The Perks of Being an Adobe Creative Resident: Part 1 with Becky Simpson

In May of 2015, Adobe began their first creative residency program. I was lucky enough to meet with Becky Simpson and Kelli Anderson (via phone call) to learn about what exactly it means to be an Adobe creative resident and how the program is giving back to the creative community.


{One year of living as an artist—FREE}

IAdobeCreativeResident_BeckySimpsonf you check out Adobe’s creative residency page, the first thing you’ll notice is their tagline:

“Fostering creativity. Empowering artists.”

And after speaking with Becky and Kelli, I can’t think of a better way to describe this program. The ladies have been given the opportunity to spend a full year working on personal projects that otherwise may have been overlooked or placed on the back burner to make room for potentially better-paying freelance work. How? Adobe, after carefully selecting them from a pool of talented artists and designers, is taking care of Becky and Kelli for the year by paying them a salary as well as handling their living expenses. The catch? Becky and Kelli must focus on their craft and explore their strengths and weaknesses as artists with all eyes on them. This is my interview with Becky about her experiences with the residency thus far.

Becky shared her experience prior to the residency in an interview with Terri Stone for Adobe’s Inspire blog. Stone writes, “Becky began freelancing full-time a little over two years ago. The first year was a struggle, though few people knew it.” As a freelancer, she “projected confidence, even though [she] was spending more than [she] was making.” Anyone with basic economic knowledge knows this is when problems start. After Becky realized that her version of success meant living her dream and not buying a new car, that’s when she “came into [her] own.”

The cost of art supplies alone can be outstanding, not to mention the added stress of paying rent, utilities, travel expenses, outlying student loans and—I need to stop before I have a panic attack.

Adobe’s residency has given Becky the opportunity to stop pulling money from her savings account and start using it for it’s actual purpose: to save. In return for this comfortable lifestyle, Becky is expected to “actively [share her] creative passions and processes” via “conferences, workshops… and social media.” Sounds like a pretty sweet deal, right? Well it only gets better.

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{Trailblazing. Or what it’s like to be first}

Maybe I’m a little dramatic, but being one of the first people to take on a huge program for an illustrious company like Adobe sounds about as scary as cliff diving—and I’m not even afraid of heights. Becky is definitely handling it better than I would. 

Becky: “If I ever feel [pressure] at all, it’s immediately discounted by the fact that it’s such an awesome opportunity. There’s no part of me that would let that pressure overcome me…but I also feel like there’s less pressure because it’s the first year, so I don’t have anybody to compare myself to, which I’m really thankful for…I definitely feel lucky to have gotten in at all, but for sure being the first round where we’re kind of figuring it out together.”

S3310Being in the public eye throughout all of this also means sharing with the community what she has learned while taking on a diverse list of projects. For example, “’how do you publish a book?’ especially if you are…an illustrator who writes, kind of how I am.” Becky wants others to know that she is and “open book” and is willing to share her process with anyone who is interested. “You know, I wasn’t validated as a writer growing up, and so how did I get to publish a book? [And] how do you start a business as an artist? … Those are kind of the avenues I’m exploring and sharing this year.

Becky isn’t the first ever illustrator to become a published author, nor is she the first artist to create a business. But working with the Adobe residency how allowed her to explore these endeavors and really analyze the work and process that goes into these projects, making her one of the best resources for young artists who don’t know how to begin their career.

“Adobe is helping me accelerate my process by light-years…so in turn, I’m trying to help accelerate other people’s processes by sharing [mine] and having that ripple effect. […] I want to be an open book and really transparent with my process…I hope that people know they can reach out to me with this stuff, and that I want to be as helpful as I can for anyone that’s curious about this process.”

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{You can write a book (and other cool things, too!)}

Aside from dreaming big, working hard and sharing with the community, the ladies of the Adobe residency have been creating non-stop since day one.

I asked Becky what a typical day as a resident looked like: “Well, that changes every day, of course,” she explained before pausing to think. ”I really try to start out the day doing something creative, [but] there’s always, like any job in the creative field, the non-drawing components of it. Whether there’s admin tasks, or planning and thinking, or brainstorming and writing talks…I really like that part of it too, but I just try to get some drawings out before I do anything else. I work from my studio here in Austin, so that’s nice.”

