Tispr Stories: Patricia Rodell is Bringing Colors to Life

Every Friday we check in with a freelancer or small business person who is following their dreams and doing what they love. This week we’re chatting with Patricia Rodell, a watercolorist and photographer from North Carolina who takes on a full-time production artist job by day, and uses her free time to pursue her true passions.

Here’s what Patricia had to say about finding time for her art, storytelling, and finding inspiration.

Who you are as a person or what makes you...you?

Stubborn, resilient, dreamer. My life has been thwart with unexpected setbacks, from my cognitive learning disability to fairly recently thyroid cancer, but I have always been optimistic! I find it is important to keep dreams/wants front and center. I think that is really what makes me, me.

What made you decide to pursue a freelance career?

I’ve worked a variety of different design jobs and have liked all of them on a base level, but I always felt like a cog in the mechanics, important for the overall flow, but no voice. I want to be the inventor, not just one of the pieces in the machine.

How did you get into watercoloring?

Watercolor was actually the medium I avoided the longest! I thought it was the medium that was least likely to be disciplined, too uncontrolled to be useful. Then a high school art teacher had us use watercolor for a project, no exceptions. After that project, I never went back – and was never more happy to be proven wrong!

Why do you do what you do?

I love all kinds of storytelling and images tell the best stories. I love scenes that make you ask what is going on, or ask about the characters. I want to create work that makes a person want to read into that image.

“I like the balance of going to a job that gets me away from MY work for a couple of hours. And then coming home to do the work I love.”

Where do you get the inspiration for your pieces?

I collect a lot of art text. Most of which are collections of fashion editorials throughout different magazines or different points in history. I naturally also read a lot! If I am not at my full-time job or at the drafting table I am probably reading.

I think it’s important to grow a personal library of sources (and not just art text – but things that are of interest or things from an entirely different discipline). Don’t just get saturated with things you see on the Internet, or then you start looking like everything else out there.

How do you feel when you’re working, doing what you love?

Energized on one end and at peace on the other. It never matters how long my day was at the office – I’m ready to keep drawing or coming up with my next photograph by the time I get to my drafting table.

What’s it like being in your line of work?

Great, but can be really stressful at times! I still work a full-time job as a production artist, so I have a full plate most days. I like the balance of going to a job that gets me away from MY work for a couple of hours. And then coming home to do the work I love. Maybe one day I will be able to transfer to illustrating full time, but right now – I am right where I need to be, and that is a-okay.

What have you learned from watercoloring?

Color! I used to be so afraid of it when painting – Now I am known to be a little daring – throw that color down and see what happens!

“I’ve worked a variety of different design jobs and have liked all of them on a base level, but I always felt like a cog in the mechanics, important for the overall flow, but no voice. I want to be the inventor, not just one of the pieces in the machine.”

What have you learned from freelancing so far?

A lot, and I am still learning. I think the most valuable lesson I have learned thus far is time-management and pricing myself. For the most part, I am doing ok.

But my personal goal is to make great work for small clients and get an Art Rep. Personally, I don’t mind doing the business side but if I can hire out for that I totally will.

How has freelancing changed your life?

Overall, It has made me a stronger person, I have learned when to say “no” to a project and to know when the outcome will not serve me in the slightest. There is nothing wrong with taking on a small project like that here and there, but I was burned on a couple of contracts it the beginning. (Honestly – I think it’s good to learn that lesson early – nothing like getting grossly underpaid to make you change your policy!)

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Don’t be afraid of your own success or be upset by your miscalculation. Your choices are half chance, and so are everyone else's. And for god’s sake, network—they’re just people, the worst thing someone can say to you is “no.”

What does being a freelancer/entrepreneur mean to you?

Freedom! I like calling the shots and making a difference directly for a client.

What has been the hardest thing about freelancing so far?

For me, inconsistency in work flow. I do feel like I have to constantly be “on”. And sometimes that is hard. But, I think in the next couple of years I will be able to turn that around! Plenty of other artists have done it before me, so I can too!

To learn more about Patricia and check out her latest artwork, visit her website or follow her on Instagram.

This interview has been edited for length & clarity.

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