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Rebranding Yourself Mid-Career with Monique Wray

By Adam Korenman

Can you rebrand yourself mid-career and live to tell the tale? How hard is it to chase a new dream?

Imagine you've spent the last few years building up a sizable portfolio for 3D work...but deep down you long to be a stellar illustrator. You can hang with the big dogs in the third dimension, but 2D is what your heart desires. Is it possible to rebrand this far into your career?
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The creative arts offer a wide variety of paths toward a successful and rewarding career, so it's easy to get sidetracked chasing down one dream at the expense of another. The good news is you can change your mind at any time should you decide you've climbed the wrong mountain...it'll just take a bit of work to get where you want to go. Luckily, we found a guide who's been this way before.
Monique Wray runs her own boutique studio, Small, out of San Francisco. During her career, she's developed a style that is unique, charming, and very in-demand from a variety of brands and clients. In this episode we’ll talk about Monique’s path through the industry, how she managed her rebrand, and also about some of the unpleasant experiences she’s dealt with as a Black female creative in our industry. 
Whether you think you're locked into your career or are in need of a changeup, Monique has some knowledge bombs to drop. Grab a cookie and some milk, because it's time to talk rebranding with Monique Wray.

Rebranding Yourself Mid-Career with Monique Wray

Show Notes

Artist

Work

Resources

Transcript

Joey:
Monique, it is awesome to have you on the podcast. I've been wanting to talk to you ever since I saw you on Hailey's show, and I'm really excited to have you on, so thank you for doing this.
Monique:
Yeah, I appreciate you for reaching out.
Joey:
So the first thing I wanted to ask you is a really, really important question. I was doing a lot of research as I do for all the guests on the show, and I found out that at one point you decided to leave your Mac and build a PC. And I just wanted to see-
Monique:
Yes, what's my hot take on this?
Joey:
Yeah, this is really what the people want to know. Yeah, I wanted to know because at School of Motion I'm a Mac guy and I don't think I will ever, I will try to go the rest of my life without touching a PC if I can just get away with it.
Monique:
Wow, you're like die hard. Committed.
Joey:
I am. It's mostly out of just laziness. Like I just don't, I know how Mac works so well, I don't want to have to feel like a beginner.
Monique:
Joey, it's not that different though.
Joey:
Okay, so tell me are you still, so are you a PC now and how do you feel about it?
Monique:
Yeah, so I'm still both, actually. I own both a Mac and a PC. I actually have two PCs, that's probably overkill. But yeah, exactly. I have the one that my husband and I built, so that's a little dated I don't use that as much anymore. And I have my, I actually purchased a little while ago which is an incredible machine, especially if you're an illustrator and you're doing just more illustrative work, a Wacom MobileStudio Pro. So it's essentially Wacom made a tablet PC. So I have, mobily I have all my apps that I use, but I can also draw on a screen which is incredible. And I also have my Mac that I use most of the time when I'm at my desk. I kind of almost treat that as my desktop and my MobileStudio Pro I'll use when I'm traveling or want to get away from my desk on the couch. And when I don't need a desktop app I'll use my iPad and I'll kind of sketch. I almost treat that as my sketchbook.
But yeah, I play with all of the platforms, I'm not discriminating at all. It's kind of more for me, can I do what I need to do on this machine? And if I had to choose between all of them, honestly I would choose my MobileStudio Pro because I actually, even though sometimes there's some issues with it, which I don't know if we could attribute that to being Windows or not, but the value it gives me, I'm just able to create whatever I need to wherever I am. I'd absolutely choose that over any of the other computers. But if Mac made a MobileStudio Pro version then we might have some problems, I might be running over to that and getting rid of this computer. But yeah, no, it's an awesome machine. But yeah, I use all of them. I use all the platforms, not discriminating.
Joey:
Okay. I have questions later for you about this because I wanted to know how you do this work. And when I read the article, so we'll link to all this stuff in the show notes for everybody who's listening. So in the article you mentioned, the obvious thing that I see the advantage of a PC being is for 3D rendering where you have more GPU options, stuff like that. And it's interesting because when you popped on my radar you were on Hailey's show, on the Motion Hatch livestream. And I looked at your work and I was like, this is so cool, I love the style, I love all of it. And then when I'm doing research for you to come onto our show, I go to your Vimeo page, and I do this with everybody. I scroll to the very bottom and I see what the first thing on there is. By the way, everyone listening to this should do that. Any artist you admire, like you see their work and you're like, oh my God, go look at the first thing. Because a lot of people now, they have stuff that's like 15 years old.
Monique:
And I intentionally leave that stuff up there too. I haven't checked it out in a minute, it'd be fun to kind of look at actually.
Joey:
Oh, it's fantastic. So the first thing you have on there is a time-lapse of a ZBrush sculpt, you sculpting a character.
Monique:
Yeah, I used to live in ZBrush.
Joey:
And so I didn't realize this, you had a previous life as a 3D sort of visual effects artists.
Monique:
I did, yeah.
Joey:
Yeah. And so then the PC things sort of made sense. But the work that's on your site now doesn't look anything like that. So I thought it'd be cool just to hear basically like how you, how did you get into all of this and how did you make that transition?
Monique:
Yeah, I mean it kind of started out with me just being an artist growing up and always wanting to do something in the field, just not being sure what that would be. One second I wanted to be a Sunday comic artists, which was solely influenced by Calvin and Hobbes and Boondocks. And then another second I wanted to be a 2D animator, but it all was kind of underneath the same umbrella. And I saw the Incredibles and was also inspired. Do you remember this cartoon called Reboot?
Joey:
Oh God, yeah. Boy, that brings me back. That was in the '90s. I think it was the first computer generated animated TV show.
Monique:
Yes, and it was fly. Fly for the time at least.
Joey:
I'm not sure it's still fly. [crosstalk 00:08:35] I'm sure it's on your team. We'll have to go look at it.
Monique:
Yeah, it's probably terrible now. But yeah, that and the Incredibles really kind of I think put the nail in the coffin for me that that's what I need to be doing, I was just so inspired. There was 3D stuff before the Incredibles, but I'm really, I gravitate towards sort of character-driven work and work that has some sort of abstraction. And before that it was kind of a lot of visual effects that was utilizing 3D. And even in Toy Story they hadn't like abstracted the characters in a way that they did in the Incredible, so it was a totally different take that I really appreciated.
So I went to school for computer animation off of the heels of being inspired by that content and graduated in Miami, that's where I went to school and where I was born and raised. And there's no Pixar in Miami or Pixar equivalent so I was freelancing with local studios, because there are a few studios that are doing that sort of work. But even commercially there wasn't sort of this utilization of 3D in the way that there is now. So I had to kind of pivot if I wanted to continue to work in the industry in some capacity. So I had a friend who was leaving a job, and it was a job at NBC, and it a motion design role. And he said, "I thought of you, your work is amazing." And as I said, "Thank you." Because I absolutely wanted a full-time gig, where up until that point I had just been doing project by project sort of stuff.
And I interviewed and showed them my, I don't know if that reel is still up on my Vimeo, but I showed them my character modeling reel, that's all I had. I didn't have any motion design reel. And it's funny because I think the song in it kind of sold it for me, it was Janelle Monáe's Tight Rope. I don't know if you know that song? And the lead of kind of the team, he was like jamming with the song. He was like, oh, good song. I like this song. And their kind of take on it was like if you can do this work then I'm sure you could do the work that we do. The only one who was looking at me kind of side eye was the editor. Because editors, they get motion designed to a certain, there's some editors that can motion design as well. So he saw my character modeling rig and he was like, where's the motion design? What's going on here?
Joey:
I think editors are also territorial too.
Monique:
Yeah. So he was kind of like, I don't know about you, girl. But he warmed up to me once I got the role.
