Artist spotlight: Ricky (Hailiiz Illustrations)
The life of a Winnipeg-based Dungeons and Dragons character illustrator
In the last several years, digital art has been on the rise. The format has many perks, including allowing for easier posting on social media by simply taking the art file and uploading it straight from the device used to create the piece. Selling and creating prints has never been easier, and there’s the glory of the undo button that you just can’t quite replicate with an eraser.
Being a full-time artist and creator is a dream for many artists, and for some those dreams come true. This week I spoke with hailiiz, or Ricky, a professional artist based in Winnipeg about her art process, social media, and art as a career. Ricky grew up loving art but didn’t consider herself to be an artist until 2017. She started drawing then “after working in an office setting and realizing this was not the place for [her].”
“I don’t believe in the way companies often treat their employees and how normalized gaslighting, gossiping and harassing is within the workplace,” Ricky says. “This is not something I say lightly. I worked in offices from 2014 till just last year and my experiences put me in a very dark and dangerous place. Art and having a supportive group of people including my partner, my family, and my amazing friends and supporters are the only things that kept me going.”
Once Ricky started taking art seriously, she had hopes that she would be able to turn it into a career – but that doesn’t mean the path was easy. She stated “looking back at my old art, I am very glad that I had the motivation to keep going.” What changed everything was the game Dungeons and Dragons (often abbreviated to D&D). D&D has had a major resurgence in the past several years, and it allowed Ricky to realize her “place in the art world and the joy bringing [her] clients’ characters to life brought [her]. This changed everything.”
On September 15, 2021, Ricky was able to quit her office job and focus on art full-time, due in part to Patreon, a membership platform that allows ‘patrons’ to pay creators. Ricky says that “[w]ithout a platform such as Patreon and the amazing humans that subscribe, I would not have been able to quit my job and leave my toxic daily life. I am so incredibly thankful that each month I get to put out things that I can be proud of, things that might be a little goofy and more personal, and just random posts that someone wants to see. It’s crazy.”
Not everything is always smooth sailing when creating art. Like most things in life, there are obstacles. When asked about obstacles she faces in her creative process, Ricky says “[n]o matter what you do in life, there’s going to be obstacles. Sounds basic but it’s fact! In art, there are tons! One of the biggest ones I currently have is stepping out of my beautiful little comfort zone. For this, I practice and study! No matter what obstacles come up, take a deep breath and tell yourself, ‘One step at a time.’”
The first thing Ricky does when starting a new piece is look at “references, always!” For her references, she “purchased a ton of stock from lovely reference photo companies such as Grafit and The Pose Archives,” alongside using Pinterest and the work of other artists for inspiration. She says that “watching my friends and the artists I admire reach their goals is mesmerizing and pushes me to reach mine. Artists that I have watched for so long such as Cyarin and Loish inspire me to keep going. The cool thing about being an artist? You can only get better.”
As a full-time artist, Ricky uses social media to post her art, which can be tricky with those ever-changing trends and algorithms. On this subject, Ricky says that “while I am a firm believer in drawing what you love, sticking to trends is very important and helpful! To compromise, I like to actually take part in the trend. I prefer to watch a popular show before making fan art on it.” But what makes the pressures of social media worth it for Ricky is “the support and motivation I get from heartfelt comments, DM’s and support from other creators or followers on each platform.”
Ricky knows that posting on social media can be difficult, but recognizes the importance of it. “Social media will always be an important part of my daily life,” she says, “and I try to remember that bad will always come with the good. Put up walls against the high possibility of trolls and remember that is part of the job!”
When asked about the struggles of working full time as an artist, Ricky admits that “[s]o far, the most difficult part would definitely be keeping a schedule, especially working completely from home. Even when I have a schedule, it can be hard not to be down on yourself if the hours are obscure. As long as you’re working, right?” She also faces confusion from other people when she explains what she does for work. “Telling ‘adultier-adults’ that I draw peoples’ Dungeon’s and Dragons characters for a living always confuses them,” she says.
Art has changed Ricky’s life for the better. It has influenced the friends she makes and the people she gets to talk to sometimes (“that old me would faint over,” she adds). She finds joy in “the fact that [she] get[s] to wake up each day and do what [she] loves, even when [she] hate[s] it.” For Ricky, the best part of being a full-time artist is “[b]eing able to do what [she] love[s], each and every day, with the support of [her] loved ones and lovely human beings online.”
Ricky/hailiiz can be found on Twitter, Instagram, Twitch, TikTok, and Youtube @hailiiz, on Facebook at Hailiiz Illustrations, on Etsy at etsy.com/ca/shop/hailiizco, and on Patreon at patreon.com/hailiiz.