How do you find confidence in your style? A vital question for any artist, designer will grapple with as they pave their career path. For illustrator Kelsey Dake, her confidence was instilled from her art school years, strengthen through international client work publications and well-known brands and shared to curious creatives, and on-the-fence artists at the DSVC meeting. 

She screen-printed colorful series of monkey portraits for an assignment. Each unique primates’ pose contained spare, vivid colors which evoked to where one could also hear them scream. In this exercise, Kelsey thrived on executing her concept in her illustration work. A retreat from trying to fit in with school peers, to relationships and self-doubt Kelsey found her voice through her sketchbook. An artist’s place to have freedom to express one’s thoughts in turn reveal what really matters to them, especially their hand movement. In those pages of comfort and experimentation she found her interest; solving the design problem through her illustrative brush, deciding on the visual components to effectively communicate her message.

After art school, she graduated top class with a firm grasp on her motivation, she further challenged herself by moving out alone to the country’s biggest, competitive design market, in New York City. During a brief graphic design stint, with her colleagues support she started her ascent with black ink drawings, funny visual puns for McSweeney’s magazine — one being a half live, half fried standing chicken. Her artwork since then graces the pages of The New York Times, Wired Magazine, Newsweek, Variety, to promoting for Nike, Converse, and GQ to name a few.

An important realization emerged from her work, which is believing in what you’re making enough to have it be printed or produced. Find a way to feel more invested in your work. This means any design work can feel fun, worthy if you approach its as an opportunity to make the art you want to see. Consequently, with the growing amount of illustrative work, these jobs routinized her process, where she can embrace her style rather than forcing it or copying trends. Style is more about ideas than aesthetics —how you communicate your ideas. Kelsey communicates by being clever, direct and subliminal at the same time. Her subject matters are drenched in vibrant colors, humor, with a tangible quality when all combined makes the reader feel the message more so than reading it.

Kelsey’s designs transcends sketchbook paper as she creates new artwork to post on Facebook, Instagram even LinkedIn. Although not the posted work are masterpieces to her, it’s a chance to simply live life, make, share it. Social media can be a social medium, a bigger space for play. Another incentive for sharing art online are that many prospective art directors frequent Twitter to see who’s in studio, creating new work as they also scout for talent. In order to catch their attention, an illustrator must determine a niche, motivation, process and making a cohesive body of work that ultimately displays their confidence.