Ep.65: Nina Stajner about overcoming ‘naysayers’ and running a successful Etsy store

By Iva Mikles •  Updated: Dec 04, 2017 •  Interviews

Nina is a graphic designer by profession, an illustrator by heart and also a proud Etsy shop owner. Inspired by travels and wildlife she loves illustrating joyful animals in their environment. Besides painting with watercolors and gouache she designs paper goods and various pretty items.

I consider myself as a creative individual who likes to make things and is dedicated, optimistic, hard working, open minded, a perfectionist and above all honest. I strive to create beautiful and playful things that make people happy ♥.

Get in touch with Nina

Key Takeaways

“Just be creative, trust your instincts, never give up and be patient”

Resources mentioned

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Special thanks to Nina for joining me today. See you next time!

All artworks by Nina Stajner, used with permission

Episode Transcript

Announcer  

Creative, artistic, happy! That’s you. There are endless possibilities for living a creative life. So let’s inspire each other. Art Side of Life interviews with Iva.

Iva Mikles  

Hello everyone and welcome to the next episode of Art Side of Life where it’s all about how you can turn your creative passion into a profession. My name is Iva and my guest today is a graphic designer by profession and illustrator by heart and proud Etsy shop owner from Ljubljana, Slovenia. Inspired by travels and wildlife she loves illustrating tender, whimsical and joyful animals in their environment. She paints mainly with watercolors and squash, and she designs paper goods and other lovely items. Besides commercial work, she loves doing self initiated projects, where she tries to collaborate with other artists experiment, challenge herself and grow as an artist. You can see her illustrations on washi tapes, baby blankets, socks or scarves. She has worked for quite some time with the producers of coloring app Lake and recently self published her first coloring book. She has very popular Instagram account with more than 220,000 followers and Etsy store that she has brought smiles to almost 4000 customers with their brains and popular NML prints notebooks and planners in less than two years. So please welcome the nourish diner and let’s get to the interview. So, Hi, and welcome. Hi. And I would like to start with a question maybe about your background, how you kind of go to art or what were like the biggest decisions you had to do in order to follow your passion.

Nina Stajner  

Okay, so I, I’ve been drawing like, this is like a standard kind of intro I’ve been drawing from for most of my life when I was a kid when I was a teenager, I maybe stopped for a bit because I was more into chasing boys and stuff like that. And I was being a little bit of troubled not really troubled, but like a little bit of a rebel. But then I when I when I went to high school, I started drawing again. And then my high school wasn’t like art high school or something like that. It was really like, really, really, yeah, really classic. So then there was something missing for me there. So I think I’ve missed drawing and creating and being testing different materials and just just doing something more not just doing mathematics or just doing English or just doing geography. And then I started drawing in some courses. But there were more like creative courses, not really drawing figures or perspective, just being creative and playing with clay playing with acrylics, with pencils with pastels with doing graphics. So I just experimented, I think around two years, one once a week, I’d have that course once a week. And then when I knew I was gonna have to pick an in university or something to study something to do with my life. I guess I just I just knew I wanted to do something creative, not something, not something related to math or to some anything like that. So I at that point, I think I just knew I was gonna, I was gonna go to the Academy of Arts Academy of Fine Arts and Design here, it’s really close to where I live. I just knew that that that’s something I’m gonna, I’m gonna study. But it was really hard to get there. Because there were only like, for the for the thing I wanted to study. I wanted to study visual communications not painting or not sculptor or sculpture or not just just visual communications with it, which is basically graphic design. But then the coursers that there were, there were also typography, photography, illustration and stuff like that. And then I just started preparing for the entrance exams, which I did for around one year or a bit a bit more. We knew what types of assignments we’re gonna get. So I did a bit of figure drawing and a bit of still life painting and stuff like that. So I had to prepare a bit in order to just be accepted for the first year. Some people just try next year or next year. So it’s not it’s not like I was pressured. I’d have to I have to be in for the first year but just I knew I have to have some knowledge and because my own Mike, because magnesium was really like classical. We didn’t have that there. So I had to do that on my in my spare time. So yeah, and then I was accepted for the first year. And then it’s all started, it was like more graphic design thing. But at that point, I just knew I was gonna draw more. And just, my style was even then more cute, more whimsical. And I just sort of follow that even though it was not really accepted. Well, I think just like our people were doing, like minimal things, and really abstract things and cool things. And I was like, okay, the bears and stuff like that. So I wasn’t really I wanted to do that. But I wasn’t comfortable in doing that. So it was really kind of like, the times, the time when I started wasn’t easy for me. Because it was something I wanted to do if something was in me, but I wasn’t really being. I didn’t have any support. I think not a lot. Maybe a few professors knew, Okay, she has, she has to do this. She has to develop this, but some of them were like, yeah, and then I think after I finished university, it just think everything started then yeah, I just lost that, like the word looks. And I didn’t care what people think. And when you don’t care what people think you can just develop and progress really, I think

Iva Mikles  

so that’s how you overcame the idea of that people don’t really approve of your style, or how did you motivate yourself?

