PROfile is a series of interviews with artists and creative souls who have built businesses around their craft and passion. We'll dig deeper to try and find out everything you could want to know from seasoned pros who have experienced the full gamut of highs and lows that come from running a creative business.
This week we are interviewing Rosie Harbottle, a Devon based illustrator with a fun and whimsical style, which will brighten up anyone's day. Here she shares with us how she accidentally became an entrepreneur.
What was your first ‘proper’ job and how did you land it? Was it what you intended to do as a career?
After university I got a job as a teaching assistant at an Art College on their Illustration and Graphic Design course. I had always been torn between going into teaching and being a designer, so it was a fantastic first job after I graduated. However, after only a couple of months in I landed a job with Paper and Cloth Studio and I knew I had to take it as it was my dream job!
Has art always been in your blood?
Yes, my mother did fashion at college and is extremely creative, so from a very early age I was painting, drawing and making things. My family are all very creative as well; one of my brothers is a fantastic musician and used to be in Giffords Circus, my other brother is a brilliant painter, and most of my cousins are involved in the arts, so it seems only natural to be following this path…
How did you know you were ready to have your own business?
To be honest, I didn’t, it kind of just happened for me! I had moved back to Devon, as I missed being near the sea and my friends and family. Lifestyle is very important to me you see. After the move I had take a job as a Graphic Designer in a local printers, which was a huge step down, and it did make me wonder whether moving back was the right thing to do. I was then made redundant, but it turned out that was the best thing that could have happened, as it forced me to go freelance, and I’ve never looked back!
How did you go about starting your own business?
I worked really hard on my portfolio and CV and sent out a lot of emails. Within a week I secured a meeting with the London Tigerprint Studio who offered me a freelance contract, and it all took off from there really! My experience with Paper and Cloth was the biggest help, as without that studio experience on my CV I think I would have had a much harder time securing clients.
What is your typical daily routine like?
I try and start work between 9 and 10 every day. Some days I’ll work until midnight, others I’ll be more flexible. I will do admin first thing, such as answering emails and writing invoices, but I mostly try to let the day flow organically, as I work better like that. If I have a pressing deadline then I will be much more strict with myself and set myself mini deadlines throughout the day.
What traits do artists have that help with running a business?
Passion! Though I’m not saying that it’s only artists that have passion, but I do believe this is one of the most important attributes to running a business. I also think the ability to think creatively and outside the box really helps too, especially with publicising yourself.
What does the process from an idea to a finished artwork and a product to sell look like?
I will loosely sketch a few ideas first, but generally with my personal work it will be an idea that I’ve had in my head for a while whilst completing commissions etc. With my freelance work I will have briefs that I have to follow fairly closely, I will create mood boards so I’m clear in my own head about direction. Sometimes so many ideas can be swimming around in my head that it’s hard to pin down just one. Once I’ve created a design, depending on who I’m working for, I may be asked to do a few tweaks or colour changes, and after that it’s down to the client to produce the finished product…
Where does your love of pattern come from?
As I mentioned earlier, my mother did fashion and she has an obsession with collecting textiles and fabrics, so I was exposed to pattern and colour from a very early age. My mother’s obsession seems to have filtered through to me and I just adore finding beautiful prints wherever I go…
Do you have an allegiance to particular type materials or techniques?
I think I will always find myself going back to the humble pencil, but at the moment I’m loving mixing it up with watercolour as well. Many commercial Illustrators use a tablet and draw straight onto the computer, but I don’t think I could ever work that way. I really enjoy the whole physical process of putting pen or pencil to paper, drawing straight onto the computer feels far too removed for my liking…
Artists and writers often describe the compulsion to work – do you experience an overwhelming desire to create new artwork?
Yes, I do. Especially if I’ve had time off from creating. I don’t think that desire will ever leave me, it’s what drives me after all.
Do you ever feel alone in your work?
I do, as I work alone from home. Most of the time it suits me, but I would like to move to a studio with other creatives, as I’m really rather sociable, and it would be nice to bounce ideas off other people from time to time.
How do you relax?
I love cycling. Throughout the summer, I will try and get out on my bike every day for an hour to refresh. I’m lucky that I live close to the moors and the sea, so if I need to relax or re-charge I’ll go outside into the fresh air and take a walk. I love being active as well, as I’m sat down at my desk all day, just getting out there and doing a sport such as climbing or surfing really helps me relax…
Where do you find inspiration?
I couldn’t possibly pinpoint as to where. Inspiration often strikes when you’re not expecting it, but I’m an avid pinner, and travelling and being out in the great outdoors is always a source of inspiration. I also find other designers a huge source of inspiration and motivation, if I come across an illustrator I love, it motivates me to create.
What advice would you give to your 21-year-old self?
Do what you’re passionate about, experiment and don’t worry too much about the future. I left a teaching degree at the age of 20, as I wasn’t ready for a ‘sensible’ job and went travelling. I was confused and wanted to pursue a creative career, and taking a bit of time out really helped me put things into perspective.
What would you like to be remembered for?
For creating beautiful artworks and having a fantastic sense of humour!
What’s been the best moment of your career so far?
I’d say the moment when I could move out of my parents realising I was making a good living from doing what I love, whilst working with some fantastic clients. I pinch myself nearly every day!
Photo: Marianne Taylor
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The most rewarding part is when I've designed something that I’m really proud of, and hear that the client is happy too. Also, seeing my work in the shops is always so exciting, whether it be on kidswear or greeting cards, it’s all very rewarding!
What have been the biggest challenges or obstacles you’ve faced in your business and how did you overcome them?
At the beginning, there was a lot of challenges, mainly money worries and doubts about whether I was really good enough to go freelance and whether I had enough experience. But I somehow just had to believe in myself and my abilities, push my work and show it to as many people as I could, whilst working around the clock taking on as much work as possible.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Be brave, work hard and fight for what you believe in!
If you could have dinner with any inspiring person (past or present), who would you choose?
Oooh tough one, there’s so many to choose from! I think probably Anna Bond from Rifle Paper Co.. I have followed the company for a while now and seen her build such a beautiful brand, I would love to pick her brains!
Rosie has kindly designed a wallpaper for our Goodie Bag, guaranteed to cheer up any desktop!
Download this gorgeous wallpaper by Rosie: Download
Web: Rosie Harbottle
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