Open Account: Liz Trapp on Finding Inspiration and Seeking Balance
October 9th, 2019
In Open Account, ¡Katie B Funk! profiles artists, sharing their financial and creative memories, successes, and challenges.
From spotting the colors of changing leaves while on a run through nature, to the curious wonder of her little boy “talking” to the bear on his bedspread, Liz Trapp, an illustrator and surface pattern designer, finds inspiration everywhere. Currently living and working in Columbus, Ohio, Liz continues to find ways to incorporate what she observes around her into the work she creates.
What are some of your early creative memories?
I was first drawn to art through my family. My father is a painter, and from the time I could remember he had a little studio corner set up for me in our house. We’d go on trips to the art supply store, and it was always my favorite. I’d come home with something new to try out and would get lost for hours in creating.
I feel very lucky that creativity was really valued and nurtured from a young age, and I was always encouraged to push myself creatively. We were fortunate to have a robust art program at my high school, and by the time I was a senior, my schedule had me spending the first three periods of school in advanced art classes. So, when I decided to go to college for *gasp* painting, it didn’t really surprise anyone!
What excites you the most about creating art?
Definitely that “being lost in the woods” feeling, which I find to be the most difficult part of creating as well. Easily intimidated by the blank white surface, I usually come to a new canvas, paper, or artboard with a little bit of fear and trepidation. I do fall back on a series of creative exercises, however, and it’s almost always through those low-risk creative exercises that the most unexpected and exciting work happens.
What are your go-to moves when Imposter Syndrome or doubt in yourself strikes?
I constantly deal with Imposter Syndrome, and I truly believe that it’s a matter of faking it until you become it – practicing that role, whatever that role may be, until it becomes natural. I’m a more introverted and shy person, but have worked as a teacher and professor for the last ten years. I remember for the first five years or so, really putting on a “show” to try and build up the confidence to walk into a classroom and not sweat through my clothes because I was so terrified of talking in front of people. Eventually, I realized it was no longer phasing me, and my students today don’t believe that I was ever shy or introverted at all!
Growth almost always comes from stepping outside of your comfort zone again and again (and showing up again and again – even when the discomfort of being outside of your comfort zone is overwhelming). I still have moments of self-doubt, and I listen to those moments. I consider them an important part of self-reflection because we are all continually growing and evolving.
What is your biggest dream collaboration?
My biggest dream collaboration would be Anthropologie, hands down! I’d love to see my work on some of their housewares. Definitely baby and kids products (bedding, clothing, diapers, etc.) too. When my son was a baby and first started babbling to people and things, it all began with a bear on his bedspread he would “talk” to. I think that was the moment that I realized how powerful images really are for kids – and how important it was for him to interact with his bedspread in that way, even though it could have been anything.
What is currently inspiring you and your work?
I’ve learned to find inspiration everywhere. I love autumn, so right now I get up every morning and run or walk as the sun rises. I live next door to a wetland preserve, and am finding inspiration from the colors and wildlife among so much activity. It’s really amazing to see the landscape change day by day.
I also spend a lot of time reading kids books. I love the whimsy and imagination that kids have (and that kids books portray), so in the past year or so, most of my work has fallen along those lines.
How do you go about juggling the demands of teaching, your own business, parenting, and more all with your own work?
I have a full-time job, and my husband does as well as a small business owner. We have a 2-year-old with another baby on the way, and make childcare work between the two of us. That doesn’t leave a lot (any) free time right now, so everything is scheduled. I am an early riser and like to wake up before anyone in our house, get a run or walk in, then spend about an hour working on my creative practice while I have my coffee. Although it is constrained, there are actually a lot of positives about having such a short amount of time to create. I’m forced to get right into it, not think too much about anything, and then wrap things up quickly.
I will also spend about an hour at the end of the day working in a different creative capacity before bed. Right now that means painting in the morning, and digital illustration at night. My husband and I will also work together to “give” each other extra time if one of us is working on a project that requires more. It’s a lot of give and take and working as a team. I’ve also made a lot of changes in my studio practice since having kid(s). I moved my studio from the basement to the main floor of my house so I can move faster between jumping in and out of work. I’ve changed my materials as well so there is less set-up involved. There are always hiccups and plans have to change – but being flexible and as low-key as possible about it, without losing sight of big goals and deadlines, has really kept our crazy schedules very positive and fun.
What is your approach for dealing with debt you might be carrying such as student loans, medical bills, credit cards, and more while wanting to continue living your life with a creative-based practice?
My husband and I pool all of our finances together, including student debts. We set goals together and think about the life we want to have, and we look at the financial steps we need to take to make that work. We very much have the attitude that nothing is a matter of never – but that some things can happen right now while others can’t. He is the one who comes to the table with financial spreadsheets – and I have a more broad understanding of what we can and can’t spend at the moment. We both have freelance options that we try to pump up when we are aggressively paying something off, or have a new bill pop up. We also are very aggressive about paying off student debt – we pay absolutely as much as we can afford, plus an extra $20 here or there, which goes a really long way. That mindset has allowed us to buy a house, start a family, and start saving for our kid’s college.
We also don’t spend where we don’t need to – we try to bring out lunches to work as much as possible, eat out roughly once or twice a year, and try to order-in only rarely. Even though it’s strict, both of us are following our passions in life, and our jobs aren’t only jobs for us, but work that we once only dreamed about doing. We know that we could both start careers in other sectors and make more money – but because making a life of what you are passionate about is a shared value we have (and something we want to teach our kids), we have committed to making it work.
Visit https://www.liztrapp.com/patterns, and check out @liztrappdesign on Instagram to learn more about Liz and her work.