Asking for a Friend with Becca Borrelli

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Becca Borrelli is an admirer of doodling, coloring, and art teaching. Since graduating with a MA in Art Education from The University of Texas, she has been establishing an illustration business specializing in coloring books, interactive murals, and derivative art. Clients include The Dell Children’s Medical Center, HEB, The Anti-Defamation League, The Trail Foundation of Austin, LBJ Library, and the Austin Downtown Alliance. She is inspired by the invisible connections between all things, and her work aims to be a playful, bright, and hopeful interpretation of the world's whimsical and magical sides. She has fallen in love with her hometown in Austin, where she spends free time exploring the town with her partner and their super-pups Layla and Rose.

1. Do you remember the first time you remember being emotionally affected by failure?

Haha, oh yes. This isn’t the first one I remember, but it’s the first one that stuck with me. I was in a sorority in my undergrad. Junior year, a handful of the senior officers approached me about running for President. To my surprise, there was tremendous chapter support for my nomination. I was a shy kid, so to have people I admired believe in me was a tremendous honor. It was also beyond terrifying. I spent weeks pondering the pros and cons. I really wanted to do it, but I didn’t think I could weather the vulnerability that inevitably comes with leadership. I couldn’t clear the psychological hurdle, and backed out of the nomination. It turned into one of the first big regrets of my life. I hadn’t even given myself a chance to fail, which felt much worse than I anticipated. On a positive note, many of the big leaps I’ve taken in life since, were born from that experience.

2. What’s the biggest accolade you earned while you were in school?

My senior year of high school a friend coaxed me into joining the track team. I was an artsy, out of shape, geeky kid, who had never done a team sport in her life. The coach was an amazing guy, and let me run in meets. Not surprisingly, I was terrible. Still, my teammates would cheer as I came in dead last every time. It was mortifying in some ways, and probably only an ‘accolade’ in the loosest sense of the word. The experience also meant the world to me. I realized I could fail at a thing, and still win at something inside my spirit.

3. What does your day to day look like in your occupation?

Most of my day is organizing client work flows and filling art orders. Before I began working for myself,  I knew days as a working artist would likely be filled with many non-art tasks. Still, it’s comical to the extent that it’s true. I try to slot at least two hours each day for physical art making, and one hour a day for coffee or meetings. The rest is admin.

4. What does your morning routine look like?

I allow myself to wake up later. After years of late nights waiting tables, I doubt I’ll ever be a morning person. I get up around 9 am, caffeinate and toss the ball for the dogs. I journal a little and meditate for ten minutes. Usually I’m hitting admin stuff by 10 am. I’d like to say I’m out of my pj’s by that point, but realistically showering and clothing myself doesn’t happen until I leave the studio, usually in the afternoon.

5. If you could give your younger self a piece of advice, what would it be?

It really is going to happen. Your kiddo spidey sense is spot on. Relax. Enjoy the ride.

6. Where do you hope to see yourself in 5 years?

That Bill Watterson quote: “I don’t know where I’m going, but I’ll know when I get there,” is the mantra of my life and biz. It’s not for everyone, but every amazing development in my life has weirdly figured itself out in the reverse order.

7. It’s a random Tuesday and you have the day off and no plans, what do you do to fill those hours?

Phone is OFF. I bike to Casa de Luz and eat a yummy macrobiotic meal and then pedal to Barton Springs. I usually don’t get in the water (because it’s dang cold), but I’ll draw or read. A Paloma on Odd Duck’s patio with friends would probably have to happen too. Then a hike with the pups, and dinner with J.

8. If you’re comfortable, would you mind sharing one failure from the past six months?

I decided to opt out of art markets this holiday season. For a solo-entrepreneur in the arts, that’s definitely a risk. The truth is, I lose money at markets. People in maker-circles are surprised when I tell them this, but I’m not great at markets. I could definitely get better with research and time, but if I’m being honest, I feel lackluster about it even when I am doing well. I get a lot of joy from one-on-one relationships, so I decided to stop markets and focus my time on clients. That has been an energizing decision so far, but I’m still in the middle of the process. Time will tell.


9. If you’re comfortable, would you mind sharing one success from the past year?

Last year I started seeing a counselor. I thought I was going in for career help. If you’ve heard Brene Brown’s famous TED Talk, she tells her counselor: “No childhood shit.” Haha, I basically did the same thing. And guess what, we pretty much only talked about childhood shit. Creating a business, means you’re creating something that’s an extension of yourself.  I learned for that thing to be healthy, I had to look at myself. Clearing old patterns turned out to be wonderfully transformative for my art and work. I’m beginning to reap the benefits, but dang it was some work, and I’m proud.

10. Who is the most ‘successful’ person you know?

Sharon Zeugin comes to my mind specifically. I met her when she took one of my hand-lettering classes. I remember I was immediately nervous, because Sharon is kind of a big deal. She was trained at one of the world’s preeminent calligraphy schools. She’s published. She’s won awards. She teaches workshops in Italy and Taos. She has all these enviable accolades and life experiences. She is absolutely the type of person who could get away with being intimidating. Instead she is tremendously real. She is sensitive and strong. She sees people. She is politically involved. She serves others. I think really successful people can easily lose their energetic grounding. Sharon treads the line between both really well. When I make art and biz decisions I often think: WWSD (What Would Sharon Do?)

11. What do you think makes them ‘successful’?

She is kind and intuitive. She also knows it, and uses it. I think conscious, tender-hearted intuition is the quality I most look for and admire in all people.

12. Describe your relationship with failure?

I (try) to view failure as a course correction from the universe. I’m not always good at maintaining that perspective, but I’ve found I have a better relationship with failure when I address it as a friend. At times a frustrating friend. But a friend.

13. Describe your relationship with success?

Before I published the first Austin Coloring Book in 2015, I had been dragging my feet for months. My partner had asked me: “Are you scared it will fail?” The truth was, I wasn’t scared it would fail. I knew deep down it was going to be wildly successful. I was scared I wouldn’t be able to handle the success. I was right too. The book blew up. Many times that first year, I deeply doubted myself. Yet over and over, I somehow handled it. Success exists right at the edge of failure. The anticipation of going over the cliff is sometimes worse than an actual fall. It’s odd to say, but many times I have an easier relationship with failure.

14. What parting words do you have for us?
Energy is more important than image. Take care of your spirit. The rest will follow.

15. Where can I get a good slice of pizza? (can be as many as you want and can be anywhere geographically!) BUFALINA. They ferment their dough for 72 hours. Gluten sensitive peeps (me) can eat a whole pie with ease. Also they have very tasty non-dairy pizzas for lactose intolerant peeps (also me.)


Chelsea Francis