ChelsDrawsYou - Chels

ChelsDrawsYou - Chels

Chels Draws You

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Interview: Nikki Gillingham, Blue Whale Communications

Photography: Marianne Rothbauer, Rothbauer Studio


Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got started.

In late 2015 I downloaded a sketches app on my iPhone to test out a drawing app. I quickly realized I didn’t need an ipad or stylus and kept using my finger and iphone to create little works of art which I eventually made an instagram for. I started drawing celebrities, as well as my friends and clients started reaching out asking if I would do commissions. I did commissions alongside my full-time graphic design job for 3 years and finally took the plunge last May to take Chelsdrawsyou full-time.


Did you always have a passion for drawing and painting?

I have always had a love of design and aesthetic. I’ve always been a doodler and since I can remember I’ve loved drawing. I studied graphic design in college and have my certificate from Algonquin College here in Ottawa.

What made you decide to share your digital finger paintings?

I was really seeking a hobby at first and I thought creating an art account on instagram would hold me a bit more capable. Getting the positive feedback from people all over the world really pushed me to draw consistently.

After your images began getting some attention, at what point did you realise this could become a business?

I was getting a lot of emails and direct messages asking me my pricing. I quickly realized this could be a business with the amount of inquiries I was getting. I would research other custom portrait artists and I knew this was something that could one day be a business.


What’s it been like becoming a part of the Ottawa Maker Community?

I think it can be pretty intimidating for any new artist entering a community but Ottawa does a really good job of providing events specifically tailored to grow your confidence, especially for women! I do a lot of my interacting online and I’ve met a lot of friends through the Maker community that I’m so grateful for.

What have been some of your favourite portraits you’ve painted to date?

Anytime I get to add a family member or pet who is no longer with us, into a portrait - those are my favourite pieces.

What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?

Figure out what your “why” is. For me, it means spreading positive energy on a large scale through my words and my art. Once you figure out your sweet spot you can start. Create that instagram handle. Post that post you’ve been humming and hawing over for months. You must get comfortable with risk and the feeling of fear, it’s normal and you get better at dealing with it. There are tons of free resources out there begging to help you! Podcasts, blogs, youtube, we are so lucky to live in this age of information where everything is literally at our fingertips. There should be no excuse when it comes to getting started! Also, give yourself permission to create something bad. It’s not as bad as you think it is and it takes the pressure off.

When you’re not busy creating portraits for clients, what do you like to do for fun in Ottawa?

I love exploring hidden gems in Ottawa. My friend Holly is a local writer and is always finding these new spots to write about - I love tagging along with her! I’m also obsessed with Landmark Theatre in Kanata - a movie night is my perfect night out. Recliner chairs, popcorn, candy, and a scary movie! :)


What’s your favourite local restaurant?

I love Pure Kitchen! Especially the one on Elgin which serves Kombucha on tap.

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