Six Ways To Support Your Fellow Creatives

Developing friendships with your fellow creatives is one of the most important things you can do.

Not only will you meet brilliant, likeminded people, but you will receive the support to enhance your work while developing a sense of community in the creative world.

Encouraging appreciation of artistic, handmade and creative work starts at home. Creatives should support other creatives. You can’t expect the public to engage with your work if you are unwilling to lead the way. So what are the best ways to offer support?

Reach out!

Reach out to people, even if it’s just on social media. A simple interaction can mean the world to someone – after all, if no one engages with their work, why bother making it at all? It can be as simple as giving them a Like on Facebook or a comment on Instagram. Tell them what you like about their work and offer your feedback. Congratulate them on their accomplishments. They might even reciprocate!

Don’t worry about competition

In so many creative industries there is a strong sense of competition. Everyone is contending to have the best work, to get the best contract. That’s just the way it is, and competition can be good, but it can also hold you back. Establishing friendships, listening to feedback , getting referrals and developing business partnerships can be just – if not more – important than being the best.

The flip side is to remember that someone having more experience, more skills or more sales than you is not a reason to feel bad about yourself. There is no doubt that they got to that point through a ton of work, research and experience. Talk to them, ask for advice, find out how they got to where they are. Don’t just give support but be open to receiving it, too.

Buy and trade from one another

There are so many incredible products made by fellow creatives. Just check out Etsy or Folksy to see how many beautiful, artisanal products are available. Buying mindfully from each other or trading work is a great way to offer support. If you want something new, why not pay a creative instead of a big corporation? You’ll be helping someone just like you to make a living from their passion, and you’ll get something made just for you that is truly one of a kind.

Partner up

Are you a photographer looking for experience? Do you know someone who makes beautiful ceramics? Partner up! Help them with their product photography and gain images for your portfolio. You’ve helped each other out without spending a dime, and you can always use social media to link to each other and help you both to gain exposure.

Share resources

There are no rules to say success is accomplished alone and more often than not, it isn’t. Why not try sharing your tools, studio space, or even your skills. Find someone who you can swap with. You’ll gain new skills and equipment while meeting new people and helping them out, too.

Find out what’s going on in your community

You might not know it, but a lot of communities have a huge variety of groups, fairs, markets, events, shows and exhibitions. A little online search can quickly tell you what’s going on in your local area. Simply showing up is a great way to be a supportive member of your local creative community, and you might even end up gaining some professional contacts.

If you can’t find anything going on, try organising an event – it take some effort but it’s worth it! Promote and sell each others’ work. It’s a great way to gain exposure and attract new customers, and you’ll find that the connections that you can make with other creatives are invaluable.


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Artist Interview: Illustrated Stationary Designs by Jenna Russell-Smith

Jenna Russel-Smith is a self-employed artist illustrator and stationary designer. Painting with ink and watercolour, her style is fluid, lively and playful. Alongside caring for two pre-schoolers she runs a freelance business, selling on Etsy and via her website. I spoke with Jenna to find out about her work, how she learnt to paint, and the challenges of running a business. 

Tell us a little about what you do?

I am a self-employed illustrator, artist and stationary designer. I have an Etsy shop which has existed for a few years but which I’ve really started to focus on this year after finishing having babies. I create customisable stationary and house portraits, with art prints and greetings cards emerging from the design process.

How did you discover art and design?

I studied Art throughout school, even though I didn’t think it was something I’d ever use. The feeling was very much that, apart from the sacred few, most people would never make a living out of art and it wasn’t realistic to pursue it! Then, as so often happens, I became busy with life only did the odd bit of sketching or drawing when on holiday or bored. I found myself in a very uncreative job and feeling the need to have something else in my life. So, I started a blog, documenting my creative pursuits. Gradually the arty side of things took over, and I found myself spending more time on it, learning and improving.

What materials do you like to use?

I like ink. Drawing with pencil is too risk averse for me as you can always rub it out and start again. But with pen, you’re immediately committed to what you’ve done and I find it gives me a bolder line. I use Noodler’s Bulletproof Black Ink with either a Noodler’s Ahab or a dip pen. The ink dries waterproof so I can add watercolour on top without it running.


What inspires you to create your work?

It’s developed over time. I went through a stage of drawing people and did a ‘self portrait a day’ project until I filled an entire Moleskin! At the moment I tend to be inspired by nature. Plants, flowers, the odd animals. I also love drawing buildings, so spotting beautiful houses is always inspiring.

What pieces of work are you most proud of?

My house portraits, as it has been a labour of love to get to a point where I’ve got a style and process I’m confident in and know I can reproduce quickly and consistently.


