denise gallagherEvery week I write a column called BE YOU for one of the local papers (The Times of Acadiana) – Each week someone different answers the questionnaire – the paper often has to edit them,  so here are all the answers, unedited (the whole truth.) This week is Denise Gallagher.

Denise grins as she tells me that she is the owner of Denise Gallagher Design & Illustration, it’s only been a few weeks since she took the plunge and set up her own business, and it is in her words “totally legit”. Denise laughs easily, she is one of those positive people who makes it easy to be around her. A very talented artist with a great design sense and an understanding of business doesn’t come around too often – Denise has it all (and she knows how to use it).

What was your first job?

When I was 14, my dad paid me to enter his client information onto his new Apple IIe. I hated it. I swore that I’d never have a job working on computers. I’m glad I eventually changed my mind.

Describe a typical day in your life.
My life changed drastically when I recently started my own design and illustration company.
I wake up each morning excited to jump into my work. Before I do, I organize impromptu dance parties at the bus stop with my six-year-old and his friends. I then head downtown to my office. Once there, I design, I draw and I create. I talk to clients who share my passion for design and when I remember, I’ll take a sip of coffee. At the end of the day, I join my family – the people I love the most. After dinner,  bath time and story time, I settle in with a cup of tea, my sketchbook and a very sharp pencil.

What advice would you give the younger you?
Have patience and work hard and consistently to achieve your goals.

What event in your life most shaped who you are now?
My Mom passed away nearly two years ago. She was a kindergarten teacher and the nicest person you could ever meet. At the end of her life, she was surrounded by the things that were most important to her – her family, her friends and her faith. She was not afraid. I vowed then to honor her memory by living my life more like she had – patient, caring, kind, unselfish and good. I also became more aware of what made me truly happy and decided to do these things more often.

What values do you live by?
Try to see the good in every situation.
Work hard.
Sing loudly.
Laugh often.
Dance daily.
And a smile goes a long way.

What do you most appreciate?
I appreciate spending time laughing, talking and dreaming with others who share a passion for life. I appreciate being able to do work that I truly love doing. And I appreciate the time that I spend with my family – especially Saturday morning pancake parties and snuggling together on Family Movie Nights.

What is your favorite journey?
I once spent a morning exploring Manhattan by myself. I was there for the opening of my gallery show and I felt courageous, adventurous and exhilarated.
I also once kayaked in Monterey Bay in California. I was befriended by a harbor seal who ended up following me for a while. The sense of peace and wonder I felt were truly rare.

Where is your favorite place to be alone?
In a coffee shop with my headphones, a good music playlist and my sketchbook.

What living figure most inspires you?
Maira Kalman. She is a writer and illustrator who has such a playful,  meandering, amazing style. Her work has a sense of freedom that I really admire.

What was the best advice you were ever given?
Treat others as you would like to be treated.

What book would you tell everyone to read?
“The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. A favorite line: “One sees clearly only with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eye.”

What is the best thing about where you live?
I’m originally from New Orleans but I feel right at home in Lafayette. I’m in love with the small town feel and the friendliness of the people. Lafayette has an abundance of culture and creativity that keeps me ever inspired.

How do you “let the good times roll” ?
Any time is a good time to dance!

What did u want to be when you grew up?
A veterinarian. I love animals. But I think really just wanted to be surrounded by them.

What is your motto?
You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

How would you like to be remembered?
I would like to be remembered for being kind, happy and for loving life. But I’d also be happy if people remembered being touched by my work.

What do you say to yourself when you doubt yourself?
Part of winning the battle is simply showing up. Put your doubts aside and dive in.

What three things are vital to BEing YOU?
A positive attitude. Creativity. Passion.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

What is your favorite word?

What do you collect?
Ugly vintage stuffed animals. The uglier the better.

What food could you live on for a month?
Olives and cheese.

What would you change about yourself?
When I’m really really mad, I have a wicked tongue. I get that from my grandmother!

What literary, movie or cartoon character do you most identify with?
It may seem strange to identify with a pig, but the pig in Babe is full of life, adventurous, courageous, and kind. He also loves to sing. And in the end he changes his own fate. So Babe may be a pig, but he is also quite a noble creature.

Describe yourself in five words.
Creative. Optimist. Dreamer. Happy. Friend.

What is your idea of happiness?
Lazy Saturday afternoons with my family. Sometimes we dance. Sometimes we draw. There is always laughter. And snuggling is a must.

What is your favorite movie?

What music defines who you are?
There is a song by MaMuse called “Glorious.” It’s a sweet, roots Americana song that simply relates all of the tiny details of a glorious day. I hear it and my heart soars.

What do you most regret?
I regret not believing in myself and taking my illustration career seriously a lot sooner.

What question do you wish I’d asked?
What is a favorite compliment that you’ve been paid.

What would the answer be?
I was once called “a ray of sunshine.” I took those words to heart and I’ll never forget them.