Joey:
Right. Busted the charm out.
Monique:
Yeah, I tried to. And so there I kind of was introduced really to motion design. And up until that point I hadn't used After Effects to animate things, I used it to composite my 3D renders. That's how much I didn't do motion design up until that point. So there was a lot of learning I had to do in that role, but I thought it was in retrospect actually the perfect sort of context to learn that stuff in. Because I don't know if you're familiar with working in a setting like NBC, but it's so quick and fast, and sometimes they'll come in the morning and be like, Hey, we need a graphic for this thing by 3:00p.
Joey:
Yeah. It's funny because I've talked to, we were talking before we started recording about Joe Donaldson who's also from Florida, and he got his start working at, and I am assuming this was like a local NBC affiliate, right?
Monique:
Yeah, exactly.
Joey:
Yeah. So he got his start in the same way. And he said the exact same thing when I interviewed him. It's like the work you're doing, you don't have time to make it amazing, but you learn tricks to get it good enough as fast as you can. And that really becomes helpful when you start working on things that, speed is your friend. You can like add more detail to it.
Monique:
It's almost like being paid to do dailies, right? Because you need to do this quickly and it needs to get done. And I credit that job too for breaking me from needing everything I do to be in 3D. I think every 3D artist experiences this when they first learn 3D and get comfortable with it where you want to throw 3D at everything. You don't care, you just want to do 3D stuff. But sometimes you just don't have the time. There was no GPU rendering at that point, you had to old school wait on those renders. So it made me kind of familiarize myself with After Effects more and start to utilize that more in a motion design sense.
And also taught myself cinema 4D there as well because before that I had learned Maya, because it was kind of a production for film major that I went through. So I learned a lot of stuff there that I was able to kind of take with me to other studios in the future. And it also kind of made me kind of just learn more about motion design studios in general, and start to kind of look at the other studios that existed outside of my market like in LA. And it gave me kind of something to aspire to. And I actually found that I identified with motion design more because what I didn't like about sort of the 3D film productions was that it's very sort of niche base, which understandably so, but you only do one thing essentially. You're a character modular, you're a character animator, or you are an editor, or you're a TD.
But I really, especially at that point in my career liked to do a whole bunch of stuff and was still really attracted to doing 2D work as well. So I liked that as a motion designer you could have one project that is, you're doing it all in cinema 4D, and you could have another one where you're doing it all in After Effects. You can have another one where you're even doing some frame by frame animation. And a lot of it too was more character-driven just because you're not building these 3D things, you know 3D production with characters takes a lot more time than one that you're doing in After Effects. So yeah, there are a lot of reasons that I was like, I'm going to stick with motion design as opposed to kind of pivoting back to having this kind of be a moment in time, you're just trying to stick with an industry and gain some experience, I'm going to stick with being a motion designer.
Joey:
Love it. And so how did you end up going to the West Coast?
Monique:
Yeah, so it was kind of something I always knew I needed to do. My husband and I, we were talking between, I needed to go to a bigger market. So it was either New York or LA at the time were the two markets that we were thinking about. But my husband didn't really love either of those options.
Joey:
Right. Is he from Florida too?
Monique:
He is. We met in high school actually. And we visited, we had kind of decided we're doing the LA, but we had a trip coming up and we were going to go to LA again to kind of scope it out and just think about the neighborhoods and all of that. But we were like no, let's make this more of a vacation, let's go to San Francisco. We'd never been to San Francisco. So we came out here to visit, and this is a charming place to visit. I don't know if you've ever been to San Francisco, have you?
Joey:
I have. I've been once because our visual effects instructor Mark lives there. It was the first time I'd ever been and I loved it. I fell in love with the place.
Monique:
Yeah, it's awesome. We visited here and he especially really loved it. He likes that it's a city but West Coast still. That's kind of thing that he didn't love about LA just how spread out it is and how you could just end up in traffic for the rest of your life.
Joey:
This is true.
Monique:
And I started looking at the market here and obviously there's lots of work here. It's different work than LA or New York, but there's still work. So we decided let's just come out here then. Let's see what's up out here and we've been here for about six years now? I'm really bad with kind of how long I've been doing anything. But I think it's been about six years we've been here. And still love it, it's love hate for me here. He's really enjoying it. I'm coming around to loving it more actually post-pandemic, which is actually interesting. So maybe we'll be here longer term than I thought. Originally if you'd asked me like two years ago I'd say we wouldn't still be here, but it's changing the city. I mean the pandemic has changed everywhere hasn't it?
Joey:
Yeah. So I'm curious, what was it about San Francisco pre-pandemic that made you think maybe this isn't a long-term place?
Monique:
Yeah, the thing is it's so dominated by tech and that spills into everything. It spills out into culture, it spills out into demographics that occupy the city. I come from an environment where I'm used to just people of all walks of life existing together, and here that's not the vibe. And it just kind of felt like it's dominating it in a way that I need somewhere that I'm going to live long-term to have just diversity across the board. So that was a problem for me, a huge issue. And then add on to that at the time I was working in tech, so I worked in tech and then I'd come home and I'm in tech, and it's like tech is coming out of my ears at this point. So what I'm seeing post-pandemic is that a lot of people have left and a lot of those folks have, no shade to tech people, I'm in some capacities was a tech person. But us being here in so high numbers has changed the city.
And with a lot of us leaving or a lot of tech people leaving it's allowed there to be space for other folks to come in again. And for there to be more of a diverse community, that's taking root here as opposed to it being so tech driven. Now my neighbors, all of my neighbors don't work in tech now in my building, which I think is really positive for the community in general. And not just working in tech but also just this wide array of ages, and there's diversity just across the board as opposed to just being a city of just young people working in tech. Every city needs that variety to really feel like a living thing, and I feel like San Francisco hopefully for the longterm is returning to some of that balance.
Joey:
Yeah. I've never really lived in a city that had that heavy of a concentration of like one industry dominating everything. But Handel Eugene was on this podcast and he was at the time, he's in Detroit now, and he's another Florida boy by the way.
Monique:
Oh, I didn't know that. I literally just met him and it was after he had moved. I didn't know he's also from Florida, it's hilarious.
Joey:
Yeah. He's from, I want to say Tampa, I don't know he'll hit me up on Twitter and tell me if I'm wrong. But anyway, but at the time he was working at Apple and he said something pretty similar to what you just said. He said it's great and the people are amazing, but there is a lot of sameness to it. And we're definitely going to dig into this, but I'm just curious when you say there's not a lot of diversity in sort of, in the tech bubble, it's just less diverse than say probably Miami where you grew up. Which is super diverse, all kinds of people there. Is it something more than skin color, age, things like that? Is there like a mentality aspect to it too? Or is it really just like, it's a bunch of white dude?
Monique:
No, that's an interesting way to look at it. I definitely think people in, even though Miami is down South it very much has kind of East Coast energy. It was kind of this mix of feeling like down South but also East Coast at the same time, I think there's a different energy that East Coast people have versus West coast. And yeah, the answer is, yes. I don't know that I can articulate what that thing is, but there is definitely a different energy people living here have versus the energy that I was used to from where I came from. But yeah, it's not bad people that live here though, I'm not trying to rag on the Bay area people.
Joey:
No, and I want to be clear too. Because look, listen in 2021 it's very easy to take something like this out of-
Monique:
Yes, I love my Bay area peeps, let me just say that real quick.
Joey:
Yeah. But what I love, and so I mean one of the things I'm really excited to talk to you about, and we'll get to it, but there's some other geeky stuff I want to ask you about first.
Monique:
Yeah, I'm into it.
Joey:
You kind of embarked on this path of being very intentional with the kind of work you're doing to sort of produce a certain result, not just for yourself and for your clients, but also for our industry. Frankly, for artistic and creative kids.
Monique:
Damn. I appreciate you.
