Back to Work with a Baby: Part 2

Sketchbook-Sketching-Michelle-Kondrich

 

Many of you read my post a couple of weeks ago about getting back to work now that I have a baby. This is the second in what will be a series of posts on the topic.

Thankfully, some of the fear that I was experiencing a few weeks ago was pushed aside by new work coming in. I’ve received my first editorial assignments for the year and that gave me an easy way back into sketching without the pressure.

Actually, sketching for some of these jobs has lead to more sketching than I would normally have done. Working on some practice sketches for the final illustrations felt really, REALLY good. The fun and pure enjoyment of drawing is back and is stoking my creative fires. And now that we have a two-month old who is basically sleeping through the night most nights (until I post this, then she’ll probably quit!) I’m a lot more rested.

With the influx of new work has come a different baby-related issue that we hadn’t expected to deal with so soon and that is the division of labor. I don’t mean the division of labor around the house, though that’s an issue that I think every couple with a new baby has to work through. I mean the division of time spent with the baby and time spent on our own work since we both work from home most of the time.

Our little one is now spending a lot more time awake and alert, which is great for getting lots of smiles, new sounds and crazy faces, but makes it much more challenging to get work done. Those awake times often require a lot of holding, and, of course, we want to be engaged with her as much as we can.

Working towards non-traditional and creative careers means that paying for daycare or a nanny is financially beyond our reach. We have friends and family that can help out here and there, but we will need to sort out some sort of long-term plan. Sometimes we put her in our baby carrier so she will nap or hang out while leaving our hands free, but it’s still limiting. Her naps are really our saving grace, but they are not at all predictable yet in terms of how long she will sleep. We do our best to take shifts, but at a certain point she’s hungry and I am the only source of food (fitting in time to pump so that my husband can feed her is another issue entirely).

I guess what I’m saying now is that we simply don’t have a plan that’s working yet. I wanted to share this despite not having any real advice to give on the matter. Our solution for right now is my mother coming to stay with us for a few days–maybe she can offer a bit of wisdom on the subject.

Something that adds to the complexity of child care in our situation is flexibility. I have not started looking into daycare or anything yet, so I don’t know how flexible they are with our schedule. Could we take her three days one week and half a day the next? In a perfect world we would have access to a nanny or babysitter (or service that provides them) and we could call a few days in advance to get someone for the time we need.

So that’s where we are for the time being. We are looking into all of our options and will hopefully have something sorted out in the coming weeks.

We’re going to have to get good at interviewing babysitters.

 

Advertisements

Back to Work with a Baby: Part 1

Michelle-Kondrich-Illustration-Freelance-Motherhood

 

I have been working as an illustrator for about five years now. When I started, I knew I planned to have a child at some point. It seemed far enough in the future that it wasn’t on my mind at all when it came to my business. For years, I worked on improving my concepts, my techniques and my business acumen, and, every year, I was becoming more successful and hitting many of the goals I set for myself.

Early in 2014 my husband and I decided that we were ready to have a child, and in March we discovered that I was pregnant. Naturally, we were so excited and also a little scared that it was actually going to happen. Throughout my pregnancy I knew that getting back to work after giving birth was going to be a big challenge. I had no idea what to expect out of having a newborn at home or how soon I could expect to get back to work.

And now, seven weeks after giving birth to a beautiful, perfect baby girl, it’s time for me to get back to work. I had been taking on projects here and there, but for the most part I had a nice little break from thinking and worrying about my work and my business.

I’ll be honest, I’ve felt a lot of fear and a little bit of dread in getting back to work. And, despite spending a good deal of time on the internet researching the subject of freelancing with children, I didn’t find much that specifically addressed getting back to work after having a baby.

I am by no means an expert on this subject (this is my first child), but I’ve decided to share my experiences with you and anyone who might benefit. I am not aiming to provide universal advice. I just want to provide a record of my personal experience and maybe that will help someone else in a similar situation.

I know already that it’s not going to be easy. I haven’t drawn much at all besides client-directed work since she was born. Honestly, I do think I needed a bit of a break from it though. And nothing will force you to take a break like a newborn. I spend most of my days now nursing, changing diapers and doing my share of work around the house (don’t worry, my husband does his share of baby work too!). And the sleep deprivation has not only left me with little physical energy, but also with a brain that tends to get foggy.