Becky recently finished her first residency adventure she calls the “Hundred Day Project.” For 100 days, Becky drew, designed and painted patterns, portraits, cards and more, leaving her with a hefty collection of new works. She explained the Hundred Day Project as having stemmed from one of her bigger goals—creating a sustainable business. As she tries to figure out exactly what her business will be, whether it’s stationary, licensing or collaborating, the Hundred Day Project allowed her to “explore and play without the pressure of having to make sellable art right off the bat.”

Right now, Becky is working on her latest book, The Roommate Book, to be released in 2016 by Andrew McNeal.

“I just turned in my final manuscript, like, on Monday night, so I’m on cloud nine from finishing that part of the process.” The Roommate Book is Becky’s attempt to encourage readers “to make space for play and generosity.”

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{It’s not about gender}

Design, like many careers in the past, has been made up predominately by men. Living in the 21st century in the U.S., it’s nearly impossible to avoid the cries for gender equality across the country. Spending no more than ten minutes on Facebook or Twitter will almost always land you face to screen with arguments about sexism, women’s rights or the country’s rape culture problem. As a woman myself, I was curious to know if the creative residents felt affected by these issues as women in design. Becky’s response blew my mind and, honestly, caught me off guard in the best way possible.

“There really hasn’t been much focus on [gender]. I appreciate that Adobe chose two women, [and] I appreciate that I got this residency and that I’m a woman. But I don’t like to make things a feminist issue when it’s not about that in the first place. I’m just a designer. I don’t feel like I’m a ‘woman-designer’ or a ‘woman-illustrator’ or a ‘woman-resident.’ I’m just a designer and illustrator and creative resident, and I just so happen to a woman.”

And, mic drop.

But really, in a time when our country is going through changes faster than ever, it’s easy to forget that not everything has an underlying social issue. Isn’t the end goal for us all to just be “people” anyway? People with equal rights and equal opportunities.

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{Learn about yourself}

If there’s anything I’ve learned from surrounding myself with artists and creatives, it’s that good art stems from a process. And one of the key components of the residency is allowing Becky and Kelli to discover their strengths and weaknesses as artists so that can really develop and understand their creative processes. Spending a full year working on self-proposed projects gives the residents 365 days to reflect on their work and their development as artists.

When talking about her creative process, Becky mentioned her idea journal, where she tries to write down any idea that pops into mind…even if it’s not always the best.

“I just write things down whenever I think of them. Sometimes, I’ll think it’s like the greatest idea in the world…like I had ‘selfish shellfish,’ and I was like, ‘that’s brilliant! There’s something I can do with that!’ And then I googled it, and it’s a thing. It’s like a cartoon or something.” I looked it up. It’s actually a really adorable children’s book. We laughed for a moment before she went on to tell me more about her idea journal. “I think [the journal] might help because subconsciously [the ideas] know they have a home.”

If you scroll through Becky’s online portfolio, you’ll quickly get a feel for her style. “Spaghetti hair” and “knobby knees” fill the pages with whimsical delight. Her color choices alone glorify the eccentric comedy that is every day life, and the hand drawn letters are bold declarations of the things we might be too shy to say.

“When I’m not feeling inspired, I’ll just end up drawing what I see…Sometimes my favorite things I’ve done are just my messy desk, but done in a goofy way that has character and life that could never have been seen unless I gave it its own personality. I really delight in the ordinary things in life and find humor in them.”

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Are you jealous yet? It’s obvious there are tons of perks to being a creative resident–especially with an awesome company like Adobe. If you can’t get enough of these incredible stories, keep on the look out for “The Perks of Being an Adobe Creative Resident: Part 2 with Kelli Anderson” coming soon to HOWdesign.com. And don’t forget to keep updated with lovely ladies by checking out Adobe’s Inspire Blog as well as their personal blogs and social media shared below!


Becky Simpson: Blog, Instagram, Twitter

Kelli Anderson: Blog, Instagram, Twitter



Adobe Illustrator & Photoshop Tips & Tricks

Of all the applications in Adobe’s Creative Cloud, Photoshop is the one that touches the broadest range of creative professionals. Whether you’re a photographer, illustrator, graphic designer, web designer, videographer or 3D artist, chances are that Photoshop is a mainstay in your software toolbox. Every year Adobe releases a new version of the program, with additional updates added throughout the year. Keeping up with all the amazing new features can become a part time job.

HOWU’s Adobe Certified Expert & Instructor, Bill Carberry, provides practical advice on how to get the most out of Adobe software. In this course, you can learn how to create custom workspaces for workflow that really work, integrate Illustrator and Photoshop, automate repetitive tasks plus print a 3D model and much more!

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