Joey:
It really does go that far. I am, and especially after last year, I mean, I've just become more aware of all these things like everybody. I'm just curious, because I look at a place like San Francisco and I worry about it. I worry about the fact that there's so much wealth concentrated in the tech bubble and now the tech bubble, I mean, frankly a lot of it's moving to Florida.
Monique:
Yeah, and Texas.
Joey:
And to Texas, which-
Monique:
Yeah. Places that are kind of historically not liberal at all. I'm also interested to see how that changes sort of the demographic, because if you have liberal people moving to a place that isn't historically liberal at least, and they're voting, how does that change who the leaders are? Should be interesting to see how that sort of shifts.
Joey:
Get your popcorn out.
Monique:
Yeah. Look at Atlanta. Atlanta is, I don't even think that that necessarily had a lot to do with influx of people, but also Stacey Abrams to name a few, just people there rallying and rallying for change. Yeah, it should be interesting to see how that takes effect in these various places for sure.
Joey:
Yeah. But I do think it is cool though that it does give, like you said, there's now space for probably the locals to have their time in the sun again.
Monique:
Yes.
Joey:
I'm assuming ... I mean, San Francisco, when I was there, I didn't get to see too much of it, but I mean, it felt a little bit like Austin, Texas, to me. There's a lot of variety. You know?
Monique:
Yeah.
Joey:
It wasn't like, you grow up in Florida, you get used to strip malls and chains and stuff like that. Anyway, so I hope that that sort of gets enhanced and that the tech bubble spreading out, it's going to give a lot of career opportunities to people who don't want to live, maybe they have family in the middle of the country. They want to stay where they're from, but they want to be able to work for Facebook, for example.
Monique:
Yeah.
Joey:
Which, yeah, so talk a little bit about the work you were doing out there initially when you moved.
Monique:
For sure. Yeah. It was very reflective of the industries here. I was working with a lot of tech companies and if I wasn't directly working with a tech company, I was working with an agency that was doing a lot of tech work. It was very tech driven, which was definitely initially super exciting for me, because you're from Miami working, especially then before all this bad PR Facebook and different social media sites have gotten has taken place. It was super exciting that be able to work for these companies, and peek behind the veil, so to speak. Yeah, I was doing a lot of just kind of, it was advertising mostly, or creating assets for platform. I did some time at Apple as well, and we created kind of animations for their arcade platform that they have where you kind of can scroll through and see different like, almost like ads, but not really ads, more like just teases for various content that they have on the platform.
Yeah, a lot of it was kind of like that, almost like working at an onsite creative agency, if you will. A lot of times we were creating the ideas and also creating the content. I would be the motion design sort of aspect of that. My time at Facebook was actually really valuable for me in the grand scheme of things, because I not only got to produce content myself, but I also got to be a producer and in some instances was directing content, utilizing external vendors. That kind of taught me so much about budgets and how to lead, and how to direct, and how to be a producer. I gained so much respect for those roles and was able to be mentored in a sense from people who've been doing it for a long time in the industry. That was a really valuable experience for me and helped me in this sort of wing of ... This aspect of my career, where I'm essentially wearing all the hats. I am the producer, I am the director, I'm also executing-
Joey:
Being a salesperson.
Monique:
I'm a salesperson.
Joey:
Yeah.
Monique:
I think the only thing I outsourced is my accounting. Everything else I was doing myself.
Joey:
Yeah. Don't do that one yourself.
Monique:
No, I'm good.
Joey:
Yeah. Monique, were you full-time when you were doing this stuff and when you're working at this agency doing all the tech stuff, or were you freelance?
Monique:
I was full-time at a few of those gigs. The Apple one, I was freelance. I was freelance there, but the other ones I was full-time.
Joey:
Cool. I listened to, and will link to this in the show notes too, you gave this a really cool talk for Creative Mornings.
Monique:
Thank you.
Joey:
In it, you talked about going freelance and it was really interesting, I think, the way you put it, because you went freelance to, it's the thing that motion designers do eventually. Right?
Monique:
Yeah.
Joey:
A lot of us do it and you feel like your own boss and you have a little more freedom, but then you run into this reality of it. I think the way you put it was you felt like a cog in the machine. I was wondering if you could just kind of elaborate on that.
Monique:
For sure. Yeah, it's interesting. I felt, depending on what aspect of production you're handling, you can definitely feel just like a hired gun, and you're coming in to do a thing and once you're done with that thing, thank you very much. There was kind of a disconnection there for me. I wanted to be more engaged with the creative that I was doing, so I think it was still a really great learning experience for me, and I think sometimes we need to do things to see how we feel about it. Right? You're not going to know how you feel about freelancing in that capacity until you do it. I realized for me, I wanted to be more a part of production as opposed to just being a person that comes in and handles one thing and is gone the next day. You know what I mean?
That, for me, I just felt like a replaceable cog so to speak, and wanted to have more impact than that. I found that kind of through, not saying I don't do freelance work anymore, I do, but I think I'm more intentional about it, and also the direct to client stuff, I don't feel that at all with that work, because that that work is, you know, there's, they're not just hiring me to execute, they're hiring me to ideate and do other parts of the production that I feel more connected to and feel like, you just you could hire anybody to do this. I feel more connected to it, you know? I don't typically have that problem with the direct to client stuff I do anymore, which is really great, and neither with the freelancing stuff. That's where I'm feeling, well, they're hiring me for an aspect of production, but it feels more intentional for me and them as opposed to just them hiring someone, if that makes sense.
Joey:
Yeah. Well, I think you, it sounds like you ran into, it's a similar thing that I ran into and a lot of freelancers eventually get there where once the initial, "Oh my God, I'm freelancing and it's working." Once that wears off, you're right. Especially, it really depends if you're in the studio system, which it sounds like you sort of were in where freelancers, most freelancers are brought in to execute. Right?
Monique:
Exactly.
Joey:
Even if you're a designer, and I guess I should ask you first, were you primarily designing or animating at the point?
Monique:
It was a mix of things. It wasn't, one wasn't more than the other. It was kind of a mix for sure.
Joey:
Got it. Yeah. My career, I was mostly an animator. I literally would come in and I would get other people's boards and animate them. I loved it for a certain amount of time. I mean, it really was a lot of fun and I was in my twenties and it was great and I loved the people there. Then, eventually you get to a point where like you kind of, I think a lot of us get into this because we like to create, that's like in a nutshell what it is. You got to scratch that itch. I want my idea.
Monique:
Yeah. Right.
Joey:
As a freelancer, it's trickier to get that. Right?
Monique:
Yes. It's very difficult to get that. I would say you can break that up by doing your own personal work. Right? I think that's why I've gotten to a place where even when I'm freelancing, it doesn't feel as much like it's not my ideas anymore, because they're coming to me and wanting something similar to what I've done already. You know? It feels more like, okay, you came to me for a reason as opposed to just opening up your freelancer Rolodex and picking somebody. You know? I think that's been able to help, but yeah, I think that's a lot of it, for sure. You want to see more of your ideas, yourself infused in the work and not feel like a production artist. I think you get to that point. A lot of us get to that point in our career. I definitely got to that point for sure.
Joey:
There was something you talked about with Haley that I thought was, I guess I've heard of people doing this, but it's just seems very rare, especially the way you did it. At one point you had two websites with completely different things on them.
Monique:
Yes. I did.
Joey:
I think that that's brilliant and most people listening have never been in that situation where you have basically two completely separate presences on the internet.
Monique:
Right.
Joey:
What was that, first of all, why did you do that? Then, what was it like? I mean, was it weird, with different clients coming through different sites and stuff?
