My first board books!

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A few months after my first trip to the Bologna Children’s book fair back in 2018 I received an email from a Chinese publisher that saw my work there.

They were interested in making a collection of sound board books for children between the ages of 0-3 and thought my style could be a good fit for what they wanted.
The collection consisted of 4 sound books (Nature, Daily Life, Different Materials and Musical Instruments). Each book was made up of 6 spreads and in each spread we were going to portray a different animal.

We agreed on making an illustration test before signing a contract.
I was asked to draw a cute little bear playing with sand on a beach (there might be sandcastle and blue sea).
And this was my response to it:

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I wasn’t sure if we needed to have a more colourful scene so I asked them their opinion. The feedback was mostly positive but they did ask me to give the character a bit more personality and add more details.
That’s when I came up with the pirate bear hat which ended up being one of my favourite details of the book.

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After we were happy with the sample I started working on the sketches.
It goes without saying but sending the sketches to the client is always a good idea as this is the best time to change things in the composition of the illustration before you go any further.

For example in this case I drew a tiger sleeping on a tree.
But I didn’t know that there’s a saying in China about how cats never teach tigers how to climb trees.
So that was something that needed changing.
Next it was time to start the coloring process!

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MAIN COLOUR PALETTE FOR THE PROJECT. ALTHOUGH I LIKE TO USE A MINIMAL PALETTE, THIS COLLECTION CALLED FOR MORE COLOURS. THIS MADE THE ELEMENTS MORE NOTICEABLE AND HELPED CREATE DIFFERENT AMBIENTS FOR THE ANIMALS.

MAIN COLOUR PALETTE FOR THE PROJECT. ALTHOUGH I LIKE TO USE A MINIMAL PALETTE, THIS COLLECTION CALLED FOR MORE COLOURS. THIS MADE THE ELEMENTS MORE NOTICEABLE AND HELPED CREATE DIFFERENT AMBIENTS FOR THE ANIMALS.

When I finished colouring I was really happy with the result but still pretty nervous to receive the feedback. What if they didn’t like it as much as I did?
But the feedback was great. Honestly better than I expected. I don’t think I ever got so little changes to make in a project this big!

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After my part of the work was done and I delivered the final files the waiting started.
For me the worst thing about publishing is how long it takes for the finished for the book to be published after I finish illustrating.
I know there’s a lot more to the process but whenever I’m done I’m so excited I just want to see the finished result!
But that only came a few months later and it was the best! Definitely worth the wait.

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I decided to close down my etsy shop

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Last year one of my goals was to make 8 monthly sales on my etsy shop. One of the first decisions I made this year was to close it down...

When I was thinking about my goals for last year, one of them was making more sales on etsy. To reach that goal I would have to create more products and advertise my shop a lot more. I was ready for that.
Shortly after that, I started having this kind of "identity crisis" and my motivation for creating simply disappeared.
My shop was still online but I tried to forget it existed. I always had this anxiety in the back of my mind whenever I thought about it, I knew it was something I was failing at. 

In the last quarter of the year, I slowly started to feel like myself again. I started to be more active again and my motivation returned.
I even made a calendar out of the illustrations I created during inktober! But while I was packing the orders I got I realised my heart wasn't in it as before. For a while, I tried to ignore it until I couldn't anymore.
That's why I decided to close down the shop.

I'm not thinking of it as a definitive thing. It's just something I have to do for now. At least until I feel excited about it as I once did. No matter how long it takes I just know I don't want to force it.
I'm also not looking at this as a failure. Having an online shop was anything but a failure! It allowed my work to travel to places I've never been and it allowed me to feel your support more than anything else.
I was just going to quietly close it down but decided this deserved a celebration. 
I've gathered everything I still have in stock and prices are down 40 to 50%. So check out if there's anything you'd like to have.

Thank you for your support! This has been a lovely ride.

Revisiting an old illustration - my creative process

Here’s something you probably don’t know about me: my first paid illustration job was creating illustrations for a chocolate bar collection.
To be honest it wasn’t as much a paid job as it was a contest and I won the first prize. Nonetheless, it was the first time I was paid for something I drew and that was a big deal.

