Getting started on your passion projects

I’ve been meaning to write something about getting started on doing passion projects. While I haven’t been doing that much work recently, I’m still in a better place than I was two years ago.

Passion projects are things you do outside of your usual work and daily life scope that gives you joy. At least, that’s how I see it.

On August 1, 2019, Canva Manila celebrated its 5th anniversary. Our art group, Kamote PH, was invited to speak during the anniversary celebration, The Best of Us. I, along with Jay Santos of Meow Project, represented the group. Here’s my quick take on how to get started on your passion project.

Photo of the author giving a talk during the Best of Us Canva Manila anniversary
Looking legit. Photo by Geryl Minguillo.

Starting from somewhere

Kamote PH began when a few of the designers at Canva Manila decided to sign up for Komiket and sell merchandise. A few of them had already been doing it, and thought to invite people—designers and non-designers (by this, I mean by job description) alike.

I enthusiastically said yes to the invite, but truth to be told, I was scared of failing. These people were mostly formally trained with art and design, or had at least several years experience doing it. It was pretty much a hobby for me, and it had been years since I actively and consistently did anything. Not to mention that I still didn’t have a clear style or aesthetic, while they had. The internal conflict I had whether I should do it or not was pretty strong.

But I did it anyway, and I have no regrets despite the rocky start.

Sticker I made floppy disks cassette tapes cactus video game controllers
Stickers that I made in the last two years. Slide from our presentation. Check out my Instagram.

Quick tips

Be genuinely interested

This must be something you like and really want to do. It is a passion project, after all. The drive to do this will fuel your creativity, and it will show in your work. There’s a huge difference in creating a design in a haphazard-looking style, versus creating work haphazardly. Be in it not just for the likes.

Be prepared to give it time

Time is a precious commodity—something that can’t be rushed, but goes by quickly. No matter how good you are, you’ll need to devote time in cooking up ideas, putting them on paper, and creating the product. You’ll also need time to get the word around and build your following. especially when you’re starting out. Time will also be needed to help you improve your skills (because there’s always room for that no matter what your skill level is).

Art supplies on a table
Image by Dzenina Lucac

Be prepared to fail

Or at the very least, leave room for errors. I always say there’s value in preparing well, but not everything will be smooth sailing all the time. There are factors you ca’t control, and even if you can, there will be some errors along the way. And when that happens…

Be kind to yourself and learn from those mistakes

Because they happen, and what’s done’s done. How you deal with it matters.

Start with what you have, and build on it as you go

I’m sure I’m not the only one who wants to have the best materials or latest gadget to get started. They’re nothing wrong with that, but using it as the ‘reason’ why you’re not doing anything, well, it’s really more of an excuse. This is admittedly a difficult hurdle for me, but you have to push through. I used to think that I needed Illustrator to create vectors, but there were other options available (try Inkscape. It’s free!)

Just do it

Take a leap of faith and start doing things. You want inspiration? Check out kuyaartist on Instagram. He’s 12 years old, around the same age as I was when I started doing fanart, and now he’s making his own stickers. He’s aiming to join his first con selling them next year.

Getting started with your passion project summary list of tips on starting by Kat Sales

Lessons learned along the way

Push yourself to do it

This lesson is pretty much similar to the immediate tip above. Sometimes you can’t wait for motivation, but you just have to push yourself to do it. Don’t be lazy. Don’t procrastinate. No one’s going to do the work you do but you.

Learn to plan

We always think we have plenty of time—until the day of the con or your deadline is near. Sometimes, because I didn’t plan things out, I find myself staying up late the day before a con printing and laminating stickers, then cutting them. I’ll be tired during con day, and I won’t have enough stock to sell. Not a good thing.

Find a community

When I was younger, I didn’t have enough friends who illustrated or drew. The ones I knew who did had different tastes than I do, and for most of us it was really just a hobby.

Kamote PH to me is like #romanceclass: I’m surrounded by people who are doing something similar and see value in it. Instead of competing, we inspire. We all may be doing stickers, and there may be several of us who likes the same things—like cats, dogs, Broadway shows, or Kpop—but our styles and aesthetics make them unique from each other.

Your community is a great place for support, encouragement, and learning. Knowing that there are people who understand what you’re doing and why is a big deal. I probably wouldn’t have done what I have in the last couple of years if I didn’t have a community.

GIF of young men in football jerseys doing a pre-game pep talk

You will learn new things and your process will change

When I first started out, I didn’t know how to do vector art. I crammed learning it in a month, and rushed the printing three days before the con. A few months later I was a little more confident with it. Later, I realized I could do away with vector for some designs and use watercolor. Sometimes I combine them, sometimes I experiment.

I also learned how to print my own stickers, and in the process learned about the best paper to use, the kind of inks, how to laminate, where to buy, etc. Most of all, I learned how to deal with people because as introvert as I am, I’m still the shopkeeper and I need to sell my work.

Someone will like your work

We’ve been hit with imposter syndrome one time or another, and it’s something that becomes a blocker. When I first started, I made designs that I wanted. I knew there will be a few who’ll like it (namely my friends haha) but I never expected enthusiastic reactions from strangers. It never fails to make me feel good, and want to make more cool things.

Have fun

I started this because I liked drawing, and I wanted to make something that I didn’t see from other artists. I didn’t expect others to like it, and that I’ll make money from it. Now I enjoy making it—and making money from it is a huge perk.

There will be days when you’d rather not do anything, and that’s ok. But if you really want to make a success of your passion project, you have to make time and do it.

Getting started with your passion project summary list of learnings by Kat Sales

Balancing act

Here are some questions that we were asked after the talk:

“How do you get word out about your works?”

We rely on social media. For most of us it’s Instagram, as it’s visual and easy to share. We also rely on word of mouth, especially if we’re going to be selling at cons or other events. Some of us cosign with stores like Common Room or La Local PH. Others market at our personal social media pages, and have family and friends buy our merch.

“How do you balance your passion project with work/daily life?”

I said that you have to make time, not just find it. I said something earlier about planning, and it applies to that. You plan what you need to do so you won’t have to rush things, and you find time in your daily routine that lets you do these tasks. I like to brainstorm while in transit, and if I can, write or sketch things down. Then on weekends, I make stuff. Sometimes, I even use my vacation leaves to do it.

Share your thoughts in the comments section!

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