and fees, oh my. I am determined to stick it out and with time I am becoming more certain that I will be seeking out an expert in Etsy soon. It’s time to invest in education on this platform – money well spent that will ensure I put my effort behind it.

The Grind

What else can I say? Last year I was pretty consistent at churning out new pieces. This year, balancing the work on the house in particular made it difficult to keep up anything else consistently. However, I had an amazing experience with a deadline over the month of May. My capoeira instructor asked me to create a capoeira calendar for an event we held in early June. Now to be fair, he asked me for this last December. I simply hadn’t made time to get around to it. But as April drew to a close I knew it was either buckle in or bail. The short timeline worked wonders. I had to be efficient as possible with my time, embracing batching and standing firm on decision making for what to paint. I came out of the experience with a new understanding of what I am truly capable of when put to the test. I’m giving myself a break between now and August to work on whatever I please before starting production on the 2019 DBSL Calendar – because now I know I can finish it in one month with discipline and clear boundaries. And in the mean time, I’m finally doing what I’ve put off doing for years – I’m tackling Calgary. For the next five weeks, Calgary is my oyster. Any lunch hour at work I am determined to leave the office to go sketch part of my city’s streets. No more hiding. Calgary, I’m coming for you :)

To those who have ever read this blog regularly and to anyone who’s now found their way here – welcome! Please please – check out my Etsy store and my Instagram account. Both contain much more regular postings of my art endeavors.

Happy Mid-2018 everyone! I hope you are hustling hard and doing something you love.

Welcome 2018

Kootenay-Trees

Sketched by the fire after a hike around my husband’s old stomping grounds growing up. I understand now why people paint this sort of thing. This experience in nature was nothing short of magical.

Hi there!   I just wanted to pop in and say hello, blog!  Been awhile.  2017 now lies behind us and what a year for me and DBSL!  Unbelievable.

As we speak my artwork is up on display in Cafe Rosso down on Stephen Ave – my first official showing ever.  The timing of that opportunity in particular is striking to me.  November of last year I was shortlisted along with 20 other artists for the chance to paint a window in the downtown core over December.  The catch was you had to paint outside to get it up, using a medium I was not familiar with – and the average size window we were painting would be 80 square feet – which is huge!  We entered a cold snap in Calgary, I got sick, and I wasn’t initially contacted.  To summarize, it didn’t work out.  But, that same week my sister told me about Cafe Rosso putting out an expression of interest to feature one artist a month in their cafes.  I sent an email to put my hat in the ring and was one of the 12 artists selected.  From there we had a meeting and artists could choose which month they wanted.  It only took me a few seconds to choose January.  I have a ton of work to choose from already.  I could stay frozen with decisions and the desire to paint all new pieces for my month, or I could just commit, get it done and keep moving forward.  Felt damn good to choose action, I must say.  It’s great to start the new year with this month in front of me.

Live illustration was the other crazy opportunity to come up for me in 2017 – twice!  I now have a Services Page right here on the site for anyone interested in working with me for live illustration in the future.  Full disclosure: when I was initially contacted on behalf of Philosophy Skincare, I did not even understand what they were asking.  I’ve seen girls doing live illustration before.  I just…thought they were wildly more successful than I was.  Funny what our minds can do to us.

And then there is Etsy.  I put about 60+ hours into my Etsy store over the course of last year.  And then in September, something happened.  A slow but steady creep of sales began to occur for me.  This first week of 2018 has been my best week yet – 9 sales in seven days!  I would be over the moon to keep that up this year.

 

All recapping aside, I did want to post a few sketches from our visit back to Rossland this year over Christmas.  It’s my last day of my holiday break – just over two weeks.  It felt like so much longer!  Life had different plans for me than what I was counting on for this time off, but I can say that I’ve both enjoyed the time off, and I am ready to get back to work!

I make no promises to increase my output of blog posts for 2018.  In fact, I’ve finally made peace with this.  Instagram is an excellent platform for sharing my work, and Etsy is it’s own beast to learn from.

What are my goals in 2018?  Well…more of the same, but better might be the easiest way to put it.  I want to keep creating.  I feel as though I’m losing my fear of people’s reaction to my work.  I’d like to reach out to some of our local publications to see if there are opportunities for me to do some editorial illustration, as it would be amazing to see my work in print.  I want to keep up these Etsy sales.  I have new goals for calendar production for 2019.  I would LOVE to do more live illustration.  I cannot describe the state of mind it put me in to illustrate in front of people.  Peak state, I suppose.  What else…we were in the mall the other day and there was this enormous cut out in front of the soon to be Sak’s store in Chinook.  It was an illustration of a storefront with cars and people outside, and it had to be 10 feet wide and 8 feet tall at least.  I want to do something like that!  All this to say, I am ready to get outside of my comfort zone with DBSL.  We’ve had a great time building this backstory on the internet together since 2012.  Now,  I really want to show my work to the masses.  Worst they can say to me is no.  I’m ready for this.  Are you hearing me 2018?  Let’s do this.

To anyone out there reading this, Happy New Year!  Some believe it’s old hat but I LOVE fresh starts.  A new year is a new gift.  Push yourself and you might just be amazed at where you end up.

Rossland-Car-Sketch-1

First sketch made from the car while out practicing my Urban Sketching. I love Rossland for it’s unconventional approach to houses. They are buried into the mountain side and made all the more magical once you add several feet of snow to tuck them in.