Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Interview - Jennifer Skelly (Red Parka Designs)

I love Jennifer Skelly's bold, colourful illustrations and the way she has built her creative biz is nothing short of inspiring. Her blog is a regular read for me and always makes me want to go off and create every time I visit. It's an awesome resource covering everything from technology and organisational tips to a super cool 'illustration crush' series. I'm so lucky to be interviewing her today. Welcome, Jen Skelly!

Jennifer Skelly

Tell us a bit about yourself, your work and achievements.

I'm an artist from Tasmania and I run a small creative business called Red Parka Designs. My commercial work is mostly illustration although I also love to paint, take photos and attempt various other crafts with varying degrees of success!

I've been self employed for several years now and love it! I'm a natural introvert and enjoy spending time alone, as well as being my own boss and having the freedom to design my days as I see fit.  I work in my home studio, usually with my husband working on his photography business across the hall while our beautiful puppy Benny snoozes on the couch next to my desk.

My work is bold, bright and with a sense of fun.... I love animals and feature lots of them in my drawings and love it when my drawings make people laugh. I don't like taking life too seriously and I think this is reflected in my work too.

I think the achievement I'm most proud of is simply leaving traditional work behind to focus on my art. It was a little scary, and at times it's still tough making ends meet, but I'm incredibly determined and I know I can make it work. Like many people, especially us crazy artists, I certainly have my struggles with confidence, but I'm getting much better at believing in myself!

Jennifer Skelly at Red Parka Designs

When did you know you wanted to work creatively (from a young age or did you come to it later?) and what steps did you take to make it happen?

I've always loved art but I never imagined I could make a living from it, or do it professionally. I made the jump from hobby to business soon after my 30th birthday. At this point I had one of those epiphanies people often have around such milestones.... For me it was realizing I was not living MY life. I was unhappy in my job, my relationship, my living arrangements.... I decided to change everything, and in the space of a few short weeks I was single, unemployed and living in my newly acquired old rattly campervan! I sold most of my possessions to fund this crazy adventure, left Tasmania for the mainland and set about giving it my best shot at being an 'artist'! It took some time to find my feet and it's been a struggle at times, but it's been an amazing adventure and I've never been happier.

Jennifer Skelly at Red Parka Designs

Could you describe a typical work day? How do you balance the creative and the administration side of freelancing?

Haha...not very well most of the time! I do my best though and stumble through the admin side of the business with the help of many lists, iPhone apps and some basic accounting software.

A typical work day for me would start around 8-ish, when I crawl out of bed, put on a pot of coffee then fire up my computer. While I have my morning coffee I check my emails and reply to anything important, then I make a little list of my plan for the day. I'm not very good at routine, so it's hard to say what's typical after that, but very generally, I tend to spend the morning online doing admin, promotion, social media and working on my blog, then in the afternoon I'll work on new illustrations or on production/packaging of existing work for sale.

If I'm feeling inspired I'll often work late into the night, and if I'm not, I'll often be found making something in front of a movie.... I can't watch TV without doing something with my hands so evenings are a good time for me to get some of the more mundane work of my business done - folding and packaging cards, cutting fabric or working on the badge machine.
Do you have any routines or rituals you perform before starting a day's work or before you start working on something new? How do you motivate yourself?

I don't start anything without a cup of coffee in hand, but other than that, not really. I find it hard to think clearly when my studio is messy so sometimes a 10 minute whip around to clean up does wonders for my head space and hence gets me in the right frame of mind for creating something new.

Generally speaking, I don't need to do anything in particular to motivate myself, as I'm pretty motivated all the time anyway! I love my work so it's not hard to keep motivated. I read a lot of creative blogs and have a little folder in my reader called 'inspiration' which is always full of creative people and stories....a quick skim through here usually gets me moving again if I'm feeling uninspired.

Jennifer Skelly at Red Parka Designs

What are your favourite tools/materials for creating?

My ultimate tool is simply a pencil and my sketchbook. My work always starts this way, a simple pencil sketch. From there, I'll work on it with a fineliner, then scan it into the computer. I use photoshop for most of my colouring and other touch ups or additions. From there, I import the image into inDesign, where I do my layouts.

What do you do when you have a creative block and need to 'refill the well'?

First thing I do is get away from the studio. I'm a bit of a hermit in there sometimes, so getting out, usually somewhere beautiful where I can run around with the dog, does wonders. I'm lucky to live in a beautiful place with nature close by....a walk through the bush or on the beach or up the mountains is fabulous for clearing my head and allowing new ideas to come in

I also find browsing online helpful for refilling that well - sites like Pinterest provide no end of artistic inspiration, as do the many blogs I read of course, although it is so easy to get lost in these and find your whole afternoon has disappeared!

I am a bit of a gypsy at heart and LOVE to travel. I find travelling - whether it's a long journey across India or simply a weekend out of town - always gets me inspired.

Jennifer Skelly at Red Parka Designs

Thanks for your time, Jen! Your creative journey is such an inspiration. For more about Jennifer and her work visit her at these places:

Red Parka Diaries Blog
Red Parka Designs shop
Etsy shop