Q&A with an artist: Saskja Cook (Sassy Colouring)
This month I had the pleasure of connecting with Saskja Cook, the girl behind Sassy Colouring, for my #ArtistsSupportingArtists blog series.
Saskja has a drawing style that captures many themes, and her wide variety of colouring books showcases her talent and drawing diversity beautifully.
Read on to find out more about this incredible and humble artist, and make sure you check out her links at the bottom as she’s also generously gifted us 15% off her entire Etsy store until the 1st September 2019 – which includes her latest colouring book release ‘Masquerade’!
Q1. Who are you, and what do you do?
Hi – I’m Saskja aka Sassy Colouring. I’m Welsh born but grew up and still live in Ireland. I love to draw and at present, I draw and self-publish colouring books.
Q2. How did you start making art? Did you ever study a creative discipline(s) or are you self-taught?
I took art as a subject in school but I’m not sure I was a very good student! My grandad used to always buy my brothers and I colouring books and drawing pads, and we would sit for hours drawing together.
My parents also refused to get a TV while we were growing up, so we spent a lot of time doodling and sketching. My older brother went on to be a tattooist, and my younger brother does graphic design for games and Disney.
Q3. What does it mean to you to be an artist?
Personally I think an artist can be anyone – we all create different art! It is amazing how people turn my line art into such spectacular pieces through colour.
I draw and love what I do, that to me is the most important thing about art – enjoying it!
Q4. How long did it take for you to develop your signature style as an artist?
I love to look at different styles of art and have a go at it. I know what I like to draw, and I know which styles don’t suit me.
I am trying to develop my skill level, and I really dislike drawing hands and feet, so I’m trying to improve them but in all different styles!
Q5. Can you tell us about your journey to becoming a published artist? Have you ever done any other jobs before becoming an artist?
I’m a dance instructor, and have been for over 15 years. A different way to express my art. I have always wanted to publish a book but had no idea how to go about it and had no idea how to self-publish.
In December 2016, my *then* 6 year old son fell and broke his femur. My poor man was in a cast from his hip to his ankle, and was bed bound for 6 months with pins in his leg. As he couldn’t move by himself, we had a lot of time together just sitting around. I decided that since I had all that time on my hands, I would get back into drawing.
I found a group on facebook about self-publishing and with the help of a few wonderful people, and a lot of trial and error, I put together my first book. My first book was published in May 2017 and to date I have 9 more colouring books.
Q6. What inspired your business name?
Well my name is Saskja, it’s a hard name to pronounce! When people try to read it aloud, they tend to just stare blankly most of the time. When my cousin had her children, we realised how hard it was for children to say my name, so they called me Aunty Sassy. It stuck, and all the smallies I knew called me Sassy.
When I was thinking about branding, I wanted something not only easy to remember, but also personal to me – and so Sassy Colouring was born.
Q7. Have you learned any lessons along the road to becoming a full-time artist? Is there anything you regret, or things you wished you'd done sooner?
I do feel like I’ve learned a lot. Most of it great, but I have also made some very silly mistakes.
My biggest mistake has been comparing myself to others – feeling like I had to keep up with the fast pace of the colouring world, and trying to constantly keep myself relevant. Listening to someone when they said I should be able to turn out a new book every 2 months, and any slower wouldn’t keep me in the colouring loop.
Trying to do this meant my pages suffered, my art was poor, and I didn’t research and reference my pages properly and ended up using an image that was pretty much a copy of another artists work. It knocked my confidence and I was so close to giving up.
Fortunately, I had some amazing ladies who pushed me to carry on, admit my faults, and make sure going forward that I work at my own pace. It is a massive learning curve with ups and downs but what a ride!
Q8. What does your creative process look like? Where do you draw your inspiration from and what excites you most about the creative process?
I’m a really messy artist, I start off with pencil lines everywhere – sometimes I even struggle to see where I’m going with a page! Then, I ink in the lines, scan, and clean digitally. I have tried to draw on a pen tab but nothing compares to the feel of pen on paper to me.
My family and I love fantasy, I’m a real Harry Potter fan, love J R R Tolken, find Terry Pratchett hilarious, and would love to live in the brain of David Gelmmell. I draw a lot of inspiration from their worlds.
I love to sit and dream up an idea – very rarely do I see on paper what I have in my head, but its fun to see where it evolves and changes through the stages.
Q9. Have you every suffered from creative block or burnout?
