Meet Gillian Levine, a freelance illustrator, designer, and writer. Gillian is a recent graduate (2018) of the Seattle Central Creative Academy. Before going back to school for graphic design, she worked as a secretary for over ten years before finally deciding to make a change to pursue her creative passions. Get to know Gillian and check out her awesome home-office as she updates us on how freelance life is going!
Where do you work? Tell us about your space(s).
I live in the suburbs of Seattle. The Starbucks in my neighborhood doesn’t provide a lot of variety in the way of people-watching (it’s a lot of moms with jogging strollers), so I work from home just about every day. It’s also cheaper to make my Safeway brand instant coffee at home, so most days I’m either at my desk or on the couch with my cat.
I live in a one-bedroom apartment with my husband, who is also self-employed (he’s a dog walker). Sometimes quarters get a bit cramped, but I think we’ve found a good rhythm for working in this space. On days when I’m feeling fancy, I will take the bus into Seattle and find a cool coffee shop or park to do work, and look at all sorts of interesting people.
What hardware and software do you use to create your designs?
For hardware, I use a big ol’ 27-inch iMac for all of the work I do in the Adobe Creative Suite. I use a Wacom tablet (the smallest one they sell) for digital painting in Photoshop, but lately, I get more use out of Procreate on the iPad Pro. I use a ton of tracing paper for sketching (I just like the feel of it with softer pencils). I use Holbein Artist’s Gouache for painting. My most-used software in the Adobe Suite is Illustrator, Indesign, Photoshop, and After Effects. I use Dropbox for organizing and storing my files. I have found that this is the most intuitive and straightforward way for me to sync files across devices.
Tell us about your routine (or lack of one.) How do you structure your days to get things done?
My routine involves getting up as early as I can without an alarm (it’s usually around 6:30 am because my husband and I are old people, and our idea of a crazy night is staying up past 9:30 pm to watch Temptation Island). I get my coffee, take in whatever small amount of news I can handle, and then I try to work on a personal project or a fun sketch before my workday really starts at 9:00 am.
From 9:00 am to 6:00 pm or so, I work on projects for clients. Most days, I do research along with actually illustrating and designing. I take breaks for more coffee, meals, check email, get mad about something I saw on Twitter, stretch, etc. I usually stick to this routine six days a week.
It’s super important that I have something good to listen to while I work, and I especially like non-fiction audiobooks and true-crime or comedy podcasts. I get into the zone really easily, so I can stay focused for many hours at a time. I’m a bit of a workaholic, but since going back to school a few years ago, I’ve found myself in a pretty awesome space in my life where I feel like I’m doing something that brings me real happiness. I’m just riding this wave of energy and motivation wherever it takes me.
How do your space, tools, and habits benefit you? What about those things do you think needs improvement?
I’m such a little hermit crab, so working from home is pretty great for me. As much as I enjoy working in a cool coffee shop or having an occasional workday with friends, I am so easily distracted by what’s going on around me. If there is a lot to look at (for example, cool girls with tiny bangs) or hear (a couple arguing about selfies), or smell (pizza bagels), I don’t get nearly as much work done.
I think my set of tools is also vital for doing good work, and I feel super lucky that I have access to all of the hardware and software that I use. Although I do love working from home, I think that working in an office environment could also be very beneficial. I get feedback over text messages from a few design friends, but it would be great to bounce ideas off of people in real life, and also be inspired by the work that others are doing in real time.
My goal as a designer is to always be learning and growing, and I think one of the best ways to do that is to collaborate with smart people doing cool stuff. Until I find that right place for me, I’ll just keep listening to murder stories on the couch with my cat.