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BIZ CRUSH: Art by SJ Nielsen

BIZ crush

Sam & I crossed paths earlier this year and something just clicked. Her passion for creating, a drive for success {+ let's not forget sense of humor} matched with mine & we've been biz besties ever since.

Not many days go by without us swapping podcast discoveries, product epiphanies, craft market leads, or just relating to the woes of running a business. I can't even begin to express how much easier this journey is with another human who JUST GETS IT. And she gets it.

Sam's attitude & outlook on everything is certainly contagious & her talent and passion is super obvious. Her urban sketching style has caught the attention of a long list of local businesses, a dedicated social following + some other really cool experiences in the works. But more on that below...

What kind of kid were you growing up?

Goofy. It’s weird to try and remember yourself as a kid, but I remember my dad always saying that the first day he dropped me off at kindergarten he didn’t know if I would be a little shy - he said he didn’t worry about this anymore when he found out I was actually a little chatterbox. I think I was always quite outgoing. I would think of myself as a child with self confidence, but one who worried about new experiences. My version of being a rebel was riding my bike across a busy intersection on my way to the library when my mom wanted me to walk it across. I think my parents raised me in a way that made me conscious of wanting to do the right thing and make good decisions. I was never afraid of being myself and wasn’t easily influenced by peer pressure. I was okay being a goofball with a loud laugh.

How did that affect your artistic path?

I think my ‘goofy’ still shines through in my business from time to time. I believe my enthusiasm and passion for my business is apparent, and my ‘chatterbox’ tendencies show through in the ways I like to connect with others and not only share my story, but also learn about theirs. I still worry about new experiences like I did when I was little, but that’s something I’m working on. When I was a kid, my mom would always sit down and talk with me when I was worried about a new experience, such as starting piano lessons or going to camp, and she would always say I worry about new things, and then I always come home with a big smile on my face laughing at the fact that I was worried in the first place. I think those conversations will forever replay in my memory anytime something new arises. I didn’t realize it until recently, but I have my mom to thank for those conversations - I truly believe her compassion when I was afraid and her encouragement to keep going is the reason I welcome challenges and new experiences to this day.

If your story could fit into a 30 second commercial, how would it go down?

It would start off showing a music major who was terribly unhappy and taking a leap of faith by switching to an art major. Then there would be a scene showing me working my butt off in college to gain as much artistic knowledge as I could. The commercial would end with my husband and I moving to our favorite city, starting a new adventure as I being the journey of trying to turn my side hustle into my full time gig!

What ultimately made you decide to do the lovely thing you do?

Peace and fulfillment. I don’t think I have enough words to describe what creating and sharing my art with others does to every piece of my heart and soul. It sounds cheesy, but anytime I start answering a question about why I love what I do, I almost get a little teary eyed because it just fills me up that much. I don’t fully know where this path will lead me yet, but deep in my gut I feel like this passion God has given me is meant to play a significant role in my life. And now I have to stop typing about this because I’m going to start getting emotional in a coffee shop...ha!

Who’s positively influenced your path the most?

This is a hard one, because there are so many people that have been in my corner and have played a significant role and continue to play a role that is incredibly valuable. My parents have always cared about what I do and get excited when I have tiny victories and big ones. People like you (sweet Carli Rae), have influenced me because you understand and HAVE the brain of an entrepreneur - every day you are helping me grow and learn about how to make my business even better (plus the way we relate with our sense of humor seems too good to be true). If I had to pick just one person, it would have to be my husband Andreas. He believes in my dream in times of self doubt. He is the one that is constantly telling me, ‘You CAN make this your full time job, and you WILL. You are good enough to do this, and you have the work ethic to get there.’ - the times that he says there is no doubt in his mind that this is what I’m called to do have helped me in ways I can’t describe. He silences the tiny voice in my head that occasionally is tempted to say ‘I can’t’.

Favorite part about working for yourself?

Being my own boss. Being disciplined enough to get. stuff. done. Being able to set the tone and message behind every aspect of my business. Being able to make every aspect of my business care about people, relationships, and connections.

Most challenging thing about working for yourself?

