Category Archives: Thoughts, Curiosities + Advice

You’ve Come a Long Way, Champ

You've Come a long way, champ. An essay by Sabrina Smelko

For the past few days, I’ve been undergoing the arduous task of individually editing every single one of my blog posts.

Yes, it was a major pain in the butt. But it also forced me to reflect on how far I’ve come in the last two years — on many fronts.

While looking through old posts, I could have easily let embarrassment overcome me: some of my writing was down-right awful, the thoughts I felt worthy of sharing and how I crafted them were steeped in inexperience, some of my earlier “renovations” were laughable considering how much I thought they were up there with Mt. Everest, and the foul language I used willy-nilly was… okay, it was kind of funny.

And along with embarrassment came surprise. I thought what? I considered that cool? And I don’t mean these questions to come across as self-judgments, but rather, they made me appreciate the person I am today more.

Reading old posts may have been as cringe-worthy as listening to a recording of your own voice, but it was also humbling and rewarding. A sense of pride and accomplishment came over me as I waded through them: I’ve become a far better writer; I’ve gained new skills that were clearly not in place years ago; and my knowledge and wisdom has grown immensely.

Just like Facebook’s memories feature, every photo and anecdote I had published in my recent past left me astounded by how far away those moments felt; how much I’ve experienced in between.

It’s so easy to think with the mind you have today and judge yourself 

Get mad at yourself for not doing or dropping certain things sooner. Or wonder why that thing you’re chasing after isn’t in your grasp yet. And it’s probably because while it’s been on your mind for quite some time, perhaps it hasn’t been out there in the universe for very long.

Looking through my posts, I was also shocked to find little to no evidence of my wishes, my hopes, and my dreams considering how heavy they were on my mind. They were hidden in unclear sentences and barely uttered despite being persistently present and top of mind. And you don’t get what you don’t ask for.

It also presented those things that still stand and hold their own to me in a new light. It echoed and reaffirmed some things, which I found just as helpful.

Insight and hindsight are just as valuable as foresight.

These memories also reminded me that all good things take time. It’s so easy to become frustrated with life and ask yourself, why aren’t I there yet? I still do it all the time, too, but sweetness, look at how far you’ve come.

Our brains are a tricky thing. A thing that has firm blinders in place in regards to the past. Your state of mind from yesteryear is impossible to return to, making it so easy to forget where you came from.

We are so often forgetful of the past, dismissive of the present, and impatient about the future.

So take a moment to remember where you were a year ago, two years ago, or five. You’ve changed, right? Now imagine where you’ll be in another one, two, five years.

Be kinder to yourself, have some patience, and give thanks to your little brain — because it really ain’t so little. You’ve come a long, long way, champ.

Photography by Gundula Blumi

PS: For anyone wondering why I had to edit all of my blog posts, it was because all of the images from my posts were embedded and referenced from my old blog (and the domain expires in a few weeks), so I had to download my old blog’s database and re-upload every single broken image (a fun time I shared on SnapChat: SabrinaSmelko). Once again, a firm reminder of how much I’ve grown and evolved since my previous two blogs. And in case I needed to learn any more lessons from this fiasco, it also taught me to never, ever take shortcuts when it comes to websites, and to always give your files relevant names rather than keeping them as “screen-shot-xxx”.

The Problem With Maker Culture for Computer Arts Magazine (April 2016 Issue)

The Problem With Maker Culture for Computer Arts Magazine (April 2016 Issue)

More than a Pinterest-inspired weekend craft, DIY is now an approach to life that has millions of people quitting their jobs to actualize their self-made business dreams.

Fueled by passion and driven by an entrepreneurial spirit, this evolution is challenging our industries for the better — but it’s also pissing a lot of people off.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m thrilled that more people are becoming business owners (a trend I believe is inevitable), however, the culture that surrounds this phenomenon promotes half-truths and rose-coloured glasses ideals about what it means to be a self-made creative professional, a trend which dilutes and cheapens the industry.

Social media and online publications left and right promote the idea that if you simply “do” and “make”, you’ll become a success — a false truth begging for failure. Creating is a mentality that we should all embrace, not a badge to be worn and the headline-skimming culture we’ve created (supported by overnight insta-fame) not only leads to unfair beliefs based on shallow perceptions, but undermines the hard work of the oodles of creative professionals who paved the way.

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Why Luck is Bogus: Waiting At The Door For Opportunity To Knock

Why Luck is Bogus: Waiting At The Door For Opportunity To Knock

In my career and life, I’ve been referred to as lucky.

On paper, it seems I stumble into good fortune by fluke, and I believe other “lucky” people are often misjudged as having fallen into opportunities by accident. And we uphold this false belief because no one wants to be the asshole who corrects people in casual conversation when they’re told, “wow, you’re so lucky! I wish I was just as lucky.”

