chocolate ink

Remember those posts I was excited about? The ones that I mentioned last time I posted? This is one of them :D An interview with the owner of Chocolate Ink Designs, who also happens to be my sister. I’ve actually mentioned this company a time or two before, but I’ve never taken the time to thoroughly explain what it is… I’ll let my sister do the talking, and just ask questions. My questions are in bold, her answers are in regular type.

So without further ado, let’s welcome the mastermind of Chocolate Ink to Maidens for Modesty!

Can you tell everyone a bit more about yourself? What do you like to do when you’re not drawing?
I’m a 19 year old sweet tea drinker, puppy cuddler, font snob, dreamer, & child of the One True King. A list of my favorite things would have to include summer, skylines, sunsets, dancing, cheeseburgers, Converse, thunderstorms, t-shirts, and rare visit’s to the beach. When I’m not drawing you could probably find me reading a political suspense novel, baking in the kitchen, or out enjoying the sunshine. I love making people smile, spending time with my family, laughing with my friends, and living for my King.
What types of things do you enjoy drawing? What are some projects you are working now, or have worked on  recently?
I always enjoy the opportunity to try my hand at drawing new things – the only ones I don’t necessarily enjoy are landscapes and animals. My personal favorites are the silhouette/initial pieces that I create for every new couple we know – I love “tangling” and the silhouettes always carry so much personality. In addition to my note cards, I’ve also created custom greeting cards, designed tote bags and t-shirts (that’s another favorite!), executed chalk art for events and restaurants, created signs for local businesses and beach houses, done signage for weddings and programs for events. Last December, a local magazine included me in their Christmas gift guide edition, so that was a new experience.

