After 10+ years in the web industry, with 3 years working as a freelance web designer and selling her art on the side, artist deadbinky decided to go full time as an artist.
In our interview, she tells us what sells best and where, how her income breaks down percentage-wise and how she manages her business as a “reclusive hermit.”
How would you describe yourself and your work?
I’m a vegan eco-feminist. I feel like my work explores the basic connection of all life and humanity’s simultaneous disconnection and self-elevation.
Can you tell us the origin of the name “deadbinky?”
That’s a secret. Gotta have some mystery. It’s a name I’ve used for a long time though.
What are your most essential tools?
My Microsoft Surface Pro 5 and Clip Studio Paint. A lot of artists use Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator, but the cost of the Adobe Creative Cloud is way too high when you don’t have a guaranteed income.
Where do you do most of your work? Do you have a favorite place to work?
I’m most comfortable working in bed, half watching TV or listening to a podcast. Often when I’m feeling blocked I’ll go work at Starbucks.
You mentioned you’re now a full-time artist. How long were you juggling your “day job” while also doing art on the side?
I was actively selling art on the side for about 3 years while still working as a full-time web designer and developer.
What steps did you take in order to make that transition? How did you know it was time?
There were rumors that the company I was working at was going to have a massive layoff of 30-50% of the company. I had about 2 days to mentally prepare myself and set up a portfolio to get freelance art work. I ended up being one of the people affected by the layoff.
After 12 years in the web industry, I was super burned out and was ready to try and make a full-time go of being an artist. It has been touch and go a lot of the time. It definitely wasn’t the way I’d recommend starting out.
Have you always done art?
Art has always been part of my life. Not just drawing, but creating. I’ve always needed to make things.
I went through a 5-year period of being pretty exclusively a fiber artist. And there was also a long period where I worked with just felt, which I still do from time to time. I also wanted to improve my hand lettering about 5 years ago and that led to me trying to improve my drawing skills.
What does a typical day look like? How do you structure your time?
This definitely depends on what’s happening because every week is different. I try to spend no more than a couple hours on any task so I don’t get too involved and burn daylight.
For example, if I have a show, then there’s lots of prep – getting my display ready, printing and cutting stickers, printing prints – and working on last-minute pieces for my shows, like new prints, patches, or pyrography.
If I have freelance work, then I spend the morning doing that, while also doing some procrastination sketches that can turn into pieces for my shows.
At some point in the afternoon, I get orders ready and packed. In the afternoon around 4:30, I walk a half hour to the post office to mail orders and pick up supplies from the craft shop for making projects like wood-burned Ouija boards or felt patches. The walk helps clear my head and cement ideas for projects I’m working on or planning.
Can you tell us what your income sources are and roughly what percentage you earn from each?
75% shows, 10% online, 10% freelance, 5% gallery.
You’re originally from Toronto, Canada, and moved to Salt Lake in 2013. How do the different art communities compare?
I didn’t participate in the art community in Toronto. Toronto is really huge and I think it’s a bit harder to break into communities there when you’re a reclusive hermit like me. So any work I was doing at the time I was keeping to myself or showing online.
I mostly started showing my work on DeviantArt in the early 2000s and my fiber work on Instagram around 2011. In the middle, I was doing lots of fonts, icons, wallpapers and desktop themes and designing websites. I sold handmade stuffed animals in Toronto, but at small handmade shows and not at cons.
When I moved here, the art community was small and friendly enough that I got to know a lot of people quickly. Everyone is super supportive and shares tips and opinions of shows and stuff. Pretty much 95% of my friends in Utah are through the art community.
Can you tell us your process for getting into the galleries where you’ve shown your work?
I applied online to a couple galleries about 3 or 4 years ago. One of the galleries still reaches out quite often to add me to their shows. The other one was in a sketchy part of town and so I only showed there once. Since then I’ve been approached to show in a few other gallery spaces through people I know in the art community.
You’ve also shown your work at art shows, at Comic Cons and other venues. What’s your process for choosing where to show your work?
My audience. If the right eyeballs won’t be there, it isn’t worth doing the show. I want to sell but also to find new fans, so a show has to do both.
