This article is sponsored by Swinburne.
When looking through Shannon Hansen‘s portfolio, it would be fair to throw up your hands and succumb to the nagging idea that you’re never going to be that talented at anything.
However, we should take Shannon’s art as a lesson in patience. The digital strategist and illustrator’s work should be a reassuring reminder that practise does indeed make perfect, and no one starts off being this good at anything – whatever field it is you’re interested in.
Ranging from small drawings to major-scale murals, Shannon has been putting her artistic spin on pop culture for a while now, drawing the likes of Billie Eilish and Beyoncé to LEGO Star Wars, Breaking Bad and Big Mouth.
To get everyone inspired, Gizmodo spoke to Shannon to discover her journey from casual drawer to full-blown artist and how uni helped shape her career.
GIZ: What were your interests in high school and how did they develop into a full-blown career?
Shannon Hansen: I never really thought it was possible to have a career as an artist, so I spent my later high school years exploring alternate interests including writing and photography. Illustrating was more of a creative outlet on the weekends. I’m thankful for this now, as it allowed me to focus on art as a passion first and I think when you’re truly passionate about something, profitability will follow.
GIZ: How did you decide on a split degree? Was there more work involved?
SH: I had tossed around the idea of studying Fine Arts after high school, but ultimately decided on a Bachelor of Communication Design. I felt that the breadth of subjects was much more appealing to me and allowed me to learn the PR side of running a business, which has been extremely helpful. When I was studying, Instagram was still relatively new, so I had no idea I would end up working in social media management. But the skills that I learnt from my degree have been very transferable and the hands-on Adobe training I received allowed me to take sketching from a hobby to a commercial career.
GIZ: Can you explain how you’ve had to shift gears during the pandemic?
SH: Since graduating, I’ve worked in-house, within an agency environment and as a freelancer. Right before COVID-19 hit, I had taken the leap into running my own business, centralising primarily on event activations and art direction for campaign shoots. So being in lockdown really threw a spanner in the works for me! I had to pivot and take a wider look at my industry. Identify what was going to continue to thrive throughout this period. For me, that’s been social media content. I started focusing on what I can produce for clients from home and upskilling in animation and video editing. I’ve also shifted my focus onto burgeoning platforms like TikTok. The great thing about working in the digital space is if you stay alert and are keeping up with new trends, you’ll always find a way to stand out from the crowd.
GIZ: For people who want to get into your field but have no clue how to start, what would you suggest?
SH: Don’t feel like you need to jump in with both feet from the get-go. While I was studying, I would dedicate a few hours a week to experimenting and creating little personal creative projects on the side. There are a lot of great TAFE or short courses that you can complete part-time if you are already working in a different field. I would also find creatives online that have a similar career to what you are interested in and shoot them an email! I love hearing from followers that are interested in how I got started and it’s a great way to grow your network at the same time.
GIZ: What are the best and worst pieces of advice you’ve received in relation to your craft?
SH: I think the best piece of advice has come from my mum, who always says to me: “You’re adding another string to your bow.” I’m the type of person who gets inspired very easily and I tend to move very quickly. When I was younger, this always frustrated me as I felt like I should be following a traditional career path – rather than listening to my intuition when I wanted to try something new. Now I can look back on all the short term positions, client work and studies I’ve completed and see how it’s all helped me stand out and have cut through in a very saturated field.
Worst piece of advice: “Keep your head down.” It took me a long time to learn that you can question authority without challenging authority.
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Over the past few months I’ve taken a big step back from social media and tried to accept my lack of motivation during this very weird time. I’ve chosen to be present, focus on what makes me happy and rediscover why I fell in love with illustrating in the first place. As a perfectionist (and a Capricorn ♑️), having projects cancelled and being forced to slow down brought more anxiety than some of my busiest periods ever have. But after a lot of uncertainty, too many glasses of ???? and a newly lit fire to keep pushing forward, I have a bunch of exciting client projects and a few sneaky personal projects underway that I can’t wait to start sharing, starting with this fun large-scale piece from last week. Taking boring spaces and injecting some colour and creativity has always sparked joy for me and this mural was no different. Video shot in iso by my love @somelanky ✨ and special thanks to @hughdaviesphoto for his mini cameos while taking some ????. Plus shoutout to the abandoned BMW E30 that blocked this wall off for 12+ years for finally yeeting off and inspiring this piece. You will live on in our memories ????.
GIZ: In terms of navigating uni for people who are new to it all, what are some pointers that will help them get through the first (and arguably most daunting) year?
SH: I found the first year of uni to be a major culture shock. I went from a very small, all-girls high school to this large campus, where I was having to manage my own time – for the first time! I would recommend talking to your tutors and asking for help as soon as you need it. You have a lot less face-to-face hours than high school, so make the most of them! Also – take advantage of student deals while you can! I picked up the majority of my Copic marker collection through the Swinburne Bookshop.
GIZ: What drew you to Swinburne uni at the time?
SH: When attending the open day, I was drawn to the structure of the classes. How we would be producing work to a brief for real clients and developing a professional portfolio. I wanted to make sure that I would be leaving my degree fully equipped to handle an agency environment and Swinburne helped me achieve that.
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Sketch of Connie (Hormone Monstress) from @bigmouthnetflix Tools used: Inking – Pentel Touch Brush Pen Hair – E29, E19 ,E09, E08, YR27 Fur – YR68, YR04, YR07 Skin – Y21, Y13, Y08, Y32 Lips – RV04 Eyes – B02, B91 Highlights – Uni-Ball Signo White Gel Pen Song: Mulita – Leikeli47 @copicmarker @netflix #CopicMarkers #DrawingTutorial #BigMouth #BigMouthArt #Netflix #Sketching #CopicArt #Drawing #Sketch #Illustration #SpeedSketch #MarkerDrawing #Satisfying #SatisfyingVideos #Art
If Shannon’s words have encouraged you to find something you’re passionate about and figure out what uni courses would be the best at turning that passion into a career, Swinburne has a new open-world adventure platform to help you figure out just that.
You can check out Swintopia here. Plus, register and enter the comp below for your chance to win a $5K career starter pack.