Can you describe your creative process?

I start with an ink and watercolour sketch and hone it as much or as little as required. If I am creating a portrait, I tend to do a first sketch to get all the features in the right place and use that as a guide with a light pad to draw the final line work before adding colour. Because my style is fluid and sketchy, some of my final pieces look a lot like the first sketches as I think too much development can loose the ‘life’ of the illustration.

What is your work set up like?

I have a little studio at home with everything squashed in, which is where I work most of the time. If I’m doing ‘admin’ work rather than art, I like to decamp to a coffee shop for a change of scenery.

What has been the most challenging part of working freelance?

Time! I have two pre-schoolers at home with me most of the time, so carving out time for my business can be tricky. Then the realisation that making art isn’t enough, you have to spend so much time on all the other stuff; photography, social media, writing listings, chatting to clients, and everything else.

And what are the best bits?

Time! Being my own boss and being able to be as flexible as my life requires. I love knowing that every success and milestone my little business manages is entirely down to me – it’s my third baby.


Have you ever lost passion for your work? How do you keep going?

Frequently, especially when I am plodding through a big list of admin tasks or when things are not quite working as I imagine them! To be honest, I just keep going. Take a few minutes to make a cup of coffee, or do something else, but come back to it and keep going.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out?

Keep drawing! It really is a skill that improves massively with practice. I think another excellent piece of advice is not to worry too much about creating your ‘style.’ Just keep creating and it will appear on its own.

What are you currently working on and what’s next?

At the moment I am working on a pile of house portraits, which I love. I am listing my new range of notecards that can be personalised to create your own range of custom stationary. In the long term, I’m excited about launching my new Wedding Collection next Autumn.

You can find more work by Jenna Russell-Smith at and

All images copyright of Jenna Russell-Smith. 


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What I’m Reading: ‘Virginia Woolf’ by Alexandra Harris

A friend found Alexandra Harris’s Virginia Woolf on the streets of Brighton and gave it to me. I am really interested in the eccentric characters that made up the Bloomsbury set, a 1930’s group of artists, writers and philosophers. This book has been an infinite source of inspiration. It is the story of a young woman, armed with a notebook, determined to become one of the greatest writers of all time. She defied convention, pushed the classic boundaries of the novel as a form of writing, advocated the needs of women to have their own spaces to create, and worked almost constantly, despite suffering with mental illness for most of her life.

Desire for freedom

At the age of 29 Virginia wrote to her sister Vanessa, saying: ‘to be 29 and unmarried – to be a failure – childless – insane too, no writer.’ (2) She had suffered the loss of her mother, father and older brother. And yet, after many years of having no choice but to rigidly stick to Victorian social norms in the family’s big old house at 22 Hyde Park Gate, she finally had some of the freedom that she so often expressed a need for.

Just as her sister Vanessa had always known that she wanted to be an artist, Virginia always knew that she was going to be a writer. As children they worked competitively and pushed each other to improve their respective arts. Neither of the sisters had a formal education, and Virginia taught herself to write by compiling notebooks and setting herself exercises. She insisted on writing standing up so she could stand next to Vanessa, who painted at an easel, and the two girls stood for many hours on the top floor of the house, determined to perfect their crafts.

Follow your instincts

Having never been to university Virginia was often forced to challenge convention, especially in academia. In her short essay How to Read a Novel, she wrote that “the only advice that once person can give another … is to take no advice, to follow your own instincts, to use your own reason, to come to your own conclusions” (3). Many of her works focus on the inner lives of women, a subject that had not often at the forefront of a novel. Those that did received little critical acclaim, but Virginia was too impressive to be ignored.

In the months after their mother’s death, Virginia experienced the first of her breakdowns. The desire to write left her for two whole years. Though she slowly recovered and began to write again, her illness remained with her throughout her entire life, and there would be many periods where she would be unable to write.

Boundless creativity

Now, seventy years after her death, Virginia is celebrated for her moving novels, essays, memoirs, letters and diaries. Alexandra Harris tells Virginia’s story beautifully, and offers the perfect introduction to her writing. Even if you are not a fan of her books, it is hard not to admire Virginia for her boundless creativity in the face of adversity.

I think we can all relate to sometimes feeling not good enough, not creative enough. We have things that hold us back, experiences that shape us for good or bad. But despite these things Virginia was forever determined, and held an untiring interest in the world around her.



(1) A. Harris, Virginia Woolf (Thames and Hudson: London, 2011), Blurb.

(2) A. Harris, Virginia Woolf (Thames and Hudson: London, 2011), p.7.

