Tell Me All! {series}- Samantha, of Violet Clair

If I'm totally honest, the first thing that caught my attention with Samantha of Violet Clair's work (violetclair.com), was the word "Violet" in the title. Pretty good word, if I do say so myself. :)

But from first glance at her illustrations, I was a fan. Violet Clair, the company name for the illustrations and greeting cards Samantha creates, was everything I love- colorful and fun with a witty + biting sense of humor. Her drawings focus on the highs + lows (and in-betweens) of life- from the humor of dating to the pain of our own insecurities, and all in her signature candy-coated shades.

I chatted with her about how she got her start, the highs and lows of running her own business, and apropos title she won in high school... read on to learn all about the magic of Violet Clair!


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1. WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT DO YOU DO?
I am Samantha Rothenberg and I do illustration, webcomics, and have a line of greeting cards.

2. HOW DID YOUR CREATIVE CAREER GET STARTED? HAVE YOU ALWAYS BEEN CREATIVELY INCLINED OR DID THAT EVOLVE LATER?
I’ve always been creatively inclined, but used to think it would be too difficult to make a career out of being an artist. It was after years and years of working at non-creatively fulfilling jobs, I decided to take the leap.  

3. YOU HAVE SUCH A FUN, CREATIVE POINT OF VIEW- IT'S COLORFUL AND UNIQUE BUT ALSO SO RELATABLE (WHICH IS WHY IT'S SO FUNNY)! WHERE DO YOU FIND INSPIRATION? DOES THAT COME EASILY OR DO YOU HAVE TO WORK TO STAY FRESH?
I find that the best ideas come when I’m out doing non-work related things -- walking around the city, observing people, going to events, etc. So basically it’s important for my work to take time off of work!


4. AS WITH MOST COOL JOBS, THERE IS ALWAYS MORE TO THEM THAN MEETS THE EYE! WHAT DOES YOUR DAY-TO-DAY WORK LIFE ENTAIL?
About 85% of what I do on a day-to-day is run my greeting card company, and there are a lot of boring and non-creative moving pieces to that.


5. CARVING A CREATIVE CAREER PATH IS NOT AN EASY FEAT! HOW HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO BUILD A CAREER AS AN ARTIST?
In all honesty, by being shameless and persistent.

6. WHAT IS THE BEST PART OF YOUR JOB?
The projects that allow me to merge humor and art are my absolute favorite. 

Two murals (one in LA, the other in NYC), painted by Samantha Rothenberg

Two murals (one in LA, the other in NYC), painted by Samantha Rothenberg

7. WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES?
The pressure to create original and quality content on a daily basis can feel draining at times!  I’ve had periods where I’ve felt creatively drained and had to step away and recharge.

8. PART OF WAHT MAKES YOUR WORK SO GREAT IS HOW REAL AND (sometimes) VULNERABLE YOU CAN BE WITH YOUR ART. DO YOU EVER FEEL CONFLICT BETWEEN PUTTING IT OUT THERE AND KEEPING A LITTLE BIT MORE SPACE?
Some of the ideas for my webcomics come directly from my life, but a lot of them don’t.  Knowing that it’s not really me who’s being portrayed makes me feel better about it!

9. WHAT ARE YOUR PROFESSIONAL GOALS FOR THE NEXT 5-10 YEARS?
I’d love to keep growing the Violet Clair product line, and also publish a book or two of comics.

10. WHAT'S YOUR BEST ADVICE FOR SOMEONE LOOKING TO CARVE THEIR OWN CREATIVE CAREER PATH?
Don’t be afraid to embarrass yourself, and stay super persistent. 

11. TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT YOU FEW PEOPLE KNOW!
I was voted “Class Daydreamer” in high school, though I don’t think that’s really going to shock anyone.

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I love her comment about merging humor and art- I agree, it truly makes for some of the BEST end results! And her advice to creatives- don't be afraid to embarrass yourself! Ha, so true. No one- really, truly no one- is great at something from the start. Getting good at something and creating a real path for yourself is always the result of endless persistence, and most likely a bunch of screw-ups (or at least lame attempts) along the way. I love her honesty!

xx Natasha

If you need more Violet Clair in your life (which let's be real, who doesn't?), you can find her and her work here:

Sooo... There's a BOOK!

This post was created in partnership with Blurb.

While I never set out to create the job I have, I am regularly reminded of how much I love what I do and how lucky I feel to have been able to turn a passion into a career (sorry to be cheesy!). When I think about how, exactly, things unfolded this way, the main thing I come back to is keeping an open mind about my path while still staying focused on what I want to do. Every time I've felt frustrated about where I am or restless about where I want to be, I've decided it's probably a good time to sit down and make a couple of lists. 

The first list is always my big pie-in-the-sky, long-term goals. These can change over time, but they’re the things I want to accomplish over the next few years (i.e. hit new financial milestones, expand to a larger studio, have a larger team).

The second list is always a more immediate list - things I can accomplish within the next few months; things I have complete control over, but don't always make time for. (i.e. cleaning out my inbox, hiring a new employee, experimenting more with video work, etc.). And you know what? Even though making lists doesn't really change anything, it always refreshes my view and gives me extra motivation to keep going.

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So, I was thrilled when Blurb Books reached out a few months ago about something that has been on my list of long-term goals for a while: making a BOOK! It felt pretty good to take something off the "long-term list" and move it on to the "do it NOW!" list.

