Stephanie Corfee had a successful career creating “dry” yet beautiful designs for banks, builders and restaurants; but despite it being a living, she always longed to do more with her art.
She wanted to be able to create whimsical designs with lots of colors, texture, and detail. Then one day she realized she could do both, and the whimsical side of her career began.
Alyice: On your blog you stated that you weren’t always comfortable calling yourself an artist, why was that, and how did you overcome it?
Stephanie: Overall, I am an overly shy and modest person. “Artist” is not a career title you earn like that of a doctor or lawyer. It is subjective and to say I was an artist was a matter of opinion. To say it aloud, I felt some people might laugh at the mere thought of it. I compared myself to a lot of amazing and accomplished artists, and I just didn’t see myself in their ranks.
However, my mentor from college, Cassandre Maxwell, (an accomplished artist, children’s book author, illustrator, and an extremely inspiring teacher) made me believe in myself when I had no aspiration to even try my hand at art. Her confidence in me was humbling and encouraging. I always think of her when I am working on something challenging.
Alyice: What influences your art?
Stephanie: When I sit down to create art, I mostly channel ideas and lifestyle muses. What I mean to say is that I imagine the home I want to live in and I create with those ideas in mind.
I think about what my home looks like, what kind of zany, creative and colorful art will adorn the walls, what type of free-spirited artsy community is my influence.
Alyice: You’ve been known to seek permission from artists who have inspired you to create new art or a new art series. Can you tell us why you go to such lengths and how that helps the creative community as a whole?
Stephanie: The internet is an independent artist’s greatest tool, but it is also the artist’s worst enemy. There’s so much theft of intellectual property out there, that I feel it’s important that we, artists, do our part to stop it.
Websites steal artists work and give it away for download without permission. Large companies copy the work of independent artists and mass produce it with no credit and no compensation ever offered to the artist. It’s wrong.
So if I feel so inspired by someone’s creative vision that it make ME want to create something, I want to appreciate, acknowledge and seek permission from that person. I couldn’t sleep if I ever approached it any other way. In the end, we’re able to cross-promote each other’s work with mutual respect and benefit.
Alyice: You’ve been blessed with contracts to license your art on products, like Green As Wee Grow. Can you tell us a little bit about the process of working with a company who has a very targeted audience in mind?
Stephanie:Green As Wee Grow is a company whose whole concept is something I can get behind. Organic, eco-responsible clothes for babies and kids-that could not be any more up my alley! Plus, the owner, Samantha, is a doll and a dream to work with.
But in all honestly, I haven’t had to worry about their targeted audience because they found me and my artwork and felt what I was already creating made a great fit.
Knowing my OWN audience, however, can be a blessing and a curse. There’s a fine line between creating for yourself, your vision, and your own fulfillment and creating with the sole purpose of selling. The comments I’ve received from customers over the years have helped me to zero in on my customer base, so I would say it’s important that you listen to what your customers have to say-both good and bad.
Alyice: How does working with a company differ from working with an individual who has commissioned your artwork?
Stephanie: I’ve only worked with smaller, Indie companies to date…no Nike or Reebok just yet!! So there has been very little difference, for me, when it comes to working with a company versus working with an individual. It is a true collaboration. I’m not sure I’d ever want it any other way.
That being said, here’s how the collaboration with Green As Wee Grow went:
The company wanted an identifiable graphic that would be exclusive to their company and their mission. They came to me with the concept of a tree that would be laden with fruit, but the fruit would actually be little globes/earths.
I created a pencil sketch with a few variations of the tagline idea they had in mind. They then chose one and I proceeded to create an inked and colored version of the art. Once approved, I created the vector art and sent it along to them for production.
Another collaboration with Lil Blue Boo, out of California, went like this:
The client wanted a Chinese dragon suitable for kids. She sent me some vintage prints to look at. I also looked at a lot of traditional Chinese dragon illustrations online, then I sketched up a composite of the best of the most traditional forms and gave the guy, in the illustration, a googly-eyed face with a crooked smile so as not to scare the kids. The proof was shown to the client and some tweaks were made before inking and sending over the vector art for screen printing.
When I work with an individual, there is often a bit more freedom and artistic license. I always show a rough proof and concept, but the final product always involves “game time” decisions that I make while I am in the process of creating the art. There is a little bit of surprise for the client in the end, but only a little-not enough to be exciting or scary.
Alyice: Before you go, can you tell us a faux pas or two you’ve experienced when it comes to custom work and the lessons you’ve learned?
Stephanie: Of course!
I am a terrible estimator!! I’ve learned to never quote on the spot, but rather walk away, do my research, and then create a thoughtful quote with all the details in writing.
But even with that bit of research, I tend to underestimate the actual time any given project will take, so I often quote too low. It’s definitely something I am working on. I’ve also learned NOT to underestimate shipping charges for clients that live too far to hand deliver a custom piece. You can really lose a big chunk of your profit in packaging and shipping charges.
But the most important lesson I’ve learned is to never take a job that doesn’t suit you as an artist. Just because you might be able to pull something off, doesn’t mean you should. As versatile as I’d like to think I am, I don’t want to be hired to paint stripes on the wall in a nursery or to paint realistic portraits of pets or landscapes. I know the artist I am, and you should too.
Be the artist you want to be. Create art that is recognizable as your own and don’t settle for being a hired hand. It’s so much more rewarding and enjoyable when you can create art that suits you.