Friday, 23 March 2012

My Story - Becoming an Illustrator

I’ve recently come across the idea of sharing the personal story behind each of our creative lives.
The countless things that have led or inspired each of us to become a creative, helped in our decision to run a small business or  made us decide to take the plunge and follow every dream people will tell you is impossible.

This is my story:

Growing up I was quite shy and introverted, happiest when able to sit with a book, a pen and paper or a scrap of fabric that could be sewn into something new.
As I’ve gotten older my confidence has grown, but my need to be creative and to be happy in this creative solitude hasn’t ever left me.

I attended London College of Fashion with dreams of being a Lingerie designer. One day a tutor mentioned to another student a degree in Illustration - it was like a little switch had flicked in my brain! – but I was already making steps in a different direction. And I believed Fashion created something tangible, with career options!!

So I continued – fortunately I wasn’t accepted on to the Contour Fashion degree I had applied to – in the end I worked in retail as a stop gap, with this desire for a creative life being carted around with me each day but no answers and no plan.

Things then changed a bit when I got a job with a recruitment company ending up working in the team that recruited designers and garment technologists (and everything in between) for the retailers on the high street.  A huge eye opener – Fashion wasn’t about drawing up fabulous creations, it was about dealing with buyers and the Far East and working to specifications. The more graduates I interviewed and the more portfolios I reviewed, the less certain I became that Fashion was what I wanted to do with my life.

Illustration though, that was a different story! I realised I wanted to draw. Simple as that. I wanted to draw and create interesting images. Things that had a purpose in their own right, even if that was just to look beautiful or to raise a smile.

So I found a short course studying Illustration at weekends. I borrowed the money to pay for it from my (then) boyfriend and began my illustration journey. Those classes each weekend were the best part of my week. Each project I invested all my time and energy into. Then I bought a book ‘Basics Illustration: Thinking Visually’by Mark Wigan and completed a number of illustrative briefs set out in the back. I joined Illustration Friday and posted new images each week. I knew I wanted to be an illustrator, but needed to the push to take the plunge: to leave the job I hated and to give up a full time income in favour of being a student again.

The catalyst came when my boyfriend and I split up; completely heartbroken, working a crappy 9 to 5 and burdened with knowing I wasn’t anywhere near following my dreams. I did what was a long time coming (with a bit of encouragement from my mum!). I quit my job. I sent off my UCAS application and I worked like a lunatic in building a portfolio I could take to interviews.

That was four years ago, I’m now 26, a graduate with a growing business doing what I love.
During my degree I never forgot the long days sitting in an office with no escape plan. I worked hard,
opened my shop, and started Stacie Swift Illustration before I graduated.
There's still lots to learn - and I still have to work a day job to pay the bills - but each time I sit in my studio and create something new, or pack up some more cards for a stockist, or see a lovely comment about my illustration I am happy - and I know I am one step closer to living my dream.

My story isn’t one of overnight success, amazing fortune or great adventures but it is one of dedication and hard work and deciding to take control of life and to take risks. Each time someone buys a little something from my shop or tells their friends about my blog it makes all the hard work worth it!!
What is your story? I would love to read them if you decide to share!


  1. I really enjoyed hearing your story Stacie. Maybe one day soon I'll share mine. Like yours it hasn't been a straight forward journey.However I'm getting there slowly and that feels great :-)

  2. :) Thank you. I think it can make all the difference having to struggle a bit or find your feet. I know it has made me all the more determined to succeed having tried various things beforehand! x

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  4. Thank you for writing this article. I found it really inspiring to read about the journey of a fellow creative. It's so good to hear that you're achieving your dream - it makes me realise that it's no impossible.

    I've been planning and planning and now I'm really close to opening my own Etsy shop. So I'm really thankful for all the advice you've given :)


  5. Thank you Philippa! Good luck for your Etsy shop - be sure to pop back and leave a link so I can check it out! xx