Nina Stajner  

I don’t know. I guess when I started posting on social media, I really got like, good response. I just, I just don’t I just did some sketches. And then my boyfriend said that is posted pose. And I was like, no, no, what are people people gonna think? Oh, no, I’m not. And then I posted it. And it was really Oh, I got so many likes, like more than my coffee more than more than my sunset. Okay, and then I just started, if you go, if you scroll back to my Instagram, you’re gonna see just like, at first there were some sketches, and then was more and more artwork, and now it’s only on artwork. It just, it became a sort of a portfolio for me. But I think like the support on social media was just like, oh, I have to follow my instincts, I have to follow what I want to do and not what other people think. Because even now some people just want to put me down. Like this. It’s like cheap and kitsch. And just like that, and I’m like, Yeah, okay, whatever. Um, you’re not my customer, you know? So you have to just like not care really what other people think too much like the especially the ones who want to bring you down with their negative comments, I

Iva Mikles  

think yeah, so you try to focus on the on the positive ones because you always have the haters and kind of people. You almost

Nina Stajner  

have the haters, but then you if you get close to constructive feedback, like oh, you’re Carlos colors here should be more like, it’s okay. If there’s, it’s like, I like critique. But if it’s like it with a good intention, and not to put you down and just like that person just needs it for his ego. It’s like it has to be a good then I love it. I really I like when people criticize or give me some suggestions, suggestions, but it you know, when it’s it’s okay with the critic is? How do you say that either? Well intended? Yes. Well in and yeah. Do you

Iva Mikles  

remember the first conversation you had either with your family or your boyfriend when you said like you want to do this full time?

Nina Stajner  

I don’t know. I think they already knew. I think that they were doing bringing it up bringing it up. So I don’t know, it was always obvious. So I think I had the support all the time, that that’s also the good thing. I had the support. They were sort of believing in me when when I wasn’t. So we had many conversations, I don’t think there was just one conversation, I think you really need to be sort of brave to do it. But you have to have some sort of a backup, you know, if I fail, I’m not going to be hungry or homeless or something like that. I had, like my boyfriend or my mom who could help me. But there they really didn’t have to, but I I knew that nothing is gonna go really, really, really wrong when I decided to do it. Yeah.

Iva Mikles  

Do you have some mentors when you were studying or someone who inspired you when you started your career?

Nina Stajner  

No one in particular, I think like that not one person because I think if you only have one mentor or one person that you you get inspired by, you can really start copying or really just like doing things like he or she is doing things because I see it with some artists like when you have one mentor, just like start being a copycat. So or maybe get to influence like to influence for me it was more like I had some role models online. A lot of raw, like, online is full of great, great artists. So there was I was inspired by a lot of artists, so but here I only had like professors that taught me draw Finger Painting and then their days their style was wasn’t like mine. They learned I learned a lot from them but like, not that I would be influenced I think so probably something on my own and mixed with all nature inspirations and old books and I really like Beatrice Potter and other artists like illustrators so I’m mix of everything I think a really good good good mix of all the inspirations in life and

Iva Mikles  

everybody’s like the weirdest inspiration you have.

Nina Stajner  

The weirdest like not the weirdest, but something that is really not connected with illustration. Maybe some photos are fine like a food or just just random things where like the color palettes, like already like the apricot on this button on this background, just like some random things that are not really cool. Like, not really illustration or art. Yeah, just stuff like that. Are some are some weird old? Like, how do you say the class when you put on the table? It’s like, Oh, yeah. Or some old curtain. Sometimes I’ll use flowers really nice. But yeah, maybe some old fabric products or just random photos that really don’t have anything to do with with art or illustration.

Iva Mikles  

But it’s really interesting. So you can actually find like color palette from maybe like, retro photo and then you can apply to your schedule or the drawing of the animals.

Nina Stajner  

Yeah, and it’s really not not not similar in it, but it just like the feeling of it or Yeah, like the the pallets. Yeah.

Iva Mikles  

And you have also really beautiful layout for the drawing with the flowers. And do you have like special strategy of how you decide how you want to design?

Nina Stajner  

You know, there’s no, there’s no strategy. Sometimes I see like I went where I live, there’s a lot of greenery and forest and there’s a lot of flowers. So when I do my daily walks, I just pick some flowers sometimes. And I have like the downstairs on my on my kitchen table. I have like flowers, little roses, I’m probably going to include them in some photo. But there’s really no strategy or a plan is just like when I when I decide I’m gonna do a post. I just don’t maybe I can add this flower here. It’s yeah, it’s really like more plaything than anything like like, planned. Yeah.

Iva Mikles  

So is it maybe sometimes as well, when you see some flower in the in the forest or whatever in the garden? And then you implement it in your drawing or it’s more the other way around?

Nina Stajner  

Yeah, I do that. Yeah. When I do my walks, I just have my phone with me almost all the time. And just like, Oh, look at this flower. And then I take a photo. So I have it somewhere. Because I would forget how it looks. So I did that all the time. And my boyfriend is like walking as like, sometimes and I’m looking at a flower. Look at this flower. I do that. Yeah. And not only when I do my walks, it’s like random. Yeah, I just take photos of things I like, Yeah,

Iva Mikles  

that’s really good inspiration. Because like just getting inspired by nature. I think that’s yeah.

Nina Stajner  

And then you remember it, and you can draw it because you have the photo. Yeah. Because otherwise you can forget, I think,

Iva Mikles  

and what is like the best advice you ever received, like when you were like starting or during now you’re creating stuff.

