BABE #211: LAURA SUPNIK, Freelance Illustrator
Our team has been following Laura and her work (more specifically, this shirt) for quite some time now, and we’re stoked to finally share her insight on all things illustration, creativity, and navigating life as a Brooklyn-based freelancer. As a self-made, one-woman show with client experience including Converse, Man Repeller, Everlane and Madewell, she handles all aspects of her business from creation to production to finances and everything in-between. It takes real grit, resilience and patience to do what Laura does, and we’re inspired by her —and others like her— who find ways to support themselves through their creative endeavors and passions.
Babe you admire and why?
Audrey Gelman! She co-founded The Wing, an all women’s coworking space that began in NYC. They also hold events and talks, bringing together females and important issues in today’s world.
How do you spend your free time?
I love exploring the city, I go for walks a lot and try and find new places.
Favorite fictional female character? Why?
Phoebe Buffay, from “Friends.” She’s completely and unapologetically herself. She never cares what people think about her, and also goes great lengths for the people she cares about.
Go-to coffee order and/or adult beverage?
Current power anthem?
I saw the Bowie exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum a few months ago and have been listening to Bowie nonstop since. I can’t pick one specific song, though.
What would you eat for your very last meal?
Mac ‘n cheese.
If you could have coffee with anyone in the world, who would it be?
Patti Smith, hands down.
What’s something most don’t know about you?
I worked New York Fashion Week during my freshman year of college backstage dressing models, and one of the models didn’t show up. I was tall enough, so they put me in—and now I can say I modeled at New York Fashion Week.
Tell us about your hustle.
I had always been doing freelance illustration on the side of school, and it had been going really well, so I thought I’d try it full-time and have been doing that since June. I’m my own boss, so I manage myself, my time, my online store, and everything else. I take on everything, from small logo work and custom portraits to digital work for publications and articles. I recently made some summer-themed gifs for Converse, which was amazing. I wear Converse all the time, so that was such a cool project to be able to work on. I’m hoping to take on some bigger stuff. I’d love to do a mural, or maybe illustration work for food and drink packaging.
What does your typical workday look like?
I’m still getting used to the non-office life schedule. Typically I’ll figure out what I want to work on each day and what due dates are important first. I’ll wake up at 9:00 or 10:00, go sit at a coffee shop and get the work I wanted to complete that day done. At my new place I’ll have an office space (versus at my current one I have none), and it’s harder to get work done if I’m not feeling comfortable in the space I’m in. The roles I have are artist, time manager, enforcer (sometimes I get very distracted or tired) money manager, organizer—it’s a lot, and I’m still figuring it out.
Have you always had a passion for art and creating?
Yes! My family is extremely creative and my dad was always sketching or coloring with me when I was little. So, right off the bat I wanted to sign up for art classes. From kindergarten to high school I took many different types of art classes, but I didn’t think it was something I could realistically pursue until 11th grade. People started asking me if they could pay me for portraits and small drawings. I thought, Hey, maybe this could work.
How would you describe your artistic style?
It’s definitely delicate. I use a lot of thin lines and I try and keep it super-simple, because for me it makes it more straightforward and relatable. But, it’s also pretty whimsical. Sometimes the drawings are based on real life and sometimes not at all. It’s evolved over time in the way it’s executed. I recently got an iPad Pro and I downloaded Procreate. I. Love. It. The pencil is so great and I’m still figuring out, but it’s so different because it’s digital versus hand-drawn, which was such a huge part of my initial art style. I’m going to see where it takes me. I like using both now.
What’s your approach to running and growing a successful freelance business?
Don’t undersell yourself. People are coming to you for something they cannot do. So, don’t underprice your work; they’re looking to work with you in the first place, so if they really care they will pay you what you deserve. Another main thing is to just keep producing work and putting your stuff out there. Do your thing, show your work and people will see it. That’s the easiest way to grow an audience. When it comes to organization, with freelance I’ve just been putting everything into a calendar. Even if it’s something little, like, “go sit by the park and sketch.” I’m very much still figuring out how to get myself into a schedule.
What’s your favorite medium to work with?
I love gouache. It’s like a heavier, more pigmented version of watercolor. I love watercolors, but it’s really hard to get the colors to come out super well, so gouache has always been a good option. I used to use watercolors and pen solely. It’s cool being able to test out new mediums and figure out the ones I like as my style evolves. I mentioned the iPad earlier, and I’ve been using that a lot more lately—sometimes it’s hard to carry around actual paints and pull everything out and get messy. The iPad is a nice, clean, portable option.
How often do you experience creative burnout? How do you remedy it?
A good amount. I think it’s really hard in this age of social media to have a constant stream of creativity going when you have access to so many people’s work. I’ll look at other people’s profiles and see someone who does work similar to mine; they have posts up twice a day and I’ll think: Wow they’re doing so much on a regular basis compared to me. I need to be creating more. But, you don’t really know. This person could have created a million things in one day and then just stopped working for two weeks straight, but made it seem like they’re churning out work regularly. I also do believe social media is a great source for helping with those same burnouts. I love Pinterest and making mood boards. I think it’s really important to be doing something creative in general, even when you’re feeling burnt out in one area of your life. I got super into interior design a couple months ago and was feeling really stressed about art, so I focused my creative energy into rearranging my furniture and organizing. Soon after I ended up doing an illustration for Homepolish! Sometimes we just need a break from our “thing.” Focusing on something else will throw you back in with more creative energy.
How have your past academic and professional experiences prepared you for the work you do today?
They’ve prepared me for communication! It’s really, really important to be able to talk to people. Whether it’s through email, on the phone or in person. I wouldn’t get any jobs if I didn’t communicate with people directly. In person, sometimes people will see me sketching and ask me about it, and I’ll end up talking to them and then they’ll hire me because I took the time to be open with them. Just being positive and friendly (on the internet or in real life) makes such a difference.
What are some of your favorite resources for illustrators and artists?
“Big Magic,” by Elizabeth Gilbert is a great book for when you’re in a creative funk. Her outlook on creativity is really interesting. For podcasts, I love NPR’s “How I Built This.” Listening to interviews of CEOs and founders of huge companies that started out small is so encouraging. The Great Discontent —a media source that also has a podcast—is also amazing. They interview different creative people, and a lot of artists I admire have been featured.
How has being a woman affected your professional experience?
I’ll be sitting in coffee shops trying to get work done, and men will approach me and use the art card to hit on me. It’s not a great feeling. One time I was working and a man asked me a ton of questions, so I answered because I was being nice. He asked for my card in case he wanted to hire me for some professional work, so I gave it to him. The next day I got an email from him asking for my number. In a more positive way, the female creative community is awesome. I get to work with tons of female-run publications, like this! I’ve been doing lots of interviews and work for all-female publications recently, as well as working booths at female and non-male art shows and events. It’s been awesome. You meet such cool people and I’m very thankful for it.
What is one of the biggest obstacles you’ve faced? How’d you overcome it?
Not getting paid on time is a struggle. Currently, I’ve been waiting for a check from a company for about a month. You have to just keep on them and keep following up. It’s hard, because you need to get paid—this is how you make a living! But you don’t want to be rude and inconvenience people, etc. I’m too nice sometimes. You just have to follow up a lot and be demanding of the money you deserve.
What motivates and inspires you?
Everyday life. I love walking around and finding new things, then documenting those things. Success to me looks like having everything you need to get through the day—and then some. The goal for me has always been to be able to make art that can sustain my lifestyle.
Career and/or life advice for other babes?
Say yes to every opportunity! You really never know what connections people have, and saying yes to one thing could lead to many other good things.
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