This was back in 2012. I was finishing my master’s degree and used portuguese idiomatic expressions as an inspiration for the project. If you don’t speak portuguese you won’t be able to tell but in the illustration, the boy is saying “I fell in love with you“. That’s why he’s hurt. How clever am I?

Anyway, back to the present. I decided to revisit this project and see how much I’ve evolved over the last few years. Let me tell you a little bit about my creative process.

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Colours
I still like the original colors so I decided to keep them quite similar changing only the green to a teal colour I really like and the brown turned into dark blue to better fit the palette.

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Lettering
One thing I knew I wanted to do differently was the lettering. As you may know, I really like experimenting with it and I take any chance I get to practice.
I started with some classic calligraphy. It was supposed to be as if the kid wrote it. But I felt that it didn’t match the illustration I was creating. I wanted it to feel funny and light and that just didn’t match with the classical approach.
I decided to play with the words a bit more and ended up with a mix of styles I was happy with. The word love is where I kept the emphasis. Because nothing is more important than love. Right?

Lettering process

Lettering process

Character
It was very fun to recreate the character. I wanted him to have this “I couldn’t help it. Sorry, not sorry!“ expression and I think I was able to achieve that with his tilted head / shrugging shoulder / raised hand combination.
I had a blast trying to convey more personality to this guy through the details like the air and arm plaster.

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All in all, this was a great challenge!
Sometimes I feel stuck in my work like I’m not evolving enough but remaking this illustration helped me see how far I’ve come.

Goals for 2018

To tell you the truth, I spent quite a while dreading the time when I had to look at the goal list I'd set myself at the beginning of the year, to see what I'd actually accomplished.
I never took new year resolutions very seriously, especially work resolutions: because I had a fulltime job where I didn't have to think about it. But this was the first year I spent being a self-employed illustrator so I thought I should probably make a proper list. I did it but only because everyone else was doing it and I didn't take it seriously. I wrote it and never bothered looking at it again so I had no idea what I'd written and I was afraid I didn't accomplish anything from that list.

The first thing I wrote was to illustrate a story. Now I have no idea if I meant "illustrate my own story" or "illustrate any story". I didn't get to illustrate my own story but I actually managed to illustrate two books this year that I'm extremely proud of so I'm gonna count that as a point for me.
For 2018 'd like to take the time to work on my own story. It's kind of hard to invest in such a time-consuming process but I'll try to prioritize it.

Another goal I had was to start my own newsletter and look at us now in month 9 and without failing any month yet!
I postponed creating it for fear of not being able to commit to it and not having enough interesting content to share with you every month. But being able to stop and think about it and actually take the time to write to you has been one of my favourite things to do each month.

Another one of my goals was to make weekly posts on my blog. And that was a fail. To be honest, I got discouraged by the lack of feedback. It felt like no one was reading it so why bother? Creating content for all these platforms is a lot of work and it felt like I wasn't getting anything back from it so I stopped. Now my approach is a more relaxed one and I'll upload it when I have something worth it. Having a regularly uploaded blog is very important to SEO so I won't give up on it completely.

I also wrote I wanted to upload one new video every other week to my youtube channel but I only got more serious about it in the second half of the year.
If I think about it, making videos is one of the bravest things I did this year and one I never imagined myself doing. But I'm glad I did it. I still have a long way to go there, I still need to be a lot more confident but for now I'm doing it and I'm loving the amazing feedback I've been getting, especially with vlogmas  (I filmed and edited a video every day from the 1st till the 19th of December. It was a lot of work but I think it was worth it).

On January last year I had launched my Etsy shop recently and was excited about it. I wanted to create at least one new design each month and make 4 sales a month. But by April I gave up on the shop for a bit. And I only picked it back up in November when I launched the notebooks. I was sure I missed that goal but I did the math and it turns out I did 4,03 sales a month on average! Most of these sales were made recently but it still counts!! I'm going to count that as a successfully achieved goal.

