Freelance graphic designer, illustrator, and hand lettering artist, Bee Stanton, tells us how to stay humble and learn throughout.
Bee Stanton is a freelance graphic designer, illustrator, and hand lettering artist based out of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Bee has been working with clients both locally and abroad
Bee Stanton: Drawing has always been a big part of my life. An art career didn’t seem possible until I discovered graphic design. I got a diploma in graphic design in college and worked both freelance and in a few in-house design positions.
Eventually, I developed a unique style in illustrative design, sharing my work on social media, and growing a small following. I was able to go full-time freelance after landing a gig with Origins Skincare (an Estee Lauder Company). I’ve been working with amazing clients and employers ever since, living my dream job.
Kindly take us through some of your illustrative works in particular.
Bee: When I took graphic design, it surprised me to learn that a lot of designers weren’t necessarily into the drawing. I thought the two went hand in hand. But I quickly learned how these people were extremely skilled in other forms of design such as digital media, layout design, web design, etc.
I realized that my passion for drawing and illustration could become a sort of niche. Lettering and hand-drawn type are a big part of my work. Some of the design and layout jobs I’ve done have been completely hand-drawn from start to finish, the only digital work being scanning the art. Needless to say, I’ve latched onto that niche because who doesn’t love drawing pretty pictures for a living?
Please tell us all about Halifax and how you came up with it.
Bee Stanton: Halifax is the capital city of my home province, Nova Scotia. I live on the outskirts of the city and adore the culture that comes with our corner of the world. We’re big on the ocean and maritime culture here and that’s a huge inspiration for me. I’m especially fond of the small coastal fishing villages around the province and that is evident in my work.
How do you manage to work effectively with both local and international clients?
Bee Stanton: Working with both local and international clients has become a lot easier, particularly since the pandemic. As I work from home, I try to maintain a lot of communication. Now that zoom is so popular, it’s easier to jump on a call and look people in the eye when they explain something to you.
But everything is good in moderation. Not every interaction needs to be a video chat – zoom fatigue is very real. My local clients are easier to meet in person, which is necessary sometimes but not often. I think the key to any good working relationship (or ANY relationship in general) is communication. If you don’t understand something, ask about it. Don’t worry about looking stupid. Just ask.
What have been the perks and challenges of being a freelancer?
Bee Stanton: Working from home is something I’ve always valued. I will never take it for granted. I’m extremely blessed to be my boss and know that it’s a privilege beyond measure. When the pandemic hit and so many of my friends started working from home, I was ecstatic for them.
I often struggle with the guilt of having this dream job. The surge of folks switching to remote work was exciting. It felt like people were finally seeing there is a more manageable way to balance work and home life.
I’ve also learned that being your boss is a huge challenge, especially the business administration side of it. I recently had my business officially incorporated and it’s like I’m learning how to run a business all over again. It’s so hard for this right-sided brain of mine. However, I have an amazing support system in place with connections given to me over the years.
I have a few mentors who are invaluable to me and I highly recommend seeking one out if you run a business. They’re great for holding you accountable and keeping you on track. I’m not a strict boss, so my mentor acts as one.
What kind of work have you been involved in relation to graphic design?
Bee Stanton: I started my career with a few design positions. One was at a university while the others were at print shops. I have to laugh looking back. In design school, our teachers stressed the importance of precision and detail and the painstaking process of perfecting your work.
Then, when I worked at a print shop, all that overthinking flew out the window. Everything was go-go-go with crazy deadlines. The clientele in that area wasn’t interested in paying for creative masterpieces; they just needed their flyers or business cards right away. It’s not the lifestyle I would have wanted forever and I’m so glad to be in a slower environment now, though I’m very grateful for that experience.
I don’t like to overthink my design work. I received some great advice a few years ago to always go back to the first sketch in your design process because that’s what you came up with when you weren’t overthinking it. It’s usually your best concept. All that being said, there’s a difference between not overthinking and rushing. Rushing makes for sub-par work. Focusing makes for great work.
What are the skills and techniques needed for becoming good at hand lettering?
Bee: Look at fonts as often as possible; I can’t stress that enough. So often people will ask me why their lettering doesn’t look right or is “off” or whatever. First of all, art is art. It’s never “right” or “wrong”.
However, if you’re trying to improve your lettering, there is so much to be said for looking at typefaces; studying their shapes, and drawing them for practice. You’ll eventually develop muscle memory for letterforms and it will come more naturally. Thus you’ll develop your style as you go. Be patient. All that practice will pay off.
How do you manage your time and effort across three different genres of work?
Bee: My circumstances are pretty relaxed and I’m a B-type personality, so I try not to let too much stress me out. One thing I have learned the hard way is that multi-tasking does not work. I said earlier that focusing makes for great work. Whatever I’m working on, I know I need to put all my focus on that one thing. My mind is prone to jump all over the place but, once I force myself to hone in on the task at hand and nothing else, the outcome is good.
A practical (but difficult) approach is scheduling things in the calendar. I’m not great at scheduling for weeks or months out but I do try to look at my calendar every morning and evening and write down what needs to be done today and tomorrow. That keeps me focused and it’s working for me right now, so I’m sticking to it.
What’s your advice to fresh artists just starting?
Bee Stanton: Never assume you have it all figured out. The moment you think you’ve got it, that’s when it falls apart. Keep learning and stay humble.