Bonny Snowdon 00:06
Hello, I'm Bonny Snowdon ex corporate person, a mother turned successful artist entrepreneur. It wasn't that long ago though that I lacked the confidence vision and support network to focus on growing my dream business. Fast forward past many life curveballs, waves of self-doubt and so many lessons learned and you'll see ignite my thriving online colored pencil artist community. A community that changes members lives for the better and gives me freedom to live abundantly, whilst doing what I love and spending quality time with my beloved family and dogs. All whilst creating my best artwork with colored pencils, and mentoring others to do the same. But this life wasn't always how it was, for me, it used to only exist in my imagination. I've created the It's a Bonny Old Life podcast to help increase people's confidence, share mine and my communities experience and hope through fascinating personal stories champion the other amazing humans in my personal, professional and membership community, and create another channel through which I can support others to realize their dreams. If you're a passionate color pencil artist, or an aspiring one who's looking to create their best work and a joyful life you love, you're in the right place, grab a cuppa and a custard cream. Let's get cracking. I have wanted to catch up with my next guest for ages. But we're the busy life running her business and then also having a baby. It's been trying to find time to fit something in. But I'm absolutely delighted to be chatting to the fabulous Sema Martin pet portrait artist and author of Art is My Career. I'm just really, really happy to be talking to you after all this time.
Sema Martin 01:41
Yeah, it's been ages.
Bonny Snowdon 01:44
Sema Martin 01:45
We both been following each other since the start probably like around 2016, we both started, didn't we?
Bonny Snowdon 01:51
Yeah, it's been mad and your business is just so much and your book.
Sema Martin 02:01
So is yours. I like that we both sort of started with the same medium and the same sort of like process doing pet portraits, and both sort of got into two very different directions. But still, along the same lines. It's really interesting what people do with the same thing when you start the same way.
Bonny Snowdon 02:22
Isn't it? I mean, it's funny, do you think it's funny well, it's not funny, but you know how sometimes it's a preconceived idea that if you use a certain medium, you will definitely do X Y Z.
Sema Martin 02:36
Yeah, I guess because before I started because color pencil was never really going to be the medium, I make it as an artist say, it was always thought to me like oil paint was the way to make it as an artist. Oil paint the medium or not even acrylic paint or watercolor like yours would have I guess it's perceived that oil paints is the one to be the master and the one where you're going to make the big bucks’ kind of thing. The one that people are going to respect and buy from, color pencil was really just a practice and to get myself back into art it was never really meant to be this big thing that is now you know the staple of my business. But I'm so glad it is because I just love it so much.
Bonny Snowdon 03:23
How bizarre so before you were different. I mean, I know you from Instagram and Facebook and from your portraits and from the business side of stuff. But I don't really know any of your backstory. What were you doing before?
Sema Martin 03:38
Okay, so before, well, I guess going all the way back to school like I've always loved art, art was my thing. All my childhood pictures this is me like coloring in. I loved coloring books and finish them you know, what else are the other kind of thing like, art was my thing. Then it comes to when you're a teenager and like your teachers and your parents are like, so what are you going to do when you grow up? What's your real career going to be? Art was never implied or never spoken about as being a career path and I really don't know why. Because I'm in it and I'm doing it right now. So, I just don't know why everyone thinks that it's just a hobby. Looking back, it's just so silly and I guess it wastes a lot of people's time because they already know what they want to do when they're young and that's just who they are as the person and I have to try and pick something else. So, I was always interested in science and space and that kind of thing. So, I chose aerospace engineering, which involves every type of engineering, so you learn about mechanical, electrical, manufacturing, I didn't really know what I wanted to specialize in and it was just all right, everyone's an engineer or a doctor or a lawyer. I'll just pick whatever it came to. So, I picked engineering and I really enjoyed it. I got my master's in aerospace. I did the grad job for about three years, and I didn't really like it, it didn't really sit with me, I hated a nine to five, like, I like to do things because I'm such a morning person, and I'm not an evening person at all. So, I’m really good at working up to about two o'clock, and then I'm done. But I love early mornings, like I could get up at 6am and start my work. That's what I like and that's what I used to do when I studied my levels and things. Yeah, so I did that and then I decided, what do I actually want to achieve with this engineering career. I really wanted to work for NASA, that sounds like a good goal to have. So, I decided to do a master's in space engineering at the International Space University in Strasburg and with them well, you still have to apply, but you get the opportunity to have an internship at NASA. As an international person someone who's an American, it's actually very hard to get into work with these government facilities. So, I was really excited to be doing that, I applied, I got the opportunity. There I worked for NASA, I was in California, Ames Research Center for three months and it was incredible life. I loved it so much. I just love California as a whole as well is just an amazing experience to be able to live there and work there and meet so many interesting people as well. Really, really clever people as well. It was super exciting and then when I finished that I started a PhD. But along just before I started the PhD, like while I was waiting for it. I was like what do I do now I had about four months in between, like my master's ending and my PhD starting. So, that's when I started pet portraits. So, I had a friend that asked me my cat just died can you draw my cat for me? I was like, okay, sure and she offered to pay me and that's literally the first time ever, anyone's offered to pay me for my art. Because I'd always given it, is like presents for birthdays and Christmas and that stuff. Like I never really expected anybody to pay for what I was doing. It was just a hobby. It was a nice thing to do. Yes, so I drew it, and she paid me 50 quid, and I was like, oh my god, I'm so excited that I was paid for my art work. That was probably one of the happiest moments ever and then I put it on Facebook and that sort of just exploded into requests, permission requests. Without knowing it, I basically started my pet portrait business. Then I was sort of doing that alongside my PhD. I used the pet portrait money to pay for our wedding. So, me and my husband got married and basically used my pet portrait money to pay for our wedding, which was really lovely thing to be able to do and accomplish. Then I thought what now, I wake up every morning, I want to draw or I want to do the next commission. I want to do the next thing like I don't feel that way about my engineering. Like, I never felt that way anyway, it wasn't passionate to me. I could do it. I feel like anyone could do anything if they work hard enough at it. But do you really want to do it? I just didn't feel that way about engineering compared to art. So, my husband was like just quit and do your pet portraits, that's going well just carry on doing that. I was just like, oh my God, should I do that? It's sort of felt like should I throw away 10 years of engineering for a business that is already like six months old and I've got no that sort of my proof of concept. I hadn't done anything beyond that. I had no business experience. I had no art education apart from my art a level. It just felt like such a massive step and massive leap. But I took it and I'm so glad I did. Because here I am now five years later, and I'm still doing what I love it. I'm living in the French Riviera. I can pay for everything that I want to pay for. I've got flexible hours to take care of my baby and yes, I'm so pleased I took that leap. Yeah.