Nina Stajner  

Hmm, maybe be brave or something like that. Just yeah, just or trust her gut. Some like you only Oh, you always have this sort of a feeling when you’re designing, deciding about things. And you know, when you’re gonna like, or when the project comes in. It’s like, you don’t have that good vibe. I don’t know why sometimes you cannot explain things. But sometimes you just know what the right path is. And you have to follow just that feeling. I don’t know. It’s hard to explain that feeling. But there is something there. I think for me, when I decide or make decisions, it’s like intuition, probably.

Iva Mikles  

Okay, so this is more how you decide if you have more projects? And because how do you decide which one to say no to?

Nina Stajner  

I don’t know, it’s just okay. I’d always ask what I what I would have to draw and like the budget is obviously also a thing to consider. But then it’s just like, sometimes I will do things really with low budgets, and I really enjoyed the project and it’s really maybe well accepted online and it’s like other people see it and then I have like a lot of new projects coming in. So it’s like I think it’s I just know when something is going to have like good good results. Yeah, I don’t know. And sometimes when when people are, have weird requests, or just like email starts a bit weird or I don’t understand the project completely. I would just rather say No, I think you I think it also comes with experience because at the point at the beginning I just said yes to everything. Yes, I’m gonna drop this. Yes, I’m gonna draw that wedding invitation and that and that and it’s like, and then you end up drawing and not loving what to do, which is like really and that really translates with artwork is like, I’m not there. It’s it’s like it has the details. It’s nice, but it’s it’s not me. So I think I just when I accept projects, what I know is that I’m going to I’m Can I can put myself into it and enjoy doing it because then it’s gonna I know it’s gonna be better.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, for sure. And so yeah, that’s advice. Trust

Nina Stajner  

your inner inner feelings.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, that’s, that’s good. I like that. And now when you mentioned some of the projects as well, can you take us kind of to the journey how you started on the projects? Like maybe you did Commission’s or you said wedding invitations. And now you did like the app where you have all the drawings and you have the code? Yeah. So kind of what was maybe the transitions and what are the projects you’re excited about now?

Nina Stajner  

Okay, so first, that was when I started freelancing, I didn’t work for many clients, I just work for really one where I did children’s apps, and that was three years ago, I think. And then I decided and that was mostly digital work. And I really wanted to paint more and just use squash, acrylics, aquarelles pastels, best pastels and stuff like that. I really didn’t want to be a digital artists, I don’t know, because I enjoyed using traditional media so much. So then I just took a leap of faith sort of and just started drawing more. And then when you post things online, you get requests, mostly for the things you post like if I was gonna do a little happy birthday bunny card, I’m gonna Oh, can I use this for this? Or can I how can I hire you to do a teddy bear with similar flowers around or something like that. So when you start posting things, you’re gonna get requests really similar to what you post because people know you do that. So I think when I just quit that project when I did mobile apps, I quit I just finished my last app and then I just didn’t actually know where where was where I’m gonna go or where what I was gonna happen just I was like, and but I just drew I didn’t really it didn’t really bother me too much I just drew what I want it and then just project just they just don’t know I just got some emails and then I accepted almost everything at the beginning and then now I have like a good filter or what I accept or or don’t and then I just started doing some bait like for when the baby gets born just like welcome baby things or baby blankets like I was hired by little blue nest to do a series of cotton muslin blankets. So I did that like the bunny pattern and the robin pattern and the fox pattern and like the mixed animals together so that was a great project I think and then just things like that mostly more like fur baby market I think more like that and then I did a baby book for an Australian book company book publishing company and I don’t know I don’t remember why so many things and commissions and then now I don’t do many that many commissions I prefer to work on like a bigger projects and then at some point I just opened my Etsy shop and each month it like I got more money out of it. So I think now now now it’s closed because it’s summer and I just needed some time off like for the two or three weeks but then yeah, I think half of my income was for Etsy store. So I really thought maybe it’s better to invest more of my energy and time and focus in my Etsy because I was enjoying that a bit more because if you just work for yourself basically then have a client but you have other problems like with printers and like with pain production companies and wash you could as your washer who does that or it’s like hold on hold on our story is like owning your own business. And then I just mix that with freelance now. So it’s really I juggle between these these two things, I just accept projects I really really like for other people like when I work for clients and then if I want I could just like like work more on my Etsy products and just earn more money there. Yeah, so now I’m just basically have Freelancer half it’s a shop owner.

Iva Mikles  

Okay, so that’s how you combine now like different income.

Nina Stajner  

Yeah, I think it’s good. Yeah.

Iva Mikles  

And how do you plan ahead? Do you have like a digital form or like traditional planner?

Nina Stajner  

I have this my weekly they mean how I plan Yeah, I have this this is actually one of my one of my products. Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, my weekly planner so I just plan my week here. And then then on the wall I have like a big monthly thing what I just write down the goals that I never achieved those goals is like always, like, if I have seven goals, I will achieve four, maybe five. It’s always I’m always being hard on myself. Yeah, this month, you have to accomplish this and this and this, and then I look. And then it’s hard because I’m being a perfectionist and everything takes a lot of time. If I if I, for example, this like, it’s really simple. It’s not nothing like, but I think I was designing it a lot like to choose the colors such as the font, and then yeah, it was, it’s always more than it looks like. So it’s when I have like seven goals. I will I will do five or four, probably. But it will it will be boiled down. It’s not like oh, checked. It’s like, I’m happy with it. Yes. So.