Blurb is a bookmaking company that specializes in self-publishing for a huge range of authors, bloggers, artists... really anyone that has a passion to bring something to pages! After brainstorming on what I wanted the book to focus on (spray-painted snack food, anyone?), I was able to create the entire format and layout myself through their site and BookWright software. It was simple and easy to do, and let me preview everything as I created it, so I knew exactly how images would look together and in different layouts.

There's a huge range of sizes, cover options (almost went with a dust jacket because, you know, #seriousauthor – but decided a hardcover was easier), and paper types. I love their Layflat paper option, which is thick and substantial feeling. It's also perfect for larger, panoramic shots as it allows you to create gorgeous, unbroken images spread across two pages. Again, guys, I'm a serious author now.

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The BEST PART of all of this?! Getting to hold my book when it arrived, in all of its colorful, candy-pink goodness!!! The images look extra stunning in Layflat format, with it's thick, vibrant paper. And you can grab a copy for yourself HERE - it's the perfect little coffee table book and it makes a fun gift for the color or snack-lover in your life. So basically... when you feel frustrated, sit down, make a list... and then go MAKE A BOOK with Blurb!! It's one of the best things I've done.

xx Natasha


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Funny Food, By Natasha Martin (Standard Version)

Funny Food, By Natasha Martin (Layflat Edition)

(There are two versions- both a lay flat version, and a more affordable standard paper version! Gifting made easy. ;)

 

Summer Sugar // Wallpaper Download

Summer oh summer, where have you gone? Like a first love- hits you hard, over too soon, leaves you wanting more... but not made to last. :) 

xx Natasha

* please note, all VTS wallpaper downloads are for personal use only and not for resale or professional use. Thank you!

One Fruit, Two Fruit / /(to DL, hover + save)

One Fruit, Two Fruit / /(to DL, hover + save)

Bright Future // (to DL, hover + save)

Bright Future // (to DL, hover + save)

Tell Me All! {series}- @space.ram AKA Ramzy

So if you're into color and you're into Instagram, you're proooobably (or should be!!) into Ramzy (also known as @space.ram). He takes photos- sometimes his own, often others submitted to him via thespectrumedit@gmail.com- and through digital magic, turns them into gorgeous, rainbow masterpieces. They're so stunning, I've literally gasped out loud a few times after seeing one!

After watching him blow up over the past few months (including designing wallpaper for the Museum Of Ice Cream, no big deal), I knew I had to pick his brain a little and get to know more about him and his work. And let me add- he might be one of my favorite interviews ever! So many of his answers, I was like "yes, yessss so true!" So dig in for some creative wisdom from the rainbow king, himself...


1. WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT DO YOU DO?
Hi! I'm Ramzy (space.ram) and I'm a graphic designer / teen girl / alien unicorn / professional homo. 

2. WHAT IS YOUR CREATIVE BACKGROUND? HAVE YOU ALWAYS LOVED TO CREATE OR DID THAT COME ABOUT LATER?
I knew from a pretty early age that I was a designer. I loved art and drawing and painting, and discovered design through newspaper and yearbook in high school. My career has been meandering since — at first I wanted to go into editorial design, then I ended up in packaging — mostly food and beverage. I moved over to web design, then motion graphics and now my freelance / personal work focuses on photo manipulation. My first love was painting, so it feels a bit like I've come full circle — I'm basically digitally painting over photos. 

3. YOU HAVE SUCH A FUN, UNIQUE PHOTO STYLE! HOW DID THE RAINBOW-LOVE START?
Thank you!! I like to believe the rainbows have always been inside me, though it took the internet to really draw them out. I've always been interested in color and when I moved to NYC a couple years ago I used my instagram as a visual color journal — I'd hop around to art galleries, murals, etc. looking for colorful things to take pictures of and eventually it got tiring! There's lots of beauty in New York but in all honesty most of it is pretty gray! So I thought, well I have this photo-manipulation skill set that I'm not using that I totally could be. For gay pride that year I decided to try colorizing some NYC landmarks and well... the response really surprised me! I've been doing it ever since.

4. IS GRAPHIC DESIGN/PHOTOGRAPHY YOUR FULL-TIME JOB? IF NOT, WHAT ELSE DO YOU DO? 
Yes! I'm a Senior Designer for Nickelodeon's On-Air Design team. We create promo motion graphics and branded experiences with our universe of properties. I've worked on styling and Art Direction for our live-action photo shoots, which happen occasionally. For these shoots I've done everything from prop styling to wardrobe, BTS photography and creative / art direction.

5. AS WITH MOST BEAUTIFUL THINGS, THERE'S ALWAYS MORE TO IT THAN MEETS THE EYE! WALK US THROUGH YOUR PROCESS.. 
So it starts a few different ways — I'm walking down the street and I see something, I'm exploring insta and I discover a photo, or I receive a submission. There's some things that make some photos great candidates to be edited:
— There's lots of repetitive elements... like columns or leaves or windows.
— There's a fractured or segmented area. 
— There's an area of interest, like a glowing light or a focal point.
— Medium-range tones, not too dark or too light.
Then I crop the image, throw some adjustments on and start coloring. It's like a coloring book to be honest, I use my tablet and a stylus and hand-color the image. Its tedious but I really believe sometimes its good to make things hard for yourself. So much of the time people are focused on streamlining their process, but I feel like by making it difficult I have more time to think as I'm coloring, and it feels more playful than a job. I'm a big believer that the best things come from a state of play. :) 

