This year had a lot of breakthroughs for my art, and a lot of self-reflection about what I want in the future. I’ve never felt more shackled living in the U.S. on a visa that restricts my business from growing the way I want it to. I received lots of opportunities and inquiries that I had to turn down in order to not violate the conditions of my visa. But I also received the good news that my work authorization is coming in a matter of time (specifically 10-14ish months). That seems like a long time, but I feel once I get through this next year, I’ll be able to really hit the ground running as a freelance illustrator. Anyways, here’s a little look back on some things that happened this past year:


January was epic! I hit my first big milestones with my art instagram account. One day I was watching one of the twilight movies and I randomly drew a little banana pattern. I posted it on instagram the next day and it was instantly popular in a way my previous drawings hadn’t been. My account reached 1000 followers, which felt huge to me! 

Bananas pattern

Also in the instagram world, I created a Draw This In Your Style challenge out of an illustration of a person holding a large leafy plant. I hosted an international giveaway to celebrate my account’s growth, and ended up sending a linocut print and some stickers all the way to the Netherlands!

Beyond instagram, I became a patron for Ragon Dickard’s Patreon account, which you should definitely check out if you’re an artist starting out! I really liked this because I wanted to support Ragon and her illustration career, but didn’t necessarily need to buy more art at the time. Patreon was great because I still got something really valuable (Ragon is very transparent about her process, journey, and experiences as a beginning illustrator) and was able to support her beyond just engaging with her social media and purchasing from etsy. She has since created a ton of amazing articles on how she runs her business, that I frequently return to for my own reference.

I also attended Seattle’s first instance of Ladies, Wine and Design, a women-focused networking event for creatives and designers. I loved the first few rounds of this event, and actually met my (now good) friend Laurel there because I recognized her from instagram and introduced myself. They covered topics like salary, finding your style or path, and had speakers such as Marisol Ortega share their careers.


February was a bit slower than January, partly because Seattle had an unusual cold spell and snowfall. It was being referred to as “Snowpocalypse” and “Snowmaggedon,” which was a little to funny to me being from one of the snowiest, coldest parts of Canada. But the city definitely didn’t have the infrastructure to deal with it, and the streets became an icy snowy mess. Everyone stayed home. But someone I still managed to make it to a Creative Mornings event, and took Greer out for her first experience with snow. She’s a retired racing greyhound from Florida, and hasn’t seen a lot of the world. She LOVED it, smushed her little face in it and wanted to run full speed through it! I started an illustration series I called Couch Potatoes, featuring different greyhounds in differently styled living rooms.


My sister visited from Canada! We spent a week having brunch and touring Seattle neighborhoods. I also attended Ellen Lupton’s lecture at the Seattle Public Library, hosted by Civilization as part of their annual Design Lectures series. I loved her talk and can’t wait to read her book on a Feminist Guide to Graphic Design…if it ever comes out? Even 10 months later I can’t find anything about it when I google it, so maybe I misunderstood her talk…who knows!


I finished the last of the fruit pattern series, which ended up being 10 posts and most of my most popular posts for the year. I reached almost 10,000 likes on one, and made phone wallpapers for people to download in my highlights. One cool occasion happened when I was at a Ladies, Wine, and Design event, and my friend’s co-worker had my mango pattern as her lock screen, and didn’t realize I had made it! Very cool to see my shared work out in the world like that and not just being used by immediate friends and family. I also started a project this month attempting to screen print bandanas to sell at Roofest, a greyhound event I was invited to later in the year. This project was very challenging, as I had never made bandanas before and struggled with fabric and ink choices, not to mention several screens needing to be re-burned. I shared a lot of my process and the mistakes I made along the way in a highlight at the top of my instagram feed, if you’d like to know more.


Pretty much all I did in May, aside from continue my printing project, was start up with pottery classes at a local community center. This was definitely a highlight of the year for me. I hadn’t done pottery since high school and definitely needed the classes to get back into it. I took the classes with my good friend Elisenda and we have had tons of fun making different things on and off since May.

Elisenda Llaurado and Kaila Elders pose with ceramic pieces in a pottery studio


In June I made a big decision and left my full time role as a Visual Designer. I wasn’t feeling fulfilled at work, and was lucky enough to have a supportive husband who could keep me from any financial ruin. I decided to spend the summer refocusing on the creative outlets that really inspired me, and gave myself the space and privilege to do it.

I attended and sold some artwork at Roofest, an annual picnic fundraiser and auction to donate to helping greyhounds find homes. Obviously a cause near and dear to my heart.

And at the end of June I went on a week long trip to Yellowstone with Ian and my parents. This was an awesome trip and inspired me to make a lot of art. I wrote a blog post about all the awesome animals I saw there, and it definitely has made me eager to travel to other new places with a focus on experiencing the local wildlife.


July was a great month. I hit my stride with my newly found time, made great progress in pottery and turned 27 surrounded by friends and love. I visited my childhood friend Haley in Calgary, and had fun hiking and getting to know the city.


I participated in the #Doggust challenge to draw a different dog breed every day in August. This was an awesome opportunity to draw dogs I wouldn’t normally, and it brought a lot of new eyes to my account. I also made my annual trip back to Canada to visit friends in Toronto, and had my first year wedding anniversary.

An illustrated Shiba Inu dog


In September I decided to take a part time role at my old company, just for a few months to help with their holiday rush. I found out I really enjoyed having my week split partly between a structured work day and working on my own creative pursuits. Greer turned 8, and we took her camping for the first time. We had some bad luck and spent the night in a thunderstorm, which scared her senseless so not sure she had the best time. She was a trooper though. I also had a photoshoot with my talented friend Isaac, and will hopefully have some photos to share soon!

Greer the greyhound lies outside a camping tent


November was pretty much devoted to preparing for the holidays. I spent some time helping my friend Kaelyn in her pottery studio. She had a big order of mugs for a coffee shop, so I helped her make handles to attach to all the mugs.

I also started helping another local artist, Amz, with her production of leather earrings for the holiday rush. I went to her studio a few times a week and helped die cut, hole punch, glue, and assemble earrings while she worked on sewing bags, wallets, and other intricate goods.

In my own art world, I reached 10k followers on my art account at the very end of the month, and created another Draw This In Your Style challenge to celebrate. I also updated my website to better reflect my work as an illustrator rather than a graphic designer. Ian and I celebrated 6 years together, which seems crazy but also makes perfect sense.


The highlight of my December was definitely being home for the holidays, because I got a chance to collaborate with my dad. We worked together on a bunch of different woodworking projects and I’m excited to share more about them, maybe in a separate blog post. For now, here's a poorly lit selfie we took in my dad's workshop.

Kaila Elders and her father in his workshop


I don’t have a clear vision for how the next year is going to go, but I do have a few ideas! I don’t currently have a job and am in the U.S. attached to my husband’s visa. I was thinking a more valuable use of time would be some further education, specifically in animation and business for illustration. I’m going to spend a bit of time researching options for courses, both online and in person for the coming year. I’ve also signed up for a sewing class where I’ll learn how to make a tote bag. It’s an intro level course, but I’m hoping if I enjoy it I can continue to make more products, clothing, and outfits for my dog to wear 😛 I’m also going to continue practicing pottery and maybe try taking a more advanced class to get more tutelage on the wheel. What are your plans for the next year?