Bonny Snowdon 09:27
Oh, isn't it fabulous though, that you can you can do something that you really want to do and you are quite a tenacious person anyway, you are somebody who I mean, I know you're a goal setter. I know you're super organized.
Sema Martin 09:47
Well, I definitely try to be
Bonny Snowdon 09:50
Well, you are the go-to person when I'm doing like Q and A's and stuff like that. Anything to do about branding or an organization or how to kind of set up an Instagram page or something like that. I've got a few people like go here, go here. You are always going to have a look at scammers, for branding, she's really--
Sema Martin 10:11
Thank you so much.
Bonny Snowdon 10:12
People recognize your work, people recognize your branding, people recognize your tone of voice. So, you're a really, really good example of a brand that's working. It's brilliant for me to be able to guide people and say, well, instead of going and saying, oh, well, look at my stuff, blah, blah, blah, having other sort of artists that I can recommend is great for me, because people can then see it working.
Sema Martin 10:41
It is something we didn't have when we started. I feel like there wasn't many examples of artists like us actually doing it. I feel like all the artists that were out there were like, really well known or people in like, you know, high end galleries and things like that there wasn't like a little person just doing it from their bedroom, it was just so hard to find that. So, it's so nice now that there are loads of examples of people doing what we're doing and doing well at, it's just so nice to see.
Bonny Snowdon 11:13
It really is because you hear all of the time the myths about artists not being able to make it and all of that type of stuff. Actually, I'm not going to say it's easy to make a success of something, because it really isn't. But you've got to be quite focused, and there are an awful lot of things that you do have to do. You have to market yourself. If you don’t market yourself, sadly, actually, you probably won't be successful.
Sema Martin 11:45
Yeah, it's the hardest part, I think of a business fake. I think a lot of people do things automatically that is marketing, like posting on social media, that is marketing, you're already doing it. When some people say, oh, I have no idea about marketing or business, I don't know what I'm doing. I'm not that minded or like, I don't know that side of things, I'm just an artist. But that's not true. You're already doing it when you're posting on social media, when you're talking about your art to people you meet, or whoever asks about it, when you're posting it. When you're putting it on your website and having a description. All of that is marketing, you're already doing it. It's just learning how to target it to the right people is what makes the difference between the successful artists and the not so successful artists.
Bonny Snowdon 12:37
Yeah, I really do, I really do agree with that. I think people do give themselves a disservice as well, a lot of the time. For me, a lot of it is mindset, it's people who feel that they can't do it, or they don't have the confidence to do it. That's something that I do address with all of the teaching. I do. It's something that I find quite important, that mindset thing, but if you've got a I can-do attitude. I mean, you, you're in France, you've moved all over Germany. I mean, didn't you live in Ireland was I dreaming that?
Sema Martin 13:12
Bonny Snowdon 13:13
Wales. That's it.
Sema Martin 13:14
Lived in Wales before I came here yeah.
Bonny Snowdon 13:20
What made you move to France?
Sema Martin 13:22
Mainly Brexit, we wanted to stay in the European Union and we thought France, culturally, is the closest to the UK as you can get, I think, just you where they are and yeah, culture wise is not too different from the UK. So, we thought, that would be nice to sort of ease into because we've lived abroad for months at a time or like, I lived in Strasburg for a year. I've lived in California, Chicago, but we've never permanently moved anywhere that wasn't the UK. So, we were very conscious, try and think of the future. What would we want our children to grow up in? What would we want them to know? What would make it easiest for us as well? So yeah, we chose France and we chose the Riviera just because we wanted the sun. That was a big reason. We want to do it is done, living in Wales is just too wet, I'm ready for some styles and palm trees. That's what I wanted. Because we both work from home, we had that flexibility to just choose because both of our businesses are online. We don't need to be in a specific location to do what we do and we specifically planned our lives for that. Like it is a choice at the end of the day. If you want an online business because you want to live anywhere, then that's what your goal is to do and that's what we chose to do. So, that's why we chose to live in France. Yeah, so that's been successful. Yeah, you were saying about confidence, like, I feel now with all the information, and with more artists being on display, and with so much more knowledge being out there, I feel more confident and I feel like a lot of other artists are getting more confident in what they do. Because there's so many more examples now. That's mainly also why I wrote my book, to help people get more confident in the business side of things, because it can be very daunting. When I first started, there wasn't that information out there. Like if you trying to Google Marketing for artists, specifically for artists, there wasn't anything, I couldn't find anything. Marketing is a general rule, there's Instagram as a general rule, everything was generalized, there wasn't anything specific. So, I basically wrote my book to do a specific work. I spoke specifically about what I did to become successful in art, and mainly a commission-based art business rather than just galleries and things like that it was just about taking commissions and that's how I've made my money. I basically did it step by step, in my book, every chapter is color coordinated. I've got my flow charts in there, I've got my step-by-step guides on how to set up Instagram, how to set up a website, exactly what pages you need on a website, because so many people are like, oh, I need a website. But what do I put on it? Well, I've got a whole chapter.