Iva Mikles  

So you have to be like proud of the

Nina Stajner  

Yeah, yeah. Because it’s always my name on the list. And so

Iva Mikles  

what is the most exciting project, which is like happening now, or maybe there will be an upcoming, which you would like to share?

Nina Stajner  

I think now I’m work. It’s like this project. Now. It’s really, really good. It’s really big. It’s a huge project. I’m working on a series of like repeat patterns, using my woodland animals, and like my phones, my hedgehogs, my bunnies, and I’m doing series of veterans, I just I did a little bit of I had a little bit of posts on Instagram. And the response was really good. So I plan to make a lot of like a series, a collection of veterans, which are already have a few deals with the companies for papercrafts that are going to license it and some fabric companies are already writing, how can I get this veterans? So I think I’m gonna let this is more of my, my project, but it’s gonna be available for licensing. So I think I’m gonna, I’m gonna be sort of paid for it at some point. Yeah, so it’s like, it’s summer. So it’s last year, I was I think I was working on some freelance things. I was like too much, maybe. And now it’s my project, and I’m not in charge of it. So and it’s really going well, I think so now I’m just working on a series of repeat bathrooms. Oh, that’s

Iva Mikles  

perfect. And then because now you are building your business so you can work more on your own staff? Do you have some recommendations for people who would like to start with own business planning and something? What What did you wish you knew before you started?

Nina Stajner  

I think it’s, it’s important to not be too hard on yourself at the beginning. At the beginning, I only had my coloring book, and my a few prints. So you have to start small. So in order you can learn because each step is I think it’s good to have baby steps and like grow gradually, then just like to open the shop and make 1000 sales in two weeks or something. Because there’s a lot of trial and error trial and error here. So I think it’s just be patient, like prepare, be patient and add new items slowly. And then you see what works and what doesn’t work and just don’t have too much pressure on yourself. Because I think I grew into yours. That is really oh, now I’m really good doing well. I mean, I already had sales at the beginning, because I was doing a lot of posts on Instagram about my coloring book. And everybody was one. Everybody wanted to have one. So and I just posted it in there. We’re gone in a few days may be super cool. Yeah. Yeah. And then I just added things more like prints and then like animal pins, and then I added calendar and then this notepads and stuff just slowly and experiment, and then you see what sells and what doesn’t. Because maybe it can be different for me or for some other artists.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah. And so how did you decide where to produce the the coloring book? Or how did you start it? Because some people won’t think like, Okay, I have something and okay, what do I do next?

Nina Stajner  

Yeah, you go to a local printing store, and then they don’t do it? Well, sometimes it’s really that’s the stressful part of owning your own business. Because when I work, I draw and then I just put everything together in InDesign or Illustrator, it’s not that big of a deal. But then you go, you need someone else to make it. And you need to have someone else who is also a has attention for details. And that’s it’s not like it has to be well made. But people are really not like that. In my experience. It’s it’s really hard to have like a good good printer always or a good pen manufacturer, I changed that I changed my printers as well. I tried with a few companies and I really wasn’t satisfied. So now I’m gonna go with a third one where I know I’m gonna be satisfied because my friend is like owning it. So it’s gonna be it’s gonna be really, really good. And then I have the new PIN manufacturers because the previous ones were really I had like a batch of 100 pins and 30 of those was going to be not looking as it should look and Then I was like, that’s a lot like a third of a third of my order was not as it should be. So that’s really the stressful part. Yeah. And the here just have to work with people and just when you’re satisfied stick with one. And if you’re not go with somebody else, someone else. But I did. I’m still not don’t have things figured out at this point. Unfortunately, I’m just trying, trying and see how it goes. Yeah. But I think in one or two years, I really learned a lot. So I think there’s going to be less, less bad, bad. situations from now on. Yeah.

Iva Mikles  

And how do you do networking? Or how do you find either the new paid projects or as you said, like the printing store? Because you mentioned friends, you have Instagram? Do you also go to events or some other way?

Nina Stajner  

Yeah, I’m not even advanced. Not so much. I went to off in Barcelona, but that’s more like a design kind of thing. It’s not really illustration. And don’t really go to events or exhibitions or some big gnarly things. I’m don’t I don’t think I do that. I’m more like, I like connecting more with people online. I guess. Yeah, I think I do more of that, like through Instagram, and I chat with some illustrators from once in a while. They’re really nice. Like, when you when you have like, amazing illustrator that are really in there, and you write to them, and they reply, it’s they’re really humble and nice. So I like connecting through social media, I think. Yeah,

Iva Mikles  

I mean, that’s really nice. Yeah, so how long do you have the Instagram account you said, active for two, three years or something like that?

Nina Stajner  

I think more but at the beginning, I was just posting some regular photos. I think I’ve been posting artwork for two years, two and a half probably. Yeah. And I didn’t know like it’s gonna grow or something like that I just posted and then I got like the I got good feedback I got and then it just became a habit. So I didn’t have any bigger big plans with it. Because now you can be a brand ambassador and you can be an influencer and you can get this for free and that for free. And just via I don’t know, a commercial kind of account, but I don’t want that. So I think my my account is gonna stay mine. For my my artwork. And for my products I can I can like promote my Etsy items or new badges, new pins, new new tote bags, new notebooks, calendars, I think I’m gonna promote my things. Because I get I get asked by a lot a lot of companies like, Oh, do you want I can we give you this for free to make three posts? And I’m like, No way. Yeah, so I yeah, just don’t do that.

