At the end of my freshman year, I set off to transfer to an art school for something, anything art related. The graphic design program at the Art Institute of Dallas ended up being my top choice. I immediately loved the classes and being around so many other like-minded students. Outside of band and UIL competitions, I had rarely ever felt so in sync with a large group of people. The school threw me into an immersive, creative environment I didn’t know existed. It was amazing. I started taking on design jobs as well as commissioned art projects, relishing every second of it.
Throughout my career, most of my work has revolved around digital projects with a marketing goal. Don’t get me wrong — I love that type of work. It’s what I got my degree in. But creating designs during the day wasn’t enough. I needed more. To balance the hours of purpose-driven design work, I focused my evenings on creating art with traditional media. I dabbled in everything from chalk pastels to polymer clay, from acrylics to oil paints. Any extra spending money I had went straight toward art supplies and books. Christmas requests always involved art store gift cards. I couldn’t tell you about a single pair of shoes or clothing I owned around that time of my life, but I do remember specific trips for more India ink.
Then my husband and I started a family — and you know what kids do, right? They steal your energy. They cost a lot of money. They get into everything. Every flippin’ thing. (Of course, there are positive points to having children, but that isn’t relevant to this story.) Having no dedicated studio space, I had to store away my materials and slow down on buying new ones. Sometimes, I could keep a pencil and sketchbook handy, but that often ended in spills, torn pages, and tears. I stuck with creating digital art in my downtime (anyone remember Worth1000?!) and sketched on breaks at the office. That’s all I could do, and I just had to remind myself I would be able to use my art supplies again someday.
We moved into a bigger place after a few years, and I finally had my studio space. I got all my paints, markers, and pastels out. I had canvas and paper ready to go. I organized everything on desks and shelves and bins and cabinets. I was so glad to finally have my own space for creating.
But then we added more babies to our family. It became harder to fit in a minute here or an hour there some nights after everyone was asleep. Set up and tear down took time. I had to decide what to make. Kids, work, and life took a toll on my energy. Halfway into a project, I might realize my supplies were running low…or worse, expired. Some little one would wake up, so cleaning and putting supplies away didn’t always happen. Being a parent and needing time for creative expression was exhausting for me. I sighed a lot and resigned myself again to someday. I had moments here and there over the years to devote to new creations, but it wasn’t the same.
And then, one glorious and unexpected day, I tried my friend Sam Alfano’s iPad Pro and Apple Pencil.
I was in love. Not like I-love-sci-movies-and-dogs love; more like that serious I’m-going-to-marry-this love. Everything was right there: every color, every brush, all clean and ready at my fingertips. And I could take it anywhere. Love at first sight exists, I tell you, and it happened to me that day. I had created digital art for years in Photoshop with a Wacom, but no setup had felt this natural, been this portable. I knew I had to get an iPad and Apple Pencil…but I also knew I couldn’t afford one anytime soon. Heavy sigh. Someday.
When Apple released a model I could afford, I stalked Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales for weeks. I knew every deal on every iPad model compatible with the Apple Pencil. When those sales went live, I hit that buy button so fast and, two days later, finally had a mobile studio in my hands. That sigh was a long and happy one. I felt like someday was finally here.
Unboxing my iPad and setting it up? So exciting. Using it every day? SO exciting. I dove right into the apps, creating more in the first 8 months than I did in the ten years prior with traditional media. I worked on characters, hand lettering, sketching out designs, digital paintings…everything I could or wanted to. After almost a year, I decided to upgrade to an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil 2 (no regrets on that…though OUCH on the price). The increased screen size and better specs meant being able to create larger works for print. Even with the upgrade, I didn’t have any real plans for printing my works yet. The possibility for doing commissions again was rolling around in the back of my mind.
Enter the pandemic of 2020. We went from normal to what-in-the-world in 0.2 seconds flat. My job found itself non-essential, and my four kids were all home 24/7 doing some messy version of online school. It was (and still is) months of uncertainty and changes that none of us wanted. But now, here I am, taking those little ideas in the back of my head and turning them into something real. I hope that, despite the way this year has gone, that this will be something I can look forward to every day.
As I work on my art and set goals for Studio Henson, I hope what I create helps you in some way — brings you joy, boosts your business, inspires your own journey. I think we all could use a little more of that right now. Thank you for reading my story and supporting my efforts as an artist. <3