Constantly! My amazing colouring team will tell you – after every book it takes about 2 weeks for any creativity to kick in. During this time even stick men are a challenge! My brain just needs to rest and reboot I think, and I need to sit back and find a new topic that I get excited about. Then, I seem to scribble and sketch for a few days trying to get ideas down on paper, and normally I have so many they are super simple doodles with notes all over the place.
Q10. Have you ever suffered with any struggles as an artist?
I do struggle with anything technical – I definitely fight a lot with my printer, my phone and my computer! This doesn’t sound like it has much to do with drawing, but any artist in the colouring book industry will tell you that drawing is the fun ‘easy’ bit. I’d say that 80% of what we do is marketing, social media, learning new sites, fighting with KDP – the struggle is real!!
I did think I could get away with sitting and drawing each day, but as I draw them in pen on paper, I then have to scan, edit, clean and then make sure its at a DPI and format that can be used. I’m not the person who knows what a DPI is, and no idea how to format or vectorise a page, so that is still where I struggle and learn most!
Q11. Are there any tools in your studio that you simply can't live without?
My Coffee cup lol – I would have it on a drip if I could but I do tend to drink too much coffee, but I do enjoy it. The one thing that does happen a lot though is that I make a coffee, sit down and start to draw, go to take a sip of my coffee, and then realise it is stone cold!
I get so into a page that time really flies, so I do drink – but also waste – a lot of coffee. My husband will bring me a coffee, come back to see if I want another, notice that I still have a full cold cup and his favourite saying is “It was that nice was it?!”.
Q12. What does your work space look like?
I draw all over the place! My fave place is sitting on my bed, and I spread out all my pens, pencils etc. over the bed. I use the clipboard a lot so that I can draw where the children are, so if they are playing in the living room, I’ll be in there with them.
I do have a designated work space that I do use from time to time but (and please don’t judge) it has been taken over a ‘bit’ by my Harry Potter Funko pop collection!
Q13. What is your dream project? Have you got anything exciting in the pipeline you can tell us about?
Great question. I would LOVE to publish a book that would be a special edition – hard cover, thick paper and perforated pages! I love having KDP available to us so that we can publish without great expense, but that is the dream. Currently I’m working on a book WITH different colourists from my colouring team and Facebook group.
I wanted to draw pages that would push me out of my comfort zone, and so am treating each page like a commission – they tell me exactly what they want, and then help me to bring an idea to a finished page. This book may take a bit longer to finish, but I am aiming for mid June 2019.
Q14. What tips would you give to other artists that are looking to start making an income from their passion?
Give yourself time. Don’t expect to draw a page, or put a book together, and be an instant hit. If you do, then that’s wonderful, but in my experience it’s been roughly 40% drawing, 50% marketing and admin and 10% patience.
Also, don’t give your art away for free – VALUE IT! By this I don’t mean never ever giving away freebies, I mean, don’t feel that when you’re new to the industry that you need to sell your art cheap and sell yourself short to break into the market. You work hard on your art, and people will value it if you do too. Good luck!
Quick fire round 🔥
My most embarrassing EVER moment is...
I sent a text message that was meant for my husband (which was clean) – but I think said something like ‘love you sexy butt’ – to my daughters principle! I had a meeting at the school a few weeks later, and I had forgotten about the text, and when I walked past his office he nodded and greeted me ‘Mrs Sexy Butt’. I nearly died of shame!
One thing that scares me is...
Turkeys….as in the big, horrible birds and their horrible noises!!!
If I could eat one meal for the rest of my life it would be...
Roast chicken dinner :D Yum!
My biggest accomplishment is...
My children – they are bloomin’ awesome!
If I could travel to anywhere in the world, it would be...
My favorite book is...
The Harry Potter series
My favorite band / solo artist / music genre is...
I love singing (I sound like a crow) but I love music in all genres. Ed Sheeran and The Greatest Showman soundtrack are the go to car CDs at the minute.
One thing people assume about me is...
That I’m Russian, partly due to my name and because I have dark features I think?!?
My guilty pleasure in life is...
Funko pop figures – I love them and have an ever growing collection!
Discover more of Saskja’s art 🎨
If you loved this interview, and of course, Saskja’s varied and playful illustration style, you can find her using any of the links below:
Etsy shop: www.etsy.com/ie/shop/SassyColouring (Get 15% off when you use code SASSYCHL, valid until 1st September 2019)
Facebook page: www.facebook.com/sassycolouring
Facebook group: www.facebook.com/groups/1765390267059607/