August 2022 marks six years since I released my first Skillshare class as a teacher. Like many other teachers on the platform, I was a student first, way back in 2014. I’d been a stay-at-home mum for eight years, and my Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator skills were very rusty.
The first classes I took were on hand lettering and character design, which was an odd mixture, but it actually led to finding my style with food illustration. That’s the other side of my business—as well as a teacher, I’m a food illustrator for major brands all over the world.
My first class as a teacher came in late August 2016, about creating an illustrated recipe. At the time I was going through a tricky divorce and my finances were in disarray.
Teaching on Skillshare was one of many routes I was trying, in order to boost my revenue as a single mum. I also tried Spoonflower and other print-on-demand sites, but something just clicked with Skillshare, and I haven’t looked back.
Now, six years later and working on my 28th Skillshare class (about masking fluid), I can reflect on the many ways that teaching on Skillshare has benefited my career.
It fits in with my life purpose to inspire myself and help others do the same. Being paid to talk and demonstrate techniques that light me up as an artist is brilliant. When I’m really enthusiastic about loose watercolors for example, that comes across and the energy transmits across the screen.
My aim has always been to provide students with tools to solve their own challenges—to give them ways to support their own creativity, which spreads that joy even more.
It’s been a great way of connecting with other teachers, and the built-in community of students that comes with it has been phenomenal. I’m so grateful to be in a position to nurture and support.
Also it’s always a fun challenge to find more ways to encourage and cheer on students . Being creative involves taking risks, so I try to make sure students feel supported and safe when taking leaps.
Teaching has become part of my brand—I’m now known as a Skillshare teacher along with the 25 sketchbooks I’ve been sharing from over the last several years. If I get a DM or email about something, I can often say—”I’ve got a class for that!”
And it has led to other brilliant opportunities like art retreats in Morocco and Italy. I even have a book launching at the end of the year, which came about after the publishers saw my Organic Expressive Florals class.
In order to share, I have to be open and vulnerable as an artist. Being a teacher has helped me to be more authentic, a truer version of myself, as I share more of my story and tastes. I’m very much one of those teachers who says, “It’s highly likely you will produce crappy art and that’s actually OK!!!”
A lot of learning happens within that discomfort. I hope it comes across in a very credible way from my own real life experience—it’s important to me to share in a realistic and honest way, because we live in the real world, not in Instagram “filterland” where a great piece of art can seemingly be achieved in 30 seconds.
Skillshare was fundamental in building a stronger financial foundation as a single parent. I believe that passive income is always something to nurture when you’re self-employed. It’s allowed me to have more choices and flexibility at this crucial time while my kids are growing up.
It also means I can be much more selective about the projects I take on. At the time of writing, I’m in a period of “semi sabbatical,” when I’ll be a student again, refilling my creative cup.
The act of sharing what I know has transformed my own art, illustration and sketchbook practice, which in turn has taken me to places I could never have predicted. The knowledge that I have now inspired over 140,000 students genuinely warms my heart.
Meeting some of my students in person and hearing first-hand how it has shaped their creative output has been a life-changing and moving experience. Teaching on Skillshare really is the gift that keeps on giving and remains a wonderful and deeply satisfying adventure.
This post was originally published on Ohn Mar Win’s blog.