Ella Lama: Letterer & Illustrator

Ella Lama: Letterer & Illustrator

Ella Lama is a letterer and illustrator, whose works feature bright colors and whimsical themes. Her works have appeared in local magazines and books such as Abbey Sy's The ABCs of Hand-Lettering and Berry Books' 1,001 Awesome Stickers for Kids.

To start off our The Life Well-Crafted blog series, she shares her evolution as an artist and the challenges of being an entrepreneur.

Ella draws her own avatar; and the artist herself.

Tell us a bit about yourself. When and how did you get started with art?

My name is Ella and I'm a letterer/illustrator. I am actually a late-bloomer when it comes to art; I started lettering in 2012 as a stress-reliever from work, built a business around it, and in 2015, I quit my job to pursue art full-time. Currently, I am experimenting with a variety of mediums and working on finding my own style. Aside from art and illustration, things that get me excited are milk tea, cute stationery and animals!

What made you take the leap to pursue art full-time?

I quit my full-time job in June 2015, but it was not necessarily because I wanted to pursue art. At work I knew what my career direction would be; growing my art business is a new frontier. I had no blueprint to follow, so I was curious as to where I can take it when I dedicate more time to it.

Sidenote: I think people, especially those who hold stressful jobs, tend to romanticize the idea of pursuing art full-time. It's difficult work that requires a certain level of self-awareness and discipline. I've found that it's not about making art all day everyday. 70% of the time you will be working on budget, pricing, accounting, paying taxes, delivering goods, prototyping, researching, marketing, all the HR and admin work you don't get assigned at work.

Early works from 2012 and 2013.

Describe your typical day. Do you have a daily ritual to keep you productive and motivated?

I keep a daily schedule, but I try to make it as loose as possible to make way for spontaneity. I get up and have breakfast while answering sudoku puzzles (I am a proud numbers nerd!). After that, I check and respond to emails and work on client projects, because I'm better at following directions and design briefs in the morning. I take a break to have lunch and proceed to working on personal projects in the afternoon until around 10pm. I end my work day by making a to-do list for the next day and watching TED or School of Life videos on Youtube.

What does your workspace look like?

Extremely messy, but with the help of Marie Kondo, I am now able to control the clutter. I work at home, in the attic, because it's the quietest place in the house. I keep lots of books near my desk in case I need some inspiration. I also post prints, posters and postcards with fun illustrations and positive quotes on my wall to keep the good vibes going.

When I am playing with paints and markers, I usually stay on the floor to send my brain a signal that it's okay to make a mess and to have fun. When it's time to digitize my drawings, I work on my desk to tell my brain it's time to get down to business.

A view of Ella's workspace.

Tell us about your art. Has your style evolved since you started making art?

I am really, really conscious about finding my style I like using bright colors and incorporating food, animals and positive messages in my work. Sometimes I feel as though my work is stuck with the label "cute" but I've come to accept it and not fight against it. I make sure I experiment with different materials and styles to keep growing and evolving as an artist.

Take us through your creative process. How do you go from a blank page to a finished piece?

When it comes to making art, I am a planner; I have to see the finished product in my head before getting my ideas down on paper. This means it can take me a while to work on a piece, a day minimum. But since I've been doing a 100-day project, I am now more comfortable with working on an idea that just popped into my head and running with it. All the drawings from my project are done in less than 10mins.

Ella's more recent works.

Share your favorite milestone in your journey as an artist.

I've been very lucky to work on a lot of different projects, but the highlight of my journey so far is to have met people who share the same values and beliefs about art and art-making as me. The world, especially the online communities, is becoming increasingly competitive. People fight about the pettiest of things. I am very happy that I've found my tribe who will not only keep me in check whenever I feel the pressure to conform, but also keep me inspired to keep on pursuing my own thing.

To be able to quit a job that pays well and that I actually like, to pursue the unknown took more courage than I had in me at the time.

At DesignHatch, we believe in the life well-crafted—living intentionally to achieve an authentic life that’s entirely your own. Can you share one important decision you made that completely changed your life or led you closer to where you are now?

It would have to be taking the leap to become a full-time artist. I think of myself as an entrepreneur who happens to sell art rather than an artist selling my art to the world. To be able to quit a job that pays well and that I actually like, to pursue the unknown took more courage than I had in me at the time. Now, it's been a year since I made the jump, and I am still making art, evolving, and happy to be alive!

What are you excited about today? Any upcoming projects/events you want to share?

I am super excited to play with new paints I got! For the past year I have been digitizing most of my artwork, so I am looking forward to making something with my hands again without the help of the computer. I have several art fairs coming up too.

Photos and artworks by Ella Lama. Follow Ella online through her website, Facebook or Instagram at @ella_lama.
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