Skillshare Talks | Lessons from the Field: Building Your Creative Career | Teach on Skillshare | Skillshare

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Skillshare Talks | Lessons from the Field: Building Your Creative Career

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

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    • 1.

      Lesson from the Field


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About This Class

This short video is part of the Skillshare Talks series that shares footage from live conversations with our teacher community.

Join the Skillshare team at our NYC headquarters for a panel discussion featuring five women who have built thriving creative careers - Nic Squirrell, Amarilys Henderson, Claire Picard, Dylan Mierzwinski, and Ohn Mar Win. Through this talk, you will hear how they each turned their passion into a paying job, and their approach to tackling common challenges like income stability, social media, and imposter syndrome. We hope this talk gives you both insights and ideas for pursing your own creative career. 

Meet the Panelists:

Nic Squirrell:

Nic Squirrell is a British artist, illustrator and surface pattern designer living in Kent, England. She specialises in digital painting, usually on her iPad, and also loves the spontaneity of watercolour. Her favourite subjects are birds, flowers, and slightly shifty looking creatures, although she enjoys drawing lots of other things too. Nic’s art is licensed on all sorts of products from greetings cards, art prints and phone cases to SVG cutting files, home decor items, luggage and many more. Being naturally curious, she loves exploring new iPad apps and finding ways to simplify her process, and of course enjoys sharing what she has learned by teaching on Skillshare.

Amarilys Henderson:

Amarilys Henderson enjoys bringing the dynamic vibrancy of watercolor strokes to everyday products—from paper to porcelain. Her experience in print design influences much of her surface design work, which found its renaissance in new motherhood and refreshed faith. You’ll find her curled up in her warm studio in snowy Minnesota.

Claire Picard:

Originally from the UK, Claire Picard has a background in fashion and textile design and product range development. Having worked as an embroidery/print designer, a fashion illustrator, and a greetings card designer, Claire spent 20 years living and working also in continental Europe. With a love for design and colour, Claire joined Skillshare as a teacher last year to share her practical knowledge in colour and design theory. She also teaches tried and tested techniques for creative exploration, offering classes to all levels.

Dylan Mierzwinski:

Dylan Mierzwinski ("M" for short), is an illustrator and surface designer living in the Valley of the Sun, Phoenix, Arizona. A top teacher on Skillshare, Dylan is known for her warmth, abilitiy to communicate difficult ideas clearly, and bold and retro botanical illustrations. As a self taught artist, Dylan has enthusiastically grown into her position in the art world as a creative cheerleader, sharer of helpful keyboard shortcuts, and combiner of unexpected colors. She enjoys waving at dogs, quoting Michael Scott, and encouraging people to talk about their feelings (not a joke).

Ohn Mar Win:

Ohn Mar Win is a UK based illustrator best known for her watercolour practice in her sketchbook, often combining them with line work to create various effects. Her great passion is illustrating food, and her work has appeared in cookery books, packaging, and magazines from around the world. Since becoming a Skillshare teacher, Ohn Mar’s views of constantly learning and improving her creative abilities have been reinforced, and hopes this is passed onto her students.

