5 tips to prepare for opportunity


Well, it has been a really long time since I have posted. The last you saw me might have been when I announced a bit of a sabbatical. I think you all know that since then I have been exploring an entirely different side to my creativity. I have wholeheartedly jumped into a fine art practice, taken workshops, rebuilt my personal website, XO, Monica Lee and developed my artist statement.  The last one was really fun (and somewhat surprising) since, if you know me, I have always have a fair amount to say!

Now I am about to embark on another very exciting trip to Shanghai China!!! I have been asked to create an art installation during Shanghai Fashion Week. WHAT?!! I know, how fun is that? I leave next week and there has been a fair amount of planning and a large amount of painting going on the last couple of months.  Some of you have asked via social media how this all came about and it got me thinking a bit…

The straight up facts are that when I was illustrating at London Fashion Week, I was squished on the front row at Fashion Scout London drawing away and met Meimei Ding and we just hit it off. She was so cool and such a jet setter, a girl after my own heart! Meimei is the  CEO  of DFO International;  DFO is currently the largest distribution, showroom, buying and press office, for international fashion brands in China and Southeast Asia. We had a couple of girlfriend moments watching runway shows and both got excited about possibly meeting again and doing something together.  Now I am packing up 6 (possibly 7, I can’t DECIDE, gah!) large scale paintings and placing them in her show in these giant structures I designed. All using metrics instead of inches, I might add. Lordy, that was tricky for a dyslexic girl.

So esoterically, energy wise, spiritually how did this all happen and how did I get to a space where I am painting large scale florals and abstracts, packing them up  a feat within itself), applying for a Chinese business visa (complicated) and booking a hotel for Shanghai Fashion Week?

  1. I took chances on my art and myself. This started when I sent off an email to work with Fashion Scout London last year, something I happened across on instagram! Could I have talked myself out of sending that email and that trip, easily! When I was told they had offered the spot to me out of 200 applicants, I was seriously flattered and nervous but I made it happen.
  2. I made it a priority to do good work and challenge myself. This move meant trusting myself, my taste, eye and skill. From having people watch over my shoulder as I drew fashion heading down the runway to buying giant paint brushes and changing my medium, I was allowing myself to fail epically at my art as well as trust that some of it just might be good. I had not truly pushed myself skill wise in years and what helped me was…
  3. I took money off the table and by that I mean, I didn’t chase the money. Hustling and following what industries where hot for illustrators was not allowing me to grow creatively. This way of approaching art might not be for everybody, but for some background on me, I had been doing art commercially since college.  I realized that I had illustrated in every single market there was to illustrate for! I had also realized via all the Smart Creative Women interviews that it didn’t really matter what was working for creative’s at the moment. I had interviewed many people doing financially well at just about everything. Lesson: Find your thing and just do it.
  4. I took things off my plate. Awwww, The Rotary Lesson! If too many cars are circling around you and your life (i.e. the rotary) then somebody or something is bound to crash. I like being busy but instinctively I knew I had to simplify even BEFORE I had a clear plan as to why.  If my plate had been completely full with self imposed deadlines and great laid plans, I simply would not have had room for opportunities that came my way. This was harder for me than it may seem. I even let go of social media and only did what I FELT like doing. WHAT?! I am such a planner but when my priority became do good work (see number 2) then I simply had to make time to sit, contemplate and then create.
  5.  I made myself a student. I spent the last couple of years teaching and mentoring creative women and yet carved out time to learn new things myself. This is where the creating the bag business  had really propelled me along. I had so much to learn in a short amount of time, I HAD to be a confident and fast learner. Calculate cow hides in to yardage, anyone?  As I started plotting out this trip, I had to GROW every aspect of what I was now creating, stretching canvases…learning THE METRIC SYSTEM. Why didn’t the US just make the switch when we had the chance. i.e. when I was younger?!

Opportunities can embolden us to view ourselves in a new ways we might not have yet imagined for ourselves but it is important  that we pave a way for them so we are ready when they arise.

I am hopeful and pretty calm about all the moving parts in next weeks adventure coming together!  You can follow me on my personal instagram @xo_monicalee and on my insta-stories! More installed art pics to come!

monica_lee_art  Meimei and I  during London Fashion Week, she is pretty much followed around by her own film team. I told you she was cool.


A peek at some late afternoon contemplating when Tom joined me at the BIG studio. What studio? The one I got to work in for a couple months to prepare for this trip…another awesome opportunity!