(3) V. Woolf, The Second Common Reader (1932).



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Artist Interview: The Patterns of Elena O’Neill

Last week I had the pleasure of interviewing artist and designer Elena O’Neill. Working with watercolour to create vibrant repeat patterns and illustrations inspired by the beauty in everyday life, Elena has worked with Thortful and Moonpig, and sells her work on Etsy and Society6. After learning to sew, she began to apply her patterns to pencil cases and fabric. I caught up with her to find out about her creative process, influences and challenges.

Firstly, tell us a bit about yourself?

My name is Elena O’Neill and I am an illustrator and pattern maker based in the south of England. I was brought up on a farm, just three miles from Stonehenge. I am passionate about patterns and seeing my work come to life as products.

How long have you been illustrating?

I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember, but I started illustrating when I began studying Illustration at Plymouth College Of Art. We were encouraged to experiment to find our unique style. In my second year my friend told me to buy a watercolour set, and it was love at first use. It was then that my illustrations really took off. I used books and Youtube videos to learn how to use them, and a fair amount of experimenting. That was over two years ago now and I still love them. I guess I have a lot to thank that friend for!


What is your artistic weapon of choice?

My Windsor and Newton watercolour set – the best thing I’ve ever bought.

What are your influences? Who or what inspires you to create your work?

My favourite artist is Alphone Mucha, his work is so decorative and vibrant. I love botanical artists like Julie Collins and Wendy Tait, who’s wonderful books taught me how to paint. I am also inspired by illustrators like Katie Daisy and Cat Coquillette.

Do you find that you often use certain motifs, themes or colours in your work?

I love bright colours and seeing how the watercolours mix, its so different every time. I like to create my patterns on a white background, as I think when printed on material, a good quality print looks like it could have been painted directly onto the fabric.


Can you describe your creative process? How do you create a piece of work from start to finish?

I start by becoming excited about a theme or object, then I paint as many different variations as possible. I usually have many different patterns on the go, as the watercolours often need time to dry, and I like to swap between themes as it keeps my work fresh and interesting. Once I am done painting, I scan everything in and clean it up using Adobe Photoshop. Then I arrange my painted icons into patterns!

What has been the most challenging parts of being a freelance illustrator and running a business on Etsy?

The most challenging part for me is balancing everything. When you work for yourself, you have to be everything. The creator, photographer, accountant, social media expert… the list goes on. It can be so hard to get right!

And what are the best bits?

There are a lot of best bits, the freedom to decide what to do with your days, and being able to  look forward to going to work is amazing!

Was there ever a moment when you lost passion for your work? If yes, how did you get it back?

There are several moments most weeks! I think it might be part of having a creative mind. I find that I’m in a constant cycle of thinking ‘why am I doing this, its never going to work, my stuff is awful,’ and ‘I can’t believe how much I’ve achieved, I’m so proud of myself.’ It’s kind of exhausting really, but it keeps things interesting!


Where do you find clients and collaborators?

Most of the time I create work based on what sparks my interest and not for a client. Although I have done internships at Moonpig and Hallmark, which were opportunities given to me at the graduate show New Designers. I have also had a lot of people contact me after finding my work on Etsy and Society6.

What advice would you give to someone starting out as an illustrator?

Get your work out there! In the design industry most companies will contact you if they like what they see, but you have to put it out there to be seen. My advice is to make the most of websites like Redbubble and Society6, get as much on there as possible and promote on social media. If you wait until you think you’re ‘good enough’ you might never think you are.

What are you currently working on? And what’s next?

It has just been made official that my greeting card designs are now available on Moonpig, which is really exciting for me! Next I plan to focus on creating patterns for Spoonflower, continuing to grow my Etsy shop and creating greeting cards for Thortful.

You can find more of Elena O’Neill’s work at

All images copyright of Elena O’Neill

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Gaea: The Process

The goddess Gaea weaves through Greek mythology as the personification of Earth and the creator of all life. Greek vases show her as inseparable from her native element, rising from the Earth. In mosaic art she is clothed in green and surrounded by infant gods of things that grow. Described as the eldest of divinities, a giver of dreams, a nourisher of plants, Hellenistic worship of Gaea was a celebration of nature.

The ancient Greek explanation for the creation of the world was written by Hesiod in his poem Theogony in about 700bc. In the beginning there was only Chaos, a great void. From the void appeared the Earth, Gaea, who gave birth to the sky and the sea. The Romans called her Terra, and almost every culture on Earth has a name for her; the Aztec Coatlicue, the Inca Pachamama, the Celtic Dea Matrona, and the Hindu Add Para Shakti.

