In honor of International Women’s Day, we are imprinting the 31 days of March with 31 stories from the Skillshare teacher community. Our Inspiring Women series is rolling out every day on Instagram, so follow us there for daily inspiration from Skillshare’s womxn teachers.

We kicked off the month with Ann Shen, illustrator, graphic designer, author, and hand-letterer, who recently launched her Staff Pick class, “Iconic Women in History: Draw Your Inspiration.” You can read more about her story here. And we rounded out the week with stories from illustrators, videographers, and more from our Skillshare top teachers. In their words:

Cat Coquillette, artist, educator, entrepreneur, traveler

Art by Cat Coquillette
Art by Cat Coquillette

Does your identity influence your creativity? If so, how?

I’m many things: an artist, an educator, an entrepreneur, a traveler, and a resource to help fellow creatives thrive.

My creativity is sparked by the experiences I have while traveling around the world. I live as a “digital nomad”, which means I don’t have a permanent home anywhere. Instead, I travel full-time and work from coffee shops, coworking spaces and Airbnbs around the globe.

My artwork reflects the unique vibes and surroundings of each place I visit. While living in Southeast Asia, I saturated my artwork with tropical watercolors, vibrant orchids, and jungle animals. Scandinavia brought about Norwegian patterns and sapphire shards of glaciers.

As you can imagine, it’s been a pretty slow year for me in terms of travel. Instead of hopping from country to country on a whim, I’ve been hunkering down. This change of pace has given me the stability and time to really focus on growing as a creative and educator. At the start of 2020, I learned how to use a brand new art medium– Procreate. Once I got the hang of digitally illustrating in a brand new program, I couldn’t put my iPad down and my portfolio exploded with new designs. I’ve also published more classes in the past year than any other to date. So even though it’s been a quiet year for travel, this slower pace has given me a chance to be a bit more prolific with my creative output.

Can you tell us about an inspiring woman in your life or in history who has influenced you?

I’m lucky enough to be supported by a network of incredibly talented, powerhouse women. Five years ago, I quit my job and moved across the world to Chiang Mai, Thailand. I’d heard that Chiang Mai was a hub for digital nomads and it didn’t disappoint: I became enmeshed in a community of self-starters who shared my priorities: autonomy, work/life balance, and building our empires on our own terms.

Back in that first year living in Thailand, I attended a conference in Bangkok and sat in the audience listening to the women on stage describe their entrepreneurial journeys, successes, and struggles. I remember thinking, “I need to get to know these ladies!” Fast-forward five years: the ones speaking on stage that year are now among my inner circle of close friends. These are the women I turn to first when I need advice or simply want to go grab a drink with and chat about life.

Community is a huge part of why I’m able to do what I do. I feel incredibly grateful that I’ve found “my people”. These women have founded startups, introduced new ideas to the market, managed large teams, built successful products, and defined their own success. Even though our industries are varied, we all help each other rise. I find that incredibly inspiring.

Amarilys Henderson, watercolor illustrator and design thinker

Does your identity influence your creativity? If so, how?

I honestly can’t see how to answer this question any other way than undoubtedly. Who we are has every bit to do with what we create. My life experience, my bent towards conquering the next fun challenge, my faith… they pop up without requesting permission. Even my childhood TV heroes that evolved from being Rainbow Brite to Punky Brewster to Clarissa (Explains It All) point to my eternal hunger for color! My Instagram bio reads “art for the vivid inner child” because even though I may grow in years, my heart longs to return to a colorfully simple time. And that’s the ideal that ends up on my paper.

Art by Amarilys Henderson
Art by Amarilys Henderson

Can you tell us about an inspiring woman in your life or in history who has influenced you?

Those who follow me on Skillshare know about my love for the artist Mary Blair. Mary Blair worked as a concept artist for Disney at the turn of the century and his best well known for her contribution to the movies like Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, and the Disneyland ride it’s a small world! Her work is boldly colorful, it’s whimsical yet intentional and it always holds a magical mystique to it. She was a female trailblazer, earning her place at the top amidst Walt’s favorite animators coined the Nine Old Men. Her aesthetic has influenced thousands of artists. She’s so influential in fact that her imagery has likely woven itself into your childhood without your knowing!

Art by Neha Modi
Art by Neha Modi

Neha Modi, mindful artist and content creator

Does your identity influence your creativity? If so, how?

Artist and Skillshare teacher Neha Modi
Artist and Skillshare teacher Neha Modi

Creativity or any artistic medium is about sharing our stories, sharing our identity whether it is personal, cultural or social. So from extensively using black and white to showcase the patterns in nature to the metaphorical use of regular objects to convey my thoughts on mental health, self awareness and acceptance, the work I create represent my ever evolving identity! My work is a compilation of the social and cultural landscape I have lived, ups and downs I went though, my relationships, the biases I experienced because of my gender and the efforts to change that, my ethnic heritage and early childhood impression and the person I was before and the person I want to be.

I like to regularly evaluate myself and question the intentions behind my work. It helps me create art that has meaning and brings joy to me and hopefully to others as well. I strongly believe that in any creative endeavour when we share snippets of our identity by digging deeper, we find the gold i.e. our unique style.

“The life journey and the works of many exceptional women, both in history and my personal life have influenced me and shaped my views.”