Mailers went out in mid-December, so I’m hoping an influx of client work will help ease me back into regular work. In the meantime, I have a few things I’m going to try.

For starters, start writing.

As a Christmas gift, I received Lynda Barry’s Syllabus: Notes From An Accidental Professor, and I intend to follow some of her advice and exercises. I’ve been a fan of hers for a long time, and she’s always been an advocate for writing/journaling. It’s more of an unconventional approach to writing, but I do think that starting some sort of journal-sketchbook hybrid would be a good start. I also read about the concept of a Surprise Journal as a way to be more present and observant in your day-to-day life and I want to incorporate that into my writing.

Lose the judgement.

Putting a stop to the constant judgement of my work, sketches included, is an issue I’ve been working on all my life. I don’t anticipate being able to let it go entirely, but I need to take active steps to make this happen. I’m not sure what those steps are just yet but with my time severely limited I can’t waste it staring at a blank piece of paper and thinking, “what should I draw?”

And judging myself for spending too much time with the baby and not enough time drawing needs to stop. I will never regret spending too much time with my baby.

Continue to learn new skills.

This applies directly to my illustration as well as to skills outside of that. There’s no stopping the digital train and I don’t want to be left behind. So animation is something I’d really love to learn and begin to incorporate into my work in 2015.

Outside of the artwork, I am also learning to play the banjo. I haven’t touched it since the baby arrived, but I’m ready to get back to that, too. Learning a completely new skill like an instrument or a language is good for the brain in every way, and it’s important to me that my daughter grow up with parents who are forever learning new things. And how cool would it be if I had a 7 year old who played the banjo?

Crafting in general is starting to appeal to me more. I think that can’t be helped when you go into Fancy Tiger Crafts here in Denver. The array of interesting and unique fabrics makes me want to learn all of the skills! I took a sewing class and made stockings for our first Christmas as a little family. So maybe more sewing and sewing classes in my future.

 

So, that’s where I’m at now. I plan to blog on this subject a few times a month. If it seems that people are really interested in the subject, maybe I’ll pull advice from other illustrators who’ve been through this or even have a guest blog or two.

What would you like to know about this experience? Any aspects you would like me to focus on?

Thanks for reading this far; I know it was a particularly wordy post.

And Happy New Year from me and my little Sproutz.

Deep Sound Channel for PLANSPONSOR Magazine

Sound-Channel-Scuba-Diving-Dogs-Victrola-Gouache-Editorial-PLANSPONSOR-Illustration-Kondrich

 

These scuba diving dogs have made their way into the March 2014 issue of PLANSPONSOR Magazine’s “Bells & Whistles” feature. I am very proud to be in this issue alongside many other incredible illustrators like Victo Ngai and Ellen Weinstein. Below is how the illustration appears in the layout.

PLANSPONSOR-Illustration-Bells-Whistles-Kondrich

 

Thank you to AD SooJin Buzelli!

Prints of this piece are available in my Print Shop and you can also find a range of products like tote bags and laptop sleeves here.

Empowering Innovators: The Artist

The Artist from Intel on Vimeo.

A few weeks ago I had the wonderful experience of being interviewed for a video about how I use my Microsoft Surface Pro to power my creativity. The video was created in conjunction with Efran Films and Intel.

The whole thing was incredibly strange; I’m not typically comfortable being the center of attention and a living room full of lighting and staging is exactly that. Despite that, everyone was really friendly and great to work with and I think they put together a really great little feature. Thank you to everyone involved!

Extremely Belated Happy New Year and Goals for 2014

Image

First of all, Happy New Year!

My holidays were a bit hectic and spent driving all over the Midwest, so it’s taken me some time to get back into my routine and to collect my thoughts on 2013 and my ambitions for 2014.

How did I do on my goals from last year?

1. Finish my graphic novel adaptation.
This first goal I did not meet, although I spent a good deal of time pursuing an actual publishing deal with the graphic novel. I have, however, been doing a lot of recipe comics that I feel really good about. They also help contribute to my second goal from last year.

2. Add more food and lifestyle illustration to my portfolio.
Achieved! The lifestyle illustration I’ve added leans more in the editorial direction, but I have added a lot of new work in both categories, including recipe comics.

3. Get hired to do more whiteboard illustration/video scribing.
This was also achieved. Not much to explain and unfortunately nothing I can share publicly just yet, but I did 3-4 of these of videos last year.