Monique:
Yeah. The reason I did it was because, like you said, my other life I had this totally different sort of career, or at least work that I put out, and was still doing a lot of work for those clients, but knew that I wanted to pivot and also knew that this is a transition, this is gradual. I just kind of, especially if I have to win new clients, because I'll say it's really difficult to kind of change how a client sees you, your current client. If you're making a certain type of work for them, it's really hard to be like, "Hey, I'm doing this stuff, but I'm also doing this. If you want this sort of thing, think of me." Typically, they see you the way as you've been introduced to them and the work you've been making. I knew this was going to be a gradual transition, but I still wanted to get that going.
I put up Small, which was all the work that I wanted to be doing without like worry of anything, just put out the work that you want to make. I think having still Moniwray.com alive and having kind of my generalist sort of portfolio there with all my motion design stuff helped me feel more liberated to do that. Small was almost like a sort of Guinea Pig for a little bit. Like, "Let's see where this goes, put up the work that you want to be making." I kind of started to see the inquiries that would come from Moniray.com, that would hit me on that email. Those were typically not jobs that I was super jazzed about or excited about. Then, jobs I was getting from Small were almost always jobs that I wanted to be doing.
That kind of helped me get comfortable with the idea, like you need to kill that Moniwray.com site, because that is not serving you in any way. Now it's distracting you. You're getting jobs, but they're not jobs you want to be doing. You do know because you've already tested it, you know that people will want the work that lives on Small, so get rid of it, kill it. Yeah, I had them both up as kind of like a test and also cushion for me.
Joey:
A safety net. Yeah.
Monique:
And then there's fear, you know what I mean? You have this clientele that is continually coming to you for work. You just kind of shut that off. It was a scary thing to do, but it helped to see that I was getting inquiries on the other site and I just needed to kind of continue to push that and do outreach and put some elbow grease into getting more of those types of jobs, but there was interest.
Joey:
That's so cool. I imagine that, for you, it was probably even a little scarier than for some other artists, simply because the work that you were doing looks nothing like the work that is on, it's like the total opposite.
Monique:
[inaudible 00:36:12].
Joey:
I mean, it's really crazy. I mean, when you landed on my radar and I looked at your work, I assumed you were an illustrator first.
Monique:
Oh, that's funny.
Joey:
That's how you came up. Yeah. That's what I assumed, because I mean, you're really good at it.
Monique:
Thank you.
Joey:
The other thing too, is there's kind of, I don't know, I'm assuming there's some intentionality here, but it's like to get the kind of work you're getting and to have the brand and the voice that you have around Small and all the things you do, that takes a certain level of, I guess, self-awareness and sophistication that I see with a lot of illustrators, because I think that in the true sort of editorial illustration world, you have to kind of play the ... I'm not sure how to put it, but it's like you have to play artist a little more than I think you do in motion design. Right?
Monique:
Yeah. I agree with that.
Joey:
You have to kind of be, you have to be a little artsy. I'm imagining that even the language you used on Moniwray.com, and the way you talked about the work was different.
Monique:
Yeah. That's a really great point. I hadn't thought about that before, but I do think I definitely leaned more into my voice, even in the copy on my site for sure once Small was born. But, I don't think it was way more than it was on Moniwray.com. I try to speak as I am, and not like another person wrote this when it's just me writing it. I definitely think, yeah, Small kind of liberated me a little bit more to really, really lean into that, for sure.
Joey:
Yeah. The copywriting is another thing that really kind of jumped out at me, because that's something a lot of visual artists just have trouble with. I mean, that's not sort of our strength usually. I always try to reverse engineer when I see people who are good at something like, how did they get good at it? Talking to you now, you really do talk the way everything on your site is written.
Monique:
That's funny.
Joey:
I assume the secret there is you don't think too hard about it. You're just like, if I was talking to you, I would say it and you just write those words out.
Monique:
I would say it this way, absolutely.
Joey:
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, just like the way you label things, like brown skin ladies is so perfect. Just the way you ... It's cute. It says the right thing. It's like perfect.
Monique:
That's actually a reference to a song from Talib Kweli and Mos Def.
Joey:
Oh, I didn't know that.
Monique:
It is called Brown Skinned Ladies. Yeah, which is a song that I love.
Joey:
I love it. On the description for it, I think you used the word melanated, which I'd never heard before.
Monique:
Yes.
Joey:
I was like, that's so great.
Monique:
Which I'm pretty sure I stole from Janelle Monae. I think she has that as a lyric in one of her songs too.
Joey:
Okay. Listen, we're going to link to steal like an artist.
Monique:
Steal like an artist, yes.
Joey:
You're good at that. That's really funny. That's awesome. Okay. You have two websites. How did Small start to get traction, were you promoting it?
Monique:
Yeah, so I was promoting it. Yeah. I was doing real old school outreach. I was using social a little boy. I was not overly invested in that. I was more interested in getting people's emails and emailing them. I actually got, I was surprised at the sort of replies I would get. That showed me that, okay, no, this is what I need to be doing. I need to be reaching out. Not to say I don't find work from social, occasionally I do. A lot of the sort of work that I get is from genuine outreach, building relationships, networking, pre-pandemic I would go to events, meet people, and just talk to people. There was a lot of just that happening for me, which I'm not saying you can't do on social.
You know, you can hit somebody in new DM and build a relationship, obviously on social. Yeah, a lot of it for me was face to face interaction with people and just letting them know what I was doing, but working, I would say my old network, but there's nothing wrong with telling people, "Hey, I'm doing this thing now. Here's a newsletter. Here's this stuff that I'm working on." I said before, it can be hard to kind of change your current clients' sort of idea of what you do. Some of those clients definitely were like, "Oh, cool, we're into it. We have some jobs for you." You know? It was really just a lot of just old school networking, reaching out to people, and dialing that site in so they could hopefully get it, when they got to the site and just continuing to, in the interim, work on personal projects. That, I think, helped me dial everything in as well.
A lot of the client work that I would end up winning would be on the heels of a personal project that I made. One of the early projects that I did, they saw an illustration and was like, "We love that illustration and picked you because of that illustration." You're talking about Brown Skinned Ladies, I haven't made a whole lot of money off of the sticker pack itself. Technically, the sticker pack hasn't made a whole lot of coin, but the amount of work I've won because people saw that I had done a sticker pack, that's value in itself as well.
Joey:
Yeah.
Monique:
Right. Yeah. Investing in personal projects and just networking, networking.
Joey:
I love this. Yeah. I don't know if you've read The Freelance Manifesto.
Monique:
Hell yeah I have.
Joey:
It's exactly-
Monique:
Let me tell you something. Thank you for that book.
Joey:
[crosstalk 00:42:14]-
Monique:
When I first started freelancing in Miami, I didn't know what the hell I was doing and I needed guidance. That was super helpful to me for sure.
Joey:
Oh, that's awesome. I promise I wasn't fishing for a compliment. Thank you. I do appreciate it.
Monique:
You got it anyway.
Joey:
It's just what you did is exactly what I tell people to do. It's like, do the work you want to get paid for before you're getting paid for it, and then email people and build rapport with them. It's amazing if you do it. Yeah. It also helps that your work is very, very good, but that stuff works. Let's talk about the style here a little bit.
Monique:
Yeah. Sure.
Joey:
Okay. If you go to Madebysmall.tv, and by the way, why the name Small?
Monique:
When I first made Small, I wasn't really sure what I wanted to be, whether I wanted to be just an independent, creative, if I wanted to be a studio with employees, and I didn't want ... I wanted to explore, I didn't want to kind of hem myself up in any sort of direction one way or the other. I knew based off my previous experiences at different studios and different places that the experiences that I enjoyed the most were the smaller, more boutique studios. I did know if I wanted this to be a studio, I would want to keep it small, I wouldn't want it to be a crazy big thing. I wanted to feel like a family, so whether it was going to be me or be a team of people, it wasn't going to be this large production, or large, I would say, because it's not to say a small studio can make amazing work. We see lots of really small studios doing amazing stuff. Right? But I just didn't want to be 100 plus sort of situation.
