Kayla McDaniels

by Nisha Btesh September 08, 2019 1 Comment

Kayla McDaniels

Morning Routine: How do you start your day?

7 am: Wake up! Immediately I brush my teeth or I oil pull using coconut oil for 10-20min. While I’m doing this I make coffee and pour myself a large glass of water.

7:30 am: Get ready & make a quick breakfast! Usually peanut butter on Ezekiel bread with some fruit.

8 am: I’m either out the door to work on location or starting work in my home office/studio

9 am: Answer emails, make a list of what I need to work on that day/week (work on commissions or personal projects) research calls for art and other ways to get my name out there. 

10:30 am: Start tackling my list of things to do. There is always something to do as a small business owner!

11:30 am: Lunchtime! If I’m at home, it’s usually a veggie sandwich with lots of greens and tempeh, or leftovers from dinner the night before. If I‘m working on location or with a client, we usually go out to lunch. 

Tell us about how you became the woman you are today. Where did you grow up? What moments in life have influenced your character most?

I grew up in a suburb of Minneapolis, MN and moved to Minneapolis when I started school at the U of M Twin Cities. Growing up, I was always outside playing or exploring—making up my own universe in the forest. Summers were spent at camp or on the lake with friends and family. My parents loved gardening, camping, and just being outside. We were always taking family camping trips up north and to surrounding states. 

My parents eventually divorced when I was 13. That was such a hard time for me. I lost a lot of friends (at that time, not a lot of people had divorced parents, so I felt like the black sheep in my friend group.) Parents getting divorce sucks, but honestly, it made me so resilient and showed me that I can handle anything and everything that life throws at me, including breakups, broken bones, major setbacks, and miracles. I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything, and I believe that life unfolds for us just as it should. 

Tell us about the exact moment or period in time when you realized you were born to create.

I realized this very early on when I won an award for my ceramic pinch pot in 1st grade. From there it just snowballed and I was always creating. I remember making storybooks about my pets, putting on dance performances for my family at holidays, inventing recipes for my parents to try—literally anything I could to do make something. From a young age, I’ve always enjoyed drawing and I think that’s why it’s one of the mediums I explore most today.

What's the best advice you've ever been given?

Write everything you want to achieve on a piece of paper. Keep re-writing it until it happens.

Tell us a little bit about what drew you to your medium. Did you choose to work with this medium or did it choose you?

I’ve always been able to express myself through drawing and illustration. Early on, it was an easy way to convey my thoughts, and as my artistic practice grows and fluctuates, it’s been very helpful to have a strong foundation in drawing. I’m the type of person who wants to try everything, and the mediums I use are always changing, but one thing that stays constant for me is drawing.

Finish this sentence. I feel most inspired to create when I am...


A lot of women believe they need formal training in order to succeed as a female Artist. What’s your take? Did you have formal education or are you self taught?

You do not need formal training! If you have a knack for anything artistic, just practice, practice, practice. Put in the 10,000 hours and take some online marketing/business classes on the side. Skillshare is an amazing tool that I use frequently to learn new things. But I will say, having a formal education was super helpful for me because I was surrounded by artists and professors who I could bounce ideas off of, get feedback, learn new techniques, and ultimately have a BFA that looks good on a resume. 

What do you want the younger female artists coming up behind you to know about you, your journey, and the art industry in general?

Always stay true to yourself. Do what you want to do and make what you want to make. Don’t create anything because someone else expects it from you. Learn from your mistakes, and be willing to make them early on when it doesn’t really matter. The most important thing is to constantly be learning and pushing yourself. One regret I have is not being more confident in my creativity early on. I’m a very humble person, but I think in this industry it is good to have an ego and promote yourself every day!

Finish this sentence. I never leave home without my…

Water! Stay hydrated. 

Let's talk about vulnerability. What role has being vulnerable played in your work, success or failures?