Iva Mikles  

Because if it doesn’t fit your brand, maybe if there is something you actually love, you know, or you are like,

Nina Stajner  

yeah, if I’m gonna if it’s gonna be something I’m using, for sure, because I do a lot of posts on it. When I tag I don’t know, Windsor Newton visit because I use their squash and I use their brushes, because I’m really, really good. Something like that, for sure. Because it’s part of what I do. But not like, I don’t know, some lights or some socks or some doesn’t really. Yeah, so it doesn’t relate, or jewelry, or I don’t know.

Iva Mikles  

And then if you think about like, if people want to try, what do you do now? Can you recommend some other mediums or tools that you’re using? As you mentioned the garage? Or is there something else you use?

Nina Stajner  

I use watercolors, squash colored pencils, sometimes I would use I like to use masking tape with watercolors because then you just put the tape in the color and then it doesn’t the color doesn’t stick there. So you can get some nice shapes. And just Yeah, I just I would advise anyone just to experiment a lot. Just to see for some people oh, what what can I use because there’s a lot of different mediums you can you can like, do anything and then you have digital, where there’s a lot of brushes, a lot of different software’s and there’s so many things that you have to try to see what which look and feel fits with your voice, I think and then you just stick with that and just improve when you find that it just improved. But I think at the beginning when I don’t know what your what your voice is it just experiment a lot. And try I tried many, many different things. Yeah.

Iva Mikles  

So now you use the watercolors and gouache and do you also edit that in in the software afterwards or you just take pictures.

Nina Stajner  

I scan everything on my little scanner here. It’s just like a homescan are nothing special. And then I just when I do patrons, I have to move things around. So I use those little paintings and sometimes I would like if I if there’s a little mistake, I would correct it but otherwise there’s not a lot I do, except for preparing it for to be a coloring book to be like this or maybe this, this was done in Illustrator or InDesign. So yes, things like that are done on computer. But illustration is conundrum. It’s not no editing is done on computer. Yeah.

Iva Mikles  

And do you have some tips for for Instagram? Maybe you as you said you have like beautiful layouts, you put flowers, is there something else you advise people to do when they want to kind of grow their community?

Nina Stajner  

Yeah, maybe focus on a good content. Because then you have if you have like when you read our top 10 tips, how to grow your Instagram account and post two times a day or something. Now just post when you have something like something to say something you think it’s valuable. I think if I think an illustration is not really good, I won’t post it. It’s like when I feel oh, this is nice. I want to share this with the world, I will make a post, if it’s that if it’s two times a month, it’s two times a month, I don’t have like a schedule, because some people have schedules and then just post them just they just post bad content. And I just unfollow them. Because it’s like, yeah, you’re just posting to something that’s not really valuable. So I think that that you can really create good content, valuable content, and it’s so it looks nice, visually, like a nice photo. Good lysing. So that you can see the details. It’s not not like a bad photo. And like a nice description, something from a heart, not something. So say that it’s obvious that you just made a post to make a post something that just say something that you connect with your audience. I think that’s and then just Yeah, do that. And be yourself, I guess. Yeah.

Iva Mikles  

And when you take pictures of your drawings with the flatlay, or the flowers, do you have a camera? Or do you take it with the phone or

Nina Stajner  

phone? Everything is like phone here on my table where I draw. It’s really not like a studio, where I have an assistant here lighting guy there. No, no, it’s just me and like few flowers. And in my studio. It’s really simple. Yeah, but it’s really pretty. Yeah. It’s something it’s simple, but it works. It works. Yeah.

Iva Mikles  

And if we go back maybe to the advice and this kind of journey, I would like to hear as well. Maybe what was the worst advice what you received?

Nina Stajner  

Stop working on that. It’s not it’s it’s cheesy. It’s kid show. This is looks cheap or something like that. When people were trying to put me down. Yeah, just I, I never really cared. But you care a little bit, but then you do like that. But yeah, that was the worst advice when somebody tries to when somebody tries to. I don’t know how you say. Kind of like, I don’t know, no. Yeah, maybe just we’re not encouraging. What what is the opposite of encouraging? Yeah, when this discourages somebody? Yeah. Because you just have to follow like, you’re gonna get better through yours. Or the worst advice is maybe, oh, you’re not talented or something like that. Yeah, you’re never going to you can never be good at it. Because you’re not talented or something like that. When it’s like, yeah, okay, you need a lot of time to develop things, you need a lot of time to grow a lot of work before you’re even like a little bit of good, like, so it’s like more work, work, developing things reading and observing and sketching. And it’s, it’s so it’s a whole progress. So if at the beginning, if you’re not good, some people can discourage you. But it just, you know, you need to have your your time doing things and making things better and growing. And everyone everyone sucks at the beginning. So

Iva Mikles  

yeah, we just like me to improve and, and good. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. And if like you mentioned this and do you also have, like, a bad moment of your career? You have some story of like in the takeout from that, or takeaway?