Joey:
You don't want to be doing a branding package for a major network with 600 deliverables.
Monique:
Exactly.
Joey:
Okay. So that's perfect. Okay. So small is now starting to get traction. And this style of yours, where did it come from? Because there's no sense in here, for me anyway, that you went to school for 3D animation.
Monique:
Yeah, I know. Right. That's funny. Yeah. So the style, it's interesting. When you want to become a motion designer and so much of what we do, and I did it myself, right, because I wanted to work at studios, is you emulate what studios are doing and what they're making. And then you almost kind of ... if you're an artist before that, which a lot of us are, we drew and painted and did all sorts of things before we came to motion design, you almost like lose your own sort of visual language in trying to recreate what other studios were doing. So I had to like rediscover that voice a little bit. And a lot of that just came from me just saying, "Draw what you want to draw, make what you want to make," and don't think about, "Will so-and-so think this is fly?" Just make it. And once you do that you start to make something that is inherently unique. Right? Because you're not trying.
I mean, it's obviously going to be ... I think everyone has influences, so it will be infused by that. But it'll be hopefully something that's more unique to you and a mix of your influences, as opposed to you just trying to make something that a big studio did so you can show them that you can do that. Right? So a lot of that just came from me just not caring, and making stuff that I want to make. And obviously like seeing how people reacted to it and if people like it, whatever. But not thinking about that when I made it. So that helped me get back to that unique style. But when I look at like when I was at my parents right before all of this took place, we were back in Miami, and I was looking at some old drawings and stuff, and there's kind of some hints of-
Joey:
Interesting.
Monique:
... what's going on here. But I think what I've done now as I've gotten older, because I studied design on my own, in a sense, and through work experience I worked with incredible designers. And I wasn't a designer when I was younger, what I mean? So it was just totally influenced by the cartoons and the comics and that sort of stuff that I was into. But now, after kind of learning design through work experience and incredible designers that I've been able to work with, it's kind of a mix, I think. This sort of more kind of cartoon influenced style with more design thinking as well. So it's kind of mixing those sort of things. But yeah.
Joey:
Yeah. I can definitely see the influence of graphic design in a lot of stuff you've done. I mean, just with like the compositions, and there're some things where you flatten perspective. And it's stuff that being exposed to really good designers and maybe doing a little studying on your own and looking at some old art, all of that stuff kind of comes through. But the style of the rendering is really, to me, unique.
Monique:
Thank you.
Joey:
I mean, I don't follow the world of illustration nearly as closely as the animation world, so I'm sure there're other artists that maybe are close. But in the world of animation this feels very unique to me.
Monique:
Cool. Thank you.
Joey:
And I love that it sort of came from maybe the way you were drawing as a kid. That's really cool.
Monique:
Maybe, yeah, yeah. There're some hints there. I mean, when I was a kid there was definitely more detail in a lot of the illustrations that I was doing, again because of that kind of inspiration of the comics and the stuff that I was reading and super into. Went through a period where all I did was like Sailor Moon fan art. That's all I was drawing. My art teacher hated that period, by the way. She told me if I wanted to be any good I needed to draw real things and draw from reality. But yeah, I think it's a mix of all of that stuff, for sure.
Joey:
Yeah. So let's get into the weeds a little bit. So you mentioned already that you have a Wacom Mobile PC, which I think that's only a couple of years old that they've been making those, right?
Monique:
Yeah. I have the most recent one, which I think came out within the last year. But yeah, they haven't been doing it very long. I think the first iterations of it wasn't good. Like there was a lot of issues with the hardware. But I think they've dialed it in with this one.
Joey:
Oh that's awesome. And so I was going to ask about that, because looking at ... Like obviously the advantage there is that you can have full Photoshop like on your tablet, which is great right? But a lot of illustrators, like I know Sarah Beth who teaches our illustration class, she uses Procreate a lot.
Monique:
Oh, I love her.
Joey:
And she uses Photoshop too. I mean, she has a Cintiq, and that's what she did the class on. But I mean, I use Procreate, my kids use it. It seems like at least the illustration stuff you could do on an iPad.
Monique:
You could.
Joey:
I mean, do you even need the full PC? So I'm curious, like why is it helpful to you to have the full PC?
Monique:
Yeah. Because I jump around through a lot of apps. Right now I'm actually not using Photoshop predominantly I'm using an app called Clip Studio Paint. And for me I just appreciate the brushes and the line work I can make in that app. And it also has a vector layer that you can use for your line work, which is incredible to me. If anyone has used Toon Boom, it's similar to using vectors in Toon Boom where you kind of can retain that pencil line but you can move it around like a vector, and kind of push and pull. And it has really cool vector tools in it. So that's a lot of the reason I use it. But yeah. I want to be able to, if I am animating something, which I am, in a lot of instances I want to be able to just export that and take that after effects, and not have to like leave my iPad and grab another thing.
"Oh, I need [inaudible 00:51:04] get back. I need this layer to be different in Procreate, I got to go grab my iPad again." You know what I mean? So it's just more seamless to be using all desktop apps. But I do, now I've been using Procreate a lot for like ... So when I'm sketching I want it to feel that way. So I use it a lot for that, sketches. And sometimes do other things in it, but it's rare that I do a full thing in Procreate. But I will use, another thing I love about Clip Studio Paint, and another reason I started to use it as my predominant app, is that they have a iPad app that's one-to-one exactly like the desktop version. And Clip Studio Paint not only has really amazing vector tools, but you can also animate in Clip Studio Paint. So there're some projects that I've done totally in Clip Studio Paint, especially if they're shorter gifs.
And I don't have to worry about recreating the line quality in another app. If you illustrate something in Photoshop, if you take it in [inaudible 00:52:07] paint you have to ... If you want to animate in [inaudible 00:52:11] paint, you're not animating Photoshop, you need your brush to look the same, right, as your style frames. But with Clip Studio Paint I can do it all there and it all looks exact. So I've been doing that on my iPad a lot, but even then you still got to do post work and after effects. And then you got to render it out and do the whole thing jumping through devices. So I appreciate the Mobile Studio Pro for that reason. When I built the PC I was still doing a lot of rendering. So the predominant reason I was using the PC then was to do GPU rendering. I was using Octane. But now I don't use it as much at all.
It probably hasn't been turned on in like two weeks, maybe longer. But the Mobile Studio Pro, that can be a Mac or a PC, I don't care. I'm just glad that I have all my apps on a drawing tablet, and I can access them wherever I am.
Joey:
Cool. I've never used that app, but we'll link to it in the show notes. It looks super cool. And I think as this world of like micro animations, I guess, is what I call a lot of the things on your site, right, it's like it is motion design, but it's also illustration. And frankly, a lot of the things you do, I mean, it's straight up frame by frame character animation that you're doing. A lot of that can be done in Photoshop, but I know there're apps that are really kind of like tailored for that. Now, as far as your style, like the drawing style goes, I think when people look at it, and especially people who aren't illustrators, it looks deceptively simple. And I know it's not that easy to make it look that way.
Monique:
[crosstalk 00:53:56].
Joey:
Right? Like it looks simple, but it's not. And the thing about it, and I know this is a podcast so people can't see what I'm looking at right now, so I'll try to describe it. But please go to http://madebysmall.tv , look at the work. I mean, the quality of the line work, you kind of play with it and it's different on different pieces, but it's generally maybe there's a little roughness, maybe not. It could literally just be like 100% hardness brush in Photoshop.
Monique:
Yeah, right.
Joey:
And then there's generally no shading. It's just flat colors. And so I think a lot of people when they start out, they think, "Oh, well that's easier, right? Because you have less to deal with."
Monique:
No.
Joey:
No, because the problem is: how do you make someone look exactly where you want them to look? But don't look over here, look here first. I mean, there's just not that much. There's not that many pixels on there.
