Boss Lady is a series that shares personal insights from creative women in business. Today we chat with Stephanie Surtida, a fashion illustrator who uses a unique style of sketching that she calls “intuitive illustrating.” Stephanie shares with us how she started and more.
1. Tell us a little about yourself and your career.
I’m Stephanie living and creating in Los Angeles. I am essentially a Fashion Illustrator but with that I do fashion trend research and illustrate what’s influential in style, color, design, and other things. My main focuses usually include street style, fashion week, and of course fashion bloggers.
2. Describe your relationship with fashion. Why is that your artistic focus?
It resonates for some reason. I can never get bored of it because there’s always something new to look out for. Fashion is very playful and it goes beyond the clothes on a woman’s body.
It serves as an inspiration for any subject like art, lifestyle, and beauty. It allows me to grow in other areas creatively.
3. What prompted you to start your own business?
It started with the decision to just start doing the things that made me happy which mainly included drawing.. specifically fashion illustrating. I was just coming out of a dark period in my life where my dad had left and I was in a very turbulent relationship with my then traveling boyfriend. To cope with my pain I started drawing again which quickly became a hobby. It definitely brought a little light back into my life, and I wanted to continue to move forward with it. Fashion illustrating wasn’t a very known career at the time, but I found that there were more reasons to try than not. I began sharing my work with the public on Instagram and eventually was contacted to do collaborations and commissioned fashion illustrations. From there I realized how much I enjoyed getting paid to do what I love and decided to work towards being a fashion illustrator full-time. And everything just fell into place.
4. Describe a typical day.
I’m a morning person. I have a natural body alarm that wakes me up at 5am. I like to be up before the sun rises. Before I leave bed I take a few deep breaths to clear my mind and just relax for maybe 10 minutes. This time is actually essential to me because I usually get a download of ideas to play with throughout my day and I end up sharing them on my Instagram. After my little meditation I grab my iPhone, check e-mails, texts, scroll through my long list of reminders, add onto my reminders, and then I browse my Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and blogs for further inspiration. By 6:00 I’m out of bed and in the shower. I grab a quick breakfast, heading to my day job as a freelance technical designer in the fashion industry. Around 12:30 pm-1:30 pm I’m usually sketching the inspiration I’ve received earlier that day and posting it on Instagram. Within that time I also grab a good hearty lunch with a girlfriend. By 4:30 pm I’m out of the office heading home to continue more sketching, working on commission projects, and answering e-mails. At 6pm I make myself dinner and maybe have a glass of wine. 9pm I’m chit chatting with my boyfriend. By 10:00 pm I’ll close my day with a little bit of yoga and then I’m off to bed.
5. Is there anything you need in order to have a productive work day?
When I have a full day to myself I’d have to be in my comfy clothes, drinking hot jasmine tea, with a yummy scented vanilla candle sitting nearby, and a mini vase of flowers staring at me. These elements keep me calm and focused.
6. Where do you find inspiration?
Honestly it can come from anything. I am surprised by it every day. But what usually follows it is what supports the ideas I dreamt up. Like I’ll find words that relate to the feeling or pictures, and even hear music throughout the day that just resonates. And from there the picture in my mind’s eye just builds itself until I get it down on paper.
7. What is your most successful form of marketing?
Since the beginning, Instagram. It’s helped me extend myself to fellow artists, brands, work, and new friends. I treat my Instagram as if it were like an art exhibit that I’m showing. It’s funny because people have questioned why I don’t have such a huge following on my Instagram with all the work that I’ve done. And the thing is is that I don’t feel like I need to attain a huge following to have or prove my self worth. One month I’ll be sharing content where I’ll gain hundreds of people every day and another month I’m getting nothing. And I’m totally okay with that. It’s taught me humility, and most of all patience. It’s so easy nowadays to fetch you (fake) followers and likes instantly which is the last thing I’ll do. It would strip my work of its value. It wouldn’t be worth it to me after all the hard work I’ve done to get to where I am.
I love growing an organic audience and attracting genuine likes. And I may not have over 100k followers, but I’m always getting discovered and work always finds me. Besides, I’m also enjoying my obscurity while it lasts!
8. Where do you see yourself and the business in 5 years?
Still doing what I love, but I would love to see myself working as a fashion illustrator full-time and being more at home creating. l would also love to continue traveling around the world doing trend research, but also have my hands full doing more brand collaborations and other fun and challenging projects as well. And possibly having my own illustration workshops too.
9. Which brands or designers would love to collaborate with?
I would definitely love to collaborate with Thom Browne and Chanel. I would also love to do work for Sephora.
10. Do you have any advice for those looking to go from employee to entrepreneur?
Being an employee will be a short lived experience as long as you keep that inner fire going towards doing what you truly love. Believe that the universe is willing to embrace and support what you desire as long as you are willing to do your part.
Just for fun…