6. STANDING OUT AS AN ARTIST ON SOCIAL MEDIA/ONLINE IS NOT EASY! WHAT DO YOU THINK HAS HELPED YOU? (P.s. I looooved the pink + yellow palm frond mural you created for MOIC. If that was a wallpaper available for sale, I would buy it immediately.)
Haha, so true! Figure out what your gig is and just keep making stuff. Like, whatever your "brand" is. How do you see the world differently than your friends? Or, if you could choose to see the world in a certain way, what would it look like? A big thing is that you don't totally have to *know* that going-in... as long as you commit to trying to post often (like 4-7 times a week) you can have that dialog with yourself thru making. Eventually, things will keep bubbling up to the surface and a style will emerge. If the work is coming from a place of love and play and exploration you're bound to discover something unique that you can run with. My thing I always say is just *make stuff* like... don't talk about doing it, just do it. I know its cheesy and like weirdly simple but if you commit to cultivating your own voice everything kinda domino-effects from there. Oh!! Okay and one last thing — its called social media for a reason... have real conversations with your followers and try to build community. Encourage folks when they post cool stuff and you'll see real friendships develop and notice that people start advocating for your work and your growth. That really helps!!

7. WHAT IS THE BEST PART OF YOUR JOB?
I love the challenge of doing something creative for myself every day. Before I started space.ram I got into the rhythm of only doing my day job. It's hard to make work for yourself outside of the normal 9-5 but I feel way more fulfilled when I make time for myself! I also believe that the world is yours to see and interpret... I like trying to find the positive in everything. Also I am very proudly gay, and I feel like its important to make every day a pride parade.

8. WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES?
In all honestly there's nothing glamorous about the amount of time and dedication this project eats up. In addition to my full-time job I spend a lot of nights and weekends painstakingly recoloring images. I LOVE it, so that's not a complaint... just a challenge sometimes when I have lots of other commitments. One other thing... my work gets stolen a lot, or reposted without credit... or even reposted with credit in a way that seems secondary, used to market all kinds of things. I get discouraged when my work is stolen but I've tried to see it as flattery.

9. WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE DOING IN THE NEXT 5-10 YEARS?
Some of this is TOP-SECRET, but I'd like to run my own business... the goal being translating my instagram more into real-life. Stay tuned, it's going to be so fun!!

10. WHAT'S YOUR BEST ADVICE FOR SOMEONE LOOKING TO CARVE THEIR OWN CREATIVE PATH?
Find your mentors, listen to what they have to say but do what you want to do, regardless of what people say or think about it. Whatever makes you happy, whatever excites you... do that!! And really commit to it, really work at it. So many people talk about doing things and never do them. I think its easy to dream but there are so few people that actually follow them. 

11. TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT YOU FEW PEOPLE KNOW! :)

I'm pretty healthy generally but I am obsessed with french fries. Like I can eat unlimited french fries and also I basically have no control over myself and can't stop once I start. Is that bad? LOL


*Note: Pastel Desert Rocks and Rainbow Mountain Images are by @tommylundberg, with edits by @space.ram; Rainbow Beach Cottage is by @brightbazaar, with edits by @space.ram; all other images are by @space.ram.

Thanks so much to Ramzy- I can't wait to see what's next for him... I feel like he could be this generation's Andy Warhol, don't you? ;)

If you need more Ramzy Rainbows in your life (yesss, you do), you can find him here:

Instagram: @space.ram

xx Natasha

Tips For Taking Better Brand Photos

My own love of photography actually came about in a really slow, organic way. Years back, I painted and sold my work + stationery on Instagram and Etsy. Because online shopping is all about the images (you can't touch it, feel it or try it on), I was always looking for new ways to arrange + style things, and tips to make my photos better. I would spend hours a day shooting the same things over and over, trying to get the photo to match the vision in my head. Obsessive, yes, but slowly, that obsession turned into a full-on love affair and eventually, my full-time job. Learning things the self-taught/trial-and-error route has it's downsides, but I think one of the upsides is really learning what works (and why), and what doesn't work (and why). It's like the difference between reading a recipe and cooking the dish yourself.

When I had the chance to speak at Craftcation a few months back, this was one of the topics I was most excited to talk about because I GET IT. It's hard to stand out on Instagram (or Etsy or Facebook or wherever you share your photos). It's hard to constantly think of compelling ways to share your work or products and to know how exactly, they can be better, especially when photography isn't your full-time job! Whether your work is as an artist, a blogger, a maker, or an influencer, we all want better photos (I'm still obsessively learning, guys.) So below, I've listed some of my own top tips for taking better brand photos and a link to the presentation from Craftcation (it's geared towards small business owners) if you want to see more. (And if you have other questions, email me or leave them in the comments below!)


1. HONE YOUR STYLE- The best way for anyone- brand, person, or business- to stand out online is to have a clear, distinct style. You can't and won't appeal to everyone so trying to create photos that appeal to everyone actually just waters down any unique perspective you have. Do you like clean, minimal shots? Moody, dark colors? Lots of pink? Whatever it is that feels the most "you", let that shine. It doesn't mean every. single. shot. has to be in one narrow theme (although it can!), it just means you want to have an overall vibe that your followers/customers/fans can recognize as your own.

2. WHAT'S THE FOCUS?- If you're taking a photo with an end goal of selling something (products, services, brand awareness... basically anything besides just sharing to share, ha.), you probably want to consider what the focus of the photo is. Too many props can make it too busy and unclear what to look at, too few can feel uninteresting. One of the things I've come to realize through working with different brands, is that photos that feel TOO sales-y or highlight the product without also telling a story or showing something engaging, don't perform as well. When I'm working on product photos, one of the questions I always ask myself is "would this photo be interesting without the specific product?" If not, I try to play around to tell more of a story with it.

3. THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX- It's easy to get into a rut with what you shoot + share online. And while some consistency is good (see point 1. above), if it's TOO consistent, you run the risk of it feeling stale. Think of ways you can share your content in new light, while still keeping the brand's core identity-if it's jewelry, can you show it in a new or unexpected setting (i.e. outdoors)? If you share travel pics, can you show yourself in a signature pose in unique or unusual locations? Or a bunch of different poses in front of similar locations?  If it's makeup, can you show it in a new setting (i.e. spilling out of a purse, on a vanity) or create "makeup art" on a canvas besides a face? The goal is not to go so far that it feels weird or out-of-place, but just to experiment with new ways of showing the same thing. Part of creating engaging content is keeping people engaged!

4. DETAILS MATTER- So cliche but so true. You know when you see something great and you can't quite articulate why it's so good but you just know it is? It's all in the details. Shadows, background colors, stray crumbs, loose hair... whatever it is, they do matter! Your eye craves symmetry and order (or perfect asymmetry... which is still a kind of order) and even when you can't pinpoint it, it registers it as "yessss this looks good." Over time, I've found that my very favorite photos (both ones I've taken and ones by others) are ones that leave no detail overlooked. And on the flip side, the photos that have a really cool concept but just aren't executed as well (whether because I was lazy or just didn't catch something) always make me cringe a little. Take the time to find the best lighting you can, clean up little details, and spend a few minutes editing those details in Photoshop or an app if you need to. I promise it will make the whole image that much better.


If you're curious to take a look at the presentation from Craftcation, you can do so here! (Keep in mind, some parts might seem vague because I probably talked on those points more in person, so if you have questions on any of it, feel free to ask.)

xx Natasha 

National French Fry Day // Wallpaper Download

True story: If tonight were my last night on earth, I would eat only one thing- a giant platter of french fries (and a bottle of Heinz ketchup). Happy National French Fry Day!!

xx Natasha

Dip It Good // (to download, hover + save.)

Dip It Good // (to download, hover + save.)

Sweet Smell Of Summer // Wallpaper Download

Blue skies, flowers in bloom, and ants everywhere (haha)... There's nothing like it!

xx Natasha

Sweet Smell Of Summer (With Ants) // to download, hover and save.

Sweet Smell Of Summer (With Ants) // to download, hover and save.

Sweet Smell Of Summer (No Ants! :) // to download, hover and save.

Sweet Smell Of Summer (No Ants! :) // to download, hover and save.

Pool Party // Wallpaper Download

I have only one thing to say... BRING ON SUMMER!!!! 😎☀️💦

xx Natasha

Pool Party // (to download, hover over + save)

Pool Party // (to download, hover over + save)

Tell Me All! {series}- Ann "Danger" Shen, Illustrator-Extraordinaire

They say when you know, you know (a truth about love, that I find even truer with gorgeous art). When I look at work that makes my heart flip, I know in an instant that I want to see more (and hopefully be able to somehow own a piece for myself)! This was definitely true the first time I laid eyes on Ann's work a few years ago. I remember being so captivated by her use of color + whimsy and her eye for detail- her work is so fun!- but still has a layer of depth + quirk, which can be a tricky balance to strike. (Side note: I later discovered that we also shared a mutual real-life friend (Hi Alice!), which only confirmed how much I liked Ann.) While her career has exploded over the past few years, with book deals + Disney collaborations, she has remained one the sweetest, most down-to-earth creatives I've met, and agreed to chat a little bit about her background and crazy-cool-day-to-day life as a working artist...


1. WHO ARE YOU + WHAT DO YOU DO?
Hi! I’m Ann Shen, and I’m an illustrator, letterer, and author. I work for myself – which includes writing and illustrating books, working on freelance projects with a variety of clients, running my own online shop, and selling prints and other goods I make at shows. Clients I’ve worked with include The New York Times, Bust, HarperCollins, Workman Publishing, Evite, Papyrus, and Ban.do. I published my first book, Bad Girls Throughout History, with Chronicle Books last fall.

2. WHEN DID YOU FIRST START CREATING?
I’ve always been a creator – when I was a kid, I was drawing all the time, and as I got older and my parents discouraged me from going down the path of an artist, I became obsessed with writing. I would write novels that I’d print out and bind in binders to pass out to my friends, who eagerly awaited the next installment in the series. I also really loved film and photography – so when I went to college, I majored in writing and minored in photography.

After school, I worked for awhile as a writer for non-profits around L.A., but I was never truly happy with my work or life. So I decided to start taking extension art classes and realized I wanted to be an illustrator – so I applied to art school, and went back for my second act.

3. HOW DID YOU GET YOUR PROFESSIONAL CREATIVE START?
So as I mentioned before, I went back to art school in my mid-twenties. There, I got the intense and focused training to hone my creative skills so that I was ready to be a professional creative. I got my first freelance job through our school provost, who was the art director of the Playboy Jazz Festival at the time. 

4. YOU'RE KNOWN FOR YOUR BRIGHT, BOLD COLORS + WHIMSICAL DESIGNS- HAVE YOU ALWAYS HAD A SIMILAR STYLE OR DID IT EVOLVE OVER TIME?
It’s definitely evolved over time. The funny thing is that the work I make now is the work I’ve always loved but had felt embarrassed about liking, thinking it wasn’t “serious” enough. When I went back to school, it was heavily influenced by what I learned in class, what my teachers did for their work, and who the popular artists were on the scene at the time. Now I’ve been around long enough to know that styles fade and tastes are personal – so as long as you follow your heart and make work that excites YOU, you’re on the right track. I also think that creative work will always evolve as you grow as a person.