Monique:
Totally.
Joey:
It's just like everything's so restrained. How did you develop this look?
Monique:
Huh, yeah. I think that look really is something that's come from the childhood drawings I used to do. I was in a magnet school for a while, you had to audition to get into it.
Joey:
I was in a magnet school for a while.
Monique:
Were you?
Joey:
I was, yeah.
Monique:
Yeah, it was awesome, because we got to play with so many different mediums and we were like an art class for most of the day. And I even then kind of gravitated towards ... I'd use charcoal and mediums like that, but I really loved like micron pens and just creating really dark blacks. I think again though, a lot of that comes from this sort of, some of that's design background, but I think it also comes from comics. That's how comics are drawn. There aren't really tons of shading, there's black and there's white, and maybe there's some gray possibly. But a lot of it is really flat colors. So yeah, I think that had a lot to do with it. But that, to your point, that simplicity, it can be hard to make something that looks that way, but also still looks like what you need it to look like. I've been doing more portraits in that sort of style, and you want that to retain the look of the person. Right?
Joey:
Right.
Monique:
But also still stylistically to be this way. So yeah, really for me, from kind of like a production standpoint, it comes from just drawing. Drawing, sketching it first. And kind of almost sketching it like when we were kids. I don't know if you had this in art class, your teacher would give you an assignment where you draw something with one line.
Joey:
Oh yeah. Yeah.
Monique:
And kind of just hope for the best. It's kind of a little bit of that, me just kind of really trusting my gut in how this is going to look. But yeah, there's lots of iterations of the sketch. And then even the sketch, once I go into kind of drawing it, I still reduce much more from what the sketch was, and there's still a process of reducing the visuals when I create the final piece. But yeah, it's gotten to a place where it feels like, I don't want to say less work, because I think that's the reductive, because it's still work. But it feels more ...
Joey:
Like you know how to get there [crosstalk 00:57:45].
Monique:
Yeah, exactly. Exactly. So it's not so much of a process anymore. But yeah, in the beginning it was definitely, yeah, kind of difficulties sort of dialing that in. But it just came from practice and continuing to do it.
Joey:
Well, I'm not surprised that it's gotten you a lot of work, because I think the style is very accessible. It's kind of disarming. And some of the projects you've worked on, I mean, they have pretty serious topics. There's a piece called Seize the Awkward, and it was geared towards getting people to have conversations about mental health, which is a very serious topic. But the illustrations make it less scary, I think, than it could have looked if it was more realistic looking or something like that.
Monique:
For sure.
Joey:
So it's really cool. And kudos to you for sort of figuring out that you can say things in this style and you enjoy doing it, and you've kind of figured a lot of things out, Monique.
Monique:
Thank you.
Joey:
So let's talk about ... So okay. So in your CreativeMornings talk, one of the big topics that you talked about, and you talked about it a little bit with Hailey too, was diversity in motion. And we've been talking about this topic a lot on the podcast, especially since the beginning of 2020. And I would love to hear, because you speak so well about it, and your entire practice now, Made By Small, I mean, if you go to the site I think ... It's funny actually. I was going to ask you a question about like ... It used to be the way that we would have diversity in motion design is you'd use purple skin when you draw the character.
Monique:
Right.
Joey:
That was kind of the hack everyone used. But you don't really do that, except you do have one that has purple skin.
Monique:
I have one.
Joey:
You do have one.
Monique:
I do have one purple lady. But I mean this is a sea of black and brown on my site now.
Joey:
Exactly. That's what I mean. You got the token purple lady. But yes you do. But everybody, it's really cool. And it's one of those things where, I think me, like a lot of people in this industry, up until probably the last couple of years it just didn't even occur to us. I mean, we ran into this with School of Motion where we had an email header that had little characters on it, and no one had dark skin. And like no one noticed it until someone called us out, and was like, "Why are they all pink?" I was like, "Yeah, you're right. Why? Why are they?"
Monique:
I'm so glad that person called you out though, because I think-
Joey:
Me too, I thank them.
Monique:
And you are as well. Right?
Joey:
I thanked them. Yeah. I actually thanked them and we changed it.
Monique:
That is so [crosstalk 01:00:18].
Joey:
And I go to your site and it's like, "Oh, okay. Yeah. See? You should be seeing this all the time." So anyway. So let's talk about that. One of the things you said in the CreativeMornings talk was that, I think this was the direct quote, "As a black woman working in this field I faced a lot of adversity." And I've heard that before, but if you're comfortable I'd like to hear your experiences.
Monique:
Yeah. I mean, we don't got all day Joey. But [crosstalk 01:00:43] lot of experiences.
Joey:
Yeah. Let's go deep. Listen, one of us will be crying by the end. Right?
Monique:
I would say that so many of those experiences in the latter part of my career were the sort of experiences where you're like, "Did they mean? Did they say?" where you kind of go home and you think about, "What were they trying to say when they said that?" And it's a little more passive. Right. But in the early parts of my career, I don't know if people just felt like they could say crazy things to me because I'm younger, or also it's Miami so there's some of that East Coast vibe there.
Joey:
Right. They're pushing it a little bit too.
Monique:
Yeah. There were some really crazy experiences that I've had, one of which that definitely-
Joey:
That's for a different podcast.
Monique:
Yeah. Right? It stuck out to me. Because when I start working somewhere I like to build a rapport with everyone I work with. Like I said before, I like for it to feel like a family. So I was at this place working, and we'd go to lunch, we'd hang out. It was a cool vibe. But built so much of a rapport that the director felt comfortable saying this to me. And saying one day we were working, working late, and he essentially said to me, because I was doing a really great job there, even though I was freelance. They had asked me multiple times if I wanted to be full-time. So that's how you know how much they're digging working with me. And he said to me, we were working late, he was like, "Damn, I love working with you. I give you something to do, I don't ever have to think about it, worry about it. I know it's going to be amazing. You're awesome to work with. It's crazy that we almost didn't hire you." And I was like, "What? Hold on, hold the phone. What do you mean you almost didn't hire me?"
And I thought back to the interview, I was like, "I'm a solid interviewer, and I don't know why they would think that." And so I paused and I said, "What are you talking about? What do you mean by that?" And he goes to me, first he was like, "Oh damn, I shouldn't have said that."
Joey:
Stepped in it. Yeah.
Monique:
Yeah. And then I was like, "No, come on, man. You need to tell me what's going on. Why did you guys almost have not hire?" Because I was even thinking at that point, "Maybe I said some crazy interview and I need to check myself." And he was like, "No, you know what? We were just worried about, quote unquote, baby mama drama."
Joey:
Oh shit.
Monique:
That's what he said to me. Yeah, oh shit indeed.
Joey:
Yeah.
Monique:
Yeah.
Joey:
Yeah, that's just ...
Monique:
That's, yeah, grade A racism.
Joey:
[crosstalk 01:03:30]. Yeah.
Monique:
Right?
Joey:
Yeah. No, there's not a really good way to interpret that. That's just straight up just awful. Yeah.
Monique:
No, no, no. Yeah. So mind you, so A, that's just racist in and of itself.
Joey:
It is, yeah.
Monique:
And he also asked me in the first interview, do I have any kids? So I thought that was odd.
Joey:
Oh my God.
Monique:
Like, "Oh, that's weird. Never ask me if I have kids." And no, I don't. So they even knew I didn't have kids, but were still worried about, quote unquote, baby mama drama. I don't know what that even means. So that alone will tell you the sort of ... He was just kind of brazen enough to say it to me, because he felt comfortable enough in that setting. But I wouldn't doubt that there have been experiences where I've experienced prejudice or have been withheld from an opportunity, haven't gotten a promotion that I was looking for just off the strength of that feeling. Whether they articulate it or not, or say it or not, I'm sure that there's been other experiences where I've just not been aware of. So that's kind of the adversity that I speak about. Some of this is like this ghost adversity. You don't even know what you're kind of ...