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1. Lesson from the Field: Theo start by talking about the moment or the time that you all knew that you were really ready to take that leap and to go in full time. Freelance. I think that self doubt is very healthy because it keeps you grounded and it keeps you hungry. When I face the page, I go with my gut cause if I overthinking, it doesn't work. And with careers, career choices, it's the same way you have to explore it. I think that all of us that love, skill share are curious, and we want to explore those opportunities, and when it doesn't work, you'll feel it. You peel back because you'll be diverted into another direction and this crooked pathway is leading somewhere and you know it. Maybe nobody else knows it. You know it. Andi, like anyone here would say, We're still on that crooked path. We just really like where we're at right now. I have created a lot of work by saying, Hey, I'm gonna do this, Okay, now maybe only like, a dozen of you are really paying attention and heard me say that on Instagram, but now I feel like I have to do it and it's made me build up my portfolio because I have to do 100 birds or whatever, and I've been amazed at what I can do under invisible peer pressure. It's amazing. I love your Dylan. I know. I'll just say it. I got fired from my job. I was working at a design job. My boyfriend and I had just moved across the country to Phoenix, Arizona, and I got fired because I wasn't a good culture fit, which I don't know what that is, Um, and so I just knew that I was at a crossroads and it was like, OK, I either either go find another design job where I'm somebody else's hands and I keep doing this and I have a salary and health benefits or I don't and I try and I do the other thing . I was trying to be realistic, and I knew that I'd probably have to get a job in the meantime, and I knew that even though that job wasn't in the same vein as design, if I had to be a waitress or something, that that was still going closer to what I wanted to do than the other jobs I was doing. Um, but I think my strength on Instagram is, um I have 6000 followers and I feel engaged with a huge percentage of them. Like fully engaged. I know what their struggles are. We talk to each other about very real stuff. And my main thing is, my favorite quote from Robert Frost is no tears in the writer. No tears in the reader. If you don't care what you're putting out there, if you're not interested in engaged in what you're saying, then why would anybody else be engaged in what you're saying? And I paid attention to the captions that I really liked, and it was usually somebody giving me something either a tip or encouragement or a laugh. And so when I go to post, I try to think about well, what's truly happening in my life right now. Like what in my riel life, not my pretty life, not the life that you put on instagram, but what's really happening. And what can I give to my followers today? And I think people can sense that, and they it's reflected in them, and they're like, Oh, thank you for being honest. Thank you for showing the ugly side and the hard side of making art And the think the days that things aren't so great and then also celebrating the days when things are great and you're feeling so grateful and you want to share because those are the things that people really want. I want now. So what happened to me wasn't really about deciding to give up work. I had already stopped work to raise my kids, and they were still small. And I needed to carry on my my passion somewhere for color and for illustration and for these lovely things. So for me, it was about getting back to work after my kids were often age Teoh go to school and I found myself sort of sitting at home and thinking, Gosh, what am I gonna do now on dumb? Although it's sort of burning inside May I didn't actually choose Teoh. I did a lot of voluntary work and in that time, and it became all of a sudden, very important toe, earn some cash not necessarily to pay for everything, but but just to contribute to the to the household and to show my kids that you know if you if you work hard and you're an artist, you can actually earn money. My kids are now 14 and 12 and my daughter said to me just about a week ago, I'm so happy to have parents that work for themselves because I'm learning so much and I was like, What? I was gonna have my lip on the floor and there was a tear welling up, but But it's a great way as well to show to show your kids and your family about how how you kind of you get through those moments where you think God, you know, when is this gonna happen for me and and again like you were saying, If if you find a way, you start, you start plugging away slowly and then you contact more people and you start to learn about how the business works, and it's a small process every day. But it's It's a small step towards where you want to be, and it comes together quite nicely. Although it takes a long time, it can also go quite quickly is while you're surprised at how quickly you've managed all that, once you start to look back. So, you know. Yeah, I'd love to hear. I mean, social media is obviously such a big part of being an artist. I think some people think it instagram is absolutely necessary. But I'd be curious to hear what you guys think of that. Has social media played a big part in helping you find clients build your career or what would you say is I mean, you've built, I think of over 100,000 followers or something at this point. But what would you say is like the one thing that helped build you that build that consistency? I know, I know. I've got to school, share class on it And even But I was posting sketches because, you know, I I wanted to do watercolors because at the time I was very Mac, based on it was just something that I was doing for myself. So the question you asked being consistency talking about because I have a tendency to go for attention on I would and people saw that I was really trying hard. And I'm I don't have a watercolor background. I lied to get into the, um in house design job on they realized so I don't have I've never really painted before, so I think And I said, I'm really challenged by this. And if you look at my early sketchbook work can tell and they saw little improvements every day. I think I think it's working for you. Um, okay, so shifting gears a little bit. Let's talk about skill share because we are here at school share. Um, but you've also built huge followings on skill share. But love to hear how teaching on sculpture has impacted your brand or your career. Anyways, everyone's