What's Life Like As A Full-Time Illustrator?

Lauren Pearson is a freelance illustrator and graphic designer based in Toronto, Canada. Her work ranges from custom designs for clients and brands to live illustration through to wedding branding. We love her style and the custom Soko illustrations she’s done for us!

Tell us about your brand By Lauren P is a one woman business, for now, that specializes in custom illustration, graphic design, and mixed media art. The thing I love the most about this business is that it allows for such a wide range of projects and I am always so inspired by the requests I receive from clients and companies. 

What led you to start your business? Quite simply, I began this business because I didn’t like the direction that I was going in with my previous job. Illustration was the thing that I always loved since I was a kid, but had no idea could be a sustainable career. I started my Instagram account @bylaurenp around three years ago and started posting illustrations that I had made. Within a few weeks I was shocked by the response and received my first ever commission from a Dauphine Magazine to create an illustrated fashion segment to be printed and sold in stores like Indigo and Shoppers (both popular in Canada). I remember going to pick up the issue and feeling like something clicked for me. Before that, I had always felt so lost careerwise. From that day I decided that I was going to maintain the momentum and really put my all into this career change. A year and 200 commissions later, I left my full-time job to work for myself. 

What projects do you enjoy the most? There are a lot of projects that I thoroughly enjoy doing. However, I would say that I especially enjoy hosting live events for clients (which are now virtual), creating artwork and branding for product launches, and making custom artwork for stores. The rest of my time is moreso filled with individual commissions, creating wedding assets like custom cards, stationery, seating charts, etc. as well as all of the grunt work behind the scenes that usually isn’t featured on my social platforms.

What did you learn in the past year? I learned a lot through making a ton of mistakes and trying new projects. At the beginning, it is natural for creatives to accept any incoming project and I learned that doing that doesn’t always translate into your best work. 

How did you know your company was moving in the right direction? After spending a year and a half growing my presence online, larger brands such as Google, Saks, Amex, Umbra, and Mejuri started reaching out for partnerships. That is when the company really took off in the direction that I had dreamed of.

Tell us about where you get inspiration from As a creative, I get inspiration from the most random things in my day-to-day life. That’s why it’s so important for me to be constantly travelling, having new experiences, and meeting new people. After a trip to Mexico City, I was inspired by the architecture and art there and I ended up coming home and creating a photo montage using materials that I had collected during the trip. That was one of the pieces that landed me my first commission with a magazine and created more versatility in terms of the artwork that I was able to produce. I also find inspiration on Instagram, from content creators to photographers. 

What is the best advice that you have been given? The best advice I have received is to just start before you’re ready and learn along the way. At the beginning, I would always accept projects that made me uncomfortable and seeked help if I needed direction with areas that I was not as familiar with, like graphic design. On the flip side, the worst advice I received is to not pursue an artistic career because there is no money in it and I was not “good enough yet”. People will always try to discourage you and find reasons for why your ideas won’t work. I have learned that the discouragement tends comes from their own insecurities and they usually have no idea how hard you are willing to work. Nothing comes easy but anything is possible if you are willing to work smart and hard. 

What has your style evolution been like? Looking back at my work from a year ago, it is shocking because my style has evolved so much. I mainly worked with watercolour when I started and now include both paint and digital artwork. It is all done completely by hand but I love the modern look of digital illustration. My style is developing by constantly trying new techniques and reviewing my work for areas that need improvement. It is nowhere near where I want it to be and I definitely have a lot less time to experiment because of the custom work I do, but I make it a priority to try new things every day. 

We know you love to give back, tell us more about that There are so many mothers that I am connected to that were struggling to keep their kids entertained during lock down, so I thought that offering a free printable colouring book would be an easy and fun way to help them out. I assumed only a few people would download it, but there were over a thousand downloads and I received such heartwarming feedback and photos of the kids. I think it is important for companies to think outside of themselves to create some good while they grow their business. The BLM movement is another cause that is close to my heart and have been sending a portion of sales to a variety of organizations to support and raise awareness. I have always grown up in a very diverse community and have many close clients and friends that are people of colour. This movement has inspired me to use my voice more, continue learning, and make an effort to support other black owned businesses in the community. 

What is in store in the future for your brand? The hardest part about this business is that I am constantly racing to meet tight deadlines while trying to construct the larger picture. I plan to hire an employee this year to assist with administrative tasks, and from there, I will grow the different pillars of the brand - custom artwork, wedding design, and branding. I want to focus on creating more original pieces for homes and businesses as well as branding for new and established companies. To do this, I know I have to grow a team to give 100% of my effort to each project, so that is something I am really looking forward to!

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