In the last three weeks I’ve completed over 30 custom artworks. I thought I’d share some behind the scenes of why and how that happened!
At the start of the month I announced that I was taking on a limited run of commissions for Soul Story Messages Art – the art series I started my business with years ago. It’s been over a decade since I’d offered them again, and I felt called to doing it again.
I got the idea for it because we’ve moved into our new acreage home which has a bar/games room that I want to use as my studio… but it needs some windows and doors because it currently is one sad, dank, dark box.
I always like to create abundance for projects instead of dipping into savings.
And even though there was lots of ideas for how to fund the renovation, and most of those ideas were less time intensive, I really adored the idea of literally painting my new artist studio into reality.
I’ve recently simplifed my business and am using Kajabi for my mailing list, e-commerce and teaching courses. I fucking adore how simple it is… it’s cheaper than all the other software I was using AND it’s all interconnected. I can’t believe it’s taken this long to find something like Kajabi… for me, as I simplify and amplify my business, it’s a dream come true.
So in the case of these paintings, I used Kajabi to:
email my mailing list about it
sell the product online (it links to Paypal and Stripe for payments)
automatically get everyone who bought to fill out an online questionnaire including a photo for the custom artwork to be created from.
The artworks sold out in about a day and a half which was so dang lovely.
It was really beautiful seeing the names pouring in for them.
Many of them have been long-term customers who remember the custom artworks from over a decade ago and regretted not getting one then! It felt like seeing old friends pop up… I really feel so freaking lucky to have readers who have been around for so long.
One of the commissions was from someone I’ve known online for over 16 years from a message board – before I even began blogging! Another was from a gorgeous soul I met on a bus in Singapore 12 years ago. She was sitting in front of me and Chris, and I thought her energy was just beautiful, so I tapped her on the shoulder and we’ve been friends ever since. It’s amazing how many friends I’ve made on buses. I’m DEFINITELY one of those people who talks to strangers on public transport. How else will we become friends if I don’t?
Once we sold out, I gathered all the supplies I needed for the artworks.
Pens: I’ve been using the same brand for about 15 years. I use Uni-ball Eye Fine rollerball markers. They are waterproof so it means I can draw then paint over with watercolour and it won’t run or smudge.
Paper: I haven’t bought watercolour paper for commissions for years, so I needed to find and test for the right one again. I needed heavy textured paper suitable for watercolour use. I didn’t want to order online… you really need to look at it first to make sure it’s the right weight and texture and look. I went into Oxlades at Noosa and they recommended Arttec Como Sketch Pad. That ended up being the winner out of the different brands I tested.
Watercolours: I used my trusty Winsor and Newton Cotman studio set. A few years ago I splurged and bought the biggest set, but I also have my tiny travel-sized set and use that just as much. The colours are just freakin’ delicious and vivid in this set.
Pro Tip: for white skin colour I mix “Trump Orange” with white and water both down a lot. I KID I KID, it is NOT called Trump Orange, but you totally know what orange I’m talking about now though right?
Address labels: I order mine from Vistaprint. I always just use their designs and find something cute.
Thank you cards: Again, I order them from Vistaprint. I design them myself by making a digital collage of my art and lettering, and buy them in packs of 100. I use them for sending with orders, and I also like sending surprise cards to customers and readers who’ve sent me a lovely letter in the mail.
Envelopes: These rigid cardboard envelopes from Officeworks are fucking TICKETYBOO for sending prints and thin artworks (they also come in A5 and A3 sizes). I did also spy them at Big W, but they aren’t always in stock.
How I did the painting:
I printed out all the questionnaires and photos from Kajabi.
Then I did what I always do: batched the creation process.
I do all the drawing and writing in quiet undisturbed office time. I can’t actively listen to anything when I’m doing this part. From a sacred level, this is where I feel like I’m tuning in and scribing a person’s essence.