I get in my head too much. I sometimes let the outside world have an impact on following my intuition. You have to be confident in your decisions when you know they are the right decisions to make, and at times you have to be the one to give yourself a much needed pep talk. I’m also working on the challenge of balance; knowing when to say no or yes, and realizing that I can only give my best.

How do you get your creative juices flowing?

I keep going. When I’m not feeling inspired, I keep creating paintings. I keep sketching ideas, even if I don’t think they are good ideas. I don’t think creativity can come from inaction. I think if you sit and wait for a new creative idea to come to you, you’ll be sitting there for a long time ending up with an idea that’s only so-so in the end. Spending time by the water is also a good way to clear my mind and refocus.

If you could be a fly on the wall to anyone’s creative space {dead or alive} who would it be?

Oh man, this is tough because there are so many people I would love to learn from! That being said, I always come back to my passion for urban sketching. I would love to visit Gabi Campanario’s workspace. He is a Seattle Times artist and the founder of the Urban Sketchers organization.

Talk about a failure you’ve learned from.

What I’m most passionate about now, was actually a project for an illustration class in college. We were told we had the semester to fill a sketchbook, and we could only use permanent materials. I gravitated towards ink and watercolor, but with the stress of school (and some excuses I probably came up with along the way) I didn’t take the project as seriously as I should have. However, the semester after this sparked something new in me. To this day, my sketchbook is my favorite place to create, and watercolor and ink are the materials you’ll find me creating with.

What’s one of your proudest accomplishments in business?

Being where I am today. Before we moved to Duluth, I remember telling my husband how cool it would be to have some of my work in a local gallery, and I thought it would be a long time before I got to that stage. I now have my work in a local gallery, 3 local shops, I’ve been published in the Star Tribune twice, started participating in some of my first craft fairs, and am working on the beginning stages of a potential watercolor book. Sometimes I get caught up in the ‘end goal’, and I need to remind myself that where I am TODAY is everything I was DREAMING of only a year and a half ago. That makes my current dreams feel even more realistic as more time goes by.

What do you wish you knew when you first started that you know now?

How far strong work ethic, passion, and faith will take you. And to soak up the ‘now’ because it’s more important and significant than you realize.

What has been your favorite project to date & how did it come to fruition?

Probably the first story I did for the Star Tribune. The weekend outdoors editor wanted it to be a story that focused on ‘a day in the life of Duluth’. So while I was sketching familiar scenes, I also had the challenge of approaching the strangers I was putting in my sketches and asking them about their stories. This was a great learning experience for me, and it was great to see those stories come to life. It was also the first time my work had been published, which was a surreal experience. I woke up extra early to get to the nearest gas station so I could snag a couple copies. I ended up going to multiple gas stations because some were sold out. When I got home I found out my dad had already bought approximately 8 copies…. I was covered… :)

What’s next / What are you most excited about?

In the near future (within the next month) I will be uploading my first skillshare class. In the next year or so I would like to start getting closer to making this my full-time job! As I said before, I’m trying to stay conscious and appreciative of the ‘now’ while still being eager and excited for the future. Life is hard, and challenging, and uncertain, but it’s also incredibly exciting, beautiful, and full of blessings. Thanks for letting me be a part of this and share my story!

Time of the day you are most productive:

In the AM

The app you couldn’t live without:

the GRAM… (as in Instagram :)) - but then again Etsy is a pretty handy thing.

Social media outlet you love most:


Favorite account to follow on this outlet:

Favorite internet radio station at the moment:

Does a podcast count? Currently ‘Pursuit with Purpose’

Favorite Netflix binge:

The Office or anything that’s a mystery/suspense.

The coolest art supply you own:

My lamy safari fountain pen (couldn’t live without this thing) OR my watercolor travel set….or my sketchbook….can I just say all my art supplies? :)

Favorite medium to work with:


Would you rather paint people or places?

Places, all day every day.

The best “hidden gem” in the community:

Storefronts of local businesses. When I think of hidden gems I think of things that I could sketch, and our city is pretty cool to look at. I also LOVE going to get taco in a bag from crabby ol’ bills in canal.


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