5. CONGRATS ON THE SUCCESS OF YOUR FIRST BOOK, “BAD GIRLS THROUGHOUT HISTORY” AND THE UPCOMING BOOK (OR SO I HEAR)!! THAT MUST HAVE FELT LIKE SUCH A HUGE MILESTONE! HOW DID CREATING A BOOK COME ABOUT?
Thank you! I first created “Bad Girls Throughout History” as a zine for a project in school, and then started taking it to shows to get it seen. This was about six years ago now, so I was also sending it around to all the big design blogs to get a little press and attention on my illustration work in general, as I was about to graduate and wanted to start gaining traction for freelance work. It got a small but strong response, and it started getting picked up in local shops around L.A. I would eventually expand it into two volumes, a calendar, a postcard set, and a gallery show.

It got enough legs on its own that my literary agent found my project on a post on a blog that I didn’t even know about! She emailed me and asked if I would be interested in turning the zine into a book, and we met in person and really hit it off. It was important to me that she really understood the project, because it was not so well received early on – especially by my teachers in school. With my agent’s guidance and representation, I created a book proposal and we sent it off to dozens of publishers – we had great calls with several editors, and we landed an amazing deal with Chronicle Books – which was a dream come true.

When I decided to go back to art school, I had to write an admissions essay naming three artists or companies that had influenced me and made me want to be an artist – and Chronicle Books had been one of them. So it was a real full circle moment for me.

6. YOU'VE ALSO RECENTLY PARTNERED WITH DISNEY,  AS AN "ARTIST IN RESIDENCE"- (CONGRATS AGAIN! :) CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT THAT?
Yes! I had the honor of being the April Artist in Residence at Disney’s Wonderground Gallery in Downtown Disney, which is such a highlight of my career so far. They commissioned me to do three Disney licensed pieces – and gave me free reign to propose whatever I wanted to do. So that’s how my “Dressed in Dreams”, “Centaurettes in Bloom”, and “The Girl With Fins” pieces came to be. They were just released during the month of my residency, and will be available as limited edition giclees, canvas prints, deluxe prints, postcards, and even a mirror compact! 

As far as the residency, it meant that I was at Wonderground Gallery every weekend night, painting demos of Disney art I created, answering questions, signing artwork, and meet-and-greeting lots of wonderful guests. It was so great to get out of my studio and actually see the joy that my work brings to people – there’s no better feeling.

6. WHAT IS THE BEST PART ABOUT MAKING A LIVING AS AN ARTIST?
The freedom to make the kind of life I want, to work with clients I like, and to create projects that inspire and make people happy. It’s become increasingly important to me that I make the work I want to see in the world – work that has a voice and represents a broad range of people and their experiences. I want people to feel seen and important, but also excited and joyous when they see my work. Meaningful work doesn’t have to be loud and specific; it can be subtle and permeate culture. It can shift perceptions slowly but permanently – that’s where the power of art is; it can help people develop empathy and understand others better. It can make you feel less alone. And the best part of making a living as an artist is that I can make that my life’s work.

7. WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES OF WORKING FOR YOURSELF, AS AN ARTIST?
When you work for yourself, I find the hardest part to be facing challenges alone. Even though I have a great support system with my husband, a network of freelance friends I can reach out to for help and advice, and often work with great clients, the really hard stuff is still things I need to take on and figure out on my own. You don’t know what you don’t know, and that can really be a hard or expensive lesson to learn as you grow. There’s also no set path or right or wrong way to do things – it’s really all up to you to make that path for yourself, and some days that can feel really daunting.

8. WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE DOING IN 5-10 YEARS? ANY BIG GOALS?
Lots of things! I definitely would like to still be working as an illustrator and author, and I’d like to have published more books and see them perhaps take on a bigger life ;) I’d also love to work with some of my favorite brands and companies on bigger illustration projects like holiday campaigns. Other dream projects include designing the branding for a restaurant, designing a textile or clothing line, and art directing a film. I have a pretty good track record of making dreams into reality, so I hope I can achieve some of these big goals.

9. MAKING A LIVING AS AN ARTIST IS NO EASY FEAT! WHAT IS YOUR BEST ADVICE FOR SOMEONE WHO WANTS TO BUILD A FREELANCE OR CREATIVE CAREER?
Make work every day. When I first left school, one of my favorite teachers told us that if you put in 6-8 hours of studio time a day, every day, there’s no way you won’t make it in whatever it is you’re working towards. Studio time means dedicated time to making your creative career happen – a lot of it is practice, and a little bit of it is learning everything else that needs to go with it – how to reach people you want to work with, how to set up your website or shop, where to show your work, etc. Make the work you want to make even if no one is paying you, and the better you get at it, the more likely people will start noticing and hiring you for it. 

Also, study what works for the people you admire who are in your field already – BUT be very cautious to not just copy what someone else has done. Take the principles and lessons of what about their work appeals to you (is it simple shape design? Is it strong color stories? etc.), and then apply it to your own work in your own unique way – that’s what’s going to make you stand out. The world doesn’t need another one of someone who already exists – it needs you to be who YOU are.

10. TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT YOURSELF FEW PEOPLE KNOW! :)
A relatively unknown part of my work is that I’ve worked on several theme parks! Because theme parks are super top secret projects, there are a million NDA contracts involved and we work years out in advance so I can never show or talk about these projects. And by the time the theme park is open and the work is out, I’ve almost already forgotten about it. I’ve worked on the design and development of the Hello Kitty theme park in Shanghai, a retro children’s book style redesign of Shrek for a theme park in Dubai, and park signage for a theme park in Asia that hasn’t opened yet.


Try to tell me you're not in love too!! It was impossibly hard to choose which images of her to post. I also LOVE her advice to someone looking to launch their own creative career... "Make work everyday!" It's so simple but often is the one big thing standing between the next step... creating just to create, it's something I personally swear by and make a point to spend time on every week, no matter what's going on.

xx Natasha

A HUGE thank you to Ann for being so open and candid about all of her work + experiences! If you want to see more of her work (duh) and start your own Ann Shen-art-collection, you can do so here:

Tell Me All! {series}- Sarah, of Hello Holiday

Have you ever been scrolling aimlessly through Instagram, only to catch sight of something that makes you stop and squeal out loud? I did, the first time I saw Sarah Lorsung Tvrdik's pink-mermaid-and-fish patterned Heinui dress (see below). After falling down the rabbit hole of her amazing photos (spoiler alert: this girl has *style*), and realizing she co-owns Hello Holiday (a curated boutique for "the third coolest girl in the room", focusing on emerging designers + cool basics, with a vintage flair), I knew I had to pick her brain a little more. Read on to learn all about how Hello Holiday started, the challenges of running + growing a small business, and her best advice for someone looking to build their own...

(And yes, I bought the dress... I have literally never received so many compliments on an outfit as I did in that dress. I think it has magic powers! P.s., they have a limited run back in stock, grab it here!)

1) OK, FIRST THINGS FIRST! WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT DO YOU DO?

Hi! I’m Sarah Lorsung Tvrdik and I am one of the founders of Hello Holiday, an independent online retailer specializing in dreamy frocks for dreamy femmes in sizes XXS-4X since 2012. 

2) HOW DID HELLO HOLIDAY COME ABOUT?

In early 2012, I stopped by my friend Megan Hunt’s then-coworking space in downtown Omaha to borrow her professional steamer to prep a vintage dress for a music video I was styling, and everything just rolled from that chance meeting. Megan and I had known each other for years prior, working on styling projects for her bridal design line together and casually as friends. I was working full time in the social work field but I knew my heart wasn’t in it and was doing styling work for every photographer and designer I knew, writing a style column in a local paper, blogging, and going as far as costuming plays (I have no costuming background whatsoever) to try to do anything I could to figure out how to work in fashion in Nebraska. 

The aforementioned dress was so many layers of vintage tulle that it took me hours to finish steaming it. During that time at her office I mentioned that I was looking to pursue a major career change, and that I wanted to open an online store but the idea wasn’t flushed out much further than a very sad business plan at that point. Megan opened up and told me she was looking for a new challenge in business and expressed interest in working with me, and we hit the ground running from that evening. A few days later we had a new business plan on paper and filed for our LLC shortly after that. Hello Holiday officially launched online on October 1st, 2012. 

3) YOU HAVE AMAZING PERSONAL STYLE?  HAVE YOU ALWAYS LOVED FASHION OR DID THAT EVOLVE LATER?

This one is hard! I started out loving fashion but really started honing in on my personal style post-high school, when thrift stores were essentially flowing with milk and honey and I started putting together looks inspired both by the early fashion bloggers I wanted to emulate and mid century style icons like Audrey Hepburn. So cliche, I know! But this was around 2005! Things were different and I honestly didn’t know many people who knew who she was at that time. You can guess what my eyebrows looked like at this point. 

4) AS WITH MOST COOL JOBS, THERE IS ALWAYS MORE TO IT THAN MEETS THE EYE! WHAT DOES YOUR DAY-TO-DAY WORK LIFE ENTAIL?

My main responsibilities with Hello Holiday involve photo styling, social media, buying, and customer service. That’s not all I do, but definitely how I spend most of my days. Five years in, we’re lucky to have a small team of ten employees, so I’m able to focus on the creative side of things much more than I used to, which is just a dream (I loathe packing orders). My days are mostly repetitive: email, post on social media, create content, email, placing orders, and so on. We have a photo shoot for our online site every few weeks, so my days leading up to that including scouting models, booking time with our beauty team and photographers, deciding on themes/inspo and running with it. 

5) HOW DO YOU DECIDE WHAT TO STOCK + CARRY FOR HELLO HOLIDAY?

A lot of what we carry honestly comes from designers who reach out to us, or designers we scout on Instagram. A lot of my late nights are spent down the Instagram rabbit hole (discovery page? is that what the kids are calling it these days?) looking for new stuff. We also go to a few buying markets a year and visit showrooms in LA pretty often between seasons. As the years go on our style has changed significantly, and we’re finally at a place where we stock independent designers as a majority, and a well-rounded collection of pieces we love and want to wear ourselves. The more true to self we try to be with buying, the more success we’ve found. 

6) THE FASHION/CLOTHING WORLD IS NOT AN EASY ONE! WHAT HAS HELPED YOU BUILD A SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS IN SUCH A COMPETITIVE INDUSTRY?

Girl it’s definitely not an easy one! In the past year or two we’ve seen so many retailers fold, large and small, and we feel really lucky to have the support of our customers. We always say that we want to be the kind of company you would be best friends with. And many of our customers have become our friends IRL, it’s really amazing. 

7) WHAT IS THE BEST PART OF YOUR JOB?

