Meet Deanna. Her confidence, gentleness and self-assuredness were calming and set her apart within seconds of speaking with her. Her grace and humility are inspiring, especially because it is clear that she has such a powerful gift. Aside from being a radically talented illustrator, she’s started her own business and taken herself on a global adventure alone. So meet Deanna, she’s just embarking on this incredible entrepreneurial journey, she’s independent, she’s fearless and she’s freaking Blooming up a storm.
HOW DID YOU GET INTO FASHION AND BEAUTY ILLUSTRATION?
My background is in fashion design and prior to choosing my major, I had no idea what fashion illustration was but I knew that I liked art. I ended up choosing fashion design because Kent State has one of the best programs. After graduating, I was working in corporate and every time that I would show my portfolio to clients for design jobs, they would always comment more on my illustrations than on my actual designs. They kept asking if I was doing anything with these beautiful drawings and I kept explaining that it was only a hobby. About 2 and a half years of working in corporate, I quit and moved back home to Ohio for about 3 months and took time to launch a website (It's amazing, btw, and you can find it HERE), create a portfolio and finally move back to New York.
STARTING A BUSINESS IS BRAVE ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU RELY ON FREELANCE OPPORTUNITIES. HOW DID YOU BUILD A CLIENT BASE AND ULTIMATELY FEEL CONFIDENT GETTING STARTED? HOW DID YOU TURN YOUR GIFT INTO A BUSINESS?
It started when I moved back to Ohio. I was reposting, reaching out to fashion bloggers to ask if I could sketch fashion illustrations for free and always trying to get my name out there. I drew a blogger by the name of Oksana Lysenko and soon after, a woman contacted me as she was launching a new book and needed an illustrator. We met up to chat more and she ended up knowing some celebrities that helped draw attention to my name. That was my first big gig. I kept working hard and it caught up to me.
HOW WILL YOU BLOOM IN THE NEXT YEAR BOTH PROFESSIONALLY AND PERSONALLY?
Right now, I’m looking for agencies and have applied to a few and should hear back soon. I am looking for an agency because I currently do all of my own contracts, negotiations and self-promotion—I want to get to a place where I can solely focus on the artwork.
I would love to get picked up—I’ve kind of already accomplished it—but I would love to be an in-house illustrator for a top beauty brand like Sephora or Dior. It would be my dream to be represented by one of those companies. I’m currently working on some graphic tee designs with The Limited that will be launching next year and they will be doing a section on their website featuring my process and work. I’m super excited because I want to expand and reach a wider audience, especially in beauty because I’m drawn to packaging.
--ANY BLOOMING IN YOUR PERSONAL LIFE?
Oh gosh! I need to do a better job balancing my personal and my professional lives! I get so focused on my business that it gets hard to separate the two. I go to a lot of networking events. I try to put myself into places where I’m always learning from new people.
YOUR FEARLESSNESS IN NETWORKING IS VERY BRAVE. HOW DO YOU OVERCOME THE FEAR TO GO THESE EVENTS ON YOUR OWN AND TALK TO PEOPLE WHO COULD REJECT YOU?
When you feel like you are meant to be doing something, you have to go for it. This is my gift and I need to tap into it and learn how to use it. So many people are unhappy with their jobs and I will not spend my life working a job that I hate. It’s now or never. I guess I am pretty brave.
DESCRIBE AN OBSTACLE THAT YOU’VE OVERCOME?
Finding a style that’s true to myself has been tough. I remember when I was first trying to get featured and one client in particular sticks out in my head. They told me that I was all over the place, that my style hadn’t evolved as an artist and refused to feature me on their site. I asked for this feedback but at first I was getting defensive because I thought I did have a style but as I reviewed my work more, I could see that some of their criticism was true. Now, I use the criticism to my advantage. If you check out my website, I can do realistic, cartoon and abstract, and all of them help me. I don’t think that having one style is always what you need because in my case, it’s not hurting me, it’s setting me apart.
The style I would hang in my home is different than what editorials and campaigns are after. I’m drawn to realism and soft pastels but clients want the sketchy, cartoon style. I’m in a place that I am focusing a lot on the projects for clients and I rarely feature the artwork that I do for me. I need to set aside more time to sketch and tap into my experimental mode—but the experimental mode isn’t paid work.
HOW DO YOU GET OVER THE FEAR OF REJECTION WHEN PRESENTING YOUR WORK?
You can’t be afraid of being judged. In my head, I think about the bigger picture. What do I need to do to get to the place that I’m meant to go? When I ask myself that question, the obstacle begins to appear so small especially when it means simply talking to a person that you don’t know. It’s almost laughable when you think about the big picture of where you want to go. Imagine not achieving your dream because you didn’t approach one person.
WHERE DOES YOUR FEMINISM COME FROM?
I have always been independent and I hate the standards of gender roles. If I get married someday, I will never ever consider money as a roadblock. Who cares who makes more when we’re all equal? Go after your dreams. Make it known. You don’t always have to do what society tells you. I picked up my feminism more in New York than I did in Cleveland. While there are many different viewpoints in Ohio, there is a traditional Midwestern mentality that stands out as well. People seem a little more open in New York, which has allowed me to grow into my feminism.
WHAT’S LEFT ON YOUR BUCKET LIST?
I make a list each year. Prior to a month ago, I had never been out of the US so I planned a two-week trip to London by myself. After that trip, I want more. I want to travel more. I want to grow my business, get more clients. I want to live sketch at fashion week and in the meantime, I am doing two more live sketching events in a few weeks. I want to reach out to my favorite illustrators and plan an illustrators dinner to socialize and toss around ideas.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO GO TO LONDON ALONE AND WHAT DID YOU LEARN?
I spend a lot of time by myself as it is because I am self employed and sometimes I miss that corporate aspect of interaction. But going along to London was special. I went to every museum there and I was so inspired.
I suddenly had this feeling that I was not living up to my full potential with regards to improving my work. It made me more eager to start getting better. I get feedback that my work is great and I while like my style, is it where it needs to be? No. Will it ever? I don’t think so, but I will keep improving and doing large-scale work.
LASTLY, WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE REMEMBERED FOR?
I want to be remembered for being fearless.
A KICK BUTT FORUM THAT AIMS TO INSPIRE, COMFORT AND UNITE INCREDIBLE WOMEN (& DUDES) THROUGH DYNAMIC INTERVIEWS