Happy FriYAY Night, my friends!
I don't know about y'all, but there is a margarita at the end of my to do list, and I'm so excited about it! It has been a week full of friendship and collaboration, and I'm thrilled to introduce you to one part of that-- my new friend Sheila Chen. Sheila is an amazing artist, pet portraitist, and illustrator, and she is totally charming. Sheila and I met in a entrepreneurial Facebook group, and I'm so glad we did! Thanks for joining us today, Sheila!
1) Tell us a little about yourself— your family, hobbies, creative background, etc. I am a military spouse, new to the navy life! Before embarking on this nomadic lifestyle, I graduated from the studio art program in the University of California, San Diego. After graduation, I was an after school art teacher for kids ages 4-18. While teaching to pay the bills, I had dreams of becoming an animator and I was in the process of applying for a masters animation program. However, I had to compromise that future when I realized it was unrealistic for my family’s future.
2) How did you get started creating pet portraits? What do you love most about your niche? I started creating pet portraits for the holiday season in the fall of 2017. When I reached my financial goals for the holiday season within the first week of opening commissions, it was clear that this could be a perfect natural progression into a career as an artist. What I love about the pet portrait community is how inclusive and helpful everyone is. I actually took the leap into pet portraits with the encouragement of someone I followed on Instagram! (Kit Gray Illustration). Kit was so warm, so thoughtful, and gave me the best advice to jumpstart my portraits. I also love the obvious benefits of being a pet artist: the most adorable models!!! I am very serious when I tell my clients it’s an absolute honor to paint their fur babies. With two fur babies of my own, I know how important and special it is to have a stranger’s trust to capture their beloved pets.
3) You also write and illustrate punny children's stories. Tell us more about them and how you bring your words and illustrations together. Writing this all out I am seeing my own pattern of life— I work at a present goal to pay the bills and dream bigger for another set of goals! I suppose that’s what Children’s Book Illustration is for me. It’s a way to satisfy my previous lofty goal of becoming an animator because it’s still story telling, it’s still using art to communicate to the youth. My process for my punny book series includes writing out fun puns that make me giggle by myself, incorporating the many beautiful souls that I’ve had the pleasure of knowing in my life, and mixing it all together with research and sketches. I like creating concept art before the story comes together to get a sense of the world and give that single book a unique aesthetic.
4) How is creative community important to your work? The creative community is my foundation. I am SO grateful for my creative pack of artists, art enthusiasts, old friends from my childhood and new friends from social media. They’re my honest critique group, my cheerleaders, and my own creative little family! We share logistics, problems, and heart of heart conversations to make sure we’re always aiming for what is true to our core self. I cannot stress enough how important it is to surround yourself with those who not only lift you up, but you want to lift up too.
5) What advice do you have for other makers on their creative journeys? The best advice I can give is to DO THE WORK! So often we are our worst enemies and our inner critic wins the arguements. I find that when I am in doubt, I just need to remind myself to do the work and the negative thoughts go away. Whether it is getting paints out, put pencil to paper, or just sit with a planner and plan the next hour/day/week— do something that helps you inch closer towards your goal.
Sheila, your work is breathtaking! Y'all be sure to check out Sheila's work on Instagram @sheilachenart and consider having your fur babies memorialized in her gorgeous work!
I would also love to connect with you on Instagram, and you can find me (and my own crazy fur babies) @stringandstory.