I tend to not do a lot of formal gallery shows anymore. I will do informal galleries in establishments like coffee shops, restaurants and piercing studios since those are places where people who are drawn to my work might be.
How often during the year are you doing a show or traveling for an event?
I do 1-3 shows every month from February to December. I don’t do a lot of travel events right now because it adds the pressure of covering your booth, travel and hotel costs.
You’ve also done some book cover designs. How did you get those jobs?
I met a client through Upwork and did a job for him. He really liked my work and just kept throwing projects my way.
It’s important, and also difficult, to find and hone your style and then find people who like your style. You have to have a lot of patience.
You have an online store with stickers, shirts, prints, patches and commissions. What sells the best and do you know why?
4” x 6” matted prints are my top seller. I think because it’s a small piece of artwork you can take home and prop against the wall without having to additionally frame it.
What are the best outlets for selling your work?
Definitely cons and my website. I’ve done well at a few galleries where my work was up for a month or more. Occasionally galleries and pop-up art shows can be super lucrative, but more often than not I find the money comes from cons where I get to talk to people, or through the website and Instagram sales.
How do you determine the prices for your work?
Material cost and, if it’s an original art item, I charge something for labor time. If it’s a print, I add something of a licensing fee, as if it’s a client licensing a piece of work for life. But I’m splitting it up over multiple people, which is a way for me to charge for labor on a reproduction.
How often do you change or raise prices?
When I start feeling like the work I’m putting into making something repeatedly is just too much for how much I’m making, I will either raise the price or retire that thing from my shop. The Ouija boards, for example, sold super well when I put the price really low, but I was spending a week sketching each one out, wood burning it, hand painting it and then coating the top in resin, which is really finicky to work with. I raised the price on those by $15 just to make it a little less tiresome to work on.
The bottom line is if you feel like you’re being robbed when you sell something, you need to raise the price.
How do you market or advertise your art and what seems to work best?
I use Instagram stories mostly. And what works best online is by having a sale of some kind, engaging my followers on social media and working on something that’s trending, like fan art for a movie or game that’s coming out.
In person at shows you’re advertising your art, as well. You are, in a sense, competing against all the other artists there, so you need to get attention to your table or booth. You need to stand up and engage everyone – sitting there hoping to be noticed doesn’t work. It’s the same with online. You have to go out and engage people to get their attention.
What are some failures or sacrifices you’ve had to make during your art career? How did you overcome or deal with those?
I’ve done a couple shows where I couldn’t even break even. Shows like that will break you emotionally and make you question if you should even continue making art. But I’ve taken it as a sign that I need to refine my art somehow, either tighten up my palette or my lifework or my style. It takes a little while to get over and put the plan into action.
Some sacrifices are having to get comfortable with talking to strangers when I’m an anxious introvert. Sometimes I also get creepy people at my table who are there to flirt and not buy anything. You just have to be nice and put up with it.
What are your biggest challenges right now?
Having a somewhat stable income and making money over the winter. Cons and art shows dry up from December to March and it can be hard to have freelance lined up in time.
How do you choose your subjects and themes? What inspires you?
I’m inspired by a lot of stuff I see, but I can rarely pick out what it is. It sort of all goes into a melting pot in my head and then it gets regurgitated back out.
For my cult series, I think it’s probably a mix of this Alice in Wonderland fabric I saw a year ago, a jacket my husband gave me with a heart on it, listening to My Favorite Murder [podcast], watching historical documentaries and my vegan agenda. It’s a real tangle of things. I don’t have a real definitive answer on subjects and themes, I just operate on instinct. When something feels right, then that’s what I go with.
What are your hopes and dreams for the future?
To improve and find my audience. I know they’re out there, they just don’t know I’m out there yet.
I read your favorite thing about being a creative is seeing people’s faces light up when your art really connects with them. What other parts of being a working artist are rewarding for you?
I can’t not create. If I wasn’t able to draw for some reason, I would just be creating in some other way. It’s just part of who I am. When I’ve not been able to create for some reason, I get really depressed and in my own head too much. I think everyone needs to communicate and speak their truth.
Interview edited for length and clarity. Artwork courtesy of the artist. All other photographs by Kim.