Bonny Snowdon 16:29
It’s all about, isn't it, it's all about, because this is something that I've been quite specific with my business, and how I'm kind of moving forwards, is really becoming quite niche in your market area. I know some people and I have to say, I was a little bit sort of dubious, and well when you're talking about your target audience, and stuff like that, particularly for me at the minute with the teaching side of stuff, I'm like, well, I could teach anybody to I want to teach everybody to draw. But actually, if you've got that too broader sort of audience, you can't please everybody all of the time. So, really niching down and finding that particular little sort of sweet spot for your business is such a good idea.
Sema Martin 17:17
It's really important in terms of like time, because you don't have enough time in the world to pitch to everyone, it just takes up too much time. So, you need to niche and you need to be targeted. So, when you have that one person that comes to you, or you talk to that group, or you go to that fair, or that specific your audience, you're not wasting your time, it's just so important, especially when you're an entrepreneur, your time is more valuable. Because if you're not making money, you're not going to get any money, you're not going to get a paycheck at the end of the month is all up to you.
Bonny Snowdon 17:53
Yeah. Have you thought about or I don't know whether-- I know you outsource some of your stuff? So, you outsource some of the shipping and things like that. I don't know whether you're still doing that. Do you outsource any of your bits and pieces now in your business?
Sema Martin 18:08
I outsource some of my writing for my website, theartismycareer.com is basically forming a huge database of information, anything that wasn't in my book, or detailed versions of what's in my book, you know, how to create certificates of authenticity, about image licensing, about copyright, just everything that you need to know, as an artist, all the detailed stuff, taking payments, all the specifics, I've just started accumulating it all on this website. So, anyone needing help with different things, I can just refer them to the article that I've written, or I've hired somebody else to write all very detailed and well researched things. I used to have someone that also did the emails for that but I don't anymore, just because I've sort of taken over, I've sort of taken over a bit more. It's so hard to let go. One is your business and you built it, it’s so hard to find other people that care as much as you do.
Bonny Snowdon 19:09
I’m the total opposite. Anything I don't want to do I'm just like, take it. That does sound right. But you're absolutely right, is finding the right people. I guess, that for me, I'd kind of and I think this is the same with anybody who is creating a business depending on what your goals and aspirations and everything are, you end up hitting this ceiling where you can't take on anymore because you're just consumed with emails, with social media with doing the actual drawing side of stuff.
Sema Martin 19:47
Yeah, it is too much especially as you grow and as your business grows, it just becomes more it's not in there. I actually have less time to draw now than I did when I started and that's not just because of the Baby, Baby pre baby, I still had less time because I had more social media to do, more emails to reply to more people to talk to. I've built this big community because I've got Art is My Career community on Facebook as well and we talk about things and I try and help people through posts and stuff like that. It takes a lot of time out of drawing. So, way you can delegate. So, I when I first launched the book, this is nearly two years ago now, I can't believe that. Whatever looks like packing like making the boxes, wrapping it. Putting in all the inserts literally took so much time, me and my husband was sitting there night after night making these book boxes. So, then ship out the next morning going to the post office. So, when I found this distribution center, because a lot of those distribution centers are you have to be selling 1000 the day kind of things like well, I'm not selling that much, but I'm selling more than I can handle. So, I managed to find a distribution center that did like smaller quantities, like 50-100 a day, which is really useful. So, I went through them just sent them all the books, send them all the packing supplies, told them how I wanted it packed. They just do it all for me and they still do it for me now and they're just so good. It just takes that whole stress away, they send it, they ship it, they send me the bill, great. It's so much easier and I do the same thing with my friends. So, if I'm doing a big lot of prints to sell, I send them the prints, sometimes pre packed because I like to sign the prints as well. So, I would have them printed, sign them, pack them, send them to the distribution center and then they would sort out the shipping because I think shipping is like the worst part of it.
Bonny Snowdon 21:54
Honestly, talk to me about it. I get in such a sweat about it. It's just piling up on the side on our must ship my portraits. I don't want to but that is just the best example of passive income. From the work you've written the book, it's been published, if you were having to sit there day on day on day packing everything up, and using all of your precious time.
Sema Martin 22:21
That’s what I did at the start, it wasn't good.
