Hello and welcome to my first ever blog post on my first ever blog! As someone who loves to write, it's hard to believe that it's taken me this long to start a blog, but I guess we all have to start somewhere. So why now? And what's this blog all about? And who am I, anyway? These are things I should probably explain in my first ever blog post...
Catching the travel bug
For those of you who don't know me, I'm a world-travelling illustrator and designer from London. I caught the travel-bug in 2004 at the age of 19, when I'd finished school and wasn't quite sure what to do next. By chance, I came across an ad for a 'volunteer abroad' charity, and so I decided to travel to South Africa on my own to volunteer as an art teacher in a primary school. Living in South Africa blew my mind and opened my eyes to a whole world that I never could have imagined. I loved meeting new people, learning about new cultures, and spending my days painting with the kids. I quickly realising that the London bubble I had been living in was only a tiny part of a much bigger picture. After my placement ended, I moved to a backpacker's hostel where I painted murals on walls in exchange for free accommodation. From there, I quickly decided that I loved travelling, and it seems that I never looked back. Well, almost...
Travelling and Making Art
After my first year travelling, I returned to London to pursue my other love - art. I spent my early 20's soaking up all the colour and chaos of Chelsea College of Art in London, before going on to study BA Illustration and MA Creative Advertising at Falmouth University. I worked at a vintage shop in Carnaby Street during the holidays to make money to fund my travels, and spent my summers backpacking across Thailand and Cuba, my winters exploring European cities.
Early Career: The Illustration Cupboard and Walker Books
By by the time I graduated, I was up to my eyeballs in student debt, so travelling was no longer an option. Becoming a freelance illustrator didn't seem to be an option either, as I desperately needed to start making 'proper money' ASAP.
I moved back to London in 2009 and got a job at a wonderful art gallery in St James called the Illustration Cupboard, where I stayed for two years. The job was tiring and challenging, but I learnt a lot and was lucky enough to meet and work alongside some of the world's best-known illustrators, such as Shirley Hughes, Judith Kerr, Shaun Tan, Anthony Browne, David McKee, and Oliver Jeffers. Each week I would sit down for tea and biscuits with my idols and have the honour of looking through their portfolios, hearing all about their processes, and helping to select pieces to frame, exhibit and sell. My moments at that gallery were some of the hardest, but also the most inspiring in my journey. Sadly the Illustration Cupboard no longer exists, but those who had the pleasure of visiting will undoubtedly remember its magic.
Behind the scenes at the Illustration Cupboard gallery in St James, London
In 2012 I left the Illustration Cupboard and began a job in the Marketing department at top children's book publisher, Walker Books. I stayed there for almost five years, working on picture book campaigns for illustrators such as Jon Klassen, Chris Riddell, Petr Horáček and Chris Haughton. For years I worked on the periphery of illustration, totally star-struck and inspired by the amazing illustrators I worked with, but never quite daring to start illustrating myself. Until one day, I decided to take a leap of faith and quit my job...
Walker Books Head Office, Vauxhall, London
In 2016, I quit my job at Walker Books with only one month's pay to my name. Looking back, it was a bit of a crazy thing to do, but at the time I really needed to make a big change in my life, and this was it. Although I loved Walker Books, the truth was that the London rat-race was wearing me down and I was battling with a lot of stress and anxiety. I was desperate to travel again, and I longed to have the creative freedom and confidence to start illustrating. I used my meagre funds to buy a one way ticket to India, where I worked voluntarily at a yoga training centre in exchange for food and accommodation. Although in many ways it felt like a big step backwards, this decision bought me the time and headspace I needed to think, recuperate, and plan my next move...
After a few months at the yoga school, I travelled to northern India and happened to meet up with an inspiring entrepreneur who encouraged me to start my own business. I read a few books (including The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss) and started listening to podcasts such as Travel Like a Boss that helped me to realise that the lifestyle I'd been dreaming of wasn't entirely out of reach. Full of inspiration (and low on funds again), I took another leap of faith and decided to set up my design studio Molly Maine Creative remotely from my laptop, from a small cafe in the Himalayas. I contacted everyone I knew telling them that I was available for work. Slowly, requests for design work started to come into my inbox, and before I knew it, I was a digital nomad with my own creative business!
My first 'Digital Nomad Desk'
Digital Nomad Life
Since the day I quit my job, it's been a roller-coaster journey! From India I moved to Thailand, and then pretty much carried on travelling for seven years (I've currently been to 49 countries and hoping to hit 50 this year!). I've been running my remote design studio Molly Maine Creative ever since. I have an exciting roster of clients worldwide, plus an Etsy store where I sell my travel-inspired art prints. I consider my 'base' to be Lisbon, Portugal, where I am now officially a resident, but I'm still more or less travelling non-stop :)
There have been many twists in my tale and the road has been far from smooth, but my passion and commitment to a lifestyle of art and travel has kept me going - and I honestly wouldn't change a thing. I feel very grateful that I get to spend most of my time doing my two favourite things - travelling and making art - and that I get to share my passion with the rest of the world!
What's this blog all about?
As a world-travelling illustrator, it only seems right that this blog will be about travel and art. So you can expect posts about my life as a digital nomad, as well as life as a travelling artist. This could include anything from my top tips on where to get the best Pad Thai in Bangkok, to where to find my favourite Procreate brushes. Mainly this is just a space for me to share the exciting things I am discovering on this journey.
How can I follow along?
Sign up to my newsletter and you'll be the first to know when I have a new blog post up (I won't email too often, promise!). I'll also include some special offers, like discounts on my art prints, and exclusive news. You can also follow my journey here on Instagram
To hear my full story, you can listen to my interview on the Travel Like a Boss podcast, here.