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Creative for life - My illustration career path

When did you know you wanted the career path you ended up on? I’ve known since kindergarten.

I remember being at the craft table every day. Making these huge construction paper figures. The teacher was so impressed that she took me to the principal’s office with one of them, where they took a polaroid of me and my artwork.

From there I continued to practice and grow. When the time came to choose a high school I ended up breaking away from the pack. I put together a portfolio of my work and applied to the Etobicoke School of Art @esa_contemporary_art 

 ESA was an art focused high school where you had a major - visual art, music, music theatre, drama or dance. You had classes from your major every day, along with the regular maths, science and english curriculum. It was an amazing experience! I got to try so many mediums and ways of expressing myself. Sculpture, pottery, photography, painting and drawing. My first time life drawing was in grade 10, we called the model “Big Ben” as he was an older gentleman with a big pot belly. 😂

There I eventually focused on oil painting, and by the last year I had put together a final show of work. I was also taking less and less curriculum classes and more and more art. I had to talk to the guidance counsellor to do this, but I knew exactly the path I wanted to be on.

From there I applied to and attended the Ontario College of Art and Design @ocaduniversity and majored in illustration. I actually didn’t know illustration existed at the time. I was going to major in graphic design, but luckily went to an orientation presentation on all the different majors. When I saw you could draw and paint commercially, I knew that was for me! I changed mediums into acrylic. Which was quite the switch from slow drying oil paint.

I racked up a couple of awards, and graduated with honours in 2002.

When I graduated I was scooped up by an illustration representative. It was a really good experience as I got to work with some big name clients such as Absolut Vodka, Scholastic and Loblaws. However, I felt it hindered my business skills a little as I wasn’t doing my own negotiation and contracts. Plus the huge 30% cut they took always hurt. I stayed with them for eight years.

In 2009 the recession hit and illustration took a nose dive. I fell into a full time job at an animation studio’s creative services. I left the illustration rep and transitioned to a full time office job. It was a great job in the early years. I got to design and make style guides for fun children’s shows. But after another 8 years I think I stayed a bit too long. My job became less creative, more managerial and we even stopped doing the style guides I loved and instead focused on only marketing efforts.

I left there in 2018 because I wanted to get back to illustration and using my creativity.

Now here I am, navigating this new online world. Learning how to harness all the self-promotional tools out there. Building up my business skills and getting my work out there as much as I can. I switched to digital when I discovered I could pretty much replicate my acrylic look in it. I now use an iPad Pro and Adobe Photoshop to create my bright, eye catching, elegant pieces. Business is booming. I’ve been doing work for major brand campaigns, adding hand lettering to my work, live-streaming for Adobe, working on children’s books, creating podcast art, helping small businesses and have even started experimenting with mural work - to get some time away from the screen.

So here I am, living my best creative life. I’m so happy and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

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