‘Gaea’ began as a sketch in November last year. I had been reading a lot of Greek mythology and while there are many strong female characters – Artemis, Athena, Nemesis – Gaea stood out to me as a powerful and creative force. I think there is a strong sense of duality about her that makes her such an interesting figure. She is maternal but also the strongest of all the gods, she destroys as well as creates, she brings into being both good and bad, she works in both the physical, natural work and the intangible world of prophecy and dreams.

Gaea, Hannah Rose Shaw, 2016, ink and watercolour on A4 watercolour paper.
Gaea, Hannah Rose Shaw, 2016, ink and watercolour on A4 watercolour paper.

I started this piece by sketching the face and then the leaves and flowers. The drawing process took several hours. I don’t like to rush my work, and I create best when I am in a calm frame of mind and simply let the piece develop.

To colour the drawing I used bold pinks and oranges intermingled with more natural blues and greens, allowing the colours to melt and merge. For this piece I used Daler Rowley watercoloursPebeos’ Colorex watercolour inks – the brightness of which I absolutely love – and tried out my new Finecolour markers, which are subtle but wonderful for adding detail.



I had so much fun working on this piece and working in a slightly different style to usual. The outlines in black pen makes it look more illustrative than my usual work, but I think it fits the boldness of the subject and colours. I’m looking forward to creating more mythology-inspired work. Have an idea which figure I should paint next? Let me know in the comments.

‘Gaea’ is available as an A4 print in my shop.


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How to Always be Developing Creativity

I’ve been getting a lot of questions via my Facebook page asking about being a self taught artist, using different materials, and where to find ideas.

To answer some of these questions I’m making a series posts about my work and some of the techniques I use. Todays post is about creativity, and how to always be developing it.

Creativity is the foundation or any type of creative work, but what is it? I have had friends tell me that I am lucky to be a creative ‘type,’ as if creativity is something that certain people are born with and others aren’t. Sure, maybe some people are more naturally creative than others, but often, creativity comes from hours, weeks, even years of practice.

Sometimes I feel creative and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I’d much rather scroll through social media. But I do think there are things you can do to develop your creativity and get your creative buzz going even when you just don’t feel like it.


You have to go out and see things. I don’t mean that you have to go see most beautiful scenery in the world. I mean that wherever you are, whatever you are doing, really look at things. Even the everyday things. Notice them, look at them in a different way, let them take hold of your imagination. If you’re on a bus look out the window, if you’re in the supermarket notice the people around you. Sometimes you see little architectural details and colour schemes, other times you hear a conversation and a scene unfolding. Anything can spark an idea.

To get you started, I really recommend Keri Smith’s books, they’re really fun with simple creative exercise to help you start creating and see the world in a different way. I particularly enjoyed How to be an Explorer of the World and The Wander Society.


Once you begin to notice some interesting things, start to collect. Again, you don’t have to go to exotic scenes for inspiration, just go out on your street and see what you can find. Pick up, keep it, put it in a box or a scrapbook. If you find something that doesn’t give you the spark of an idea, can you use it as a material? Can you collage it, paint it, write on it?

If you don’t want to make a physical scrapbook, use the Internet. Store pictures that you like on Pinterest or Tumblr, refer back to it when you want some inspiration, and soon you will have a personal archive of things that are interesting and mean something to you, and when you need inspiration you will have an amazing resource.


Other creatives are often the very best source of inspiration and advice. Creative friendships where you can bounce ideas off one another are one of the very best ways of improving your work. My friends have helped me develop my work so much and are literally invaluable.


Daily sketching or journaling has helped me to generate regular ideas. Recently, I’ve been filling up sketchbooks every one to two months. As they say, practice makes perfect, and according to the author Malcolm Gladwell, it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. Don’t worry if you’re work isn’t perfect right away!

Sometimes the simple act of doing something that is familiar can help you to create good work. Practice being creative, being disciplines in your work, not getting distracted, letting your creativity flow.


Experiment. Experiment. Experiment. It is only by experimentation and practice that you will learn the types of colours and materials that suit you and develop your own style. Get over the fear of being wrong. I often don’t realise my ideas because art materials are expensive. Why would I want to waste money on a piece of work that I’m not sure I’ll get right? But it is only through practice and experimentation that I will ever become really good at my skill. Sometimes, the most important thing is simply starting.

It’s a process of development. It won’t come together right away, but the important thing is that you are taking action. You are learning. Creativity does not magically appear under the right conditions. It comes through practice, it comes once we open our eyes and put pen to paper.

So, what are you waiting for?


Photo credit: Oliver J Cooper.

Model: Hannah Rose Shaw. 

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