The Illustrated.Community is full of amazing members who share their stories and their struggles on a daily basis to grow their business while supporting each other.
This weeks featured member is Tosca van der Weerden. She knew early on that she can decide for herself how to make money but was also faced with her biggest challenges: "Just not knowing where to start. When you are done with school, you know it is time to start your business. But how?"
Read on to learn how she faces her biggest challenges and grows in her creative business.
Who: Tosca van der Weerden
Your Creative Business: Toscanabanana
Where We Can Learn More About Your Business:
How did you get started onto your creative journey?
The most logical answer would be that I've been drawing my entire life. BUT! I feel like I only had some break-troughs about my business while doing a master's degree in animation last year. Since then I've developed so much and figured out what my passion is, besides just the act of drawing itself.
What are the themes and subjects that you love to represent? What stories do you tell? During my master I thought about all the projects I did until then and which ones were the most fun. Two projects stood out; one about sexual education for kids and the other one a hilarious picture book. I discovered I love to tell funny stories but with a lesson in them. The subjects I love to represent are all things inclusive, like feminism and equality. I also love the way people act around one another. I love psychology, sexuality. One of my biggest inspirations are clothing design, and interior design, because they tell you so much about someone's personality.
When did you know you could make a living as a _____?
My father always was a graphic designer and my mother started many businesses, the biggest a child-care center in 11 different cities! I grew up with the idea that this is what you should do: decide for yourself how you want to make money. I had a lot of friends with parents that made it clear work was not fun, but I never understood that. This doesn't mean I thought work was all fun and games, no no! My mother was away from home a lot and made really long days, and my father as well. They were busy people with lots of responsibilities. I think this scared me a little bit, and for a while I thought about becoming an art teacher instead of making art myself. But after I did a weekend-teaching school course I knew I had the drive to develop myself as an artist first.
How do you define success for your creative business? How do you define success for yourself?
It's mostly doing cool projects that I love for clients or an audience that I connect with. Since being connected in the illustrated.community, I also started thinking about how much money I would like to make doing this, and what the projects are that I would love the most. So there's not one clear answer to this question, because offcourse it changes all the time.
What’s been your most important skill in building your creative business?
being pro-active! Doing things because you want to know where it leads you and because you're excited to discover something new. It's no use being scared of doing something, just make a plan and start with step 1. Before you know it you did it. I surprise myself constantly with what i'm capable of!
Tell us about one challenge you faced as a creative entrepreneur. What was or is the hardest part?
Just not knowing where to start. When you are done with school, you know it is time to start your business. But how? Nobody gives you a ready-made to-do list. I had the advantage of having the example of my mom. But there was A LOT i didn't know anything about (like how to do your taxes, or how to figure out how much you should make to survive). Once I figured out I should ask others for advice when I don't know what to do, a lot of things started to become less difficult. 2 friends helped me with my taxes and I asked a former teacher for a business model. That is why I love the Illustrated.community; there is so much knowledge out there, together we must know everything!
How do you react today to negative moments, to insecurity, to criticism, to rejection?
I try to look at the emotions from a distance and tell myself: it's normal you feel like this, because 'this and this' happened. When it's really bad I know I have to give myself some time to reflect and move on. Like when I had a really cool project coming up for a museum, and everything went well until they had to sign the contract and I didn't hear anything back. In the end I discovered they changed the whole exhibition, but in the moment you just think they found someone better and you grieve the loss of a cool project (and a few months stability). What I did then is just gave myself a day of to draw nice things for myself, watch a movie and clean my house.
What’s been your greatest reward in the work that you do?
When I'm attending an art market, selling my prints, earrings and t-shirts, people sometimes visit just for me. These are always really nice conversations about what we could do to help women feel better about themselves, for example. I love that I throw my message out into the world by drawing, and other people respond to that. Those conversations inspire me.
What's one thing that's really working right now to grow your creative business?
It's finding your niche. So I already sold products on lots of different markets, but what works for me are especially the animation/illustration/graphic design markets or festivals. The people that visit those are especially interested in the arts and love the message and bright colors of my work. People that visit a regular market where there are also ceramics or handmade textiles are being sold, are more looking for crafty things and not-so-much for things that scream 'I HAVE A MESSAGE'. So know I try to attend mostly those markets where I know artsy people will go to. I'm also starting to sell products in real shops in my city. But I know that a lot of different people come to these shops and not all my products are suitable for everyone. For these shops my main product will be the earrings, because those have a function and are of such a price that people don't have to think twice when they like them. Price is a big thing: i find that when a product is more expensive than say, 35 euros, people have to think twice about it. It's better to have more products that costs less than to sell 1 thing that's expensive, but that just works for me.
I wake up around 8, choose a fun outfit, have breakfast and try to get on my bike by 9:30.I actually bike for only 10 minutes to get to my shared studio space. I share it with Jasper Kuipers, animator and Sanne Ettienne, illustrator. I start the day with getting my to-do list out and replying to e-mails. Then I try to draw something for myself for 30 minutes, because a lot of days go by where I'm researching for projects, arranging with the printer, thinking about the products i want to make, how much that costs, what my revenue will be, etc. And I actually don't draw anything. I work until 1 and then we have lunch together for 30-60 minutes. I then work further until 6. I bike home, cook something or let my boyfriend cook, get ready for Volleyball and leave again around 7:30. I'm back around 11. I often read something, watch an episode of mad man or cuddle with my boyfriend and then go to sleep. 2 days a week I actually work at the art academy as a producer for the 3rd year students. My days are 25% running around the school arranging stuff with people, 25% e-mailing to get people to do something, 25% planning and 25% listening to people's wishes and complaints. It's actually really fun but some weeks are stressful as well because I have 125 students to think about and around 15 teachers...
What are your future projects? Do you have any new ideas that you can share with us? A project i'm working on is an illustrated map of my city Breda, which shows all second-hand shops (over 50!). The project is called 'Second-Handy' and I want to get the shops to 'subscribe' to the map by paying a monthly/quarterly fee. The plan is to also get a website up and a whole instagram/facebook community with campaigns to promote it. The thing is, this project need A LOT of thinking-it-through before I can even go to the shops with a nice presented plan, and it's making me kind of anxious. But I just have to remind myself of what a cool project it actually is! Other things I would love to do is design more products like earrings, t-shirts, pins, etc. and make a real brand out of it. This is a long-term project.
What else would you like us to know about you & your creative business? I'm thinking about getting a dog. He can just go with me to my studio every day, but the problem is that i work at art academy two days a week now (just until february). My boyfriend lives with me but he has a busy life as well, and the dog will mostly be my responsibility. The plan is now to wait until next summer and then see if it's possible, but something tells me that I shouldn't do it because it's a responsibility that I will have for many years and I'm afraid i'm not realizing how my life will change. (even though i've wanted a dog my whole life and i want to go outside more and have something to cuddle with when i'm watching netflix)
What do you want to learn from the Illustrated.Community? Everything! I want to learn practical things like what steps I can take to get my projects out there, or how to make a brand of 'Toscanabanana'. But I'm also here so I get encouraged and inspired by all the other lovely ladies out there. Sharing our journey is just really nice, empowering and motivating.
❤️ Thank you so much, Tosca, for sharing your story as an illustrator 💪🏾