How to start/pursue a career in arts/illustration?

I get this question pretty frequently so I decided to try answer it through telling my story, as I don’t personally think there’s a specific recipe for this *long post alert*

Naturally, I started drawing at a very young age.
Did I show signs of exceptional talent? I wouldn’t say so, but I simply loved and enjoyed drawing so much and my parents allowed me to express myself freely at all times... on and via any available surface and medium; from paper and walls to my clothes and skin!

Growing up in Jordan however, the idea of pursuing a career in arts wasn’t encouraged. I also didn’t exactly fight for it either as I personally knew artists who were struggling to make their ends meet. So I decided to go and get the closest best “serious degree” for me which combines my love for arts with a more practical field —> Architecture!  

Working in the field of architecture had its highs & lows; and while I was doing well in it, I knew it is not what I want to do for the rest of my life. I must admit though, Studying and practicing Architecture for 12 years shaped my artistic abilities to an extent and helped enhance my visual input and sense of perspective.

I did participate in a few collective exhibitions every now and then on a local scale. Back then most of my work was very emotional and personal... portraying my own inner self, my struggles and desires. My art during that phase was my way to connect with myself, my demons and mainly find my own comfortable voice. I believe it helped me shape who I have become now.

I used to spend a lot of time experimenting with different materials; from the traditional to the more alternative options such as coffee, wine and whatever basically stains... There was a lot of frustration in that phase and a lot of  dissatisfaction.. My skills disappointed me so many times, as the visuals in my head were much more advanced than what my hands could create. But I kept trying. 

With time, I became calmer and more at peace with myself. I became more comfortable with my lines and strokes and my style began to develop.

One day, six seven years ago I think, I had to do a research for an interior architecture project. I think I was browsing through Pinterest when I came across Valentino’s latest “back then” campaign photos. And suddenly, I felt the urge to sketch one. I shared it on my Instagram page and it grabbed the attention of Valentino's Marketing & PR team. They re-shared it on their official accounts and it attracted a lot of positive feedback.

Fashion for me was an exciting new world to explore from an artist’s point of view, so I started to research more fashion related subjects, and came across works of many talented and inspiring artists like Kenneth Paul Block and René Robert Bouché. From then on, I started working on more fashion-related sketches and shared them with people. Every now and then, some brands and publications would highlight my work.

Five years ago, I moved to Greece for a year, during which I started doing the skin art. (Full story on how I started it is on my instagram Q&A highlight)

The art is simple- it only consists of myself; a pen and my skin, feeling every line and stroke.  The only proof it ever existed was the photo I snapped and posted on my social media pages- which also attracted a lot of positive feedback and people encouraged me to continue.
Then I moved to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, still pursuing a career in architecture. I worked for about a year, but I had to part ways with the company I was working for, At that time... I had a couple of possible collaborations and projects lined up which materialized and helped shape my decision to finally dedicate my time to what I actually love doing.

And it was one of the best choices I’ve ever made.

Three years have already passed since and a lot has happened. From successes to rejections, collaborations and features, commissions and projects.

There were days when I questioned myself whether or not I should go back to architecture and keep drawing as a hobby. But these days passed as having a strong support system helped me immensely to continue to dedicate my time to what I love the most.

So my advice to you is that you must make sure to surround yourself with people who would allow you to flourish and help you grow to the full extent of yourself and what you can be. And this applies to every step you take in life and not just in pursuing a career in the arts and creative fields.

But above it all, it’s all about you. You can be your worst enemy or your biggest cheerleader. So be careful how you talk to yourself and treat yourself.
would love to know your story, feel free to send me if you feel like sharing :)