But while on my recent trip to Cuba, I (finally) read (devoured) Outliers: The Story of Success, and I couldn’t help but feel compelled to write this post and put together a YouTube video (below) offering tips for how to become “lucky” in an effort to hopefully bring some clarity to a conversation about success that’s often clouded with bitterness by some who unfairly categorize people into two boxes: those who are lucky, and those who aren’t.

Check out the video (shot by Shawn) and my tips by watching below:

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Sabrina Smelko — Creative and Interior Designer, Illustrator, Art Director, and Blogger

Full disclosure: I have been guilty of approaching my work and career with a utilitarian mindset for years, and it’s finally run its course.

And as a result, my portfolio is almost entirely made up of images created to satisfy a stiff brief. These images are strange to me. And these images don’t bring me joy.

And hey, by no means do I think my life as a creative professional should be — at all times — fun, enjoyable and satisfying. I will still be taking on clients to pay the bills, however, I shouldn’t look at my body of work and wonder where where my voice is and what my goal is. Balance, indeed, would be nice. (I know I’m being harsh on myself, but trust me, this is going somewhere good.)

For years, I’ve been great at being a business woman who happens to inject some creativity into the mix, finishing every single job I’ve ever been hired for before the deadline, and sometimes with two versions of the final. I have been quick to reply to (most) emails, polite when dealing with quotes and invoices, and quick to answer phone calls at any time of day.

At the risk of sounding like a tool, I am fantastic at appeasing a brief. And this has made me more successful than I ever anticipated, which I am grateful for (it’s how I was able to buy a house, and renovate said house), but is it the end all and be all? Is it doable in the long-term? And more importantly, is it the work I crave? Is any of it indicative of what’s in my head; what I gab about to Shawn at night on the sofa; how I feel about the world? Is it meaningful to me? The answer is no. I’ve been able to satisfy this expressive itch on a tiny scale through this blog (hurray!) but I have yet to bring that passion and point of view into my art, and that’s a very silly and sad reality.

Before I go on, I should clarify that I didn’t not enjoy creating the work in my portfolio per se — perhaps I’m a glutton for punishment, but there’s something sickly satisfying about working on a deadline and satisfying a client’s need for a colour change — but that doesn’t mean it’s the work I’d be happy doing for the rest of my life — or even the work I’m meant to do. Let’s face it: I get this work because I’m available. I get it because there’s an itch on someone else’s end that I’m chosen to scratch. Notice that this process never takes into account my itches. Sure, sometimes a client lets me have some creative liberty, but the reality is, it’s always freedom on a leash and often comes with strings attached (you go one step too far, and you’re asked to reign it in).

Frankly, I’m employed to pick up my pencil when someone else tells me to, and I’ve forgotten to pick it up for myself.

I’ve always had big ideas that I squash because I am one person, or simply because it’s impractical. I’m quick to say, “it’s probably been done before,” only to discover that I can’t find something quite like it anywhere. I’m quick to throw myself into a commercial artist box because there’s always a portrait or a politician in need of drawing, and I weigh that against the frivolous or fleeting or subjective need for art.

Of course art is necessary, but as a (very) logical person who is sometimes too right brained, I’m quick to think, “why should I?” And this week the answer to that question hit me: because it would make me happy. Because I’d want to hang that drawing in my own home. And maybe, just maybe, if I would, someone else might want to, too.

And so, I’m embarking on a creative journey toward self-discovery. (Which, in less flowery terms, means that I’m halting some $$$ jobs to focus on my own personal practice. Rather than using my downtime to write articles for blogs for extra cash, I need to be investing in finding my voice again and doing things that make me happy. Mom, you’d be happy to know that I’m diving back into my paints.)

One of these newly sparked but very unsatisfied mediums that I’ll be exploring is interiors, a world that’s undoubtedly connected to art and design. Art influences fashion influences furniture influences art… And yet, up until recently, I haven’t figured out the right way to marry these worlds in a way that involves all of my skills, satisfies me creatively, and does justice to my point of view.

I often feel like I flip-flop between art exhibits, blogger events, and rubbing elbows with people in the home/interiors space, and while navigating the myriad worlds is my reality, I’ve had a hard time mobilizing all of that in a way that is accessible, pleases me, and is helpful — to myself and to others. At art events, I talk about technique and colour theory; at interior events, I chat about furniture and the layout and flow of a room; at blogger events, I gab about writing, clothes and brand collaborations. I like all of those things, and no one area takes away from the other, but it frustrates me that I haven’t simply tried to create things that merge all of my likes.

At the end of the day, I am the sum of my parts, and for too long I’ve let paid jobs rule my life and dictate the work I make, and it’s time to make some stuff that just makes me happy. The sketches I do for all of five minutes while I’m on a conference call with a client is something I should be spending days on.

So wish me luck as I try to connect the dots between my worlds and meditate on my skills. Om…