Nina Stajner  

Yeah. I mean, when you work with clients that they, they offer you a really low low, like the budget is really low, and then they’re trying to be those clients tends to be really hard then and then you just don’t know or working on really, really tight deadlines. When I had to draw a line, I don’t know 14 hours a day and I was really exhausted and it’s really not worth it at the end like for a little bit of money. So maybe yeah, when you just know that the project is going to be tough on you physically, that you will not be able to sleep or eat or just function as a normal person just don’t dislike you need your eat your meters sleeping, you need your walks, you need your exercise, because it’s and then you can work really well. I think otherwise when you just quit ever everything else on pause just to complete that freelance project is really I don’t think I think that was like the bad experience that I don’t want to have again.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, because you need to have the work life balance. And

Nina Stajner  

yeah, yeah, I work a lot. But still I’d go for a walk, I just eat my own. Like, I prepare my own meals I just, I hike during the weekends or something like I do have my eight hours of sleep almost every day. So

Iva Mikles  

yeah, how do you design your day? Then? Do you? How can you describe maybe what do you do every day? Or how do you plan your day? How many hours you work? Maybe? Or how do you split the project?

Nina Stajner  

I wake up almost everyday at 7am before I eat my breakfast and drink my coffee, it’s It depends. It depends just open my emails, it’s like easy easing through into the into the day. But I wake up at seven and I start really start working on things I think at nine or 10. Like when I when I can when I wake up and just be able to really draw. And I work because I don’t have any kids yet. I work until I don’t know five or six probably. Yeah, really, almost or more sometimes I think 10 hours I would say. But then I have one break in between in like around one or two, where I prepare like lunch, cut the vegetables. I tried to eat healthy and light meals. So I’m not sleepy in the afternoon because I’ve ever have like a heavy heavy lunch. I’m gonna be like, like that. So I tried to eat live in order to have like, a productive afternoon afterwards. And then I just It depends. It’s I don’t have like a alarm clock. Oh, stop working. If I’m really into it, sometimes I’m, oh, it’s already seven. Or it’s usually like that. Yeah, because I enjoy my work so much, especially now that I’m working for, like from my personal project, sort of it’s like cars seven Oh my god. So it’s times really flies when you’re enjoying something. And then I bid. That’s why I work. It’s not like, oh, I have to work I have to be good. It’s like, Time just flies. And then I’ll have to take a walk. I’m just like, my back hurts. Yeah. Because so then I usually I would take a walk or go for an hour I do yoga as well. I really love yoga, it really helps with my back because I just when I draw, I’m like that. And then when I’m, you know sitting all day, it’s you need to have something to to have the balance. So your body is healthy. Yeah. So I do yoga, too. So that’s I think, yeah, I work for I don’t have dog or cat or kids or any real responsibilities. So now I’m just focused mostly on what I do. Yeah. So I work until 567. It depends.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, I mean, yeah, that makes sense. Because you also need to, you know, like, work and then go exercise or something like that. Because then you injuries, these kinds of things.

Nina Stajner  

Yes, some illustrators had like carpal tunnels or injured wrists or stuff like that. And when I saw a few podcasts, and I was like, Oh, I have to be like, keep that in mind. So you cannot work too much. Because then you don’t do you can not work a few months as you’re injured. So I just I think I started I think I work a lot, but not, not so much. You know, not not, it doesn’t like get me tired or just I’m not injured or anything like that.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah. So I think it helps because you are aware of it. And you know, like how to avoid the injuries. And then if someone is not thinking about it at all, you know, then they’re just going crazy. And

Nina Stajner  

yeah, yeah, just Oh, yeah, I have to finish this. And then you can draw for three months. And I wouldn’t be so sad if that happened. Really?

Iva Mikles  

Yeah. And do you have some tools which simplifies your life something you bought, maybe.

Nina Stajner  

Oh, I haven’t the light the light box, you know, when you sketch it in the sketches, and then you have like the watercolor paper and you need to transfer it. So I just have this light on my table light box and then just press the button and it’s good. And I can just transfer the sketch really fast because then I would have to draw it again. So this really helps I think it just few minutes. So yeah, it I spare some time. That was really a good good investment, I think. And then I don’t know. Yeah, invest in good brushes, I think with watercolors or squash. I didn’t notice that meant many much difference between brands. But with brushes I have like Windsor Newton Windsor Newton brushes, like miniature sable that really saved my life when I just I bought them I’m gonna try those. These are expensive, but I’m gonna order them just to see order online, just to see what they’re like. And when I like the first thing when I put them in my hand was like, Oh, this is actually doing what I want. Because I before I had problems Oh, this is just doing those things on its own brushes weren’t really obeying Me or some. How would I say yeah, but now now this is really something when I connect my idea with paper and just transfers, so, like, invest in good, maybe in good materials, but I would say brushes and paper. Yeah.

Iva Mikles  

And what paper do you use?

Nina Stajner  

Now I have cancer on Melinda Roy hotpress, like the with smooth surface because my illustrations are really small. Yeah. So sometimes it just easier for the details. So that is not textured. It’s not like a rough texture. It’s easier for me to do little details. Yeah. So but here’s just something you have to try. It’s whatever fits,

Iva Mikles  

because then if you do copies of your of your art to sell, then how do you do have the same paper which you put in a in a printer? Or do you only print in the printing house,

Nina Stajner  

I go to a place where I’m really really satisfied like the place where they do my regular prints. And they have their special paper that has like I can choose between a mild texture and a bit thicker paper with a bit more rougher texture. And both looks really really great. So yeah, I just they’re just use their paper because those printers like those big Epson printers need their own like paper, so but it’s really, really good. And at the end, it looks to me like, like, like, like an original can have something here. Yeah. And bunnies. Yeah, this is really good. This is the one with like a light texture. But then it just depends on my what I want

Iva Mikles  

in these brains, people can order on Etsy, right from you.