Joey:
Right.
Monique:
What are you battling, because not everyone's willing enough to kind of-
Joey:
What if he'd never said that?
Monique:
... speak with that candor?
Joey:
You never would've known.
Monique:
Exactly. I would have never known.
Joey:
Well, I hope that guy gets hemorrhoids. That is like a truly, truly shitty thing to-
Monique:
Yeah.
Joey:
Jesus.
Monique:
Yeah, I don't know what he's up to now. I have no idea.
Joey:
Yeah. Prep H. He's up to Prep H, is what's going on.
Monique:
Yeah, for sure.
Joey:
Well, thank you for sharing that.
Monique:
Yeah, of course.
Joey:
It legitimately pisses me off to hear something like that.
Monique:
This is the reality.
Joey:
Yeah.
Monique:
Because I think we aren't aware of kind of the realities of some of our experiences just because we've never had them. Right?
Joey:
Yeah.
Monique:
As shocking is that was to you, that's been an experience that I've had, and that's just one of them. It's definitely the realities of our industry that I think we should speak about more so we can do something about it.
Joey:
I applaud you.
Monique:
The whole point is talking about it.
Joey:
I give you major props for talking about it and being very blunt about it. And you know what I mean?
Monique:
Yeah of course.
Joey:
There's been a few of these stories that have come up on the podcast. We recently had a good friend of mine, who runs a studio in Boston. And she's gay, and she has had like pretty similar experiences where people make her feel bad. Like she tried to put a gay character into a script, and the client laughed like it was funny. "Oh you."
Monique:
Wow.
Joey:
Like stuff like that where it's really, I know I'm probably speaking for a lot of people listening too, it's like it was invisible to me that this kind of stuff ... And to be honest, shocked me when I started hearing these stories, because I just assume this is a creative field and most people in it are in it because we're artists or creatives, or we like to make stuff. And I mean, good God, it's 2021. Can't we just move past all of this dark nonsense? But what I really like hearing, and I've said this to a few people on the podcast. I think I hope what helps us all move past that is just having more role models that pull up the next generation. The next generation, it will be better for them.
Monique:
I absolutely agree and I'm actually really encouraged by even just now how many young, black female creatives that are doing this and wanting to animate, wanting to illustrate, wanting to be motion designers. I think it absolutely helps to, like you're saying, have those role models, but also have each other and see that you're not the only one trying to do this, and have the support of each other.
Joey:
Yeah. Well, so that was another thing you said in the talk that I thought was really an important message. I think you were talking about the experience of young black women wondering if they can even make it in a creative field. And this idea that for, I don't know, let's say my daughter, who's 10 and loves to draw and has her own iPad and sees her dad working on a computer making stuff, it's obvious to her that she could make a living one day in a creative field, but a lot of kids just don't have that experience. They're not exposed to it.
Monique:
Yeah, and access.
Joey:
There may be these old ideas of the starving artist and of course access and stuff. And you very deliberately oriented yourself in a way to combat that, I think. So I'm curious how you see what you're doing helping lift up kids that may just have never met a professional artist and they're not in a situation where they're likely to, but now I don't know, maybe somehow they hear this podcast or they come across your work or they see an illustration that you've done for the New York Times and they want to find out how to do that. I mean, you've become a role model. How do you think about that in terms of your practice?
Monique:
Yeah. Honestly, Joey, this that's why I do these things. I'm not inherently a person that's like, let me jump on a podcast. That's not my first response to something. And even I told you about a personal project that I wanted to do, but realized how much legwork was into ... I'll just say it, the podcast that I'm talking about doing. Even for that, I'm not a podcast person per se, but I know that in making this sort of content or being part of this content and people seeing me, even if it touches one person, it's still a big deal. And to have people reach out to me, black women saying, "Oh my God, I love your work and I'm inspired. Thank you." That's it. That's a lot of the reason that I do things like this or do public speaking. It's really so that someone who can see that someone that looks like them is doing this and having success, like you said.
The idea of the starving artist, I knew so many. I can think of one specifically, a black woman, black girl at the time. We were in high school, and she just couldn't see herself being in this sort of field. It's not something she could wrap her head around, and I don't fault her for that. We didn't have any examples of that. I think what helped me was the fact that I had immense support for my family. They didn't want me to do anything else but make art. That's what I wanted to do. But we don't all have that sort of support at home. So you don't have that support. You don't have the representation that you can connect with and say, okay, even if I don't have the support, I see so-and-so is doing it, so it's feasible. It's possible. So then where does that leave you? You don't think it's possible for you to do this.
So yeah, representation is really important. We have to see ourselves, even if it's something that there's people who are maybe creative and artists, but can't just trigger that thing in their mind that says, "Oh, I can make this my career. I can have success with this. This doesn't have to just be a hobby of mine or something I do for fun." I think it helps to see someone that you connect with and you connect with in any way, whether it's me being a black person, me being a woman, me being both, me being from Miami. Whatever it is.
Joey:
Yeah, let's talk about that.
Monique:
Me being Jamaican. Whatever it is. If you connect with that and you're like, "Damn, we have these similarities and she's doing it and she seems to happy and she's financially stable, then I can too as well."
Joey:
I love it. So let me ask you this. I mean, I think the same way. This is a weird metaphor to make, but I can tell, I can spot baldness from a mile away. I see baldness-
Monique:
What'd you say? Baldness?
Joey:
Baldness, bald guys. If a guy's going bald, if an actor on TV has a bald spot-
Monique:
You're like, "Cut it off. What are you doing?"
Joey:
I immediately gravitate towards that.
Monique:
That's hilarious.
Joey:
And it's one of those things that people who aren't bald don't even notice. They don't care.
Monique:
Don't even think about it.
Joey:
Yeah. So I assume most of my life, like editorial cartoons, actors in commercials, TV shows, it's just been mostly white. So now, I'm on your site right now. I'm looking at it and it just makes it clear, okay, this has been going on long enough. There are other colored skin tones you can use besides pink and purple. And so I wonder, the same way my friend Mikayla said that there used to be this firewall where, we're in the creative field and there's lots of gay artists and trans artists, but you can't really show them on TV. That's still kind of taboo. Well, that's going away. And now you see it. I'm wondering if you feel the same way about diversity in illustration and in motion design, where, I mean, for the longest time, it was pretty rare to see a black character in a motion design piece.
And there's a reason I think that it was a really big deal when Black Panther came out because it pointed out, look, there hasn't really been a movie star, big superhero black person that Hollywood's lifted up like this. So, does it feel like it's changing? Is it kind of moving in the right direction?
Monique:
Yeah, I think so. I think it's a mixture of a few things. I think one, the industry is becoming more diverse. Like I was saying, how encouraged I am by all the young black women that are getting into this field or that are getting started. You draw and you create. There's some of that, that's just not ... Your art is a reflection of yourself, your lived experience, your familial history. And it's not shocking that a white guy wants to draw white guys.
Joey:
Bald white guys.
Monique:
Bald white guys. That's probably just what's going to come first to mind. So I think inherently it is becoming more diverse because the industry is becoming more diverse. And we're also understanding that you don't have to be a motion designer for 10 years to be a creative director. You can get a woman who's an incredible illustrator and designer and put her in that role and she'd probably kill it, and maybe more than that motion designer that you're thinking of hiring, especially when we're talking about ideas and visual ideas. So I think we're understanding that this creative leadership doesn't have to come in one form, so that's allowing us to diversify that, and the people that are coming into the industry are more diverse.