4. Experiment and make things with my hands.
I didn’t achieve this in the way I thought I would last year, but I did take a figure sculpting class which I loved. It felt great to be working from a live model again and even better to be working with my hands.

5. Develop alternate revenue streams.
This is a tough one and I can’t say I did this. I still sell prints and originals and I created some Recipe Comic Holiday Cards but I wouldn’t necessarily call these revenue streams just yet. Still building!

So, how about 2014? What’s in store?

Big things, I think. My work has been growing by leaps and bounds and I hit an ambitious income goal I had set for myself, so I’m going into this year with more confidence than I’ve ever had. I’m in the process of sending out some promo postcards and I’m ready to hit it hard!

1. I would like to have a greater portion of my work come from editorial clients.
I love the excitement of a new editorial assignment. While it doesn’t currently comprise a large portion of my client work, it is some of the most enjoyable work, in my opinion. Part of what I like so much about being an illustrator is the variation in projects and the occasional super-tight deadline to keep me thinking and keep me on my toes. I did add a couple of new editorial clients last year and I’m hoping for even more this year.

2. Be more consistent with promotional campaigns – both email and direct mail.
I was surprised to realize late in the year last year that I hadn’t done a single postcard! Time between direct mail and even email campaigns can fly by. This year I want to keep it more consistent. I don’t know if I will be able to afford 3-4 postcards in a year, but keeping my email campaigns more regular doesn’t cost me anything except time and organization.

3. Track and budget expenses more carefully.A couple of big expenses last year, including my Surface Pro, made my budget a bit lopsided. This year I’m not planning any big hardware purchases, so I want to keep a tighter leash on my expenses.

Other than these goals, I always have the infamous goal of “getting better.” While I realize it’s not a very concrete goal, I am always striving to improve my concept and technical skills and always trying to find time to experiment with both. My goals are very practical this year because I want to continue to build my career on a foundation that is growing more solid every day.

New Website and New Surface Pro

Welcome to my new website! Like many other artists, after a year or two I start to get pretty bored with my website and the time comes for a change. Have a look around if you like, and feel free to let me know if something isn’t working right.

In addition to the new site, I’ve got a new tool to help me get more work done when I’m away from my studio. About a week ago I invested in a Microsoft Surface Pro. I’m still getting acquainted with it but, so far, I really like it. I was looking for a tablet that would be good for drawing (meaning I could install software on it) and that would be totally portable. It all started with Wacom announcing their new Cintiq models that are designed for portability. Those are a bit out of my price range, so the Surface Pro was it. Here are some shots I took while playing around with it.

Microsoft-surface-pro-review-ipad-drawing-kondrich

Microsoft-surface-pro-review-drawing-kondrich

I have only been using the pen that comes with the tablet which is pressure sensitive but I will soon be receiving a Wacom Bamboo Feel Stylus. It works with the Surface Pro and, from what I’ve read, will have a much more accurate stroke. In the pictures above I’m using a trial version of Manga Studio Debut, which is pretty limited but it was enough to help me figure out if this was the right tablet for me or not (Microsoft gives you 14 days to return it with no fees). I’ve also ordered Manga Studio 5 that I will install on the Surface Pro for drawing and painting.

I’m thrilled to have a way to get real work done on the road (I don’t have a laptop) and also to save on the printer paper I regularly use for sketches and storyboards. I will try to post a more thorough review once I’ve had the chance to work with it more.

Whiteboard Video Illustration for Ricoh USA

Ricoh USA Digital Imaging Services Whiteboard Illustration from Michelle Kondrich on Vimeo.

 

Late last year I was hired by Words at Work to illustrate a whiteboard video for Ricoh USA’s Digital Imaging Services. The more of this type of work I do, the more I enjoy it. I love the storyboard process, the video shoot, and seeing the final product come together. These videos lend themselves to somewhat dry subject matter and are great for Business to Business communications but they are also great for complex TED talks and can liven up process descriptions.

The folks at Words at Work flew me to Minneapolis for the shoot and they were just wonderful to work with and I would jump at the chance to do it again.

For those that are interested in this type of thing but might not have the time or the budget for a full video shoot, I am also able to make some very simple animation that mimics whiteboard videos. Get in touch if you’d like to work on one together.

