Who: Katy Dockrill, a freelance illustrator who includes Canadian Living, Chatelaine, the LCBO and Clairol as clients.
Her story: Becoming a mom while freelancing wasn’t an easy transition for her. Here, she looks back and tells us how she got through it.
How did you adjust to being a WAHM with a new baby?
“I don’t think I ever did. I think I may have had PPD, now that I look back at it. It was too stressful working to make money—my partner and I are both freelancers who work from home—and having a daughter at the same time. As an artist, I just felt like I didn’t have the headspace to be as creative as I wanted to be. The illustration industry in 2007 took a big hit because of the recession, so that didn’t help either.”
What would you do to make yourself feel better?
“I went to drop-in centres with Maggie and found other new parents to talk to, including one woman who has become a good friend over the years. It was such good luck that she introduced herself to me—she lived on the same street, is an artist, and had a daughter the same age! Now that I think back, and I’m saying this out loud, it’s incredible to me that that happened at all. She was a life saver. I also kept in touch with illustrator friends. We used to hold a craft club every month, chat about everything and make stuff. We don’t meet as often anymore, but we try for our yearly Christmas decoration swap, which is so much fun.”
Were you able to work at all when she was born?
“I didn’t work at all for what seemed like two years. I needed to be there for Maggie because Jay was working more than usual during her first year and we really couldn’t afford day care. If I did have time, I was tired. Because I’m thinking about this now, 9 years later, I’m sad that I couldn’t just go with the flow. (You also have to know that I’m not naturally that type of person, so when I saw bits of my personality that I didn’t like in myself, that was hard to get used to too).
When did it get easier?
“As soon as she started grade one and was at school full-time. Now that I had a full day to myself, I was able to work. But I did have to relaunch my business. I started reaching out and letting people know that I was available, and am also now with an agency which has kept me busy. Before that point I collaborated with amazing friends to help make my mark again. Jen and Kyle from Sorry You’re Happy took my work to Surtex in New York, an original art and design show, and I would also take on work that gave me exposure. My friend Lynda at Covet Garden (which has now folded) had asked me to draw something to be printed on a canvas bag, and I said yes. I think I said yes a lot. I was really out of touch with social media too. I specifically remember being told I should be on Facebook. That was a big deal to me, to get my work out there, and use that platform. My preference now is Instagram. I still send out postcards too. Sending out constant visual reminders, whether it’s in the digital space or on paper, is always part of the process.”
A FEW OF KATY’S SKETCHES OF MAGGIE
How do you manage your work week now?
“I try to use one day a week to take care of administrative stuff like invoicing, website maintenance and bills. I’ve learned I’m at my most inspired in the morning and if I have work, I do my best to get as much done then. Jay and I have more flexibility right now, so we’ll take turns taking care of our daughter. If I’m busy, he’s there to do after school pick up and vice-versa. She’s also that much older, so if I have work to do while she’s around, she can look after herself. After 6pm, I’m done. I need to unwind and stay away from my desk so I have the headspace to start up again in the morning.”
When you’re stuck, how do you get inspired?
“Good question. I wish I had a straightforward answer, but I think I do a bunch of things to help with that. Right now I’m in-between jobs, which means I need to organize my newest illustrations and get them online, but I also make time for coffee with friends, walks in the neighbourhood, sketching or even sewing something.”
Coffee or sugar? What gets you through your day?
“Coffee, 2 creams.”
“I wish I had enjoyed my time with my daughter more when she was younger; as much as I enjoy her now. I was so stressed out thinking about getting back to work, that I didn’t enjoy all those days and hours enough with her. I have friends who are illustrators that had children before I did, so I knew being a mom and a freelancer was possible, but really it’s so different for everybody.”
“I need to re-group right now and think of what I’d like to work on. I just finished editorials pieces for Philadelphia Magazine and Reader’s Digest. I’m also thinking about the holiday season and I need to finally get my Etsy shop off the ground! Where’s Jane is still in progress, and I’ve also just finished up a whole whack of drawings for Chudleigh’s apple farm. You can see them online, but they will be using more of them on their packaging and throughout the farm from what I understand. That was a really fantastic job that kept me busy for most of the summer.”
What other illustrators do you follow on IG?
“Julia Breckenreid, Carey Sookocheff, Tracy Walker, Alanna Cavanagh, Darren Booth, Juliette Borda, Gemma Correll, Paul Dotey, Kathryn Adams, Fiona Smyth, Ellie Arscott, Shelley Savor, Andrew Brozyna, Hyein Lee, Esther Pearl Watson, Gordon Wiebe, Veronica Grech, Blair Kelly, Kagan McLeod, Ben Weeks, Tom Froese, Marion Deuchars, Sarah Lazarovic, Ben Shannon, Linda Montgomery, Kyle Reed, Jen Hsieh, Ian Phillips………so many good ones, so inspiring!”