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smArt Talk: An Interview with Colleen Underwood of Colleen Annalea

I have heard from several of you that you enjoyed these interviews and the opportunity it provides to learn from each other. So I've decided to add a few more here and there. I'm starting back up with Colleen Underwood, someone I admire deeply.

I first "met" Colleen through the Immersion course where she was an Expert helper. Through her feedback to me and others, I could tell she was just the kind of mentor I would connect with so I jumped into her Foundations course last summer. And it was exactly what I needed.

Colleen was there to not only coach me in building solid business foundations, but finding an emotional center and grounding that has proven invaluable in the year (roughly) since I officially began my business.

I’m so happy to introduce you to her (if you don’t know her already) and know you’ll love her as much as I do.


Can you tell us about your background and how you first became interested in design?

I first became interested in design when I tried making a repeating pattern and experienced how fun it was. It looked so amazing and it gave me a sense that I could create goodness and beautiful things that go on forever- I was hooked. After getting a good education in Illustrator and business formation, I knew I wanted to shift careers and pursue something fun where I could use my skills as an artist and coach simultaneously. This was perfect!

Tell me about your art practice–what got you started, what tools or techniques you use, and what makes your work special?

My art practice started as a surprise. After living abroad for many years, I was on a visit to Grandma's house with my kids. My mom bought craft supplies for everyone including me and that evening I pulled out watercolors for the first time (since I was a kid) and watched a tutorial. It lit a fire in me and I remembered thinking, "I can truly learn anything if I just put in the time to watch the lesson and practice." That's literally it. I loved it, I continued, sought out more opportunities to learn and practice and when I found pattern design, I melded the two together!

You are also a creative coach in addition to a licensing artist. How did you get into coaching?

I have been a mentor, trainer, and coach for years living abroad and when I shifted my career into design, my heart didn't change. I still wanted to be able to multiply all I was learning into the lives of others. Coaching was such a natural outlet to be able to reach my hand back and support those who are a few steps behind me. As someone who has lived in multiple countries, "starting over" is a feeling I am very familiar with. I know how much care, compassion and help it requires to get a good start and I want to offer that to others who are "starting out" or "starting over" in a creative career. Plus, how can you beat a good cup of coffee and conversation? :)

What is the biggest lesson you've learned from coaching other creatives?

That's a big question. If I could boil it down to one thing, it would be that a good community around you, as you pursue your creative business, will be your most valuable asset. There are so many more lessons, practical tips, patterns, and rhythms... but if you go it alone, you won't get there. Making decisions, getting back on track, finding your confidence- It comes in relationship to those you trust and who know you.

What advice would you give to artists just starting in surface design?

If you're just starting out in surface design, be patient, stay consistent, and don't give up. This is long work that requires your heart and grit and community. There aren't perfect decisions out there... The best decision is the one that allows you to move forward and make progress.

What has been harder than you anticipated?

Creating personal boundaries between work life and home life has required more intentionality than I anticipated. I am committed to living intentionally in front of my family and prioritizing them before my work. And that's hard work.

What has been more rewarding than you anticipated?

Though I love seeing my design work out in the real world, I LOVE encouraging other women who are starting their own creative businesses.

How do you define success?

Success is finding a way to live with your heart fully alive in your circumstances. This can be in a career you love or one you love less but provides for you and your family. It is a privilege that I do not take lightly that I am able to pursue a career that also makes my heart alive while I care for my family.

Finish this sentence: Wouldn’t it be cool if…

A company that makes awesome dresses like Altar'd State picked up my designs and my girls loved them enough to choose my designs for their school dances!

What is the most important thing you’ve learned from your work?

Beauty always inspires hope..... and we need hope in this world.


Thank you so much, Colleen! I always learn something new from you that's uplifting and inspiring.

Colleen was so instrumental in my first year, and I can't imagine where I'd be without her. She has created a roadmap for your first year in creative business that's available here. Definitely check it out if you're new or wanting to make sure you're on your own right path.

You can also find her here:


Instagram: @colleenannalea

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