On a personal note, I wrote I wanted to travel somewhere. Little did I know by then that 2017 was the year I would finally travel to one of my dream destinations: New York and I'm nothing but grateful for that.
I also wrote I wanted to make a 10k run this year and that was probably the biggest fail of all. I slacked a lot on exercise and health but I'm going to make that a goal for 2018 too.

When I look back at those goals, I see I wasn't very intentional with them. I didn't take the time to actually think them through and I didn't make realistic plans to actually achieve them. And that's something I definitely want to do differently in 2018.
I'm still thinking about what I want to achieve next year but I already know I want to be more organized, focused and intentional because I know I wasn't any of those in 2017.
I got from a couple of places the idea of breaking down the year into quarters and plan them individually and that's what I'm doing now, it seems a lot more manageable and less scary this way. I'd totally recommend if you're feeling overwhelmed by all the things you want to do! Breaking big things down into small chunks makes them a lot less scary.
I can already tell you I'm planning on having a very productive and busy 1st quarter!
I wish you all the best for the New Year and thank you for your support and feedback during this year. You have no idea how important it is for me!

One year on etsy - What have I learned

It's the first year anniversary of my online shop on etsy. I decided it would be a great excuse to share with you what I've learned this year and what I wish I'd done differently.

An etsy shop is a commitment
This isn't like one of those places where you drop a file and wait for the money to get to your bank account. Etsy will reward you for being active and updating regularly. Your shop won't work unless you do.
I've noticed a real drop in sales/favourites/views from March until now and I realized this was due to the fact that I stopped talking about the shop. I was too busy to update it on a regular basis and that's ok, I had to prioritize other stuff. But I got discouraged by my stats when in fact it was my own fault. If people don't know you're selling, they can't buy it.
Somewhere along the way, I stopped talking about my shop almost completely. I got self-conscious and afraid people might get sick of me always mentioning it. But what I need to understand is that even the people that really like your work don't see everything you post. That's due to the algorithm everyone keeps talking about and also... people have lives that don't allow them to be online 24/7. So you see, making one post about that new product and never mentioning it again is probably not enough. And I shouldn't get discouraged when people don't buy it.
This created what I called the cycle of disappointment

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The other day I asked people on insta-stories if they knew I had an online shop.
I shouldn't be surprised that almost half the people who responded didn't know I had it.

Know your why
The tagline I created for my shop is paper goods to make you smile.
I wanted to make things that people wanted to own and that made them happy whenever they looked at it.
Also, as a designer, the quality of what I'm selling is very important to me. For my prints, I use a fine art paper with a beautiful cotton feel and they should last more than a lifetime. I never want my clients to think they're getting something that feels cheap. (I've been there as a client and I never want my clients to feel that!) This obviously means my products have to be more expensive than something printed on my cheap home printer.
But to be honest, I didn't create the shop thinking it'd be my main source of income. Don't get me wrong, the money is nice, very nice! But with the time it takes me to create/produce/photograph/write descriptions/package orders, I know I don't make a lot of money there. Then I think of how happy you might be when you finally open it and it really is worthwhile.
If you keep in mind why you started you shouldn't get discouraged by the things that aren't directly related to it.

Make more products
Let's get to the practical stuff. The more products you have available, the more chances of them getting discovered.
In my shop I sell mainly prints for two reasons:
1. I love them;
2. They require the least money investment on my part - meaning that if they don't sell as much, I lose less money because I can print fewer of them.
But I've realized that products that have a purpose and aren't just decorative tend to be better received.
The calendar I made last year was my most sold piece ever and the postcards also sold well.
This gave me the confidence to invest in creating new products this year (like the notebooks I shared with you last week).

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Shipping is a pain
Be careful with your shipping materials and costs.
Fortunately, I spent a lot of time researching which was the best way to package my orders and have them arrive at their destination in pristine conditions. So I'm happy to say I never had a problem in that department.
I wasn't as careful when calculating shipping costs so I have to tell you that I had to pay more shipping than I anticipated more than once. So take your time.


This year I made 50 sales. Most of them were for the US. And my products now have their homes in places like Portugal, UK, Canada, The Netherlands, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, and Austria.
If you ever bought something from me: Thank you for supporting me and helping me believe I can live this life that I love.