Bonny Snowdon 22:25
No. I see so many artists still doing that. I do understand that you've got a precious thing that you're packaging up and you need to kind of look after it and you want to do the best for it and everything. It's a lot of work that can be delegated. Absolutely. With the printing as well. I mean, I don't really do prints anymore. I'm lazy when it comes to that sort of thing. All and color corrector and everything in there, my prints--
Sema Martin 22:55
Color correcting is so annoying. Oh, my goodness, every screen is different. Every print is is different. It's just if you don't have your own printer, which is really expensive, then it's just so hard to get it done externally.
Bonny Snowdon 23:09
Yeah, it really is. It really is. Actually, I didn't have my heart in it. I think if you don't have your heart in something the focus kind of is lacking and it probably doesn’t.
Sema Martin 23:20
Yeah, is one of those things that artists try because they think they should but just because everybody else is doing it doesn't mean that you should be doing it. Like when it comes to art and when it comes to finding your income stream you don't have to do all of them. There's loads to choose from as an artist, like, you've gone into tutorials, you could do eBooks, you print, I think I've got a list somewhere like there's just so many different things that you could be doing in terms of finding income streams, but you don't have to do all of them. Just pick the ones that you're passionate about. I've stuck with commissions because I love commissions. I love doing that. The pet portraits I love people receiving them being framed on their wall. Like it's just so nice. It's the best. It's the reason why I'm still doing it. It's the reason why I started my business, I just love it and I don't think I'll ever stop doing pet portrayed. So, that's something I'll continue and try and get better at and trying to refined and make that part of my business. The best it can be rather than invest my time and money into other things that I'm not really sure are going to work.
Bonny Snowdon 24:31
Yeah, no, I completely agree. How old's your little girl now?
Sema Martin 24:37
She's going to be four months next week.
Bonny Snowdon 24:40
Oh, blimey. What's the name?
Sema Martin 24:44
Adelstein. Yeah, it's a very French name that is actually my great grandmother's name. So, it just works out really well.
Bonny Snowdon 24:52
Yeah. Do you speak French? Are you learning French?
Sema Martin 24:56
I am learning but no I don't. I can say things like in the supermarket, I can ask for a bank, I can say thank you and please and whatever, like I can get by, I have got by French. I don't know anything more than that.
Bonny Snowdon 25:11
Obviously, if you're living in France, she'll go to school in France.
Sema Martin 25:15
Yes, we'd like her to be bilingual, go to a French school, learning English at home because we'll speak English to her and that kind of thing, because I feel like that will be really beneficial to know more than one language. Yeah, so we hope that she'll go to a French school. Probably Montessori, we're liking the idea of a Montessori school. She's so cute. She started rolling over so I can't leave her unattended anymore. Just like I used to just put her on her mat, turn around and draw. I can't do that anymore. I put my head out and then she's like flipped over. She's like shouting because there is this stuff. She is trying to crawl, but she can't because she's hasn't pushed herself up yet. It's just like dragging on her stomach.
Bonny Snowdon 26:03
She's quite young. I remember mine. Mine didn't crawl until there were 11 months, I mean my were quite little hit the don't listen to this man. We're all little chubby. Thy are not anymore, but they just used to sit there taking it off to their mama thing. But they crawled at about 11 months and then they were walking you know.
Sema Martin 26:22
Yeah, I think that's normal. Like 9 to 11 months. Like she can't physically crawl but she really is trying. Yeah, she's very adamant that she's going to move and she gets really angry. It's so funny. She's really.
Bonny Snowdon 26:41
Is she quite a good girl? If you've got like, your routine. I know you're quite routine based with your business.
Sema Martin 26:49
Yeah, so she's very routine.
Bonny Snowdon 26:52
You brought that routine up?
Sema Martin 26:54
Yeah, from the start, it's actually been really helpful because she's been on bottles from the start as well. So, it means that my husband can also feed her it's not completely reliant on me. So, we've just been, feeding her it started off every three hours to make sure she was eating enough and now it's every two to three hours during the day because she sleeps during the night which is so useful because having broken sleep is the worst. For the first three months. I didn't sleep for more than two hours at a time. Let me tell you that is the most tired I have ever been in my life.
Bonny Snowdon 27:29
I can tell you, today they do not tell you.
Sema Martin 27:33
Like yes sleep when the baby sleeps, but the baby only sleeps for a couple of hours.
Bonny Snowdon 27:37
Or the baby doesn’t sleep at all.
Sema Martin 27:41
She's actually been, I've been so luckily. She's really good. She sleeps a lot. She loves sleeping, and especially during the night which is really useful. So, she still sleeps from like midnight till six in the morning. I wake her up at six in the morning to feed her because I don't really like her going more than that without eating because she is still quite young. Then, she falls back asleep with me and then we sleep till nine. So, I do get a nice lie in, is a broken lion. It's all like I'm sleeping for 12 hours.
Bonny Snowdon 28:12
I remember with my eldest I mean, he's 22 now and with him, he was a sleeper. My son would just kind of glare at me and I go, well, he gets up because seven weeks, eight weeks he was sleeping through and he was doing 10 till 7. Every night.
Sema Martin 28:30
She'd do that if I'd let her as well.
Bonny Snowdon 28:33
So, he can get up at seven. He'd have breakfast, he'd be back in bed by nine. He'd get up for sort of like 11 o'clock have a bit of sort of elevens and have a bit of lunch then he'd be back again in bed. My sisters are like, does this is baby ever wake up he is just happy snoozing.
