We catch-up with the Portland based illustrator Melissa Rachel Black. Melissa shares with us her earliest creative memory, some really inspiring advice on how to make it as an illustrator and what the future holds. (FYI – Melissa did an interview with TDK back in the Byron warehouse in 2012!)
What are some of your earliest creative memories and what lead you into design?
I remember drawing a lot as a child, always eager to show my mom. I’m the one who never stopped making greeting cards for special occasions—I just don’t make them with crayons and colored pencils any longer. I was in charge of making posters and flyers and doing window displays in high school via student government and loved it. I’ve always loved photography and composition as well. I just never stopped doing the things I did as a kid, so it was a natural progression into making posters and flyers and designs professionally.
Are you involved in any mentoring/teaching/workshops and can you tell us about them?
I just leased my first studio space, and I’m excited to start sharing it with likeminded creatives and inviting folks to work in the space with me. I absolutely love entrepreneurship and sharing what I know about the business end of getting your creations out there. Don’t be shy to get in touch if you’re reading this and want to
Any passion projects you would like to share? Clarity Cards! I finally finished the content for a passion project that is near and dear to my heart—a deck of 52 inspirational cards that you can carry around when you need a little pick-me-up. I had a pretty intense bout of anxiety and depression a few years ago and one of the most powerful tools I had to help me move through it were these little handwritten index cards with wisdom, action, and truths (as suggested by my older wiser cousin who had a similar experience). I am SO excited to make this kind of contribution to the community, as I hope it can help folks—those experiencing trauma or as part of anyone’s daily inspiration. Also, I turned 500 of my illustrations into stock images, a project called Art Outlines! It’s really fun having a library of my own imagery, and sharing that just means my drawings get to see more of the world 🙂
What has been your highlights since you started out?
Bragging time?? Ok! Haha. Getting my line of greeting cards picked up by Urban Outfitters this year was a big dream come true, 5 years in the making. Selling 2 original gummy bear artworks to the art collective All Rights Reserved in Hong Kong in January. Renting my own studio space just a few months ago! Meeting and connecting with likeminded people, such as Frankie! Being able to leave my part time job and focus solely on my business this year. It’s so exciting to see the hard work paying off and for things I’ve dreamed of my whole life becoming realities. I have a long way to go still (I want to be Oprah when I grow up, only with art instead of TV) but the big and small victories that come along every once in a while help give me the energy to keep going. They tell me I’m going in the right direction.
What has been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learnt along the way?
1. Be ruthless in your focus. Success is as much about the things you don’t do as the things you do. Organize, prioritize, gather information, make decisions, and take action.
2. Do your best and then forget about it and move on.
3. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
4. Your friends and family are still more important than whatever you’re working on. Being a good person comes first. First even before that is your health. Be good to your vessel and it will last longer and be good to you. You can’t make good work or decisions when the rest of your life is in shambles.
5. Practice patience. Plant enough seeds in the right conditions and they will grow, but they still need time to get big and bushy!
6. Rest is good! In fact it’s fundamental. Ever notice your brain start swirling with goodies when you’re lying on your bed doing nothing? Yeah, that’s the good stuff homie.
7. Get mentors and don’t isolate. Seek information from those who have done what you want to do and been where you want to be. Don’t take advice from people who haven’t done and been there, no matter how well-meaning they are.
Whats on the cards professionally and personally in the next 12 months?
Transition from operating at a B level in each area of life to an A! Step my game up. I’ve had to focus on putting out fires and cleaning up messes quite a bit over the last few years, and I’m finally reaching the point where I can really gain some traction. To stop focusing on surviving and focus on thriving. To live in abundance and all that good hippie stuff! I just hired a business coach to help me strategize and stay on track, and have a cushion of expertise around me. I know I can get where I want to be without that investment, but I also know it’ll be easier, faster, and more fun with the support. I know it’s going to be a lot of hard work, a lot of saying “no”, stricter boundaries and laser focus, and I’m ready and excited for it.