"Every project I start begins with research and inspiration. I find inspiration everywhere, such as in nature, or through art and design trends, and by doodling in a sketchbook."
Redbubble artist Doucette Designs, aka Heather Doucette, has taken extraordinary steps after finishing service in the U.S. Coast Guard to build a freelance career in illustration and design. In the interview below, I spoke with Heather about working as an artist while earning a graduate degree in graphic design, the inspiration for her lovely patterns and color palette, self-promotion tips, and how she approaches designing for Redbubble’s wide suite of products.
Your work is so lovely! Could you please tell us about your background and how you got involved in design as a career?
Thank you so much! My love for art began when I was a toddler; creating my first mural with a box of crayons on my bedroom wall. I would also sell artwork instead of lemonade as a kid, and enter local art contests. I always knew I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. I just didn’t know which direction I wanted to go. I took a variety of art classes growing up (painting, illustration, photography, jewelry, and ceramics), but I didn’t actually get into graphic design until a couple of years ago. I attended a college course in digital photography where I learned how to use Photoshop, and became interested in learning how to use other Adobe programs and becoming a designer.
As a designer and artist in graduate school, what does a typical day look like for you? How do you juggle freelancing and study?
I’m currently attending the Academy of Art University in San Francisco through their online Graphic Design program. Although I would love to attend classes on campus, I’m unable to because I live in Florida. The online courses are also great because of the flexible schedule, which helps with managing time for freelance work, family, and other hobbies.
How do you stay focused? What inspires you to sit down create new work?
The best way for me to stay focused and not get burned out from both school and freelance work is to take a break every once in a while and enjoy doing something else. Sometimes just stepping away for a bit can help re-energize the creativity and inspire new ideas. Since I’m passionate about what I do, it’s easy to come back and refocus on a project.
The ocean and its creatures are also another passion of mine. I grew up in California and always took family trips to the beach; searching the tide pools for living treasures, combing the sand for sand dollars, and riding the waves on a Boogie Board. I also served in the U.S. Coast Guard for seven years, and have lived near the ocean ever since.
What has been your biggest creative learning curve?
Graphic design has been and continues to be my biggest creative learning curve because it’s different than being an artist. In graphic design your purpose is to communicate a message to an audience without becoming emotionally involved, and as an artist you’re free to let your emotions control your creativity and end result. I’m still learning to separate my emotional artistic side from communicating visual messages.
"The products I decide to put my patterns on with Redbubble depend on how well the patterns will display on the product. If part of the artwork is cropped in a way that’s not ideal, then I’ll choose not to apply the artwork to that product. I want to be able to showcase my work on products professionally, rather than just adding it on a product to sell it."
Do you have any self-promotion tips for artists who want to get their artwork seen online?
I would recommend creating an online portfolio with your own website, and/or other websites like Behance where people can see your artistic style. Social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest are also great sources for self-promotion as well as finding inspiration for your work. What I’ve found to work best for self-promotion, is actually the promotion of other artists. Sharing is caring, so when you promote their work, most artists will also help to promote your work too. Joining a community of artists, such as Redbubble, is a great way to help each other out by sharing the amazing talents of others.
What inspires your patterns?
Every project I start begins with research and inspiration. I find inspiration everywhere, such as in nature, or through art and design trends, and by doodling in a sketchbook. The most challenging part of any project for me is deciding on color because I feel that it’s one of the most impactful design choices.
How do you decide which Redbubble products are right for them?
The products I decide to put my patterns on with Redbubble depend on how well the patterns will display on the product. If part of the artwork is cropped in a way that’s not ideal, then I’ll choose not to apply the artwork to that product. I want to be able to showcase my work on products professionally, rather than just adding it on a product to sell it.
If you could give one piece of advice to your fellow Redbubble artist, what would you say?
Do what you love and what you’re passionate about. Don’t let anyone or any obstacle hold you back from what’s in your heart. It’s important to stay true to who you are and what makes you happy because that’s what matters the most. If one person doesn’t like your artwork, that doesn’t mean everyone else won’t either.