Sema Martin 28:53
Sometimes around nine o'clock, she starts getting really angry because she wants to go to bed and me and my husband, try to watch something, whether they're their kind of thing and she just worked hard. She's like, no, I want to go to bed now. She starts pushing us towards the bedroom. Like she sort of like lunges in the direction she wants to go. We're holding her so you got to hold on tight. Because you like lunges towards the bedrooms. Okay, she wants to go to bed now.
Bonny Snowdon 29:20
Brilliant. I think you well, there's all sorts of different ways of routines, mine we're all very routine based and I mean, I'm chaotic. But I found it much easier because I worked full time when they were little. I worked for myself as a designer. So, I just used to have a little office and when they got a little bit more mobile, I just had a baby gate and a little corridor and they just had all of their toys in the corridor behind me. The play in there. Then their dad used to come in at sort of like three o'clock and then whisk them away.
Sema Martin 29:53
Basically, what I do. Yeah, because I work from home and she had playmates just behind me.
Bonny Snowdon 29:59
Do you find that you can, you know, lots of people having babies now and working from home? It is a shock. I mean, even if you don't work from home, it's a shock, isn't it, having a baby, it's like, Oh, my goodness.
Sema Martin 30:11
I suddenly went from having all the time in the world to do my business, to do my drawing. I felt like I could do whatever I want. Now, I only have like a maximum three hours a day, like properly to do my business. It's like, okay, it really helps you prioritize, actually, having less time makes you more focused on the things that actually matter about your business. Because before I was just like, I feel like I was wasting my time pottering. Because you could do so much, oh, I'll fiddle about with my website. I'll fiddle about with this and it's just lots of pottering you could do with your business. Now I don't have that time, I literally got three hours, is like, right, I got to get this commission done and I got to send out these emails. Those are my two main things to do this week. That's all I can concentrate on anything else I can't do. I don't have the time, though it just really makes you focus on the things that actually help your business to run, and what your business needs you for and all the rest can wait until either another time or can be delegated, anything like that. So, it does really help to have less time it makes you more efficient finally.
Bonny Snowdon 31:21
I can imagine. I mean, yes, I'll sit waffling around on stuff. I mean yesterday I haven't been in my studio for two days because my knee went on Tuesday. So, I've been sat with my legs up. Well, it didn't force me. But I was like, I can't sit and watch telly or I can't just sit doing nothing I had to do something. So, it forced me into sort of like completing some of the things that I'd kind of said, oh, I want to do this. Actually, they didn't take that long. I've been putting them off and putting them off and it didn't take that long to complete the thoughts roller so yeah, absolutely. When kind of you've got, you're in that sort of focused mindset, I guess.
Sema Martin 32:01
Bonny Snowdon 32:03
Yeah. When you were obviously, planning for a baby and pregnant and everything. Did you plan for your business just to slow down a little bit?
Sema Martin 32:14
Yes, I did. I had one more commission to complete after. I had her just because I sort of ran over because I didn't realize how tired I would be during pregnancy. There's something I didn't account for. I thought, okay, you're pregnant, you've got the normal pregnancy symptoms or whatever, you're getting bigger. You can't reach the desk. I thought, okay, fine. I can deal with all that. But tiredness, I just had no idea I needed like, two, three hours of sleep a day. Yeah, as a nap. Like I was just out, I just couldn't function. I was so used to drawing like all day, every day, from the moment I wake up to dinnertime, I just be drawing and that's just who I was, because I love doing it. It was really hard to transition into not being able to do that. Yeah, I had to plan obviously, I am pregnant. So, I have more time now than I will when the baby comes. So, I need to plan for not being able to do as much. So, that's what I've done. I sort of had like three weeks maternity leave, if you can call it that. Basically, I didn't draw for three weeks. I didn't draw commissions for three weeks; I was still doing other things because I like to practice or do other stuff or try out different things. I can't stop. I feel like it's just in my blood. I just I physically can't stop, is good. But yeah, so now I'm only completing maybe two commission's a month, rather than four or five. But is still something and it's still working.
Bonny Snowdon 33:50
Priorities change, don't they, when you have a family, when things happen, you've got to kind of go with the flow. I mean, were you happy going with the flow? Or did it sort of cause a bit of discord inside you?
Sema Martin 34:05
A bit of discord inside me, I say because I love my business, and I love doing what I do. I guess it's just me, as a person, I feel like I am my business. What I'm doing with my life is me is the massive part of me and not being able to do it when I want to is quite hard. So, that's been the main thing to get used to. I love spending time with my baby and reading her books and playing with her and all that kind of stuff. But then you get the instances when you're like, oh, I should do this thing. Or I should send that email to that person or I do this and do that. But you can't then get up to go and do it because you have to take care of the baby. It's like oh, no I have to write it down but later, or you forget and then it comes to later. It's like oh, it's not important anymore. I just have to go do this other thing that's more important though. It is is quite jarring, try and get your head around. But I think four months in, I'm definitely getting there, I'm getting the swing of things. Yeah, it's really nice. Definitely priorities do change, because I love being a mom, I never really, I guess I understood what it was like to be a mom until you are a mom, it's one of those things you just don't get until you're doing it. I feel like the business was sort of like, my first baby. Then this is like, my second baby. But it's really hard to give both the priorities that they need, because I want to. I love both of them and I want to do well with both of them. I want to be the best mom I can be. But I can only be the best mom I can be if I keep myself and I keep my business and I show her what it's like to run a business, to be a person that works for themselves, to be someone who's following their passion, like I can't lose all of that, because I'm taking care of her. So, it's definitely that juggle that I'm learning how to do.