Vulnerability is everything. I try to be vulnerable in my personal life and in my artistic practice. It’s very hard, but I think it allows me to connect with more people in an intimate way. We are all human, we all make mistakes, we all love, we all have hardships. It’s important that we remember that and stay vulnerable and open within our personal lives and our creative careers. 

How do you define your creative gig? Full-time career or side hustle? Explain why you’ve chosen one over the other.

My creative gig is full-time. I split it between photo styling and assisting, commissioned works, art fairs and pop-ups, and personal work that ends up being sold on my website and my Etsy shop. I never really intended for it to be full-time, it just snowballed and I’ve not had to apply for a job at a corporation or another small business. I feel very lucky and fortunate, but owning your own business is hard. Sometimes I fantasize about getting a paycheck every 2 weeks and having decent benefits like health insurance and a 401k match! But the freedom and power I have is totally unmatched and I’m really happy where I am now. 

What is the message you're sending into the universe with your work? Why do you feel so strongly about this message?

By loving and respecting mother nature, you are loving and respecting yourself. Pay attention to the small patterns in the earth—the splashes of color, the weeds growing in the cracks. Find joy in all the small things, and you will be rewarded. 

I feel so strongly about this message because I believe that being connected with the natural world is connecting with our highest selves. It’s important to have a connection, and I feel like our world is drifting away from it. I want to share my wonder of the world with people who interact with my work. I want everyone to love and cherish the planet we live on, and to be awake and aware of the importance of that connection. 

Name 3 of your guilty pleasures.

Netflix binges, vegan chocolate sorbet, and sleeping in

What is your biggest focus and/or goal in your career right now? What plans do you have for yourself 1,3,5 years from now?

My biggest goal in my career is to move into surface pattern design and have a licensed collection with a stationary or fabric company. I’m passionate about pattern design, and I feel like my illustration style pairs nicely with repeating motifs. I’m working towards making it happen in the next year or two. In five yearsI’d like to be completely self-sufficient off of my illustration and pattern design licensing, and teaching too! :) Woo! Feels good to type that. 

What’s the most difficult financial hurdle you’ve had to overcome while running your business? Get specific!

Early on in my career, I had a major setback after a skiing accident. I fractured a vertebra in my spine, my right (dominant) hand, and my sternum. I couldn’t work for almost a year because I was in so much pain. This really broke my spirit, but I accepted what the universe gave me and tried my best to work on myself and learn how to deal with hardship. That time in my life humbled me to my core and made me appreciate the smallest things. I still have to remind myself that this happened and to embrace life from a perspective that I would have never known if it hadn’t.

If you had to give a 30 min. speech without preparing to an audience of 1,000 what would it be on?

How to learn from your hardships and how it makes you a stronger person.


Big or small, what’s the single best money making tip or piece of advice you can share with up and coming artists?

Start selling your work to friends and family! This is how I started making money from my art. They turn into your clients and ultimately share your work with their inner-circles. Also, learn how to price your work early on. A great way to price work is by the square inch. Do your research and figure out what emerging artists are charging for similar work in your area. 

What tools, apps, websites, blogs, books, or podcasts help you the most when it comes to financials?

I use wave apps for my personal and business bookkeeping, but I might switch to QuickBooks (anyone has a preference?!) I use skillshare a lot to learn new things about running a business or design skills. “You are a Badass” by Jen Sincero is an amazing book about money and mindset. It really helped me change the way I think about money and cash flow. Lastly, I always monitor my credit cards and make sure that all my purchases check out. At the end of the day though, it’s about saving and investing wisely! 

What specifically gives you the most anxiety when it comes to talking about money? Explain.

Nothing really. The only anxiety I have is “will I have enough?” Which is SO my anxiety talking. I think having a positive mindset around money can take you a long way. If you constantly focus on having enough, visualizing positive cash flow, trusting and knowing you will have enough, you WILL. 

What do you know for sure?

That the earth is beautiful and we need to protect and preserve it!


To learn more about Kayla McDaniels please visit www.kaylamcdaniels.com

Nisha Btesh
Nisha Btesh


1 Response


September 13, 2019

Thanks Nisha! <3

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