going to say a lot, right? I mean, we're up here. Uh, I was fortunate enough to get on skill share when there weren't a lot of watercolorist on there. So I thought, This is something I can dio and my first class. I hate watching it or listening to it because I sound like an idiot. But some people really liked it, and that was good. And it gave me enough motivation to do the next one. And actually, that months challenge uh, teacher challenge. And that motivated me to to keep going school. She really has changed my life. It's given me a huge security, which is really important for me because I'm still a single parent. But my kids really understand that working hard and sharing, not just on skill share, because I I share not just illustration techniques now, but Pinterest and goal setting and watercolor techniques. And eight, I think good comma comes back. Going back to that Robert Frost quote. I had to believe I'd ask myself what I have found this useful if I had found it last year, and that's the same criteria I use whenever I teach on skill. Share now is what I have found this truly valuable. And when the answer is yes, I know that I can teach that because that means there's at least one other person that doesn't know it, and we'll find it valuable to I mean so. Not only did skill share help me as a professional, but then when I decided to teach, it's like I was able to fill myself up again. I was able to give some impact back. I love sharing. When I learned something, my poor boyfriend has to hear every detail about it, cause I just have to tell him about this new keyboard shortcut that does all this stuff and he doesn't care and and says skill share made a lot of sense for me to have a place to toe put that enthusiasm to say, Oh, my gosh, I just learned this. Let me show you. It's so easy, you can do it. And I also won the teach challenge. I think most of us did teach challenges with me, got in, And, um, and skill share was so gracious about marketing my class. And I think that's what surprised me most is as a student, I thought skill share was huge. Like I thought you guys were like a huge company and you wouldn't know my name. And, you know, I would just be another drop in the bucket. And it wasn't It was Mary emailing me and asking me how I was doing. And you know what class I was thinking about next? And it did really well and I was like, Oh, okay, well, that's the only idea I had to teach. And I have no more class ideas, and that's the end of this. And that was fun. Um, but lo and behold, sometime comes up. And then for me it's always like this. Very this idea hits me, and I'm like, Oh, that could be a class And then I chew on it for a little bit and it grows and it grows. And my first class came out January of last year, and I just published my eighth class this last month, and it's just so fun. I mean, skill share to me is another social media platform. I mean, my students that are in my classes. I am then students alongside them and other classes, and then we follow each other on Instagram, and then you find him in a Facebook group, and it's like suddenly this big, invisible digital world becomes a very small pond where you have friends like I hadn't met any of these ladies in person until this week, and yet it was like meeting an old friend because, you know, we have the same heart, and we we know what each other is about. And I think that that's really special. So, yeah, skill share is, um, is and was a huge game changer for me professionally and just as a human as a happy human that wants to feel like they can make a little bit of a difference. I was just going to say It's it's a good idea. Maybe Teoh, have a look at some of the instagram accounts that you admire that you inspired by. And if you go right back to the beginning of that journey on, do you have a look what they were doing in the beginning? It's quite an eye opener on. I know for one of you, if you happen to look at mine, you would be, Oh my God, what on earth was she doing on? You can really see a growth, especially for illustrators. You can really see the difference when you when you start doing that, and it's it's just a good thing to do. If you're not totally confident about starting out and putting your work out there, it's a great way to kind of no worry about about it afterwards. It's a good practice. I think that's like, Okay, so CLECs longtime people I love messing around with my iPad. I do most of my art on my iPad and people were saying that you should teach I patterns like No, I can't teach. And then oh, Mom made me do it and blame it on with the support of Mary. But I'd never I'd never video anything in my life. I've never done any of the technical things that you need to do. But there's so much support on skill share to help people. It's a teacher challenge, and there's all the technical aspects are explained, and it is actually actually really enjoyed. Signal that the editing, it'll all the bits and pieces and it's it's just so rewarding. I didn't really expect that when I started doing it. I really enjoy it now, and it's yes, like everyone else, it's it's part of my income and it it's great. I like everything about it. Well, you know, the misconception with artists is that you guys just draw and paint all day, right? Right. So easy for, You know, I know you're all hustling, but how do you actually sustain yourself as a creative you know? What do you do for self care? How do you know? Okay, I'm gonna stop working now and take my your free time. Since you're your own boss, I have kids and they they make me wake up in the morning and they make me pick him up from school. So that really adds a lot of structure. Uh, but my husband will tell you that. You know, we've had talks about how very sacred our Netflix time, miss. So we keep that intact. And I have to remind myself not just that I'm my own boss. Maybe I've heard that too much, and it doesn't hit me but that Gosh, this sounds really lofty. Um, I am the CEO of my business, and that really hits me in a different way because I look at some of the things that I do and I think what a CEO do this, Or would they find someone to help them do this? That's helped shift my mentality and and seeing my role that if I am my own boss, then I need Teoh be very conscious of my time. It's it's valuable and then comes with that if you're two scheduled. But what about your creative time? And I really listen to my own cues a lot I noticed on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I'm feeling more creative. Maybe I just started the week on Monday and I'm thinking of all the things I should