Bonny Snowdon 36:03
Sometimes I think it's just the decision making that is the really hard part. So, the actual kind of in your head, oh, what do I do? When you've actually made that decision it's like, oh, well, that was easy, then I'm just going to do this. But it's not, it's not actually deciding that and that, is that mental torture sometimes, isn't it? It's like, don't do this, do I do that. I don't know what I'm going to do, I'm going to fit it all. Actually, life just has a way of working out, don't you think?
Sema Martin 36:31
I think if it's the right thing to do, like I don't necessarily like superstitious or whatever. But I do believe that if it was meant to be it does work. I feel like it does just come easy. If that's what you're meant to do. I feel like when I started my business, it worked. I was working hard at it. You know, don't get me wrong, it didn't just happen as a fluke. I was working hard all day every day at it, but it was working and it was doing its job. Then it grew and it worked from there. When I was doing my engineering, it just worked, I passed my degree, it would have been harder if I didn't pass. But things like that. I felt like if you're meant to do it, it does just work and try to I guess go against the grain or if something's really not working, I feel like maybe you just shouldn't be doing that thing and try something else. Yeah. I think a lot of people was scared to try something else, because they're sort of like, they want to stay in the thing even though it's hard, the stay in their nine to five is the comfort thing, they know they're going to get a paycheck, even though they hate their job. Or maybe they like their job, but they don't like enough to do it until they're 60. That kind of thing. I think it can be so easy to just be stuck, and not want to take that leap and to move out. I understand because I was in that situation too. It's a very personal decision. But at the end of the day, it's your choice. If you want to look back, you sort of like, make the decisions that you know, you'd be proud to have made when you're like 90 to say. When you're 90, and you look back, are you happy with the decision you made? Like are you happy with the outcome? If you stayed in your job, are you happy that you know you're retired at 60 and then started your career like a lot of people do? Are you happy you took the leap and spent your entire life doing your art career and really like being the potential artists you've always wanted to be? That's what I wanted. That's my goal. I want to be proud of myself that I did that I didn't just wait. Yeah.
Bonny Snowdon 38:49
Some people don't even know that they've got it in the minimum. I started doing art work at 46. You know, I had a successful career. I've worked nine to five since I was 17. Sometimes six till midnight. But I've worked, I've definitely worked in a nine to five since I was 17 and then the corporate world and the world full of reviews and companies taking over each other and all of that have redundancies and all of that and it's actually a really or can be a really toxic environment to be and I can't even imagine now it's been five years since I've been a full-time artist. I cannot imagine having to go out. I mean, my youngest is at school still but my other team have jobs. I can't imagine getting out, having to drive to work. Both my both my eldest are in-- well, my daughter is in a nine to fiveish kind of job. My son is sort of quite early morning quite late night. So, his is more of a sort of a hands on. I'm glad that I did what I did, and I think I learned a huge amount.
Sema Martin 40:00
What was it like you? What was your taking the leap moment?
Bonny Snowdon 40:04
Well, it was my big sister that suggested I do it. I don't think I ever thought I can't do this; I think I've always had a belief that I can do it. I think the biggest thing was, will I be able to afford my mortgage? That was the biggest thing. So, I did a lot of planning beforehand. My brother in law's absolutely fantastic businessman and he kind of helped me put a forecast together and go, right, come on, yes, your portraits cost you this much now. But if you want to be able to afford your mortgage and everything, then you're going to have to start increasing them, which I did and I did that on a regular basis, my husband at that point, had said, he'd support us, but seven months down the line, he walked out. So, that was good, and at that point, I'd actually set up my business, I had got probably about a year's worth of portraits in the bag, and all deposits coming in and raising my prices all of the time. So, I think it was that beginning where I did a forecast, and I actually was like, right, I can do this, I can afford it. Then it just kind of went from there. Then when I started teaching, you know, that's when things really started to sort of come together, you know, the turnover.
Sema Martin 41:28
Bonny Snowdon 41:29
Yes, Patreon was great, and still is great. I still got patrons about 1,000 done on Patreon, still, and then I've got my Academy, which I launched last year, which has been really successful. It's been fantastic. But huge amount of learning has gone into that. Funnily enough the consultant I work with, she's in France as well.
Sema Martin 41:52
Bonny Snowdon 41:53
Yeah. So, her little girl is going to school in France. Oh, gosh, I love watching her Instagram. Doctor messing around on beanbags. Yeah, I love looking at her Instagram, with her little girl, and they go swimming and all of that sort of stuff. So, yeah, I think it takes faith and I think it takes sort of like, it is the self-belief, it's knowing that you're going to succeed, which isn't a big headed thing. It's just a, no, this is what I'm going to do and it's going to be it.
