When I was younger, I used to adore drawing. I even took a drawing class at a community arts center when I was about seven or eight. Perhaps my favorite coloring utensil was colored pencils; I always had a box of them readily available. While it’s rare now to find me drawing with colored pencils (mostly because I have come to terms that my skills are really lacking when it comes to drawing), I still continue to love art created with them. It creates an almost whimsical look, for lack of a better way of describing it. It is soft and delicate, and yet colored pencils still can create a very bold and beautiful piece of art.
Today I am so happy to introduce Dakota Nyght (seriously, that is the name of someone destined to be an artist, and the story behind both her name and her shop are pretty darn cool), who specializes in hand-drawn art created with colored pencils. I connected with Dakota a few weeks ago when she commented on a blog post and mentioned that she was also a mom and an artist. I tracked down her Etsy shop and immediately knew I wanted to interview her. Her work is adorable and so, so lovely, and I truly enjoyed reading the responses.
Tell us a little bit about your work and how you got started with it.
I draw very whimsical, light-hearted illustrations in colored pencil. The subject matter usually revolves around animals doing something silly or some kind of fantasy idea. I think it’s perfect kid art, but plenty of adults say they like it too, which is thrilling!
The funny thing is I only started drawing seriously again about two years ago. I created art during high school, but in college and afterward I focused on other passions. After my oldest son was born, the amount of time I had to work on projects was limited.
I left a corporate job at the end of 2012 to be a stay at home mom, and I felt really lost, creatively speaking. I needed projects I could pick up and put down quickly since I was also watching my little boy, and I thought colored pencil sketches might be just the ticket. I started tucking a sketchbook and a few pencils in my purse and doodling in my free time. At the time, I was trying an entirely different business idea and never thought I’d pursue life as an artist/entrepreneur. But when I started posting my artwork on my blog and Facebook, I received so much encouragement that I decided to make a go of it.
My little collection of 12 starter pencils has grown considerably since then and now I even have an “office.” (It’s an art desk in the corner of my living room.) I still follow that pick up/put down quickly philosophy though – especially since now I have two little ones to look after!
What is the story behind your shop’s name?
I was born at midnight! My aunt pushed hard for my middle name to be midnight and always called me “Dakota Midnight” when I was growing up. It’s also a play on my last name. When my husband and I got married, I didn’t want to take his last name and he didn’t want to take mine, but – nevertheless – we wanted to share a last name. Growing up, my husband always wanted to be a knight, and he harbored ambitions of writing under a pen name – T.S. Knight. One of us – I don’t remember who – suggested that we adopt “night” as our last name. We changed the “i” to a “y” to avoid inadvertently joining someone else’s family tree. So when it came time to name my business, Dakota Midnyght seemed logical.
What do you like most about having your own creative business? What do you find most challenging?
I love the learning process that comes with it. At times it’s exhausting because there’s always yet another thing on the to do list to take care of, or learn how to do better, but at the end of each day I usually have acquired a new skill or knowledge to add to my tool belt. I’m addicted to the high of figuring something out and having it work.
The most challenging thing, honestly, is networking and advertising and putting myself out there. This problem is two-fold: first, I have a hard time self-promoting because it seems immodest. I used to subscribe to the “if you build it, they will come” idea, and well… I’ve done that with my blog for several years. If you haven’t heard of me, then you know how well that worked. 😉
Second: it seems like a good social media presence is required to “get out there.” As I’m sure you know, social media isn’t supposed to be all about you, all the time. I have a policy that I don’t do anything that feels fake or disingenuous. In other words – I don’t share something just because. I share when I see something valuable or interesting – and it has to be well-written! This makes content curation a little more challenging because I sift through a lot of stuff – and spend a lot of time – finding things I think people will find interesting.
What inspires you to create?
It’s really the little things. I notice textures and colors and shapes all the time and think, “Can I recreate that?” I also received a good healthy dose of fantasy growing up (and I continue to self-indulge) so it’s second nature to wonder if (for example) gnomes could live in mushrooms instead of trees.
What do you think motivates others to buy handmade?
I’m not sure I can speak for everyone, but I know for myself and for my circle of friends that there is something very special about a piece created out of joy. Not created because it had to be. Not created simply because there’s consumer demand (encouraged or natural) – but because someone loved the process or the materials or their idea enough to bring it into reality.
I also love buying handmade or local because I know that I’m supporting someone with a face and a family. I am very passionate about supporting local people and economies, and although I can’t do it 100% of the time, I do what I can.
What is your favorite handmade item you have bought or received?
I love handmade earrings (earrings are my lipstick!) and I have acquired a decent selection. It’s my favorite way to commemorate a trip – some people buy magnets – I buy earrings. My friends also gift me unique pairs on occasion.
When you are not making making art what do you like to do with your time?
Oh goodness… I never have enough time to do all the things I love! I’ve never met a craft I didn’t like, with the exception of knitting. I can’t knit to save my life. But I love sewing and costuming. I do some paper crafting. I dabble (lightly) in leatherwork and jewelry making. I also do hand quilting and embroidery, although not as much of that in recent years as I’d like. I get wild yens to do one-off projects… I created a steampunk costume trunk for one of my boys, and recently revamped a freestanding cabinet to hold my art and business supplies. I also really enjoy cooking and baking, hiking, and I read like a fiend. My biggest problem is always underestimating how much time a project will take.
What is something people might not know about you?
I still haven’t watched Frozen. I’m not quite the last parent standing, but I’m pretty sure I’m among the last holdouts. People keep asking me how I’ve managed to avoid it so long, and the secret is simply that we don’t own a TV. I sold ours at a yard sale three years ago and never looked back. It was an easy transition for me though – I’d much rather curl up with a book than watch a movie.
What is one piece of advice you would offer to others with their own creative business?
Gosh, I’m such a newbie at this, but if I was going to say one thing, I’d say: Don’t be afraid of failure. That first business attempt I made foundered, completely and utterly. But in the long run, it was a really good thing. I learned a lot from the process – namely, what I did and didn’t like about what I was doing. I am much more confident this time around and am clearer in my purpose.
Thank you for joining me on my blog, Dakota, and be sure to check out her shop!
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