Nina Stajner  

Yeah, well, my shop is gonna open in a few days, weeks. Yeah, I’m preparing so many new products now. So I’m just focusing on just creative work. Because if I have to pack, if I have to go to the post office and just do that, that time I’m not creating. And now I’m just focusing on just like updating my store more.

Iva Mikles  

And also, I mean, we will launch after the summer. So when this interview will be out, yeah, the show will be open, and we will put all the links down below. So be like click top is out. So that’s good. And well. They also wanted to ask you because I’ve also inserted interested in this printing and like, how do you basically my question is, if you decide to print maybe one artwork, do you have to decide if you like print maybe 1000 copies? Or do they have like lower limit? Is it important for you to like find the printing shop with, you know, this amount of limits? Or how do you say,

Nina Stajner  

um, I would like the place where I print, I can just print two, or one or five or it just Yeah, cuz it helps. It’s a small printing place. Yeah. And it’s like, the printer is big. But I always want that to use most of the paper if the paper or how do you say, sheet is really wide, I won’t print one thing I will just like put prints. So the whole the whole sheet is covered. And then just so usually I try to be careful with the waste and paper and stuff like that.

Iva Mikles  

Okay, so that works like that. Okay, good. Just for people. So the know how the printing word Yeah, they never like ordered anything. So that’s actually really

Nina Stajner  

Yeah, usually I do. I don’t have like big quantities. Because I also don’t have a lot of space. I have my prints here.

Iva Mikles  

Here. So we have like a shelving system. Yeah,

Nina Stajner  

and here are some some sello bags and stuff like that. So it’s just I have everything here in those drawers. So I’m not like a big, big I don’t have the big storage. Storage space. Oh,

Iva Mikles  

yeah. Oh, cool. And then if we go back to kind of inspiration and I would like to hear maybe some book recommendations or Movie or Documentary,

Nina Stajner  

I would advise Planet Earth to from BBC documentary, whether there’s a lot of wildlife and everything is really well filmed like the cinematography is really really excellent because of because of the new technologies, the new cameras, the gimbals and everything they really get close to animals so you have like the I don’t know Komodo dragon where you can really see the texture is skin and other animals and everything’s really like the filming is just amazing. Yeah. And then you can really see animals in details and that’s I think that would be a good inspiration to like for a TV series.

Iva Mikles  

What about the book something maybe you give as a gift to people or you read over?

Nina Stajner  

I don’t know what was the last thing I read. I just I mostly read things on my iPad. I just more article and stuff like that. I don’t know why it’s been such a long time since I’ve since I’ve read a book. I think I’ve read. Oh, I’ve read Gary, Gary Vaynerchuk. Yeah, crushing. Yes. Yeah, his crush, it is really good. I think I think that was given to me by my boyfriend when I started freelancing. He was like, just read this first. And then I think that really gave me some inspiration. I really, like if I read books, it’s mostly when I go to the seaside or holidays, but during the week, and in the end, I’m just at the end of the day, I’m tired. So I’ve mostly just read articles. And it’s not really all not really art related, maybe business or politics, or just just like, what is happening in the world, probably just to, like, not only be into drawing and into illustration, just I just like I do, you know, medium as the platform medium. No, no, it’s like, we’re, I don’t know, it’s like, I don’t know, social network, where they’re, they’re posted blog posts from many bloggers. So it just like you have the collection of it. Like, I see it as my newspaper every day. There’s some topics and then I just click and read. So when I read it, it’s like trying to get like a broader. Yeah, to try and to broaden

Iva Mikles  

the horizon or like, horizon? Yeah,

Nina Stajner  

just like that. Yeah, that makes

Iva Mikles  

Did you know that he made the new book. It’s called jab, jab hook or something. Yeah.

Nina Stajner  

Yeah, I think that’s, I think it just went out this year. Yeah,

Iva Mikles  

I just read it now. So yeah, good. I think it’s good. Okay, I’m gonna order it. And also the things he mentioned there, you already do so. But yeah, but maybe something you haven’t tried it, because he’s talking a lot about, you know, how to be in new social media networks, you know, and how to work on different platforms, like, Instagram is different than Facebook and these kind of things.

Nina Stajner  

Yeah, probably. But I think that’s really important. When you’re when you’re freelancing, you need to also be a PR person for yourself and answering emails. And just like social media is really, really important. I think I wouldn’t be where I am. If there wasn’t, wasn’t be like Facebook, or Instagram and stuff like that, like 10 years ago, I was probably had have a lot of problems finding project finding clients, but now just clients just, I get a lot of emails, like, each day, I get emails, so so they just come to you. And it’s only because of the internet of social media. And it’s I’m really, like, grateful to be living at this moment. Right now. Yeah. Because it’s a good moment. Like you can market yourself you can, like your artwork can be seen from, like the whole world. That wasn’t possible, like 15 years ago, I think, yeah,

Iva Mikles  

that’s true. And if you think about, like, future, where would you want to be in five years, something you imagined, like, this is the dream scenario.

