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Rising Stars: Meet Laurie Colin


Today we’d like to introduce you to Laurie Colin.
 

Hi Laurie, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstories.
It all started in fifth grade in elementary school. Nobody wanted to be friends with a girl who transferred to a new school in the final year. Isolated at lunch tables, I let my imagination run wild and transferred that through my pencil onto my lined notebook. If no one wanted to be friends, then I would make my own. Imaginary friends became tangible on paper and the more I drew, the better I got. 

Soon classmates would start to take notice and ask, “Hey, can you draw me?” 

Funny how drawing things that were invisible suddenly made me visible to others. Seeing the joy and wonder in people’s eyes when I created was such an inspiration to me. I was bundled in encouragement and my artistic side was always nurtured by my family. 

It was only natural that it was my dream to be an artist. 

Middle and High School were spent drawing in class, taking art electives whenever I could, starting up a drawing club, and pursuing every avenue I could to keep growing. My mother would buy me art supplies whenever she could and my parents fully supported my dream because they knew it was my passion. I remember when my mom would get a bonus, she would buy me expensive markers, or she bought me my first digital art tablet, instead of something nice for herself. 

Coming into adulthood made reality come fast. I went to college for Digital Media with a specialization in 2D Animation, as that was what I was interested in making my career. That was a challenge, as my interests were being phased out. Everyone wanted to teach about 3D modeling and animation and it was difficult to be taught and take courses that I had no desire for. 

To keep my fire going, I would draw and sell on the side to help afford things. I made pins/buttons with a button maker my mother bought for me. I drew cute comic book/anime characters in a cutesy style and would get it printed on sticker paper in Staples, then painstakingly hand cut hundreds of these out to sell at $1 apiece. 

I would go to small comic cons and sell these items. I loved seeing people exclaim happily whenever my work would catch their eye. My friends would come over, put on a movie, and help me cut out hundreds of items and I slowly grew my catalog. My displays grew larger, I started posting on social media, my customer base grew, I started my online shop, and I continued to expand my business. I got my own printer so I wouldn’t have to make an emergency run out to staples at 8 pm at night for an online rush order. 

I found out through trial and error what the best equipment was, what the best materials were to use, and also how to juggle my time. It was hard not to get burnout with my final year in college, as well as having three jobs and my business growing. 

But I had a lot of support to help me. My family cheered me on from afar, my long-distance girlfriend moved in and would drive over to the college art studio to deliver food when I would pull some all-nighters, and my amazing roommates would support me by helping run and optimize my business. It certainly took a village. 

When I finally graduated, I was excited to finally join a studio and start 2D animating. To my dismay, all of the companies were far away and wanted to only pay $9/hour. Months of searching told me that I would be creating for someone else, not get paid an affordable wage, and be ripped away from the friends and family I’ve come to love and rely on. 

I went down to two jobs after college to make time for job hunting and running my small business. I was miserable working as an Art Director for a digital media company, and I also worked as a caption where I would mind-numbingly repeat what I heard on my headset while I stared at my blank gray cubicle walls. As an art director for a media company, my boss saw what I did for my small business and wanted me to instead do that for him. He saw my success and wanted to capitalize on it. 

I was suffocating in these environments. Blank gray walls in the morning and then restrictions at night. I endured this for 4 months before finally reaching a breaking point. My fingernails, hair, and skin were damaged from being ripped apart, a consequence of sitting in a gray cubicle with nothing to do and not being allowed to do anything but sit there. My boss in the media company also asked for something that was too much for me to comply with. 

I had enough. I remember texting my roommates, thinking to quit my jobs, and taking a leap of faith. I had their full support. I quit my job and didn’t look back. 

I had the community come together and support me on Patreon so I had a monthly income. I started to stream my 5 days a week of me drawing so I could keep the content coming. I found out how to get high-quality items produced and found manufacturers that could get my art printed and made into professional-grade items. 

$1 stickers turned into $3 stickers which turned into $7 decals made from car wrap materials. 

$2 laminated by hand keychains and hand cut turned into $12 acrylic charms made and shipped to my house. 

I started making custom pillows & which was a huge hit as well. 

I stopped doing things myself and had computers do it for me. I outsourced the production to save on time and give myself more time to create. I started having regular customers, and people would make sure to return to see me year after year, seeing how much my tiny table has grown into a giant business. I kept wanting to create more and more. I started a clothing line and had people model it, I made cute pencil pouches, and I kept going- what’s next? I had a hunger. 

I started to see my art out in real life. While visiting Chicago, a Walmart worker was wearing my art on her badge in the checkout aisle. Voice Actors were posting my art on their accounts, popular streamers would order my art to use for giveaways, shop owners wanted to have my works in their shop to sell, and doors were opening for me. Soon almost everyone I knew had a piece of something I made. 