The best parts of my job definitely include styling and buying (hello, who doesn’t love to shop endlessly?), but if I’m being honest, the very real best part is seeing customers find pieces that make them feel amazing. Fashion is both political and a privilege, and when you have access to and are able to find pieces you feel good in, there’s nothing like it. 

8) WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES?

Oh boy! Well, as a small company, a lot of the challenges revolve around finding new ways to grow on a small budget, finding time away from work, and continually adapting to a non-traditional schedule. After working in an office with a 9-5 schedule for years, it feels both positive and negative to “make my own schedule.”. I say that in quotes because making your own schedule generally means you work all the time, haha. But we definitely find time for our families and to have fun too. It’s easier now that it’s not just the two of us and we have a great team who both pick up the slack and inspire us to work harder. 

9) YOU'RE A MOM TO A TODDLER AS WELL! HOW DO YOU BALANCE (IF THERE IS SUCH THING) WORK + FAMILY?

I don’t believe in work-life balance as an objective, but I do believe in bringing your children and family along for the ride. It feels wonderful to know that my son will grow up with a crew of strong women and entrepreneurs around him, and my partner is also a small business owner (we own and operate a bar in Omaha called Krug Park) so it helps that he understands that there’s no real expected schedule for business operations. You work when you need to work, and hopefully you have fun doing it and find breaks during your slow times of the year. I consider myself extremely lucky to have been able to take my son to work with me daily for the first year or so of his life, but working with a baby strapped to your body is hard, so there’s positives and negatives to it for sure. 

10) WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR HELLO HOLIDAY IN THE NEXT 5-10 YEARS?

To grow and become very financially secure so we’re able to take calculated risks like manufacturing and taking on more designers we believe in. To create jobs in our field locally. To foster a thriving environment for the future entrepreneurs that work for us now. I can’t wait to see what our team builds and to support them like they support us today. I’m a big believer in trying to be who you needed when you were younger, but didn’t have. 

11) WHAT'S YOUR BEST ADVICE FOR SOMEONE LOOKING TO BUILD THEIR OWN BUSINESS?

Talk to me! But no really, talk to someone, anyone, and interview everyone you know that’s even close to the field you’re interested in. I interviewed anyone I could, shop owners, buyers, random business owners that had nothing to do with retail, anyone who would give me the time of day before we started because there’s no guideline out there for starting an online retailer (but maybe there will be soon *wink*). 

12) TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT YOU FEW PEOPLE KNOW! :)

Cloris Leachman crashed our wedding. I was runner up in a contest to win a walk-on role on AMC’s Mad Men. I feel so lucky to be featured on the Violet Tinder Studios blog today, thank you so much for asking me.


Thanks so much to Sarah for spilling it all! I love a girl who loves a good lip. Aaaand I can definitely relate to eyebrow regrets, haha.

xx Natasha

Make sure to follow along with all of her + Hello Holiday's adventures...

Let's Talk $$$ // Part Two

A couple weeks ago, we started this series with PART ONE, talking about calculating + setting your rate as a freelancer. I promised we'd be back with more... and here we are!

Ok, so you've figured out your rate, and it seems to be working. But if you're like me, you're curious- what do other people charge? How do they handle low offers? Are they comfortable negotiating? Basically all the questions you ask yourself to figure out your own rate- I rounded up a small group of my favorite freelance creatives and asked them these very questions (and more)!

I have to add- I am such a fan of all four of these ladies (and lucky to consider them friends)! They are all SO creative and talented and are creating their own dream careers with a lot of hard work, a little inner magic, and some really great lipstick (seriously tho). So thank you to Leslie, Lizzie, Jenna + Cort for all your insight + inspiration. :)

PART TWO, here we go...


We're chatting with:

1. HOW DO YOU DESCRIBE YOUR JOB/WORK? (I.E. CONTENT CREATOR, BLOGGER, CREATIVE DIRECTOR, ETC)

LESLIE: I would say I'm more of a content creator. That's how I make my income. 

JENNA + CORT: We are bloggers/content creators/influencers.

LIZZIE: Content creator + Photographer

NATASHA: Photographer + Content Creator

2. IS THIS YOUR FULL-TIME JOB/ SOURCE OF INCOME?

LESLIE: Yes!

JENNA + CORT: It is not yet our full-time job...but we're getting there!

LIZZIE: Yep!

NATASHA: Yes

3. IF NOT, WHAT ELSE DO YOU DO?

JENNA + CORT: We are both Bridal Stylist at Anthro's bridal company, BHLDN, (also where we met!). We took our hours down from full-time to part-time as the blog grew!

4. WHEN YOU FIRST STARTED GETTING WORK, IN WHAT KIND OF $$$ RANGE WAS YOUR RATE?

LESLIE: Hmm, I would say when I first started (and when I still had a day job) I would ask for $150 per post. Or around that range. 

JENNA + CORT: We charged $100 for IG and $300 for a blog post. We had NO idea what to charge...this was just a shot in the dark!

LIZZIE: In the very beginning I charged $100 per photo, and gave a “bulk” discount of $50 a photo if the client wanted more than 3 (eek 🙈)

NATASHA: When I first started, it was low, around $100/ per image, but slowly realized the work that went into them was worth more...

5. WITH YOUR CURRENT RATE, WHAT KIND OF FACTORS DO YOU CONSIDER WHEN SETTING IT? OR IS IT LESS SCIENTIFIC THAN THAT? (I.E. FLEXIBLE DEPENDING ON WHAT THE JOB IS)

LESLIE: Definitely flexible depending on the job and depending how LARGE the deliverables are. I first factor if the job works with my lifestyle and can be incorporated into my brand/aesthetic. I've said no to large offers simply because it isn't genuine to myself and my following. After I decide if it's something I want to pursue i base my rate on the deliverables they're asking for. (Example: how many images, posts, videos, boomerangs, etc). 

