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Meet Allison Johnston of Fuzzy Grapefruit in Midtown

Today we’d like to introduce you to Allison Johnston.

Allison, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Fuzzy grapefruit began almost ten years ago, but my creative journey started much earlier. For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved drawing and painting. My mother says she used to place me at the kitchen table with a stack of paper and some markers or crayons and I was content to sit there for hours. When I went off to college, I ended up majoring in graphic design. After graduation, I worked as a graphic designer for various companies in Chicago (where I lived at the time) but a lot of the projects felt a little dull and soulless. I took on a few freelance projects here and there and opened an Etsy shop as a way to continue making my own stuff, but I didn’t really get serious about pursuing illustration until about three years ago. The unfortunate catalyst for this life change was an unexpected change in my personal life when my husband and I got divorced, and I found myself asking some big questions. In a way, it was probably the best thing to happen to me and push me to seek out career independence.

Has it been a smooth road?
Life is not a smooth road! I still constantly feel like I don’t know what I’m doing and frequently succumb to symptoms of imposter syndrome, but I think that’s true for most artists and creative entrepreneurs. When I started freelancing as a (mostly) full-time business, I was still uncomfortable knowing what to charge for my services, how to market myself, quoting fees, etc. Basically, all the “business” parts of running a business. I still struggle with the business side of things, but I’ve learned so much along the way and have gained confidence in the process. I definitely consider myself a “people pleaser” which can sometimes be challenging — you can’t please everyone!

We’d love to hear more about your business.
This is a hard question for me because I love doing so many things and love learning new techniques. In a nutshell, fuzzy grapefruit is a one-woman illustration and design studio. I would say I’m known for whimsical drawings of animals and punny illustrations, but I also love design projects which require a bit more character, charm, and creativity. I try not to shy away from having a variety of projects and clients — it keeps each day feeling new and exciting and really keeps me on my toes. Just to give you an idea, I’m currently working on a suite of custom wedding invitations, a commissioned animal portrait, a logo and branding for a start-up, a website redesign for a local restaurant, a digital wedding portrait, holiday packaging for a crafting company, a series of animal illustrations for kid’s t-shirts, and my own artwork for upcoming holiday markets. It can sometimes be exhausting, but I’d rather be exhausted and inspired than feel like I have nothing to do.

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
I have a surprising amount of pride for this city considering I’ve only been here eight years. I moved here in the summer at the end of a drought and was initially disappointed and overwhelmed by how different Houston was from Chicago. But there’s something about that independent, “I can do anything” Texas spirit, combined with the warmth of southern hospitality that I find really contagious. Pair that wide open mindset with the inherent wealth of a city built from oil and you have a welcoming, prosperous place for artists and entrepreneurs.

We’re lucky to be in a city which values the arts and has a lot of resources available. With hard work and patience, I do think a person can prosper here. Having said all that, we can always do more, especially for minorities and underserved communities. But as long as we make it a priority to stay involved, fund organizations fighting for causes we believe in and continue to voice our needs through our voting AND our artwork, Houston will only continue to get better.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Alan Nguyen, David Tong

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