For most of us, this pandemic brought out that artistic side we never really had the chance to embrace. We saw hundreds of banana bread recipes, viral TikTok dance moves, and a whole lot of other creative endeavors take off all over our social media accounts.
I, for one, was one of those people who used this unprecedented time to bust out all of my creative projects. My first project was redecorating my room. However, the project was only a day long, so I needed more. I then started to try all the trending baking recipes and, to my surprise, they came out quite decent. Next, I started a mini series podcast that I always wanted to begin. It was fun for the first few weeks until there was nothing left to talk about besides the pandemic (of course), my cancelled trips, and how I survived working from home.
My final creative venture was the start of my digital drawing (@doodlemedude.) I really got into this one and decided it was best to make it into a sort of small business. Unfortunately, I began working at the office again and lost the time to sit and draw. So here we are now, at the end of this bumpy year and I can’t say I have continued fueling all my creativity. Thankfully, I had the opportunity to virtually speak with four women who have proven that their art and creativity can become a full-time business regardless of the situation. My main purpose is to showcase this community of hardworking women who could serve as a resource for others trying to start up that business or for those who are looking to network/collaborate with like-minded individuals.
Let’s get to meeting them!
Corina De Leon Perez
Los Angeles/San Francisco, CA
Podcast: Hurdles N’ Hoots (Available on Spotify)
Preferred Art Medium: Photography, creative writing
Fun Fact: I have Heterochromia! One of my eyes is blue and the other is green.
How did you start in the art industry?
My first experience with art was as a kid, seeing my dad film on one of those old school cameras. He used to edit videos using an analog device. My mom passed down her Polaroid One Step camera to me, but I didn’t become interested until high school, when I took my first photography class. My teacher, Melinda Mascayano, pointed out that I gravitated towards telling through portraits. So in 2011, I started my photography business.
How do you embody the role of an “entrepreneur” as an artist?
As someone who is constantly seeking to release creativity, being an entrepreneur is the combination of taking passion and pairing it with monetizing it. For me, it started with my family and the wedding photography business. It also overlapped into my career as a teacher, which is an art in its own respect. I use whatever I know I’m good at and release it back towards others while also earning an income from it.
If you’d ask me what I do for a living, I’d say I’m an educator and a photographer. At the start of the pandemic, I was laid off and decided to continue teaching virtually to students one-one-one, and I’m so thankful for the families and kids I work with.
Which new creative outlets have you explored since the pandemic?
Over the last six months, I’ve found different ways to be creative to keep from going nuts during the pandemic. I started making hand-stamped jewelry in the beginning and went on to start my podcast that is focused on special education and neurodiversity awareness. It’s definitely an art and not as easy as it sounds! I’m still very much learning the process of creating episodes for it. I’ve always loved writing as a form of communication; I started writing letters to friends vigorously. It’s been really sweet to open the mailbox and find something personal and sent with love.
Preferred Art Medium: Painting and drawing, but I really feel like I can work with almost anything as long as I’m having fun with it.
Fun Fact: I’ve been drawing since I could pick up a pencil. I would often catch myself doodling on my math homework and sometimes drew on my hands with pens whenever I got distracted in class.
How have you maintained your creative flow throughout the pandemic?
The pandemic allowed me to have the extra time I needed to really sit down and think creatively. Prior, to the pandemic I found myself being too busy to finish any projects. I was able to maintain my creativity by finally creating new projects with mediums I’ve never tried before. For the longest time, I wanted to experiment with pour painting. During the quarantine, I finally got the chance to do so, and it has now become my new favorite type of art medium to work with.
When did you make the change from making art for fun to creating a small business for your art?
I began to showcase my art on social media for fun with no intention of promoting it for sale. People then started to ask me for prices and were privately messaging me to create personal projects for them. This is when I realized that my art had the potential to become a small business.
What is your dream project, and how do you plan on getting there?
