digital art

Catherine Herold | Learn, Experiment & Grow

Catherine Herold | Learn, Experiment & Grow

If there’s one thing Catherine Herold doesn't like, it’s a bouquet of cut flowers. It’s not that the flowers aren’t pretty or that they won’t look great on the kitchen table. 

It’s just that cut flowers are already dead.

This is an observation that Catherine points out in an off-handed way, but it’s a keen insight into the personal and emotional point of view that encapsulates the way she sees the world.

“I like green,” she explained. “I like greenery and trees. It’s just comforting to me now, as an adult, to have those plants. I’d prefer to receive a live plant than cut flowers.”

A love of flowers and plants is one of two things that Catherine inherited from her grandmother. The other, of course, is painting. 

Sailor Moon, scrapbooking & blistering summer heat

Part of the American South, Macon, Georgia is known for hot and humid summer days. In the 90s, Catherine spent the summers at her grandmother’s house alongside her cousins, building scrapbook collages out of magazines — perfect indoor entertainment during the too-hot season.

Back then, Catherine wasn’t interested in painting or plants, despite her grandmother’s best interests. It’s something that she looks back on now with some regret.

“There was time that was lost because I didn't appreciate what was being shared,” she said.

Sailor Moon changed everything. 

Naoko Takeuchi’s manga-turned-anime aired in the US in 1997 and Catherine, 12 at the time, became obsessed with the art style. From there, Catherine’s interests began to flourish. 

She began to draw seriously and started to carry a sketchbook with her everywhere she went. She traced objects in order to get the details right. From anime art and video game character concepts to Zeus and the Greek Pantheon, inspiration was everywhere and nothing was off-limits.

That creative freedom opened the door for Catherine to teach herself the fundamentals of art. While she has since studied art academically and professionally, Catherine points back to that early freedom as a cornerstone for her artistic values. It’s one reason that she considers herself a perpetual student, even today.

“I love reading,” Catherine said, “and I’ve always loved learning. I think of myself as a permanent student, because I have bookcases full of art and reference books. I’ve held onto my art history books from college because they had stuff that I thought was fascinating and that I fell in love with.”

Of course, Catherine eventually moved on from Sailor Moon and her grandmother’s house. For a time, she even left Georgia behind. Graduating from Georgia Southern University in graphic design, Catherine found herself on a collision course with the harsh realities of corporate design, freelance commissions, and the distinct absence of personal satisfaction when using her artistic gifts.

Growing pains & gallery art

Life happens. That’s something to which Catherine, a mother of two, can attest.

Upon graduation, Catherine found herself working as a web coordinator for a local television station. She’d stopped painting regularly — a habit that she’d fallen out of in college due to the nature of her coursework. One marriage, a couple of kids, and a move to an entirely different state later, Catherine knew one thing: She missed painting.

“I wasn’t really painting. I did stuff occasionally. It wasn’t a regular thing like it is now. And being a new mom with a baby, I definitely didn’t have a lot of time to paint,” she explained.

She wanted to get back into the art world. Her husband pushed her to start painting for a local art gallery after they moved, but Catherine didn’t have any artwork to submit!

“The gallery had some open call shows, so I created things specifically for the shows because I didn’t have anything to turn in,” she said. “The shows were themed, so I had to do pop art and stuff that’s stylistically not something I would normally do. But it got me painting again.”

That accumulation of paintings is what led Catherine to open her first Etsy shop. She had so many paintings lying around and no place to put them, so she decided to sell them online.

That gave her another idea. Given her experience in graphic design and her traditional art background, Catherine thought she might be able to sell artwork through her Etsy shop.

The viability of a digital storefront also helped her come to terms with her own personal struggle between those two artistic mediums.

“I felt like if I did graphic design, I couldn’t do traditional art — or just art, in general,” she said. “Or if I did art, I was just wasting my degree and my studies. It was something that I struggled with for a really, really long time. I got down and depressed about it because I didn’t know which direction to go in.”

Armed with a fresh set of brushes and canvas from her time with the gallery, Catherine saw the digital frontier as a medium worth exploring, and she set to work creating a set of graphics to sell to her customers.

Shortly afterward, she began taking custom commissions. And that’s where the horror stories began and the burnout set in.

The business end of business

Looking back on her time with her Etsy shop, Catherine doesn’t sugarcoat the mistakes she made around custom commissions.

“I self-sabotaged big time on that because I didn’t charge enough for what I was doing. It really burnt me out for a really long time on client work,” she said.

It was the first hard lesson she learned about applying business principles to artistic formats, and — like the artistic knowledge she passes down in her Instagram posts — it’s a story she uses to help artists value their time, energy, and effort.

“Make sure you’re charging what your time, your effort, and your skill is worth. People say that if you don’t value yourself and your time that nobody else will, and that’s absolutely true,” she said. “I should not have been charging $9 for custom work, and it’s embarrassing to admit that.”

While it might sound like an egregious mistake, undervaluing time and art is a common theme among creatives. Catherine encourages anyone who might be seeking employment in a creative field to take a few business classes either during college or through online learning websites to better understand how to earn a living through artistic means.

At the very least, she knows it would save artists who are just starting out from making the mistakes that she and many other beginners have made around pricing and value.

Social media & all the rest

Catherine is a little older and a little wiser, these days. 

Her kids are growing up, and she’s stepped away from custom work to focus on art and graphics that she can sell to a general audience. She doesn’t charge much for them, but they make money in perpetuity as they continue to earn long after she completes them. Licensing out designs via online marketplaces has helped Catherine find success with this approach.

Between designing graphics that sell and keeping an eye on current trends in the artistic marketplace, Catherine is trying to figure out better ways to connect with her online fanbase and create artwork that resonates with them. She believes that a market exists for some of her more imaginative artwork, something that she ignored until recently.

She’s also focused on passing on what she’s learned.

“Nobody really learns how to do something on their own,” she said. Even though she considers herself initially self-taught, Catherine has her art instructors and college professors to thank for a large portion of her artistic skills.

It’s something that she’s passionate about passing on, but she also knows that she has to draw the line somewhere because of how easy it is to get caught up in the likes, views, and follower counts on social media.

“You can’t allow your numbers to define you or your art. Your follower count doesn't make you a hit artist. Period.” 

Navigating those digital networks, along with raising two kids and producing great art, is all part of a hard day’s work that Catherine puts in to keep her home and her business healthy, sustainable, and thriving.

You can find out more about Catherine on her website. She posts regularly on Instagram and loves connecting with fans when she gets a chance.

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