Friday Finds - Lucy Banaji - Illustrator

Good morning! Today's creative talent is illustrator Lucy Banaji who I met once in London with some other artist friends I'd met through the Make Art That Sells course we all took on line.

© Lucy Banaji

When did you start your business and why? Did you plan how you started meticulously or was it almost accidental?

I’ve been steadily building my portfolio for a couple of years while getting my business off the ground. 

My current work evolved from drawings I started making a few years ago. Although I have a degree in fine art painting I broke from it after I graduated in order to work so when I returned to the visual arts I started from scratch. 

I made huge drawings that were very decorative and I thought they’d look great on products, but I didn’t know how to go about doing this. I loved making them but the process was very slow and so I refreshed my digital skills to find a more efficient way of working.

During this time I landed some design work for local projects and I took the e-course Make Art that Sells) which teaches you about the field of art licensing. 

I read as much as I could about the industry and over the last year I’ve floor walked at trade shows such as Surtex and Printsource in New York and Brand Licensing Europe in London. 

© Lucy Banaji

Do you do your business part time or full time?

I work two days a week to pay the bills and spend every other minute on my business.

Do you intend to grow your business into something much bigger or are you happy with it as it is and why?

I’d love to grow it into a much bigger business. I’d also like to collaborate with artists working in other disciplines – a ceramicist for example. 

© Lucy Banaji

Would you say you earn a good living from your work?

Not yet but I’m getting there. My other work supplements my income.  

Where do you sell your work?

Some of my designs are sold through the online shop Society6 that stocks a range of products from T-shirts to shower curtains. 

I’m also about to join the online shop The Ink Nest, which sells hand-drawn vector clip art. I’ll create collections specifically for that purpose.

© Lucy Banaji

Have you had publicity in national magazines? If so how did you go about achieving this? 

I haven’t begun marketing myself yet so I’m honoured that you asked to interview me. 

Who do you think your typical customer is?

She’s a woman probably in her 30s or 40s who likes the arts and crafts. I do check data to work out who may be interested in my work and it’s mostly women.

Which aspect of your work do you enjoy most?

I enjoy the process the most - getting lost in a drawing or painting. However, I work mostly digitally now. For me, making drawings to scan is less intuitive and free than making a traditional drawing. When I make a drawing to trace in Illustrator I don’t put as much feeling into the linework so I don’t enjoy it as much. 

The enjoyment comes afterwards when everything is taking shape digitally and I start to add textures and it feels like the work is coming alive. I really enjoy this part of the process because it can take you in lots of directions. 

I also enjoy researching colour because it can really change the mood of a design. I usually try out at least five different palettes until I find the right one.

© Lucy Banaji

Are you someone who sets goals regularly or more instinctive?

I always had an end goal but I used to work very intuitively. Over the past six months I’ve started setting specific goals each week and I find I’m more productive.

Have you ever or do you employ people part time to help with any aspect of your business? For example, book keeper, accountant, packers? If you do, how did you find people who were the right fit for you?

I do it all by myself at the moment but I’d love someone to come in and do the sellling and marketing part of it. 

© Lucy Banaji

Could you describe where you work? Are you alone most of the day or with others? Do you feel that they way it is now is the best fit for you? Do you see that changing?

I have a room where I can work in my flat in Stoke Newington. I find working at home works best for me. I did once share a studio with a designer but he used the space to cut up large sheets of MDF which made my eyes really dry so I left. 

I like working alone most of the time, but there are days when I feel restless. When this happens I take a walk or meet someone for a coffee and crossword and then hopefully the restlessness disappears. I only get restless if something’s not working in my artwork. A walk or a break usually helps clear my head and solves the problem.

I think this will be how I continue to work for the time being. I’m usually very productive despite the presence of an extremely demanding cat. She wants me to curl up and sleep all day like she does.

© Lucy Banaji

Do you have a mentor or people who you are able to discuss your business with? If not how do you find you best make decisions about your business?

I’m part of a social networking group of artists and illustrators who I met doing the e-courses. It’s the best place to find information and get advice. I was also mentored by licensing artist Amy Schimler-Safford. I had a couple of sessions and will continue to return to her for professional direction.

What is a typical day for you in your business as it is now? What would be a dream day for you – business or otherwise?

With breakfast in bed, I get up-to-date with emails and social media and do some research for the day ahead. Then I have a bit of a clean up of my desk while I listen to the radio before I begin to work. 

I usually work into the night with breaks for food and coffee. 

I schedule sports into my routine a few times a week as I think it’s really important to keep active when you’ve got a sedentary job. 

I’m a rock climber so I go to an indoor wall and I try to keep up with yoga too. Sometimes I have to force myself to do it as I don’t want to stop working, but I always feel better afterwards.

© Lucy Banaji

What is your dream day?

I receive a very exciting commission to create a collection for my favourite shop but it has a tight deadline so I’m working against the clock. I like pressure!

A huge window appears in my studio right in front of my desk. It’s overlooking a forested lake: mountains and sea in the distance. The sun is shining. Actually that would probably be way too distracting!

Where can we see and buy your work?

At the moment you can buy my work here:

My website URL:

Thanks so much Lucy - it's interesting that you like pressure! I'm not sure if I do or not - I think it depends whether I've had enough sleep ;) and I'm going to take your advice and get moving tomorrow. It's so easy to find that you've sat in a chair painting all day, despite good intentions. Hope you get that call from your favourite shop before long.


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