Everything was going so well and growing and expanding and then. 

Covid happened. 

I had my first year of running my own business. In my first year where things were starting to take off. 

And now all of my shows were canceled. My largest sources of income were snatched away from me. I did my best to sell online but it was hard when the economy slowed. People supported me on Patreon and I did my best to keep my costs down. I couldn’t order more products or merchandise because the shows where I sell them the most were all gone. 

I kept my head down and continued to draw while the world was crumbling around us. I also started up a different avenue as I could not only pour myself into art during this time. Since everyone was at home and was looking for something to watch, I started to turn my streaming into a career. Besides streaming art, I also started a gaming channel where I stream 3 days a week. I stream the game Dead by Daylight and I am really good(?) at it. People watch for funny moments and helpful tips on how to improve and get better at the game. I found a balance between working on art and a streaming career. It wasn’t easy but it helped. 

One year of this tight squeeze happened. Some art shows came to return in 2021, but the hardest part was returning when I did not have the funds to get my work manufactured. 

My friends, family, and roommates all came together in a big show of support. They lent me several thousand dollars so I could cover the restart-up costs, confident in me and my ability. They all believed in me and my dream and refused to let it die. 

I made it all back and repaid them immediately. 2021 was difficult as not every show made its return and most everything, I made went back into getting my business afloat. But afloat it was. The rush and feeling of seeing people were exhilarating. I felt inspired to keep pushing and keep working hard. So, work hard I did. I am currently working in 2022 right now with shows back in full swing. 

My now fiancée (and soon-to-be wife in November) helps run the machine to cut stickers, and my roommate takes care of online orders and set up at the show. My parents always let me crash at their place whenever there are shows in that area. We have a system, and it’s working. 

I’m currently saving up to do another business upgrade and overhaul. I want to expand and have the room to do so. I have drawn over 1,000 characters at this point and one table cannot contain my creativity. Next year will be the start of something big. I want to see how far I will go and I am prepared to do the work to get there. Look out for 2023. 

I started as a lonely girl who found that her artwork can put smiles on people’s faces. Now I am running a growing business that can send positivity all over the world. I chase that rush of happiness and infectious giddiness whenever patrons see my works. It truly makes me happy. 

I also grew my streaming career alongside this, with it working in unison with my art career. I would promote my art to an audience who would then go to my store and shop to support me and get cute merchandise. 

I wouldn’t be where I was without support. So many have sacrificed to get where I am today. Thank you for believing in me. I will make you all proud. 

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Sorry that I sent a novel on the previous question, I believe it articulates the issues well. Hard time at school, soul-crushing jobs, and covid. 

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I am a digital artist who specializes in a cute “Chibi” style. I draw massive amounts of high-quality work and pay attention to detail. I’ve drawn well over 1,000 characters at this time. I’m known for my works and for always being a part of the Florida convention scene. MegaCon, Metrocon, Tampa Bay Comic Con, Anime Festival Orlando, Supercon, and Holiday Matsuri are all cons that you will see me at, year after year. 

I am proud of how far I’ve come compared to when I started. At the first-ever “convention” I sold at; I didn’t even have my own table. I sold buttons in the food court area and made it a fun interactive experience, having customers depress the handle on the button machine and making it like a fun creative show where they were part of the process. I am proud of our customer service as well. I am always funny, talkative, and energetic. I have people come back to buy more just because they enjoy hanging out. I love people and their energy. 

There are others like me, who started small and sell big. But I am looking to be bigger. I will smash through expectations. I have a drive and hunger for this and I will keep going. 

Also, I have lots of items that you cannot find/get anywhere else and that bring people in. It’s so funny to have someone walk by and then pause and go, “Hold on is that a “insert character here” Pillow!? You have that!?” It brings me so much joy. 

Do you have any advice for those looking to network or find a mentor?
I actually had an art mentor in high school who also gave me a scholarship that helped me go to college for art. He had a daughter with a similar name and aspirations, and she suddenly passed while I was in my freshman year. I’d like to think he saw her in me and he was my rock to help me make decisions on the future. 

Later in life, artists who started at the same time leaned on each other for support. I’d like to think if you found something good or useful that you’d share it around instead of keeping it a secret for yourself. 

For networking, you need good work, a great personality, and an openness to try new things. 

Also posting consistently on social media is good as well, but sometimes it can seem like talking to a brick wall. Find what works for you and focus your efforts there. 

Pricing:

  • Stuffed Pillows $35 or 2 for $65
  • Acrylic Keychains $12
  • Car Decals $7 ea or 2 for $10
  • Sticker Sets Vary
  • Premium Stickers $3

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