THE STORY OF WHY I DECIDED TO LIVE MY TRUTH, ONE DRAWING AT A TIME
Has there ever been a time in your life where you thought you had failed at something and it was difficult for you to get back on the horse? Maybe you started a style blog and didn’t have many readers so you stopped, or you wrote a screenplay and it didn’t sell so you thought why bother with a second one. Maybe it was a more superficial where, like myself, you decided to give up meat and even did give it up for a long time, but then one day you found yourself eating a whole box of beef Jamaican patties for dinner.
For me, that thing was to dedicate myself to create and live off my work again. Although I tend to think of myself as a super private person, I decided it was time to tell my personal failure story. Don’t worry, it isn’t a sad story, but instead a story about believing in yourself and persevering when you really want to do something. So, here goes.
I’ve been drawing since I was a kid and have always been attracted to the lives of artists, designers, and architects. My mother (who has the best style and taste) trained me to see beauty in the mundane, to appreciate craftsmanship, and to explore my gifts. Year after year, I received art supplies and/or art classes for my birthday (still a great gift). When I was 13, I applied and was accepted to a design high school where I was exposed to the most awesome classmates and the best possible teachers. While in college I began to sell tees at fairs and started to develop my art style (like in this drawing from 2000).
Fast forward almost 10 years and I had received my Associates in Fashion Design, my Bachelors in Landscape Architecture (and have received my Masters since), and had worked at various design companies. In 2008, I received an offer for a great job and, since I had been selling my art at fairs and had been doing freelance fashion illustration, I opened a boutique as a side project.
I can still remember the day I decided to open the store. I was walking to my shared studio and saw the sign. Never mind that it needed a lot of work. Never mind that it was an old ice-cream parlour. I called the owner, met him right away, liked the price, and gave him a check. Now some of you who are more risk-averse might see this as nuts. Looking back, it kinda was. But at the time I felt that it was what my heart wanted. And so I jumped. I jumped into this adventure with my heart open, with the support of family and friends, and with illustrations to sell out the ying-yang. The boutique was beautiful, I was happy, and I felt proud.
And then I opened the doors. Now, according to Benjamin Franklin “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!” Damn, was that man ever right. I opened the store at the beginning of the US financial crisis, in a neighborhood with little parking, that was at the early stages of being gentrified. As a shopper I was thrilled by the area’s small streets and walk-ability but as a shop owner I was appalled (especially when the city installed a bike-sharing station right in front on the storefront). What’s more, I believed that if I built it they would come, but soon found out that this philosophy mostly worked in movies. And although I created lots of beautiful products and was featured in many magazines, I never made a profit.
After 2 short years, I closed. Then I went into hideout/depression/weird as hell phase. I had a hard time creating. I had a hard time talking about the boutique, the closure, my perceived failure. I felt ashamed. At the time I hadn’t read articles like Entrepreneur Magazine’s “6 Truths About Failure Every Entrepreneur Should Embrace” or “6 Stories of Super Successes Who Overcame Failure” so I sulked and cried and suffered in silence or by lashing out at my loved ones. Even during this time, however, I continued to do a bunch of cool stuff, like getting my Masters, showing my pieces at collective art shows, creating public art pieces, completing a “365 Days of Illustrations” project, and selling at other designers’ pop-ups; but I didn’t do the one thing that I cared about the most – I wasn’t living off my work. And I was scared as hell to get back in the game.
Suddenly, I decided enough was enough. My brother introduced me to the practice of meditation and I began a deep journey of healing. By meditating, reading (books on tape are ah-mazing), talking about my truth, and exercising, I concentrated on getting my faith back – my faith in my abilities, my faith in myself, my faith in God. What began with a lot of crying and self-doubt blossomed into self-confidence, acceptance, and love. Love of my failure and the lessons I learned, love of the teachers and mentors I found along the way, and, above all, love for my art. And it was with this love that I relaunched myself in business – with the love that has been given to me by complete strangers who write me to let me know how the illustrations inspire them, by the love for the DNA of my ancestors that came together at the right time to give me this talent, by the love for life and the chance that I have been given to live my life creatively. I want my work to reflect my gratitude to the universe. I want it to be a love letter to beautiful, strong women who make the world awesome. And so with an open heart, I have gotten back on the horse to once again create work that makes people smile, that helps them see beauty in the mundane, and that helps me explore my creative gifts. I’ve returned to the girl who saw the potential in an old ice-cream parlour and signed the lease right away. And whatever the outcome, I am not giving up.
Now if only I could stop eating meat again.
A bit more about me…
‣ From the time I attended a Leonardo da Vinci exhibit as a kid, I knew that my life would be devoted to the arts and design. I can’t imagine doing anything else.
‣ Illustrations look like they are created using watercolors but they are actually hand-drawn using markers.
‣ I am a Canadian of Haitian-Beninese (West African) descent and my culture influences the way I design.
‣ I meditate to center myself and not drive myself (and those around me) cray aka crazy. I also relax through spinning and Zumba, which is perfect because I love sweets and love to bake.
‣ I was born a feminist / environmentalist and I think it
traumatized inspired my siblings and parents.
‣ As a designer, my personal mission is to influence the industry through undeniably beautiful and unique design. I strive to create new things, with a new perspective, until the day I die.