Once the drawing and writing is done, I move onto colouring/painting in. I work on at least six at a time, and usually listen to podcasts (either Chat 10 Looks 3 or This American Life) or e-courses or sit next to Mr D while he is watching TV.
For each artwork, I paint as much as I can and leave it to dry before I paint adjoining areas (to stop colour seepage). Then I move to working on the next one. If I only painted one at a time, it would take freaking forever while waiting for things to dry! Some peeps use hairdryers to speed the drying time, but I hate the sound of them.
I have no idea on how long each artwork takes me – it’s never something I work from start to finish in one go on.
Then after that, I package, write cards to pop in with them, and send off! Some peeps find Sendle to be a better postage option. I’ve never managed to get organised enough to do it, so I just pop into a Aus Post Office instead. Plus, I do love Post Offices – it’s another great way to make friends with people! Ha! #overlyexcitable
So there we go!
31 artworks in 3 weeks!
Not bad considering it’s been three weeks that included getting my wisdom teeth out, recovering from that, having a sick kid and getting sick myself with a dastardly cold.
The best part about doing this was getting to connect with people’s energy 1:1 and getting to spend time loving them up. It heals a part of me to just pour love out onto others. And of course, the gift of being able to spend concentrated time just on art as well was a joy. It feels lovely to come back full circle to the artwork that began this journey with me.
Will I be doing any more soon?
Not in the near future… I sense more ideas wanting to come through. However spirit wants to create, I will follow.
Hope this has been useful or interesting for you. May you create with joy.
With love and ink-stained fingers,
P.S. Just for fun as well – this is what happened when my kid decided to collaborate on one of my discarded artworks!
Remember the days when we used to read blogs to find interesting things around the internet?
And then we kind of just… gave up on the internet and started reading social media instead. Which stridently forces you to stay in social media land and not venture out to independently published sites.
Fuck dat I say.
So here’s some goodies I’ve found from around the web… let’s make the web wondrous again!
SBSK is hands down my favourite Youtube channel. Chris is a special education teacher who interviews people with different abilities. They are incredibly profound. My brother was born with cerebral palsy + he and his friends were some of the best teachers of my childhood.
I’m also addicted to Squirmy and Grubs. They were interviewed on SBSK as an interabled couple, and now I can’t get enough of them. Funny as fuck + educational too! I HEART!
This weekend, I’m listening to The Waifs on repeat. Me and Chris used to listen to them when we were childfree and sitting in the sunlight, reading on weekends. We’ve been doing the same this weekend, just with children sprawled around us, and it feels beautifully full circle.
Tonic recipe to increase immunity. My naturopath mate Sarah shared some solid tips on warding off colds and flus. I made her tonic recipe today. And, of course, if you’re an essential oil lover like me – OnGuard blend is your friend.
If you want to read more about someone else who downsized… Risk + Resilience by Lisa Messenger is brilliant. I read it in one sitting in the bathtub. She shares her own story of having to close down her popular magazine and pivot.
Having said that… I also wish these Instagrammers had blogs and I’m really grateful for what they do share!
I had a reader ask about whether it caused pain for others.
And I wanted to address this. I didn’t go into detail on my previous post, and I thought it was an important point. My post was too short to be able to adequately convey the timeline + complexity of it all.
Firing staff was absolutely one of the most heart-wrenching and painful times in my life. It was not joyful at the time for me or for anyone involved. The joy + lightness came much later.
It wasn’t my original intention to reduce my team so drastically. I wasn’t all: YEEEW! I’M FIRING EVERYONE TODAY! HOW FUN LOLZ!
I also didn’t do it for profit reasons – that was a side effect that was realised down the track. I did it because my business was no longer what it was supposed to be and was veering terribly off course. I made some awful hiring decisions that created a toxic working environment in many ways. It felt like despite my best intentions, and feeling like I was going above and beyond as an employer, I wasn’t supported in the ways I needed to be.
