I was actually trained as a sculptor, first through a Bachelors's Degree in Montreal (Concordia University) then with a Masters Degree in Environmental Art in Helsinki, Finland. While studying, my plan was actually to work on public art projects afterwards, which I did for a couple of years. But my two years in Finland really had a lasting effect on me, and eventually led me towards illustration and design. Three years ago I stopped doing sculpture altogether and started making paper collages and illustration; first as a creative outlet, and then it slowly became my work.
A lot of people know me as Helsinki mon amour, mostly because of my Instagram. At first, this name was simply the name of my new print shop, which I opened some time after coming back from Finland. It made sense at the time since the spark for this new creative venture came from my time there… but then years passed and here we are!
Just start. Start learning new skills, start putting your work out there, start reaching out to collaborators, etc. I don't know that it’s the best advice I have ever received, but it’s definitely the one that got me to push myself, change fields and start to work in illustration. (To give you context, I started illustrating in my early 30s, and have been a freelance illustrator for only a year now.)
Since I am self-taught in this field, the Pricing & Ethical Guidelines Handbook from the Graphic Artists Guild has been an amazing resource for me for all things business, such as contracts, licensing, fees, etc. It’s great for anyone working in illustration or surface pattern design and I use it all the time. For podcasts, I recommend the Illustration Hour podcast, particularly for people starting in the field. It’s great to hear about other creatives’ process and advice. I particularly enjoyed the episode with illustration agent Matthew LeBaron.
Before making actual illustrations, I worked a lot with paper collage. I still start many projects with a collage (it’s my way of sketching) and I think it shows in the final art. Since I have a background in sculpture, I still feel a need to do one part of the process by hand — ideas just flow better this way. But I think that style is something that is always evolving, and I don’t worry too much about having a definite style. Personally, I think it’s okay to explore and not stick to just one thing, especially at the beginning. I started doing more drawing this year, instead of just working with paper cutouts, and I feel it opened up new possibilities to expand my work. And in the end, it still feels coherent as a whole. So experiment and practice, practice, practice, and your voice/style will come through.