Meet artist Becky Schultea
I've been an artist all my life, drawing on every surface imaginable as a kid (sorry Mom!). I honed my art skills all throughout school and got my "big break" at 19 when family friends who had started a Christian gift manufacturing/wholesale business hired me to do some product design work in the summer after my first year of college.This company manufactured a variety of framed wall art with Scripture. I was hired to provide original artwork for new products they were contemplating, like magnets, notecards, and other giftware. I was hooked on gift design/illustration instantly and went on to work for the company as their creative director full time for the next five years. It was wonderful to be able to share my faith through art, which was (is) very important to me. In addition, it was in this position that I first learned about design cycles, merchandising, catalog shoots, going to market, advertising, and deadlines - all invaluable lessons.
After leaving that position, I designed and painted t-shirts for eight years for a gift store chain in Austin, Texas during the hand-painted clothing craze of the mid-80's/early 90's. In that environment I really expanded on the colorful, whimsical nature of my art, plus I gained training skills by leading a large team of "cottage" artists who painted the shirts I designed. I was also very fortunate to be invited to attend numerous gift and clothing markets in Dallas to stay abreast of design trends. I was exposed to gift market trade magazines during this time, and that is where I began to learn about art licensing. I was convinced that was what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. So, I left that job, took some more art classes at college (I was in my mid thirties at this point), and put together my first set of greeting card designs to submit to a publisher for review. The rejection letter came lightning fast - within a week! I was so discouraged that I didn't send any more samples to any other companies...I just gave up right then and there! Really, really dumb.
I didn't do any art of any significance for almost 10 years after that. I sold real estate in Austin for a couple of years, then my former husband was transferred to Colorado, and we dropped everything and moved. Shortly thereafter I landed a software training job with a large corporation. During those corporate years I began to really yearn again for a creative outlet, and more than once got in trouble for over-using clip art in my training materials! Even though it was not a job in art, I will be forever grateful for the business knowledge and discipline that I gained there. While still doing training, I got a big break from a graphic artist friend from church who sub-contracted me to do a series of black and white drawings for a Christian activity book. I was so happy to be illustrating again, and began right then to plan a return to doing art full time. That was the Fall of 2004. 2005 would prove to be a watershed year for me. That was the year that my 22 year marriage unraveled and ended in divorce.
During those painful months, two important things happened along the path of my artistic journey. First, I discovered the world of blogging while I was researching about illustrators. I read online for hours and became so inspired by the artists' work and their stories that they shared on their blogs that I decided to start my own blog, and in June of 2005, Just Bee 'n Me was born. A whole new chapter began to open in my life. I was connecting with artists and designers in new ways and I was building my portfolio again by participating in weekly creative challenges like Illustration Friday. It was wonderful, and more confirmation that this was the direction I wanted to go in my life.
Then in July of the same year I attended the Christian Bookseller's Association (CBA) Convention which was held in Denver that year. That was the market we used to attend twenty-plus years before when I was designing for the Christian gift company. Attending that convention was a big turning point for me. Not only did I meet the owner and art director for my chief licensee Universal Designs there, but I was exposed to and inspired by so many manufacturers and product lines that I hadn't known of before. I was like a kid in a candy shop! This fueled my passion for pursuing work in the Christian market once again and I began to rebuild my portfolio in earnest and research how to reach art directors in these and other markets.
By the end of 2005 I had moved back to my beloved home state of Texas to be surrounded by family who provided the love and support I needed to get back on my feet. I was still working the same corporate training job I had in Colorado (it was a telecommuting position so I could work anywhere), plus I continued to create designs for Universal Designs in the evenings and on weekends. I eventually met and married my sweet husband and life was wonderful! Then in late 2008, I found out my corporate training job was being outsourced overseas, and it didn't take long to see that this was my opportunity to take a big leap of faith and rather than try to find another corporate position, I would pursue illustration/artwork licensing full time instead.
So my dear supportive husband and I made some big downsizing decisions, rented out our home, and restored his paid-for bachelor pad mobile home on an acre in the country about 45 minutes away from where we were living. We moved there in February of 2009, and that Summer hubby built me a dream studio out of a storage shed. I spent the latter part of 2009 and the better part of 2010 trying to make a
go selling repurposed furniture and home decor in a local antique shop, and although I loved that work and that environment, it was an incredible time burner for not much financial return. All the while, I was still in hopes of taking my illustration/licensing to new levels, but I soon realized that it would take a full-time concerted effort to make that happen.
So that's where I'm at now, focused full-time on licensing my illustrations and creating for my online shops at Aimee Asher and CafePress. But I'm approaching my work with a different attitude than I may have had in the past. I am taking to heart something I wrote in a journal years ago:
"But WHAT should I create? The eternal question....the answer lies not in "what" but in "why". The purpose must precede the product. Attempt to create much as you would with a friend or family member in mind. Strive to meet a need, offer encouragement, or share wisdom. The design and the medium will fall into place when you put purpose first!!"
And that is what I am doing...I am designing, not to primarily pad my portfolio, but to bring a little joy into the lives of the people I love, and that has made all the difference in my creativity and inspiration and productivity and satisfaction. Designing with purpose....that's now how I define success. And such sweet success it is!
"God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another." 1 Peter 4:10
Blog (Just Bee 'n Me): http://justbeenme.blogspot.com
Portfolio Website: http://beckyschultea.com
Just Bee 'n Me Digital Boutique at Aimee Asher (digital clip art/scrapbooking kits): http://www.aimeeasher.com/shoppe/manufacturers.php?manufacturerid=52
Creative Celebrations with Becky (column for the Aimee Asher Blog): http://aimeeasher.com/shop/
Just Bee 'n Me Online Shop (CafePress): http://www.cafepress.com/justbeenme
I hope you enjoyed meeting Becky and are inspired by her story. This is a reminder that you should never give up on your dreams, they are what define you.