Sema Martin 42:27
You sort of have to tell yourself that because you don't necessarily have to, I guess, believe it. But if you tell yourself enough, then you will believe it. Doing something smart, like doing your forecast, I did the same thing, I did a forecast to see, can I actually afford the rent, which is why we ended up moving to Wales, because we were living in Sheffield at the time. I wanted to guarantee that I could still pay for our lives. Because my husband had a startup at the time. So, we wanted to make sure that we could still afford everything. So, we thought, okay, we move to Wales, we can get a cheaper place, and get a cheaper car, get everything, literally minimize expenditures, as much as possible and that would be a good starting point for my business and that that's what we did. He was incredibly supportive to do that with me, because we had a nice setup in Sheffield, but he wanted to do this with me, and it was really lovely and supportive for him to do that. Yeah, so I did my forecast and made sure that I was going to be able to pay for enough like, especially when you're doing commission's you've only got a certain amount of time in the year because you can't draw any faster. Like you gradually can draw faster if you learn certain techniques, and you get better and that's all like as time goes on kind of thing. But you there's a maximum amount that you can physically do. You've just got to be really practical with it. So, you can't say oh, I can make 50 grand doing this if I complete 2000 portrays in the year like how are you going to do that. It's just not going to happen.
Bonny Snowdon 44:10
It is about making sure that you raise your prices but it's also about yes, you raise your prices, but you also look at your development, all that saying that if you have enough self-belief, I think you can sell your pieces for a huge amount and not be the best artists in the world because art is so subjective, isn't it?
Sema Martin 44:33
Exactly. There are so many different styles out there like on Instagram now how many pet portrait color pencil artists are there? There's just an uncountable amount, like I can't even count them. But everyone's got a different style. So, we're not all in competition with each other because there's plenty of people in the world to buy one from everyone. That's more of what it is and then it's just so nice to see all these different styles from the same medium even like realistic styles. There are different realistic styles.
Bonny Snowdon 45:07
Honestly, I do critique each week, I've done 20 Odd critiques this morning. They're all realistic pieces because they're people learning from me. So, they're all learning realism. But every single one has a stamp on it, every single one is if you see enough of that person’s, you recognize the style. I think realism every genre has bad press, don't they? I know that realism, some people think it's not proper art, and it's just copying and all of this type of stuff, which--
Sema Martin 45:41
Why don't you just have a photo, they have a photo, then it's not the same.
Bonny Snowdon 45:47
I appreciate everyone has their own opinion and I totally get that. But for me realism. Like I was saying, when I do my critiques, I chat away and I say all sorts of rubbish, as usual. But I was talking about how actually realism, I didn't choose it. It chose me. It wasn't something that I was like, right, this is what I'm going to do it just that's what came out.
Sema Martin 46:11
Yeah. Like I've tried to do different styles, even with oil painting. I've tried to do like Impressionism and I've tried to do abstracts that oh, my God is so hard. Because all I want to do is do the little details. I love details. I love realism. I love making things look real. It is just what has come out. Even like your personal style as well is just what comes out. I think that's really important as well, because some artists, they're like how do I find my style? How are we different, you're already different? Just keep practicing, just keep doing it. Just keep doing what you love, and your passion and your personal way of holding the pencil, of choosing colors, of doing these things all add to your style, and will make you different than other people. That's also kind of why I don't like using photo color pickers. I feel like it just like takes away how you look at something, because it's telling you, you know, a specific color to use. But maybe that's not the color you see. I know there's no right or wrong, I don't think there's a right or wrong. That's meant to be blue is like well, I didn't see blue, I saw this color.
Bonny Snowdon 47:27
That's a really, really interesting discussion to have. Either we'll have to do it, we'll have to do an Instagram Live that’s a really interesting discussion to have. Because, I mean, I do think the color pickers, I think they have their place, people who are just starting out, and they don't have the confidence, and they just need a little bit of a crutch to be able to help them. But I find them really confusing, when somebody used a color picker, and I've got this, this and this I'm on, like, where's it goes up from? Because we will see it totally differently. I'm starting to see color. Obviously, as you develop you kind of get a keener eye with different things. You get a keener eye with different things and for me now, it's not about when I see colors, I look at what colors do I mix to get that color, and asking about a particular brown today. I was like, well, what I'm seeing is raw lumber and if you put a little bit of ultramarine violet in there, you're going to get that mid brown that you're looking for. But that's not too yellow because the violet will kind of dampen the, the yellow down and all of that type of stuff in it. It comes from just experimenting, and all of that. That's what I really urge certainly my students to do is just have a bit of a go a bit of a play.
Sema Martin 48:49
Definitely. I’ve got a lot of people ask me as well, like, how do you do this the right way? How do you do that the right way? I always say there is no right and wrong way. There's just different ways of doing it and everyone likes a different way. Like a very small example. How do you do whiskers? Everyone has always asked me whiskers and whiskers can be quite hard when it comes to color pencil because they don't layer like paint would. You can't get that bright white sometime. So, there are like little techniques and things you can do. But there is no right way and wrong way of doing it. You can do any way you want as long as you get the result that you're looking for. I think that's what people who don't have a lot of confidence in themselves think that there is a wrong way of doing art and they just isn't there's no wrong way of doing it. There's just your way of doing it and other people's ways of doing it and you can mix them and you can play with them and you can come up with something completely new like that's the fun of it, there's no wrong.
Bonny Snowdon 49:53
The way I do whiskers a lot of the time is wrong I have to say. I hate you drawing whiskers.
Sema Martin 50:02
I really like them, I leave the right to the end is like my favorite like, signature.
Bonny Snowdon 50:07
How do you, come on Sema, show me how do you do whiskers? How do you do whiskers then?
