She's the kinda woman who you can sit and chat with over coffee and sliced avocados during one of the coldest weeks Chicago has to offer, ya know what I mean? Audrey and I met up at 3 Arts Club - quickly becoming a favorite spot of mine - and talked about everything from what the hell a bullet journal is, to the role of formal education in a creative's pursuit of their dream even when they're not in the same field, and finally to how cute avocados are to paint (obviously avocados are kind of a theme for this interview).
Thanks so much to Audrey for the coffee date, letting me pick your super smart brain and telling me your story!
Q. What's your title?
Creative and Owner of Things Unseen Designs
Q. How did you become interested in an creative career path?
It all started with my interest in the bullet journal. It led me to be more creative with my journaling, which opened the doors for lettering, calligraphy, and watercoloring. I started an Instagram page in Dec 2016, not knowing where it will eventually lead. Fortunately, I work only a part-time regular job, so I had time to work on my creative side the other half of the week. I practiced at least two to three hours a day (sometimes more if I wasn't working), and still continue to do so now. I'm a self-taught artist, and want to inspire others to unlock their creative sides, too.
Q. Was this always where you intended to being your career, or were there alternative career paths you considered?
This was definitely not what I intended my career to be. I studied Art History and Chemistry in college, and Museum Education in graduate school. Although I currently work part-time in a museum, I always thought the end goal would be full-time at a museum as a conservator or educator. But now, with the direction my business is going, I'm strongly considering pursuing my side business full-time. I will say, though, that so much of what I learned in college, graduate school, and life in general has helped me to get to where I am.
In my art history classes, I learned to appreciate art and its place in society. How it has shaped history, and been shaped by history. I learned that the pursuit of art is not about perfection, but about self-exploration. And that sometimes, it takes a lifetime to achieve.
In my chemistry classes, I took a couple of courses where you're stuck in a laboratory for 4-8 hours a day, working on experiments. More often than not, the experiments failed and you'd have to try again. Then you had to write a report about why it failed, and what could be improved. This kind of discipline taught me that failure is a part of life, but one step closer to success. And in my business of painting and designing, for every "successful" painting or work, there are at least five failed attempts. Don't let that drag down!
Finally, in my graduate school courses, I learned how to teach in an informal setting (aka not in a classroom). I also learned education theories, how to teach various age groups, and of course, how to work in a museum. I apply this knowledge when I'm creating my online classes and in-person workshops.
Q. Why did you choose to be a creative in Chicago?
I've lived in the greater Chicagoland area for almost 20 years, and consider this place home. I've lived in a few other places in the US (St. Louis, Evansville, Cleveland, and Washington, DC), and in Seoul, South Korea. But nothing beats the tall skyscrapers, cultural attractions, and nature preserves that Chicago and its suburbs offer. So after I got engaged and graduated from graduate school in DC, I decided to move back to the Chicagoland area to get married and be with my husband (who was born and raised in Chicago). I am constantly inspired by the nature that surrounds me here. I live close to the Chicago Botanic Garden, and try to visit nearby forest preserves whenever I get the chance. It can get difficult to find inspiration when you're in a creative business, but living here has shown me that I don't have to look too far for inspiration.
Q. Do you feel like you're connected to a creative community, and if so, how has it affected you and your work?
When I first started out, I relied heavily on Instagram to be that creative community for me. I also joined Facebook groups of other letterers, calligraphers, and watercolorists to share ideas, ask questions, and gain inspiration. Lately, I've applied for membership to the Illinois Watercolor Society and the Reed-Turner Woodland Botanical Artists’ Circle. Upon acceptance, I hope to be active in these local communities by learning from other artists who are based here in Chicago and Illinois in general.
Q. What's your favorite part about running your own business?
I have too many favorite parts! So I'll share a couple of them. One of my favorite parts is knowing that I'm making a difference in people's lives. I really appreciate reviews and encouraging comments about my work or classes. But more than that, I love the comments that share how my work has inspired them to be more creative, or break out of their shell, or look at art differently. I believe that art has that amazing power to transcend words, break through walls, and move your heart to feel something incredible.
Another favorite part is collaborating with other creatives and local businesses. I don't have my own studio (yet), so when it came time to do my first in-person workshop, I worked with a local cafe to host it. They were welcoming, flexible, and a joy to work with. I've also partnered online with other Instagrammers to host challenges and giveaways. There are endless possibilities and opportunities when it comes to collaborations, so I can't wait to explore more of it this year.
Lastly, another favorite part is the flexible schedule and being able to work from home... or a cafe... or on a bench outside.
Q. Where do you find inspiration for your work?
Inspiration is literally anywhere and everywhere. My florals are definitely inspired by my love for nature. Even in the winter, I'll look outside and quickly sketch the landscape I see. During the rest of the year, my husband and I visit the Chicago Botanic Garden regularly, take walks through the local forest preserves and beaches, and go camping. I'm also a novice gardener, and have a newfound appreciation for all the farmers out there!
Another place I find inspiration is through other artworks throughout history, fashion, photography, and any other visual prompts. I enjoy analyzing color, composition, and using them as inspiration for my paintings. I think I've already borrowed every single book from the library that has to do with watercolors. So now I'm borrowing books about famous artists, gardening, floral arrangements, anything to push and challenge me to create beyond my current limits.
I'm also inspired by other people and the conversations that take place. Sometimes it's a word they say, or a favorite food, or simply a memory. Capturing it with a painting or writing it in calligraphy helps me treasure those memories so that they're never lost.