JENNA + CORT: Several factors are considered: 1). Are they a huge company who you know has a big budget? 2). Are they small, but you believe in their company/product? 3). Are they nice? 4). Does this fit naturally with your feed/brand? 5). Will you have to work harder/buy more supplies to make it more organic? These are just a few. Honestly, we go with our gut. We say no to a lot of people if we don't vibe.

LIZZIE: I have a standard base rate that I give out and add to that sometimes based on unique circumstances, i.e. they need a super quick turnaround, more expensive props are required, or lots of editing will be involved.

NATASHA: I have a standard rate, that varies based on quantity of images, and the size/scope of the project. I try to schedule a meeting or phone call with prospective new clients, to get a little more detail on what they're looking for, so I can make sure to price fairly.

6. IS YOUR RATE FIXED OR VARIED DEPENDING ON THE JOB?

LESLIE: Definitely varied on the job (how many deliverables they're asking for as I said previously).

JENNA + CORT: Definitely varied. We have a starting rate, but if we love the product or would actually use it in our daily lives, we are definitely flexible if they're willing to work with us.

LIZZIE: Varied.

NATASHA: Varied.

7. DO YOU NEGOTIATE WITH CLIENTS FOR HIGHER RATES? IF SO, WHEN?

LESLIE: In my experience I rarely will have a potential client start off with an offer. They will usually always ask what my rate is for the requested job first. Then we negotiate from there.

JENNA + CORT: It's very important to know your worth. A lot of time and energy goes into these posts, and that's valuable. If someone low-balls you, it can be insulting...especially if you know they have the budget to pay you your rate. We will ask for a middle ground to meet at, but will turn it down if we can't compromise. 

LIZZIE: I’ll negotiate if their offer is really low but I still really want to work with them.

NATASHA: I do! If it's a brand that starts with a low offer, and I feel can offer more, I will try to negotiate. At times, I will also lower my rate if it's a project I'd love to work on and I know their budget is limited. 

8. DO YOU EVER TALK $$$ WITH YOUR FRIENDS/FELLOW CREATIVES?

LESLIE: Yes!! It is actually so helpful! Money can be such an awkward thing to discuss, but I am lucky to have a great supportive group of IG'ers where we are comfortable bouncing rates and feedback off each other. (Hallelujah)! 

JENNA + CORT: YES!! I think this is very important. The friends we've made on IG and met irl are awesome and very open about what they charge. This is how we formed our rates. As a group, I think creatives should be charging more. These companies are saving so much money by marketing this way instead of on billboards/commercials/etc. And the engagement is infinitely better. 

LIZZIE: I do! It’s always eye opening and helpful :)

NATASHA: Yes! I think a couple years ago, it was much harder to talk about this kind of thing because everyone was still sort of trying to figure it out. Now, it feels like there's more transparency and people want to help each other.

9. ANY TIPS FOR HELPING OTHERS SET + NEGOTIATE THEIR RATE?

LESLIE: First, figure out if you really want to do the job. Do not compensate for an inquiry that isn't genuine to your brand. Your followers will see right through that and will lose trust. Second, ask yourself what amount is this project worth to you? That will really help set a bar for when you're ready to state a rate and negotiate! Don't be afraid to go back and forth a bit with the brand/agency. Be confident and know what you do is VALUABLE!! Then go kill it! :) :) 

JENNA + CORT: It took us awhile to learn about photography, composition, and flow with our feed. For this reason, our rate grew very slow along with our confidence in our posts. Not that they were bad at all, we were just learning! So, for people starting out...set a lower rate, but be firm about it. Sometimes it's hard to pass up free product in exchange for a post. But you should always tell them your rate as well. Usually they do have the budget for it, but a lot of people will accept free product, so they don't always say it upfront. And once your confidence, skill, and following grows, up that rate!

LIZZIE: In your first few gigs, try to track all your hours you spend on the project with a time tracking app or just a spreadsheet. Make sure to include hours spent brainstorming, sketching, communicating with the client, prop shopping/prepping, all the way through styling and then editing the content. 
It’s easy to underestimate the amount of time you’ll spend on a job, and once you see it all added up it will be easier to gauge how much to charge for future projects. Multiply the total hours by the amount you’d like to make hourly (I think the industry standard ranges from $50-$200/hour for photography depending on skill level/location) and be sure to add in cost of props to get a total rate to present to the client. (I like to give a project rate upfront instead of presenting the client an hourly rate because it makes things a lot simpler and easier to digest for both parties!)

NATASHA: Be honest with yourself about the amount of work a project entails! Try to cover that in your rate. Also, don't take a job you don't truly vibe with just for the money. Money is nice, but the most fulfilling projects are the ones you feel excited about AND are being paid fairly for. Don't be afraid to aim high (realistically high :) but be open to negotiation if the client asks you to come down a little. It's so motivating to do work you love and know that it's being valued!


I'd love to know your feedback- did you find this helpful? Is there anything you love to see covered in future posts? Send me a note or leave a comment below!

xx Natasha

AND a HUGE THANK YOU to these awesome ladies!! Make sure to go show them some love. :)

Leslie @splendid_rags

Jenna + Cortney @awhimsywonderland

Lizzie Darden  @lizzie_darden