Amanda Schutz is a Canadian illustrator and designer who grew up with a love for drawing and transformed that passion into her own design studio. She’s also President of the Graphic Designers of Canada, Alberta North Chapter, and a faculty member at MacEwan University. Her illustrations have been in magazines, children’s books, and exhibitions across Canada and the United States.

Website: Amanda Schultz

What do you do and how did you start?
I am a freelance illustrator / graphic designer, I run Woodward Design from my home in Edmonton, Alberta. My husband, Dana, is a part-time helper (also a designer), and my cat Isis is a wonderful outlet for serious critique sessions. I began doodling when I was very young and was always encouraged by my family to do art & craft projects. It all just grew from that.

How old were you when you realised you wanted to do and how old were you when you actually began?
I have wanted to be an artist my entire life. I didn’t really understand the world of design & illustration until I was in college though. I was delighted to find out in my cynical teenage years that I could actually get a “job” doing arty things, so I enrolled in a post secondary design & illustration program to learn the ropes. I had no idea what I was getting into.

[pullquote style=”right” quote=”dark”]If you are blessed enough to live a comfortable life, then you owe it to yourself and to the world to chase your passion.[/pullquote]
What steps did you take to create your own business?
I worked for a couple of large corporations doing in-house design the first few years. To be honest, it was a negative time in my career. I learned a lot and produced many branding, web, and print projects for these companies, but I was completely unsatisfied with the type of work I was doing and the lack of variety. So, I built up a few freelance clients, a little bit of money, planned a two month trip to Europe, and quit my job in time for Christmas. I worked for awhile building the company, travelled, and have continued to build Woodward Design to what it is today.

What kind of formal education, training or experience do you have that applies to what you do?
I took a Visual Communications program at Macewan, majoring in illustration. Other training & experience includes learning from life. Yoga, painting & drawing, taking walks, reading, fostering relationships, working with crafts (knitting, sewing, collage) are many things that I do to teach me more about design. Everything in life is knowledge that can be applied to design and art.

How did you first begin to sell/market your work?
I started with a website for my design studio and told everyone I knew that I had a company and services to offer. After that I earned a good local reputation through word of mouth. Right now I am focusing more on illustration, so I have slowly built up a mailing list and send out print promotions. Occasionally, I sit down with my husband and we discuss the clients and things that we would like to be doing. Then I go away, and figure out ways to get those types of clients (calling, mailers, make business and personal connections, etc.) All of this has taken time and patience, but it was worth the hard work, and I have a long way to go.

What is the most rewarding aspect of what you do? The most frustrating?
The most rewarding thing about being self-employed is knowing that I have total control of my career. I can make any sort of choices I want and grow into any direction that suits me. This of course is a bit of a double-edged sword, because being self-employed means dealing with every obstacle, challenge or problem. For me though, this trade off is worth it! Other rewards include building relationships with my clients (I love it when my clients have full trust), a flexible work schedule, and of course, making a living at doing artistic things. A frustrating aspect would be the continuous challenge of keeping a balance of career and life. It’s hard to shut it off when you live in the house you work in.

Do you have any fears about what you do, and if so, how do you deal with them?
I fear being judged, just like any artist. When you put your work out there, some people will like it and some people will hate it. It’s inevitable. I am emotionally connected to the work I do, so when I get rejected it hurts sometimes. I am getting better at it though, and just try to realize that the business side of art & design exists. I am fortunate to have a circle of illustrators and peers that support and encourage me on a daily basis.

How do you deal with creative blocks?
I take a break. Go outdoors, take a bath, socialize, or spend time absorbing the world. Sometimes doing the laundry or reading a book keeping gives me a break from having to be an idea person.

What has been your biggest struggle(s)/challenge(s) with your creative career?
Realizing that the corporate environment was not a good fit for me was difficult, for a long time I felt like I had failed somehow. I have come to realize over time that it is ok not to always fit, and that I should listen to my instincts more often.

Keeping a balance is another big struggle. Learning to keep control and manage time when things get extremely busy. Art and business can sometimes feel like polar opposites, but in order to be successful you have to be a business person. I get shy sometimes and have a difficult time with the ‘schmoozing’ aspect of business, but you learn it with practice. I really feel that we all wear our confidence on our sleeves, it always shows through body language and personality. What we put out to the world is what we get back. Keeping the shoulders straight (I slouch) and a confident smile even when things seem hard is very important.

What kind of work environment do you have? 
Our house is in a very old arty district of the city. I have a little office in the second bedroom, facing the backyard, so I can see birds and plants (or snow) out my window. I just painted my office a favorite tone of orange a few months ago and I love it. I have a desk, Mac, easel, old couch, book shelf and file cabinet along with some other tools. Usually bits of paper are everywhere. It’s decorated with things that I am personally connected to and find inspiring – I am an avid thrift/vintage shopper. My grandpa is a welder and made me a little “w” metal sign that hangs on the front porch.

Have you encountered any financial obstacles, and if so, how did you overcome them?
It gets a little stressful sometimes when clients delay to pay. Or when tax time looms. We try to live simply though, and I try to keep my expenses low. It is easy to get stressed when things get slow, or you don’t know what will come in to pay the bills. I just put my head down, keep working and just let it come in. I think the biggest struggle is finding ways to make enough cash to support my travel aspirations!

What is your definition of success?
Having the determination to chase your passion and make it a reality.

Who or what are your inspirations? 
My husband Dana is the biggest inspiration to me. He helps me every single day. I value his creative and business related opinions more than anyone else in my life. I find inspiration in my fellow local freelancers, because they are all strong females making a go of it. I am inspired by my illustration support group – four other creative women that live in various places across North America, we support each other via the web.

My style/work is influenced by many people, places and life experiences. A list of completely random things that I love & admire currently: Vintage children’s books, old textile designs, German Expressionism (the Brucke Movement), Cubism, yoga, Indian culture, old buildings anywhere, travel, Volvos, my five-speed bike, the forest, yarn, felting, natural textures, 1950′s (film posters, furniture, lifestyle), bird cages, Charlie Brown, Nick Bantock, Tim Burton, Toulouse-Lautrec, Bernhard, graphic novels, olive green, pink, independent films, my house, silk-screening, cellos, harmonicas, outdoor music, cooking interesting food, trips to the farmer’s market, colouring books, business cards, teapots, junk yards, lanterns, elaborate jewelry, toys, and all things handmade.

Words of advice for those pursuing their creative goals.
Lots of people talk about how they would like to pursue a creative dream, but they don’t do anything about it. Is it scary and risky to be self-employed? Do I have up and down days? Of course I do. But, lots of people around the globe barely have food to eat, or shelter to sleep in. If you are blessed enough to live a comfortable life, then you owe it to yourself and to the world to chase your passion. We have such opportunity, it is a shame not to take full advantage of it. You don’t have to quit your job today, but you can take steps towards a goal, every tiny accomplishment counts. Don’t give up, obstacles and challenges exist and patience is a virtue.

Do you know any helpful/inspirational books, websites, organisations etc.?

So many of the things that I have found inspiration in other Another Girl at Play Gals have already mentioned. The only additional thing I can recommend is make your palette of experience and knowledge wide. Take a class or join an organization that is completely unrelated to what you do professionally. Those experiences will affect how you grow as a creative person.

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