Meet Bohie Palecek, sign-writing and hand-lettering extraordinaire
Australian sign-writer and letter-painter Bohie Palecek chats to us about her typical day, with unique advice on staying inspired and smashing through those dreaded moments of "creative block"...
As far as planning goes, I keep a lined notebook next to my bed and write To-Do Lists for the following day or week (or month or year). Actually, I’m a mega notebook advocate. Depending on my day, I carry one or many of the following: one blank sketchbook for client work, one for personal, one lined notebook for client meetings and specs, another personal pocket-sized journal in which I muse about art idea’s and inspiration. I also keep a more personal journal to write in, for when my emotions get all weird and I don’t know how to put them into actual words.
Aside from scheduled client meetings and on-site work, I’m fortunate enough to have such a wide variety of commissions that I can often pick and choose what my days entail, depending on my mood. If I feel like getting my hands dirty in the studio I can continue to work on hand-painted commissions, progressing a personal artwork or busting out some textures to use down the line in digital work. On other days I enjoy working out of my office on digital designs and tightening up the ‘business side’ of things.
When I have a mural scheduled in or a big signage project to carry out then I’m straight out the door after breakfast, and usually back in for dinner, exhausted and covered in paint. Then it’s a good meal, a hot bath, and an early start…ready to do it all again!
I’m all about my daily rituals! After a good night’s sleep, I’ll begin my day with half an hour of yoga, or a short walk through the local parklands. Then after that (and this is an absolute priority), cartoons. Yep, 30 years old and still loving my morning cartoons!
I’ve got the boiled egg on toast/fresh pot of coffee routine down to 5 minutes of harmonizing perfection. Sometimes I try to squeeze an Instagram post in while the water’s boiling, but I’m not quite that organised, not yet. Then I carry it all to the kitchen table (the milk’s in a little jug like you’d get at a Bed and Breakfast) and sit down for a single episode of one cartoon or another (lately I’ve been smashing Regular Show, but I’ve just finished the last episode…so I’m currently taking recommendations!) I’ve found this sweet little second hand ceramic mug that is the exact measure of two cups poured from my single coffee pot (plus room for milk), so by the time I’m pouring my second cup of coffee, the 15 minute episode is over and it’s time for emails/Pinterest, or off to my art studio.
I recognise that I use my creativity in many ways, during the day when confined to a brief (of course, I mean, obviously I do). Though, for me, it often feels like client-driven work requires a superficial level of my creativity; a measured, patient, routinely responsible level that maintains my professional reputation, and a consistent income. Client-driven creativity also comes with a hefty measure of stress, deadlines, money, human interaction etc. When things don’t flow it’s so easy to feel cramped, under-pressure, and overwhelmed. This for me is creative block. Literally, blocks between my self and my creativity. It’s still there, I can feel it – there’s just annoying shit in the way. I’d say I’ve been riding the old rollercoaster of creative block for the last two years or so.
“Value-added” has become a buzz word in the business world, but it’s true on a much deeper level. Doing something well – to the best of your abilities – creates value and meaning that feeds the soul (and in turn, the client).
I’ve just returned from a solo trip to Spain where I had the chance to visit Salvador Dali’s quiet, seaside home. I learned, he painted there for 6 months of the year “because the light was right”. I love that! It sounds so free… After the visit I spent the following few days exploring the shores of that untouched Spanish coastline – and wouldn’t you know it – I couldn’t stop drawing! I felt like I was seeing colours and textures for the first time, in hyper detail, completely immersed in my environment. It was a real eye-opener into a feeling of closeness with my creativity that I wanted, with no need to nurture it further or dedicate more space for.
So, what I’m working towards now is the financial ability to step away from client-driven work for two or three months a year and head to the countryside, Dali style. Let my “business mind” rest, and absolutely unleash the bottomlessness of my creative mind.
If I’m home in Adelaide I spend my weekends catching up with friends, drawing in café’s, thrift shopping and hiking up in the hills behind the city. I love a good drive and often throw my swag in the back of my ute for a night or two out in the bush. If I’m working out on the road I’m an absolute fiend for museums, particularly Maritime Museums. There’s something about the imagery of small human vs big environment that really sparks my imagination, the recklessness and courage of seafarers.
To hustle for work I tend to travel interstate and overseas with a cold call (email) for new businesses that I feel aligned with. I introduce myself with a few photo’s of my work and a “would be stoked to meet up for a coffee/beer and introduce myself properly” line. Sometime’s I don’t hear back, but when I have it’s often lead to work (whether then and there or a few years later). Timing is a big thing with what I do. I know if I casually introduce myself now (with no expectations) then when the job does come up they’ll usually approach me for it. Apart from that, word of mouth has played the biggest part, which is a lovely feeling.
Make time for things, hey. Make time to do well.
My mum always gave me great advice. She told me to find a niche and get good at it. That always stuck with me. Lately, for me though, it’s been so obvious that good things just take time. Building friendships, a home, solid work relationships, learning the craft of sign-writing and hand lettering. It’s also so true for branding work, where concept development is so crucial to a successful design.
Learning how to do paint lettering with a brush was honestly the most significant game changer for my career. After acknowledging the desire to step back from graphic design and toward traditional sign writing, finding a mentor was incredibly difficult – and then the action itself (especially as a left-hander) was far more challenging than I had ever expected. I was obsessed though! Hungry for it. I’ve dedicated the last 5 years of my life to learning the craft (and that’s not even with a real apprenticeship). I now teach beginners sign writing workshop and always have a secret giggle at the student’s first few hours on the brush (with lot’s of “I don’t understand, they make it look so easy!”). I know, right?!
Sign-writing is, honestly, so much harder than it looks, and takes so much practice. Once I felt comfortable and confident painting lettering with a brush my work and personal life felt so much richer. It’s also provided me with a real niche that has allowed my sign-writing/art to access an international audience.