So the art itself, the creative is getting just authentically more diverse. And I think also there's just awareness from everyone, agnostic of industry, that we need to do better with representation. So I think everyone's leaning in at the moment. I hope we stick to it. But at the moment, we're definitely leaning in and being more conscious of that. So content is becoming more diverse because of that as well. I think it's a mix of things, but I see it becoming more diverse, for sure.
Joey:
That's excellent. I love it. There's such a beauty in diversity. Until you actually see what real diversity looks like, you don't realize what you're missing.
Monique:
For sure.
Joey:
That was one of the things I was struck by when I saw your site. I was like, I feel like now I can't un-see it. I don't see a lot of stuff like this. The concentration of this kind of work on your site is greater than I normally see. So although I have ... But now it's on my radar. So I have noticed the brands that are doing it, and I know that at first it's probably, they're doing it intentionally too, and I'm sure that's part of the force as well, but I think you nailed it. It really is the more we lift up the next generation and make them realize, hey, you can be an artist, you can make a living drawing, you can make a living animating, you don't have to do what your parents are telling you, you have to do, like go to college, be a lawyer or something like that. So I don't think that it gets fixed overnight, but I think 10 years from now, it'll be a different ball game.
Monique:
Yeah. I always use that marker as well. I'm really excited to see how this industry looks in five to 10 years, because I think we're at the beginning of something that, just like you're saying, it's gradual. It's going to take time. Those young people that are entering school or just graduating, they've got to get some experience and go through it. But I wouldn't be surprised if in 10 years we see multiple black creative directors at studios and black owned studios. I could see that definitely happening in the future.
Joey:
Yeah, 100%. So, on the note of helping the next generation and being a role model, another thing that you started doing is working with Motion Hatch. So our buddy Haley over there runs this amazing mastermind program for motion designers where you're basically in a peer group. And Monique is now, I guess one of the facilitators of these groups. So I'm curious, maybe just talk a little bit about why you're doing that and what you've learned through that process.
Monique:
Yeah. I mean, I always connect with helping creatives in whatever way I can, younger creatives, and especially we were just talking about representation. If a young black creative can reach out to me and feel like they're getting mentorship from someone who looks like them and can connect with that, I love it. It's been a good time. It's actually interesting. Being a "mentor", there's so much that you learn from being a mentor, and listening to what we're all going through, especially in the last year. I think this session was really interesting, listening to everyone's experience over the pandemic. Motion Hatch mastermind is so much about the business sense and how do I get more clients and all of that, but there's so many mental barriers that we have as creatives as well, that I think it helps to talk amongst others about that stuff. That's the best way to work through it and have that support, figuring out if you're good enough, which nine times out of 10, you typically are good enough.
Just working through that stuff and building up that courage to send that email finally to the clients you want to be talking to. So there's been a lot of that as well as the business stuff, the mental stuff as well, for lack of a better term. But yeah, it's been an awesome experience. I'm humbled by the experience, younger people asking me, how'd you get here. It's so funny because you just keep going, going, going in your career. I don't know if you identify with this. You don't stop and look back and see what's happened and how'd you get here? What happened? You just keep going. So, it's been humbling to have younger creatives have these aspirations to my career. It's been super humbling, but it's been an awesome experience. It's been a lot of really talented people that came through the last session that I was a part of, and excited about the next session.
We talk, I think we're having this shift, where we talk so much about the business stuff, but there's other stuff that goes into this work that goes into being successful at this stuff. So, I hope that we're hitting on all of that with Motion Hatch, and I think we are. So it's been an awesome experience. And also meeting all the folks from the last session was really great. It was a great experience.
Joey:
That's super cool. And I know that the members in the mastermind group probably really appreciate having access to you and your experience. You've obviously been really successful at this too, and it's always just nice to be able to pick someone's brain who's done the thing you're trying to do. So I guess my last question for you, Monique, it really is about what you just touched on. It's that mindset. You made a drastic shift in the kind of work you were doing and the style of it. And you went in this direction of, in being very intentional and deliberate with, I want to promote and push more diversity. I want to draw black and brown people more than they're being drawn. I want to attract a certain type of client. I want to make an impact. All of those things.
And I'm sure that, I mean, after having talked to you for now an hour and a half, I could tell, you seem very confident. So I'm sure in real life you are too.
Monique:
I appreciate that.
Joey:
But there must've been some part of your brain saying, "Oh my God"-
Monique:
It's all a show. It's all a show, Joey.
Joey:
Well, listen, you asked me if I can relate to what you said, we'll talk about that after I hit recording. But there must've been some part of your brain that was nervous to make that leap and to really go all in and to lean into that and say, "This is the kind of work I want. Oh my God, but now maybe this old client won't book me anymore." What could you tell somebody that sees what you've done and they're like, that's amazing, I want to be that brave and do that too. How would you talk them into it?
Monique:
Yeah. I would say, I don't know if this is an answer to that exactly. But something that is important to me and I try to maintain the thought frame is running my own race, not being too distracted. And with social media now, it's easy. It's easy to log on and just think, I'm trash. Why am I even doing this?
Joey:
NFTs.
Monique:
What's the point? Everyone's making coin off of NFTs and I don't know what I'm even doing with my life.
Joey:
Oh, no, I'm a failure. Yeah.
Monique:
It's really easy to go down that wormhole. But I think it's really important to run your own race and think about your own goals. What's important to you? What are you trying to make? Who do you want to work with? And focusing on that and not be distracted by the static of what you should be doing and what seems like the thing to be doing. Really focus on what's important to you.
When I thought about that for myself, a lot of what I was doing was what I shouldn't be doing, because I was doing it because I felt like, oh, I need to have this sort of thing on my portfolio because I feel like this sort of client would be into it. And it's almost like you're doing more work by trying to reverse engineer that as opposed to just running your own race and focusing on what you need to be focusing on. So, I would say that, run your own race and self-doubt is such a big aspect of it, for sure. And I identify with that. I mean, you said I seem really confident, but I wonder every other day if I'm trash or not. And my husband has to look at me and be like, "Girl, stop playing. What's wrong with you?"
Joey:
You're not trash, okay.
Monique:
"You're not trash, I promise you."
Joey:
You're not trash.
Monique:
So, a lot of that just comes from too, just self-care, self-love, not to get to California, waa-waa woo.
Joey:
Let's go there. Let's get woo-woo. Let's do it. What are we talking?
Monique:
I was talking to a friend the other day. My morning routine is dialed in, so much of that. And I get up early for that reason, to for lack of a better term, to get my mind right, because there's especially now with all the noise and the static coming from just everywhere, spending time to meditate, journal, do those things that fill me. Whatever that is for you, so you can reaffirm yourself and help to quiet that negative self speak that I think is something that a lot of artists deal with. What's helpful for me too is I know some incredible artists and they too deal with this. You're like, I don't understand. You have such a prolific career. You're incredible. So many people tell you you're incredible on a regular basis, I'm sure, and you still have that negative self speak. The only thing you can do about that to control that is within, because no matter how many people tell you're awesome, you're not going to be able to quiet that.
So whatever that self-care, self-love is for you. For me, it's meditation and journaling and getting on my rowing machine. Whatever that is for you, making sure you make time daily to do that stuff so you can just reaffirm yourself and make sure that doesn't prevent you from doing your best work. So yeah, I would say those two things. Run your own race and-
Joey:
Take care of yourself.
Monique:
... don't be so hard on yourself. Yeah. Take care of yourself.
Joey:
Go to Small is the creative practice of Monique Wray to check out Monique's incredible work, and make sure you follow her on social, as I have a feeling she'll be doing some very interesting things in the future. I think she's a great role model for freelancers who would like to be more deliberate about the work they're doing and the style that they're pursuing. It's pretty amazing what can happen when you actively choose the work you're going after, as opposed to just saying yes to anything that comes your way. It's of course easier said than done, but Monique is proof that you can craft your career to better fit your goals. And that is it for this episode. Thanks so much for listening. Keep it real.