Nina Stajner  

Like maybe like having my shop even more developed. I put what I think I was learning this year still, like looking for my voice and like, look and feel of the whole little brand thing. And still experimenting with a lot of products like coloring book, and then pins and then prints and just, I was all over the place. So maybe have things a bit more defined. And just have like, I think I would, I would like to work on my shop a bit more than freelance and just to maybe pick some freelance projects that are really, really like, top notch. So I think I’m just, I don’t want anything to be really, really different. I just like to be honest, I think I just want to get better like to have even better Island. You know, every artist wants to get better, like better illustrations better everything more defined. And just for sure, do both. Yeah, like like I do now. Yeah. And still, and still have like a work life balance, which will be hard, which is actually hard. But then yeah, you learn? Yes.

Iva Mikles  

And when you mentioned the brand, and kind of like how you position yourself on the market, can you describe your brand be there, like the idea you are communicating through your work?

Nina Stajner  

I think like the essence of my brands or my illustrations, my little animal characters that people really like people started seeing them on social media, and they were following me for one year, two years. And now I really want like people connected with these little creatures. And then now I want to just try to make things with them. Not just illustrations like this, you know, oh, it’s a print but maybe Oh, you can have it on your pillowcase or maybe you can have it like my favorite pillowcase, my favorite notebook, my favorite. I don’t know just maybe more into products, fabric and stuff like that. So I really want to see my artwork not only as an artwork or framed picture But just like a part of people’s lives, you know, like, the great example is little blue nest, like I did little characters, for them and for their blankets, but now these blankets are covered around like the babies are wrapped in them, and they just grow up with these things. So I really want to just bring my illustrations in other people’s lives, like with different products, something like that. Yeah, because I remember when I had like, my favorite t shirt, my favorite blank, and I still remember the pattern of my favorite. I don’t know. So it really sticks with you. Yeah. Something like that. Yeah.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, because I had the sheets, which I also remember like, what does the pattern on them? So

Nina Stajner  

yeah, yeah. So really like you you you influence other people. And it just yeah, you you affect their lives in a way their memories, childhood memories, probably, oh, I just went on that trip. And I had that little blanket. Oh, and I remember it. And I was like, or something like that. Yeah. Because I really like, I mean, especially with little blue nest when I saw, like, the way people use these blankets, and they go on a picnic, and they just put it on the grass. And it’s like, this is living. This is like a living thing that it’s with them. And it’s a part of their story in their life. And that’s really, that’s really, really nice. Yeah, so Yeah, something like that. It’s super

Iva Mikles  

cool. I really liked how you said that part of the story and the life story because yeah, you you want to have a good memories. And yeah, something like that. And maybe then the last question, because I don’t want to hold you too long. I would like to ask, What would you like to be remembered for? You mentioned also this life stories. Is there something you know, like imaging in 100 years? Like, what is the message or something? Which you?

Nina Stajner  

Yeah, probably, for my whimsical style. I think like the world is really, really in a bad place, I think. Right now. So like, with my style, I try to make people smile, because I get a lot of comments. Oh, every time you post on Instagram, it makes me smile. Oh, your post just bring happiness to my heart or something like that. So maybe like, it’s really contrasting my style, my whimsical approach my my illustration and like the reality of the world right now. So maybe just like, like, I want my artwork to bring happy happiness, happy memories or something like like something good feeling to people. Yeah, maybe in times of sadness or something like that. So maybe that would be a good thing to be remembered by like the Yeah, well, so it’s like when I when I opened Beatrice Potter book, and I see Peter the rabbit. It’s like, it’s really nice, emotionally nice things. So stuff like that. Yeah,

Iva Mikles  

that’s really nice. Yeah, that’s awesome. I really want to thank you for taking the time from your busy schedule and joining us here and inspire people.

Nina Stajner  

Yeah, and if you’re not a problem,

Iva Mikles  

and if you have like a parting piece of guidance, you know, some takeaway, and then we say goodbye.

Nina Stajner  

Just be creative. Just yeah. Trust your instincts, and never give up. Be patient. Yeah, so

Iva Mikles  

well. So thank you again. And thank you. Thank you for having me. Thank you everyone for joining me and hope to see you next time as well. Hope you guys enjoyed this interview. You can find all the resources mentioned in this episode at artsideoflife.com. Just type a kid’s name in the search bar. There is also a little freebie waiting for you. So go check it out. If you enjoyed this episode, please leave a review on iTunes, hopefully five stars so I can read and inspire more people like you. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to Art Side of Life podcast, because I post new interview every single workday. If you want to watch the interviews, head over to artsideoflife.com/youtube. Thank you so much for listening. Don’t forget to inspire each other. And I will talk to you guys in the next episode. Bye.

Announcer  

Thanks for listening to the Art Side of Life podcast at www.artsideoflife.com

Hi, I am Iva (rhymes with “viva”). I am an artist, illustrator, founder of Art Side of Life®, and Top Teacher on Skillshare. Since 2009 I've worked as an illustrator, character designer, art director, and branding specialist focusing on illustration, storytelling, concepts, and animation. I believe that we are all creative in infinite numbers of ways, so I've made it my mission to teach you everything I know and help either wake up or develop your creative genius. Learn more about me.

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