Can you tell us about an inspiring woman in your life or in history who has influenced you?

The life journey and the works of many exceptional women, both in history and my personal life have influenced me and shaped my views. One of them is Maya Angelou, the phenomenal woman.

I am in awe of her life story, the various roles she played and beautiful and relatable words of wisdom she wrote. What stands out the most for me is the way she lived her life with courage, compassion and grace. Paving so many firsts, she became of voice of wisdom, of change, of perseverance. Her story proves that no matter how hard the circumstances, if we keep striving there lies within each one of us infinite possibilities. The way she paved her own path with resilience and unapologetic confidence inspires me to explore my own potentials and be brave.

One of her quotes that act as guiding light for me is – “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humour, and some style.”

Charly Clements, greeting card designer and illustrator

Does your identity influence your creativity? If so, how?

Art by Charly Clements
Art by Charly Clements

Being a woman has played a huge role in my illustrations. I’ve struggled with a hormone imbalance most of my life which affects my mental health on a monthly basis. I know how hard it can be to juggle a creative business and depression at the same time so I use my work as a way to open up about these struggles. I want to show people that despite these constant setbacks, it’s still possible to thrive as an illustrator. These struggles have helped me become more resilient in all aspects of my life. Being able to turn my passion into a career has brought me so much happiness and I’m now on a mission to help others achieve the same!

Can you tell us about an inspiring woman in your life or in history who has influenced you?

I’ve been lucky enough to be surrounded by strong females for most of my life. And I love that I can celebrate these women through my illustrations. One of my biggest role models at the moment would have to be Marie Forleo. I stumbled across her incredible book “Everything is Figureoutable” in 2019 and it completely transformed the way I look at my business. She’s made me realise that anything is possible if you want it enough. So I hope that one day I can be a role model for others, the same way she’s been a role model for me 🙂

Hallease Narvaez, digital storyteller, video producers, and YouTuber

Digital storyteller and Skillshare teacher Hallease Narvaez
Digital storyteller and Skillshare teacher Hallease Narvaez

Does your identity influence your creativity? If so, how?

My identity is a big influence on my creativity. As a Black woman living in the United States, I often incorporate my identity and culture into the short films, stories, and vlogs that I create on my YouTube channel and the classes I create. I felt compelled to do this as I watched mainstream media tell the stories of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, and unfortunately countless others. It was then back in 2014, that I decided that I had to make sure to tell my own story because I knew if I let someone else tell it for me – they’d do it wrong. If I ever became a hashtag I wanted there to be an extensive account of my life that was primary and sourced directly from me so that people could see all of the identities I hold. The triumphs, the failures, the mistakes, the love, the laughs, and the growth. I want to make sure that people see me in my totality. Plus, it’s easier to tell my own story, I have 24hr access to myself.

Can you tell us about an inspiring woman in your life or in history who has influenced you?

There are SO many women who inspire me, both living and long passed. In the larger world view, I can name a few: Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, Regina King, FREAKIN MICHELLE OBAMA (who I actually got to meet once – she hugged me. She smells amazing. It was amazing.) But honestly, my biggest inspiration is my Mother. She’s carved out a thriving career for herself all without having a college degree. Growing up, I’d hear her talking on the phone with friends, and when they’d ask her how she’s doing, she’d say “I’m endeavoring to persevere, as always.” I think she got that saying from a Clint Eastwood movie or something – nevertheless, it has stuck with me throughout this life journey. I look around and I see countless women who are all trying hard to continue on a course of action even in the face of difficulty. Most of them we’ll never know.

Jamie Smith, artist, teacher, and community builder

Does your identity influence your creativity? If so, how?

Art by Jamie Smith
Art by Jamie Smith

My work as an artist, teacher and community builder is all interwoven with my experience as a womxn in this ever changing time. I realized early on that I could not go do this creative journey on my own. I needed like-minded and supportive artists and teachers around me. I believe the creative experience is better with others and my identity is very much tied to the people I support and the people supporting me. I am constantly working to understand myself and my artistic voice better. Creativity is a process and so my personal evolution- my best art comes out when these sit in tandem… often this is easier said than done!

Can you tell us about an inspiring woman in your life or in history who has influenced you?

Artist and Skillshare teacher Jamie Smith
Artist and Skillshare teacher Jamie Smith

I am so inspired by the female artists that have come before me. I feel very lucky to be working in a time where people and organizations are working so hard to highlight the great women around us (my fave art accounts doing this are @artgirlrising, @repaint.history, @thejealouscurator). This is the first step to changing the way all people are celebrated and written about in the future. A huge inspiration for me is Swedish artist, Hilma af Klint (1862-1944). Her abstract work was created before anyone was working in this way and it was not accepted or shown. After she died she left instructions to show her work when the world was ready. In March 2019, I flew to NYC and saw her work in the Guggenheim and they said she was an artist ahead of her time (it is to date one of their most popular shows ever!!). Well I think she was just not ahead but rather the world was behind. I am so grateful that we are beginning to wake up and look beyond someone’s gender, sexulaity and ethnicity and see their important work. We have a long way to go but I am hopeful (most of the time!!). Thanks @skillshare for supporting all your makers!


Follow us on Instagram for more from our Inspiring Women series all month long.