I would also like to announce that I have a new print shop in addition to the shop where I sell my original paintings. I now have a limited selection of high quality giclee prints up at Inprnt.com. If there is anything you would like a print of that you don’t see in the shop (or that you would like a larger print of) let me know and I will get it up as quickly as I can.

illustration-watercolor-painting-cooking-secret-recipe-light-grey-art-lab-kondrich

2013 Goals – Happy New Year!

Light-Grey-Art-Lab-Illustration-New-Year-Workshop-Instagram

 

A week short, but I’ve finally gotten a chance to sit down and write a bit about my goals for 2013 and how I did on my 2012 goals as well.

The year started off right with a wonderful illustration workshop at the Light Grey Art Lab in Minneapolis. The workshop was taught by one of my favorite illustrators, Kali Ciesemier. It was great to meet Kali who is incredibly knowledgeable and is also generous with her knowledge and attention. I was fortunate enough to spend the entire weekend with a group of illustrators from around the country (and Canada). We talked about everything from promotion, websites, Photoshop techniques, and types of illustration to more introspective topics about what makes us happy and what kind of lifestyle we utimately want for ourselves. I came away with some great goals for the 2013 and I’ve already taken steps towards some of them.

First things first, though. Did I acheive the goals I set in 2012? You can see last year’s post here.

It looks like I acheived them for the most part. I didn’t create anything new for Denver Comic Con and my secret project hasn’t been launched. That project shifted a bit and is now something I’m working on for 2013. I definitely drew a lot more in 2012 and not only applied for residencies, but spent a month at the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts working on a graphic novel project.

And now, on to goals for 2013:

1. Finish my graphic novel adaptation.
I have been working on a graphic novel adaptation of someone’s memoir since the middle of last year. I don’t want to say too much yet. It is currently under consideration at the original author’s publisher and once I know if they are interested it will allow me to make some decisions about what I want to do with it (take it to other publishers, self-publish, kickstart, etc.). I have also applied for a table at CAKE this year and hope to be able to sell the first few chapters of this book. Regardless of what the publisher wants, I want to finish the entire project in 2013.

2. Add more food and lifestyle illustration to my portfolio.
For much of my illustration career, I’ve been pursuing conceptual illustration in a big way. I’ve come to realize that that may not be the best route for my work. I would like to add more food and lifestyle illustration to my portfolio and begin pursuing more of that type of work.

3. Get hired to do more whiteboard illustration/video scribing.
In the last year and a half I have done a lot of whiteboard illustration (I don’t do the video production for videos, only the illustration). I find the work to be fun and challenging, and seeing the end result is always exciting. This year I will start by sending some examples of my work in this area to agencies I think might be interested and hopefully I can build a solid business on this type of work.

4. Experiment and make things with my hands.
I’ve purchased modeling clay and armature wire and I plan to start learning how to needlefelt. My goal is to try a lot of new things this year and maybe try my hand at sculptural illustration. Even if it doesn’t work for me, it sounds fun to try.

5. Develop alternate revenue streams.
Whether it’s more custom, original paintings, a different print fulfillment site, or handmade goods I can sell, I feel it would be valuable for me to develop some alternate ways of bringing in income. We are in the age of the entrepreneur and I want to take full advantage.

And there you have it. What are some of your goals for 2013? Did you acheive your goals for last year?

I would also like to take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy New Year and to thank you for following and sharing my work. I’m happy to have such wonderful followers and I wish you all success in your endeavors this year!

The Mighty Pencil Book Volume 2

Mighty-Pencil-Book-Cover-Illustration-Michelle-Kondrich

Yesterday I received my copy of Volume 2 of The Mighty Pencil Book. I’ve got a spread of my illustration in the book, along with 26 other incredibly talented illustrators. The book is beautifully designed and I’m so excited to be a part of it.

Mighty-Pencil-Book-Interior-Illustration-Michelle-Kondrich

So much great illustration in one place. Only a limited number of these books are available for sale and there may only be a handful left at this point, but head over to The Mighty Pencil store to grab yourself a copy before they’re gone!

Announcement: Click Representatives

Click-Representatives-Logo

 

I have a wonderful announcement to make today, which is that I am now being represented by Connie Kline at Click Representatives, a new agency based in Denver. They agency is quite new and I am the first illustrator on the roster – you can see my page on their site here.

If you would like to commission work from me, feel free to get in touch with them.