I tried my hardest over a number of years to try and make it better. I got coaching, healing and therapy (often with staff members!) My health, marriage, and kids were suffering under all the stress. My business was no longer a place of joy for me or my staff. It was so apparent that we couldn’t continue down the same path we were on. I considered closing it all down, or even selling off parts of my business.
I was faced with a difficult decision – do I keep everyone’s jobs, knowing that it would mean I would have to close down the business in due course? Bear in mind – if I closed down the business, it meant I could no longer support not just my family, but all the philanthropic partners we supported and the clients we looked after. It was a no-win situation.
In the end, I didn’t fire my staff all at once. 85% of my team resigned over the space of a couple of years to take on other jobs. I didn’t replace them when they did leave. I won’t go into details on staff that I did fire for privacy and ethical reasons. I only fired in extreme circumstances where it was needed, I’d given many chances, had communicated boundaries clearly and was above and beyond generous. I took no pleasure in it, and cried a FUCKTONNE over it.
It was devastating personally and professionally. It’s the reason why I took more than a year away from creating and doing anything public-facing with my business.
Did I retain friendships with any of my employees? Yes, with the ones where it felt healthy and good to do that. One of my dearest friends is someone who has worked with me on and off for five years in three of my businesses, and we’re still in partnership in a business today. There are many I didn’t however because I am committed to only having healthy relationships in my life. Relationships take two people willing to have open conversations and are willing to do the personal work.
Sometimes I dream of my past employees. I see them at a distance, and I see their hearts, and I wish deeply for love, ease and abundance to surround them. That period of transformation was difficult for everyone involved. I so hope they have found their own right, true path now. Hiro Boga says: “Sometimes, a No to them is a Yes to their soul.” And I dearly hope that is right. I hope by stopping something which wasn’t functional or healthy, they were free to find something which was.
I have friends who have scaled and have large teams and they are thriving and adoring it. I’m so happy for them, in awe of them, and know deeply that it absolutely is not in my zone of genius.
Was rightsizing my business absolutely the right thing to do? 100%. It was that, or it needed to close. Was it painful at the time? Yes, profoundly. For all involved. It just was not the right fit on any level.
I rightsized my business. It was excruciating AND it was the right thing to do. The joy, the space, the ease and the purpose came later.
A wildfire tore through my life some years ago. It scorched the earth. It took time, but the trees regrew and the wildflowers returned. And when I step into the sacred space of my business, it is alight again with the energy of what it always was, and always was meant to be.
I dearly hope this makes sense.
I’m sending each of you love, right where you are.
Four years ago, my company was growing at rapid speeds.
I was turning over multi millions per year and I hired a large team to cope with that growth. I thought that was what I was supposed to do, what was the next right step.
But then I discovered… I actually hate having that size and type of business. I hated managing staff. I hated that I spent most of my time firehosing the latest drama. I’ve always worked ten hours or so a week – but my hours started creeping up and overtaking my focus on family. I hated that my dream job of being an artist, writer, creative and encourager instead became a CEO with little time for the things I actually adored.
I tried a lot of different things to fix it. I tried to read more books, get more coaching, learn how to be a better manager. But it still didn’t fix the problem that my business no longer fit me, my intention, my family or my dream.
So I intentionally downsized. I changed my business structure, outsourced production to a publishing company and fired staff. I went from 15 staff to 1 part time VA – some quit, some were fired. It was a heart-wrenching time, but I know now that it was by far one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
My time is spent doing the things I adore again. I work less hours and have my gentle family lifestyle back. Most importantly though, I feel on soul purpose again and closer to my customers. And that is worth its weight in gold. Money can’t buy that feeling, and I neeeeed that feeling.
Here’s the fascinating thing though: even though my overall revenue decreased… guess what? I now make more money (aka actual profit!) than ever before.
So for me… downsizing was really rightsizing. Rightsizing for my dreams and what I wanted my life to be.
So often we speak of downsizing like it’s a bad thing, when really it can be incredibly lovely, intentional and joy-inducing. It was for me, and I’m so glad I did it.