have been doing or, you know, missed out on her. Whatever I'm behind on, so do a lot of emailing do a lot of admin type stuff on Monday and Tuesday, I'll go into painting and Wednesday people wake up and respond to those emails from Monday and Thursday is kind of more a quiet day and Friday I'm doing everything that I should have been doing throughout the week, So that's my rhythm, and I kind of I pay attention to that so that I can nurture that creative spark in me because I've felt it burned out before, and that's a really terrible place to be. So I try to protect that. Yeah, I agree. I think it's really important to work with time wise with what suits you. So I've always thought, get the horrible things out of the way first and then do the fun things, but actually have noticed that if I if I do that, I run out of creativity. So for me now, I've had to learn to work the other way around and do do the more creative things first thing, cause that's what works for me and then horrible things later on for me again. I have got two kids. Earlier this year, I got sick on bond. I was reminded yet again that, um I don't need to stress out over this. Everything's gonna be in order and everything that I have to have faith that everything's gonna work out. So I was reminded of that again. And since then myself, care has been a lot more, uh, consistent. It's great, Teoh, you know, to have time out, to visit your friends, to get a pedicure or whatever. And it's absolutely fine and you deserve it. And that's that's really important to understand that you deserve time out and everything's gonna work out. Fine. Um, one creative told me she was like, as a freelancer, you have to get dressed in the morning, get dressed for work, get ready for work. And I tried that and it just distracted. I would then just waste time getting my hair done and everything and and then before you knew what I was like Oh, well, it's 10 30. That's pretty much lunchtime, you know, I'll go and and so for me personally, I realized what was more important was just getting right to work on. And so as soon as I wake up, no bra bangs everywhere, I just get right in there and get to work because I know that I'm a slippery slope and I'll make a lot of excuses at all and I won't get to work and then, you know, two hours into it, I'm like, Oh, I feel gross And then I go and get ready And then I come back and and the work has already been started, so it's not as is not as hard to get back into it. And so just trying to be aware and checking in with yourself every few months. I mean, like, OK, I tried this thing. I tried using a planner instead of Google calendars. How did that work for me? I tried doing sticky notes on the wall this week. Did that? Did that work any better and just really trying to reflect in correct course. It's always about correcting course, and you're gonna make mistakes. Um, any of us here not make any mistakes yet? Didn't think so, But oh, okay, Well, Claire's on the end, and that's the reason. It's like you're just you're going to mess up sometimes and you're going to do it wrong and you're not going to use your time wisely and you're gonna miss a client and it's gonna be just fine. So it's just correct Course whenever you can and pay attention to how you're doing. I couldn't agree more, actually, because the correcting course is really important. I find I have. I start the day off. I always go get war stressed, and I always put some makeup on. I'm older than you, so I can't allow myself to slip quite so easily. But it's a way of telling myself I'm going off to work. So once I've got my face on and when my fingers through my how I'll go downstairs and sit in my office on my own Onda stir start the computer catch up with emails and then correcting course is a really important thing. I think t to talk about because I'll start off with a list in the morning. I'll review the list at lunchtime. Maybe my mother's called. I've had to chat with her for half an hour and I'm really trying to get her off the phone. But you know, I have Teoh then rewrite the list afterwards because I've lost half on hour on the day goes on like this, and I know I've got until three o'clock when the kids come home on um and then I've got to stop and see what their days like. So it's constant reviewing of what I need to do, prioritizing. Sometimes that means that goes into the evening. But I was have a husband that runs his own business. So once we've sort of the Children out, we know weaken, sit down and work opposite each other rather than apart. So that's why good. But we have a Netflix deal to. So by about nine o'clock, I'm also I mean, there's one thing we find really important is when we're both together working. We always have a great glass of wine each on that's kind of starts us off into that Netflix mood, even if we're still working. And then we moved to Netflix by about nine o'clock, and we know then, until one of us falls asleep. Netflix is our time, so but the weekends the weekends are really important to us. They have to be because we have two kids and we can't just work all weekend. It's just not possible on DSO. That's a way of standing back from it all and taking care of ourselves as well in our family and not having Teoh worry too much about what's coming up during the following week . Because there's invariably a list that's written on Sunday morning. Onda We ready to roll again on Monday morning? I also wanted to say that there's a lot of talk about self care being, you know, taking a bath or eating chocolate. And sometimes that is truly what you need are getting a pedicure, and that's like what you need. But I found very annoyingly is that what I usually need most is what I don't want at the time. If I really don't want to take a break and I'm like, No, I need to get this stuff done. I need to get this stuff done. It usually means that I probably I probably need to take a break, but sometimes self care is kicking my own ass and getting toe work and saying, you know, you've been procrastinating on this work for a week and you would feel great if you just got down to it if you just worked on it. And so you know, you get to define what self care means for you and what you need at that time and what works. One week might not work the next week, and and that's okay, you know, just trying to figure it out. And, yeah, it sounds like there's not quite one silver bullet to building a creative career. But it sounds like all of you sort of following that inner voice or listening to your tummy's has proved successful for each of you. All right, well, let's give him a round of applause.