Rachel Coyle, a recent WKU graduate from Louisville, said she was inspired to start her own business partially because she'd spent time helping her grandma at local craft shows growing up. (Photo by Veronica Teeter from the Talisman archive)

WKU student artists on the creative process and burnout

In recent years, sites like Etsy and Instagram have been helping creators get their work out into the public. Social media has allowed artists to reach a wider audience and spread their influence. Student creators have the added challenge of balancing their drive for artwork with their classes. 

Bowling Green sophomore Elizabeth Witty’s Etsy shop began when she was tinkering with sticker ideas on the graphic design app, Procreate, and friends encouraged her to begin bringing them to life. She started making art around three years ago.


“I started doing graphic design first, and then I thought I might as well be well-rounded,” Witty said. “So, I do painting, digital art, 3D art. I dabble around with a little bit of everything.”

Bowling Green sophomore Eliza Witty designs and sells stickers through an Etsy shop. Witty said she chose to start making WKU themed stickers so that she could give her business a place on the map and to identify herself as a local business.

Witty’s mother has her own Etsy shop selling curtains, megs and earrings, and she gave Witty advice about attracting people to her business. Witty learned to make the stickers on her shop by hand from TikTok, another popular social media site that artists use to share tips and tricks with one another.

Louisville junior Rachel Coyle also has an Etsy shop and an Instagram presence. 

“I started doing commissions in high school, and my grandma started telling her friends,” Coyle said. “At the time, I didn’t have any social media, so my art spread by word of mouth.”

Coyle was always interested in art and uses multiple mediums in her work, such as sculpting, leaf pressing, painting with several types of paint, and she has also made T-shirts. She maintains a delicate balance between commission work and schoolwork.

“I try to balance it,” she said. “I don’t have a particular process yet, because it is very hard. Usually if my art classes are being nice to me I have time to work on stuff for Etsy. I have so many projects going on at once it’s a little dizzying.”

When facing burnout and looming deadlines, Coyle recommends remembering to eat.

“All of the deadlines are eventually going to pass,” she said. “Instead of letting myself work for hours on one thing, I would let myself take a break. It’s basically just separating time blocks so you don’t overwhelm yourself. You have to learn how to pace yourself when you’re doing art for other people, especially when you’re getting paid.”

Louisville junior Rachel Coyle sits on her front porch with silkscreens she uses to make t-shirts. Coyle said her friends call her “Cowboy,” so that’s the theme she often uses for art on her Etsy shop.

Louisville junior Mary Kate Dilamarter primarily takes commissions through Instagram. Dilamarter, like Coyle, was also interested in art for most of her life.

“I have always been an art kid,” Dilamarter said. 

She said she’s always done art for herself outside of class, but when COVID-19 had her quarantined last March she realized she could make money off her art by taking commissions on Instagram. 

Dilamarter aims to eventually expand her body of work by using the confidence she’s developed over the past few years, and she has advice for prospective artists and people looking to sell their artwork.

“Don’t undersell your work,” she said. “Post on social media to build clientele. I feel like people gotta practice and not get discouraged, because if you get discouraged and quit, you’ll never get better.”

Louisville junior Mary Kate Dilamarter works in her studio space in FAC. Dilamarter said most of her commissions come from her Instagram page, but in this case, it was her grandma who commissioned a portrait of her cat.

Coyle has been involved in the online art community for many years; however, being intimidated by other talented artists had left her convinced she would never improve. One of those artists gave her some advice: Put your whole heart into it. She said that stuck with her. 

“You can’t really doubt yourself or your artistic abilities because everybody is kind of new and unique in their own way, and somebody else will see that in you if you don’t think so yourself,” Witty said.