One of my dream projects would be to get the opportunity to paint a mural. I plan on getting there by continuing to experiment with art and trying new things. I hope to one day get the chance to learn how to do this and be able to put my art onto a bigger canvas for everyone to see.
Raised in the San Fernando Valley (818) represent!
Preferred Art Medium: Painting
Fun Fact: When I’m nervous I find myself making weird noises, I’m a bit of weirdo.
Who are some people that have influenced you as an artist?
I found my mom painting flowers in our bathroom one day; she looked so peaceful and free. Ever since then I was intrigued. Dali and Frida were some of the first artists I learned about. Their styles were so unique and intricate, you find something new in their works every time. Along with that, my cousin Chito. He’s been an artist since I can remember. Every time we’d get together, I’d always find him drawing and it was so inspiring to see.
What has it been like getting to create art for your community?
Creating something for the community definitely has to be one of my favorite things to do. You see and meet complete strangers that pass by and appreciate your art and from there you build an instant connection. To walk or drive by a painting I’ve created for myself and the community is unexplainable and exhilarating.
How has the pandemic affected your creativity/business?
For better or for worse, it was definitely difficult at first. I had a few events lined up that didn’t end up falling through. Everything was uncertain at the time and I fell into an artist block. Now things have gotten better and I’m slowly getting my groove back. My creativity is picking up and I’m excited to see where it takes me.
Preferred Art Medium: Photography
Fun Fact: I am the business owner and photographer of SZU Photography. I am a specialized newborn and maternity photographer. I like to post at least one or two photos of every session on my website, www.szuphotography.com, so my clients get a little spotlight of their own.
How did you get started in the art industry?
I have always loved photography, but if it were up to me I would be doing old school photography with the manual cameras and negatives. I absolutely loved working with it while I was in college. I actually got to teach it as well and that was super fun too. That’s actually what brought me to creating my own business. I knew I wanted to photograph, but there were so many niches that it was difficult to decide. I was teaching photography at an adult school when one of my students actually asked me if I could photograph her daughter’s maternity and that’s when I knew that this was for me. It is a completely different level of intimacy and when you get a chance to hold a newborn…their tiny fingers and toes, you fall in love with how delicate photographing them is.
What are your favorite and also the toughest aspects of being a female business owner?
The toughest thing about being a female business owner is the constant “competition”. I feel like the newborn photography community is a pretty great one where we actually bring each other up, but just simply competing with any other business is tough. How will a person likely spend their money? Do they value memories or vanity? Would they rather invest in photographs of their family or take them all out to eat at a nice restaurant? It’s things like that, that I think we struggle with. It’s easy now-a-days to take photos on your phone and print them out, for less than $10.
The greatest part about being a female business owner is knowing that I have something for myself. Something besides the material things in life that I get to call my own. It’s truly a breathtaking moment when I get to see my work in the hands of all the families I’ve worked with. Even more so, when I see it on their walls.
How did you keep your business/clientele afloat during the pandemic?
When the pandemic hit, I had actually just invested in a new camera body and lighting equipment, so I couldn’t wait to begin testing out how different my work would look. Just as everyone else, I stayed home and just practiced. I made sure to share old work on Instagram and Facebook and really get people excited for a re-opening. To anyone that asked, I liked to offer doing composite images of photos that they took of their newborn at home. I offered tips on how to pose their baby so that I could easily compose an image.
What essential tools have you used to get to where you are today?
Facebook and Instagram have actually been the best place for me to reach potential clients. I am able to easily chat with prospective clients and they can easily see what’s new with me. I have improved the Google SEO on my website, but the connection with a prospective client via email is just not the same. It can get overwhelming at times to have 20 messages here and there, but it feels even better to know that people see me. I am an extremely humble person, so any booking means the world to me, any comment makes my heart flutter!
What ways have you found to stay creative during the pandemic? Let us know down in the comments.
This article originally published on GREY Journal.