In my heyday of devouring black literature, it never occurred to me that I could have products with some of my favorite author’s names or quotes on them. However, one Black Friday ago I launched my online business to showcase just that. People told me it couldn’t be done because I had no social media presence and, most importantly, no money. They even said I wouldn’t last long because there was no demand. Today, I’ve sold nearly 300 products between my Shopify and Etsy stores. I haven’t pumped any money into advertising, nor have I contacted celebrity friends for support. My business has grown organically without any rush from me and while still small, it is something I’m proud to claim as mine.

Last year, Alex Kleon’s Show Your Work inspired me to post my doodles on Instagram. I’ve always enjoyed art. I grew up in a home surrounded by it and take pleasure viewing exhibits at museums. But, to consider myself an artist? Sharing my work with other people? Not me. There are so many people who can obviously do it better. Yet, my art received a few comments and likes. You know that fake confidence social media offers? I started to think maybe my skills weren’t so bad. Of course books helped me in this journey, so I’ve included a few unique favorites below.

 

Show Your Work by Austin Kleon: In his New York Times bestseller Steal Like an Artist, Austin Kleon showed readers how to unlock their creativity by “stealing” from the community of other movers and shakers. Now, in an even more forward-thinking and necessary book, he shows how to take that critical next step on a creative journey―getting known. Show Your Work! is about why generosity trumps genius. It’s about getting findable, about using the network instead of wasting time “networking.” It’s not self-promotion, it’s self-discovery―let others into your process, then let them steal from you. Filled with illustrations, quotes, stories, and examples, Show Your Work! offers ten transformative rules for being open, generous, brave, productive. In chapters such as You Don’t Have to Be a Genius; Share Something Small Every Day; and Stick Around, Kleon creates a user’s manual for embracing the communal nature of creativity― what he calls the “ecology of talent.” From broader life lessons about work (you can’t find your voice if you don’t use it) to the etiquette of sharing―and the dangers of oversharing―to the practicalities of Internet life (build a good domain name; give credit when credit is due), it’s an inspiring manifesto for succeeding as any kind of artist or entrepreneur in the digital age.

You Can Draw in 30 Days by Mark Kistler: Drawing is an acquired skill, not a talent–anyone can learn to draw! All you need is a pencil, a piece of paper, and the willingness to tap into your hidden artistic abilities. With Emmy award-winning, longtime PBS host Mark Kistler as your guide, you’ll learn the secrets of sophisticated three-dimensional renderings, and have fun along the way–in just 20 minutes a day for a month.

Craft-a-Doodle Deux by Jenny Doh: Even non-artists can express their creativity with this fun follow-up to Craft-a-Doodle! Curated by Jenny Doh, it offers 73 beginner-friendly projects that combine doodling with a variety of popular crafts. Showcasing the unique and quirky styles of 18 crafters, the collection includes techniques ranging from mixed media to journaling and even cartooning. These inventive ideas will instruct and inspire.

The Non-Designers Design Book by Robin Williams: For nearly 20 years, designers and non-designers alike have been introduced to the fundamental principles of great design by author Robin Williams. Through her straightforward and light-hearted style, Robin has taught hundreds of thousands of people how to make their designs look professional using four surprisingly simple principles. Now in its fourth edition, The Non-Designer’s Design Book offers even more practical design advice, including a new chapter on the fundamentals of typography, more quizzes and exercises to train your Designer Eye, updated projects for you to try, and new visual and typographic examples to inspire your creativity. Whether you’re a Mac user or a Windows user, a type novice, or an aspiring graphic designer, you will find the instruction and inspiration to approach any design project with confidence.

 

When I began my business, I didn’t start out with drawings or art. My first mug designs included Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, and W.E.B. DuBois–an appropriate crew to bless my business success.  One year later, my collection now includes so many more interests, names, and products. It’s been a slow journey, but I wanted it this way. So, if you haven’t already visit my Etsy store or follow me on IG. Message me on either platform and mention this post for a special discount code too!

Back to reading, y’all.

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