Sema Martin 50:11
Well, I always indent them first, then I know where they are, because that's really helpful and then I like to use the power and dash Pablo pencil because it's such a hard pencil it shows up really nicely over the luminance color pencils. So, I then use that and then to make it really white I use that pearl burnish liquid color pencil the really white bit, but only a touch. I don't like to use too much of it.
Bonny Snowdon 50:42
Oh, that's good hack, right, I'm going to have amazing whiskers from now on.
Sema Martin 50:47
Then sometimes I also do another layer of pencil over the top of the pearl burnish once it's dried, because it's a really good texture that it doesn't flake off. Before I knew about like lightfast and things like that I used to use gouache paint, which I don't use because it flakes off but that this pearl burnish stuff doesn't flake off, which is really useful. You have to obviously wait for it until its super dry. But it doesn't flake off if you go over the top of it, because then you can still have that pencil texture rather than a paint texture.
Bonny Snowdon 51:20
Yeah. Oh, that's amazing.
Sema Martin 51:22
Lots of layers, but it's one.
Bonny Snowdon 51:27
So just before we finish, when it comes to confidence, what's your top tip, when it comes to confidence.
Sema Martin 51:36
My top tip would be to just get yourself out there. I know that's easier said than done. But start small, like if you've never shown anybody, your art before, show someone close to you, show a friend show a family member show a parent, anything, just show someone what you're doing, and get feedback. Whether it's good or bad feedback, some feedback would be really helpful. Then once you've done that, get it on social media, social media is the easiest place to show it to a lot of people at once. That will also help with feedback. If I hadn't put my first ever cat portrayed on Facebook and got feedback for it, I wouldn't be where I am today. I wasn't even looking for commissions, I wasn't looking to be paid for anything. I just wanted feedback. You never know what's going to come of it by putting yourself out there. You'll get so much confidence by just those little steps of doing something, showing someone, doing something, showing someone and just keep practicing. Don't let the fact that you haven't progressed as much as somebody else get you down because everyone's on their own journey. Everybody's different. Everybody started at a different place. I get so many people asking me I wish I was as good as you and I asked them, what is your art like? How long have you been drawing and they say, a year? But well, the difference is I've been drawing full time for five years, it's a lot longer than someone drawing for one year. Before that, before I did my engineering career, I was drawing. So, I've literally been drawing since I was two. But that doesn't mean that's an unfair comparison to someone who's literally just started drawing. So, everybody's different. So, it's good to compare yourself in terms of where you want to be and have goals and think oh, I'd like to be like this person. But don't take it to heart and get up to that, that you're not already there. Art is one of those things that take time. I'm definitely learning that because I'm trying to learn oil paint and my goodness is completely different from the pencil and I'm just like, okay, how do I mix this color? What do I do now?
Bonny Snowdon 53:47
I trying to do oils as well. I just find I'm really good at pushing the color around. Im like, oh, I'm not sure.
Sema Martin 53:56
It's so difficult and there's so many artists out there that I want to be like that I want to be as good as, but you've just got to remind yourself, you can get there if you keep practicing and if you keep doing it, you just got to keep showing up. Even if it's like five minutes a day. That's better than once a year you know?
Bonny Snowdon 54:16
Oh, that's wonderful. Well, honestly, it's been such a pleasure talking to you at last.
Sema Martin 54:23
At last, I'm really happy that we managed to do this, we've both been so busy.
Bonny Snowdon 54:30
I know. I'm so glad that everything's going well for you and with the baby and everything.
Sema Martin 54:35
Thank you. I’m glad everything's going well for you as well with your academy and stuff is so good.
Bonny Snowdon 54:41
Oh yes. Well, I shall very look forward to listening back at this and editing it. Yeah, thank you ever so much for joining me.
Sema Martin 54:54
When will it be out? I would like to advertise it.
Bonny Snowdon 54:57
Oh gosh. Probably in the next six weeks.
Sema Martin 55:02
All right. Great.
Bonny Snowdon 55:04
I'll let you know.
Sema Martin 55:05
Let me know when you've got a date.
Bonny Snowdon 55:07
I will. Oh, thank you so much Sema. It's been so nice to speak to you.
Sema Martin 55:16
Thank you and have a really nice day. Enjoy the snow.
Bonny Snowdon 55:20
Oh, yes. Its snow now.
Sema Martin 55:23
Pretty funny here today. It's nice. I went for a nice walk.
Bonny Snowdon 55:26
Oh, we could do the bit of that in Yorkshire.
Sema Martin 55:28
Yeah. That’s awesome.
Bonny Snowdon 55:29
All right. Bye.
Sema Martin 55:29
Bye-bye. See you.
Bonny Snowdon 55:30
I really hope you enjoyed listening to this episode of my It's a Bonny Odd Life podcast. If you did, I'd be so grateful to you for emailing me or texting a link to the show, or sharing it on social media with those you know who might like it too. My mission with this podcast is all about sharing mine and my communities experience and hope by telling your fascinating personal stories champion in the other amazing humans in my personal, professional and membership community, and to create another channel through which I can support you to realize your colored pencil and life dreams. If you haven't done so yet. Please help me on my mission to spread positivity and joy throughout the colored pencil world by following me on my socials at Bonny Snowdon Academy, or by getting on my list at bonnysnowdonacademy.com. Remember, I truly believe if I can live the life of my dreams doing what I love, then you can too. We just need to keep championing and supporting each other along the way in order to make it happen. Till next time.