Combining pencil and ink, flora and fauna, freelance illustrator La Scarlatte (Pauline Teunissen) creates beautiful works of art. I first saw her work on Society6, and immediately was smitten. I’m honored that she took the time for this interview series, Artists Making Passive Income.
Jules: First, please tell me a bit about yourself, ie. Where you live, any schooling, how long you’ve been making art, your favorite medium(s), favorite artists/influences, and when you started to sell your art online?
La Scarlatte: I’m an illustrator and pattern designer living in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. I’ve been making art since I could hold a pencil, which is about 2 years old. 🙂 This eventually led me to study Illustration Design at the Utrecht School of Arts, and a little bit of Art History.
Nature is the biggest theme in my work, and I get inspired by Symbolism, The Golden Age, Myths and Fairytales, Folklore and lots of past artists like Albrecht Dürer, Eugene Grasset, Ernst Heackel, but also present ones like Jessica Roux, Marco Mazzoni, Anouk Griffioen and Aitch (check out their work on Instagram, they are fantastic!).
I started to sell my art online about a year and a half ago.
Jules: Albrecht Dürer is definitely a favorite of mine, as well! I really loved looking through your RedBubble, when did you decide to take your art – as a business – seriously? What habits do you strongly believe contribute to your success?
La Scarlatte: From the moment I entered art school, my dream of being an artist became more real, so I guess I started to take it seriously then. I started a studio with a colleague when we graduated, and from that moment on everything was focused on becoming independent artists.
Success is a word that has a different meaning to everyone, and for me to keep enjoying what I do is the most important thing, so I try to keep myself motivated, find inspiration and never give up. I try to balance my personal work and my client work, which keeps me fresh and helps me develop my style.
And keeping in touch with other artists is always inspiring and uplifting, they share the same problems and it always helps me to see things in perspective when I need a sounding board for new ideas.
Jules: How long have you been selling on Society6? Was that the first place you starting selling your work online? And have you tried other platforms to sell your art passively?
La Scarlatte: After enjoying my time as a duo, I decided to fly solo and pursue my own illustration dreams 2 years ago. Because my former studio used platforms like Society6, that was the first one I started for myself. Since then I slowly moved on to other platforms and also started selling on RedBubble, Spoonflower, Juniqe and Tictail.
Jules: Did it take you a long time to sell your first products there?
La Scarlatte: I didn’t really pay much attention to the shops at first, but in the beginning of 2016 started to get product requests from people so it was only logical to fill the shops a bit more and maintain them better. Since then the sales are going up and I’m very happy so far.
Jules: How often do you add new designs to your shop? Do you find certain products (ie., prints, cell phone cases, clothes, accessories, etc.) sell better than others on a consistent basis? If you sell on multiple platforms, do you have a system for keeping track of what sells and where?
La Scarlatte: I try to add a product about every three weeks. The products vary, although pillows seem to be a tiny bit more popular so far. I don’t really have a system, but I do check which ones sell the best and that influences my decision on which new artwork fits best with the best selling ones.
Jules: Do you have a social media strategy for driving traffic to your shop?
La Scarlatte: Not really, but I think it’s good to be active in the communities and comment on the artworks you like, and to keep your followers updated when there is free shipping or a sale going on.
Jules: Do you drive traffic to your shops in other ways?
La Scarlatte: Mostly through social media, and when someone emails me with a specific request I refer them to the shop
Jules: Is there anything you find particularly challenging or frustrating about selling on RedBubble?
La Scarlatte: Not yet, I’ve just started to actively maintain my RedBubble shop, and so far I like the community part a lot. It’s also handy that you don’t have to create different files for every product, like on Society6 (although sometimes if you want it to be perfect, you really need to).
Jules: Agreed! Do you remove any old designs and/or designs that don’t seem to sell as well?
La Scarlatte: Yes, if some designs don’t sell you need to kill your darlings and create something else. It is a bit like a portfolio, that constantly needs to be updated so people find new things and keep exited about your work.
Jules: That is such great advice! Do you set any sales goals for your art?
La Scarlatte: Not at the moment, the majority of my income comes from client work and for me this is a nice backup for when client work is slow. But thinking of it, I have a bit of a travel addiction, so this is a nice way to save up for my next big trip, and hopefully I can take one every year.
Jules: What a great way to fund your travel! Brilliant! What advice would you give to artists hoping to sell work on RedBubble and similar sites?
La Scarlatte: Actively maintain your shop, it works! Update it regularly, talk to other artists and share your work on social media.
Jules: And finally, some quick and fun — totally optional — questions:
What is your favorite music/song/band to listen to while making art?
La Scarlatte: At the moment, Andrew Bird is one of my favorites. I saw him perform a few months ago in Amsterdam, and it was magical. Great musician!
Oh and audiobooks are the best 🙂
Jules: Andrew Bird is great! I’m also a big audiobook junkie. 😉 What/who/where inspires you most?
La Scarlatte: My home is in the center of Amsterdam, but I grew up in Haarlem, which is a city not far from there. It borders the dunes (to the sea) and the woods and I can always find inspiration hiking or cycling there, I love it in every season. I go mushroom spotting in fall, berry picking in summer, and the winter is perfect for windy walks along the beach and combing it for treasures.
Jules: Oh! That sounds so lovely! And, last but not least: How can my readers find you and your art online?
Thanks again, Pauline, for this inspiring and helpful interview!