When did you first realize that a drawing could convey something special/important, in a different way than words could?
I’m not sure there was an exact time when I figured this out. But if you think about it, art is so universal! Not only is it everywhere in the world around us (thanks to the Great Artist of the universe), but everyone, regardless of nationality, language, age, or anything else, can understand it. It’s not like words that have to be read – you look at art and immediately, you understand the meaning. It has this instant impact. Art can also make you think, feel, and imagine, with just one glance. It makes you appreciate the beauty in the world (well, most art does, anyways) and can convey an idea, emotion, or setting on so many engaging levels and in so many forms, varieties, and styles.
What inspired you to start Chocolate Ink Designs? How did you come up with the name?
My parents were actually my main cheerleaders when it came to starting up an actual business, as well as the many friends and family members who have encouraged and supported me along the way. I’ve been drawing for forever, and some of my earliest memories include my Mom encouraging us girls to create masterpieces to hang on her “art wall.” When I graduated from my home education, Mom and Dad encouraged me to create a “cottage industry” using the gifts that the Lord has given me. I was a little apprehensive at first and, to be honest, didn’t think that it would end up working out. My parents were willing to push me though, and one day my Dad called from his trip into town with Mom to tell me that he had gotten me a job.
“Yeah,” Dad said. “I got you a job.”
Turns out, the restaurant they had visited for breakfast had just installed an 8’x4′ chalkboard as part of a remodel. Dad asked the manager what they were planning on doing with all that blank slate, and the manager replied that they were wanting to get a local artist to design something for it, but that they hadn’t found anyone yet.
“My daughter can do it,” Dad offered. “She’s an artist.”
{I love my Dad}
You have to realize, though, that up to this point, I had done NOTHING professionally with my art. I drew birthday cards for people at church. And that was it. And now, I had to come up with 3 designs (with no guidelines or suggestions) to work in chalk (which I had never done) on a giant board in a busy restaurant (i.e., in front of people). Talk about jumping right in! It took me about a week to get up the nerve to go back in with my parents and talk to the manager. I was so nervous to open my portfolio in front of him. I remember praying all the way across town, “Just please let him be shorter than me!” I don’t know why I thought that extra height might add to my confidence – but imagine my relief when the manager walked out and I had a good 3 or 4 inches on him! In the end, it was an amazing experience. It showed me that there were other people out there who saw beauty in my work – and it also strengthened my faith as I learned how to apply Philippians 4:6 in a real life situation :) To me, that chalkboard was the beginning of Chocolate Ink Designs (the name of which comes from the fact that I work mainly in pen and ink, as well as acknowledging the number one super-food that never fails to get my creative juices flowing – and yes, that’s chocolate).
Does drawing energize or exhaust you?
Definitely energizes me! Design and art are my happy zones, so I find that creating also helps me clear my mind. Focusing on an unfolding project enables me to isolate my attention and frees my mind up to wander with the lines. The only time that drawing exhausts me is when I have to stay up late working on a project in order to reach a deadline. I try to stay on top of my paper stacks, but drawing is one of those things that you absolutely do NOT work on unless you’re feeling inspired. I’m a famous procrastinator around our home (not exactly a good trait, I know), so that doesn’t help either.
What kind of research do you do and how long do you spend researching before beginning a drawing, if any?
I normally start by hopping on the computer and just studying different images and views of the object. Even though my work isn’t hyper-realistic, this still helps me to form a mental image of what the actual subject looks like. For instance, one of the largest projects I ever worked on was an 8 foot cedar plank that I was supposed to be transforming into a giant hand lettered blue marlin for a beach house sign.
I’d never even drawn a fish (much less one that was 8’x2′), so I ran a quick google search and compiled different images that ranged from photographs to hand sketches from all different angles. It always helps to familiarize yourself with the subject – I know when I’ve done enough research when I’m sick of looking at so much of the same thing :) Once I have my inspiration in hand, I sit down with a piece of graph paper and toy around with different layout ideas. If  hand lettering is going to play a role, I also try to figure in my fonts and lay them out as well. When color is involved, I create little miniatures of the project and try different color combinations on them to see which looks best. (Disclaimer: sometimes some of these neat, individual steps only take place in my head. This is especially prone to happen when I feel super inspired or excited about a project.) When I have my blueprint all figured out, then I go at it!
What do you want people to take away from your creations?
I want to encourage people with my designs – I love hand lettering Scripture in a way that makes it easy to incorporate as part of your home decor (Deuteronomy 6:9). Some of my art is just for fun and whimsy’s sake – that’s the stuff that I want to make people smile and add some sunshine to their day. I also enjoy creating “keepsake” pieces to help people commemorate something special in their lives in a way that will be valued for years to come.
What would you say is an interesting drawing quirk that you have?
Um. I guess I do have a few of those. I sometimes talk to myself while I’m drawing-which sounds really weird, I know ( {*embarrassed smile*} – I have a stack of some of my favorite CD’s sitting on my desk that I sing along with to try to curb that habit, though); and I canNOT bring myself to begin a project until I’ve carefully measured and drawn a 1/2 cm border all the way around my page. I don’t know when I formed this habit, but I can’t seem to break it – there have even been days when it seems as though all the rulers in the house are missing so I simply postpone the project. No way I’m starting until I have my margins drawn!
In what direction do you feel the Lord to be leading Chocolate Ink Designs in the future?
This year, I will be focusing on getting lots more designs up in my Etsy shop and trying to get my products in more local businesses. I also want to look into doing some fundraisers for prolife ministries and outreaches around the country (y’all can pray for me on that one – and if you know of any good opportunities, let me know!). The sanctity of life is something that is very close to my heart, and I would LOVE  for the Lord to open doors for my art and designs to be used in that direction! 
What is the best advice you have been given as an artist? Is there any advice you could leave us with today?
Don’t conform. Don’t give up. I used to get frustrated with myself because my art doesn’t look exactly like ______________ (fill in the blank). There are gobs of talented people out there who seem to have such a knack for what they do and it seems to come so easy to them. And then I’d look at my art and become discouraged. One of my art teachers once encouraged me to find my niche and go with it – not to try to emulate anyone in particular, but instead, to study different styles then use that knowledge to further develop my own. One day, I met a “professional designer” (meaning that she had a degree and worked in a brick and mortar company under this title), who told me to never loose my individuality. I listened as she lamented the fact that everyone who goes to art/design college comes out as the same cookie-cutter type creators who follow the same trends. She told me that the worst thing someone who has a natural eye for and enjoyment of art/design can do is go to college for it. So stay with your style. Develop and refine it, but never try to redefine it. You’ll just end up frustrated with yourself and your work. Embrace your natural talents and style and practice practice practice. If drawing is something you enjoy, doodle all the time. Keep your eyes open and look for inspiration in the ordinary around you – sometimes, you’ll have to close your eyes to really see it. There are enough people in the world who try to find all the ugly things – make it a point to find the beautiful. Because once you open your eyes, it really is everywhere.
Thank you Bethaney, for joining us today!
Bethaney is a 19 year old big sister, artist/designer, and child of the King. She enjoys laughing, drinking iced sweet tea, and long car rides with the windows down and music up. She loves the smell of dirt, dreams of skylines at night, and lives a wildly blessed life with her family of 13 in the sunny South.
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I am a 23 year old young lady who is redeemed and saved from my sin only by the grace of God. A bibliophile at heart with a love of history who desires to see the Word of God practically applied to all aspects of our daily lives -- in our homes, in the grocery store, in the political realm. I strive to put my jumbled, chaotic thoughts down onto paper -- reducing them into black and white rows, letters, sentences. Into some semblance of sanity. And I share them here with all of you, where I can challenge you, make you think, and cause you to ask questions. I am the oldest of eleven children living the country life in the deep south.


  • RJ Catlin

    This was so encouraging. I am a 18 y.o. artist who doesn’t want to go to college, and I’m trying to start my own business. I also struggle with procrastination, so there’s that too. Tell your sister that your interview with her was very inspiring :)

    • Kaitlyn S.

      ((from Bethaney))
      Hey there – so glad that you found this post encouraging! I clicked over to your site, and your work is lovely. Keep up the good work, and don’t get discouraged – it takes a long time and a lot of patience to perfect your style and get your work in front of people (still working on it myself!). If you would like to email me, I would love to “chat” with you about life and other artsy things; my address is chocolateinkd(at) Keep making the world a beautiful place!

  • Leona Ruth

    I loved this interview!!! Although I’m horrible at drawing, I love hand lettering, which I’m getting better at. :) I also really like your new background! :)

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