The Courage to Become | Tory DeOrian
Tell us a little bit about yourself
My name is Tory and I'm a professional children's and commercial illustrator! I work from home which means I snack a lot and go to bed really late. I could not be more grateful for my juicy creative life and I absolutely want to inspire others to reach their fullest creative potential. Some of my clients include Snapchat, Taco Bell, San Francisco Pride and Starbucks. I'm also lucky to be represented by the lovely Kelly Sonnack of Andrea Brown Literary Agency, for my picture books which are underway!
After college I started a group for young women, a creative/happiness club in which we all dedicated ourselves to a personal creative project, worked on bad habits, and essentially supported each other's creative and personal enrichment. It was revitalizing, and I dream of doing it on a much larger scale someday.
Aside from Illustration and Graphic Design, my fun jobs in the past have included: working as an intern for Disney, spending several years as a glittery children's entertainer (faerie/princess/mermaid) for Happily Ever Laughter Parties, and putting blush on people for two years as a Studio Makeup Artist for Smashbox Cosmetics. After getting my degree in Graphic Design, I went to makeup school in Portland, then two years later I moved to SoCal to earn my certificate in Children's Illustration at UC San Diego. I love school.
What was one thing you always dreamt of doing, were afraid to do, but did anyway?
I've got two for you!
#1- Makeup Artistry. A very intimidating art form, right?! For some reason I was called to it toward the end of my senior year in college so I went to Portland for a 3 month makeup program. After earning my Makeup Certification I was able to do makeup alongside freelance Graphic Design + Illustration and it ended up being a wonderful job where I met all different types of amazing women. I'm so glad I faced my fear...My first day of makeup school I hardly knew what blush was even for.
Makeup ended up being an excellent career option, but Illustration was always my calling. So:
#2- Illustration...Except, Illustration never made me feel afraid! It was something I would do to relax, calm down, enjoy myself, and impress my parents with. Learning the Adobe programs was a SCARY thought at first but you catch on quick and it's not the kind of struggle you anticipate. (DO NOT let that stop you from being a digital artist. Eventually it's like playing a creative video game where the controls are second nature.) While growing up, making art was the ultimate escape. From drawing during 6th grade math lectures, to painting late into the night in high school.
How did it feel getting started?
Making the decision to major in Art in college is when it all really started. I was originally a Psych major (because I wanted to help people) but changed my major to Graphic Design immediately after learning what Graphic Design was. Then I'd say my career really started when I got hired to illustrate for Taco Bell at VIDCON 2016. I had to travel for the opportunity but I was so grateful and excited that I would have done the job for free. Not once has it ever been about the money.
Tell us about some of the obstacles you faced when you got started Illustrating.
The obstacles I faced starting out were mostly:
1) Quality. Frustration with the quality of my artwork. I would think "Why can't I get my art to look like I want it to? I have a vision in my head but the end result is not as good." The answer is practice, detail, and refining your technique.
2) Time. Working a day job is definitely an obstacle. But I would illustrate after I got home from work, spend 12 hours at my desk on my days off, assign myself new things every week. You have to relentlessly participate in the manifestation of your own blessings, as Elizabeth Gilbert says.
What motivates you to Illustrate?
You know that little mini happy bubbling feeling inside when something clicks? (Same when a comedian makes an entire audience laugh, or a pro basketball player makes their shot.) I love that feeling of a project coming together. It's also that I have so many tons of ideas, I get depressed and mentally agitated when I'm not working on them.
Making my clients happy is also a huge motivation. I'll spend much longer than I need to on a project in order to make sure it matches their vision.
Which living person do you most admire?
My dad. He was a police officer for 33 years until he safely retired, thank goodness. He's an artist too, and his questions about my dream to become a professional artist were never laced with doubt. He encourages me to grow and take every opportunity that presents itself. "Leave no stone unturned." He says.
Which talent would you most like to have?
If I could sing I would be on stage just like Katy Perry dressed like a cupcake wearing glittery makeup. It's hard to find an excuse to do that on stage as an illustrator!
What is your most marked characteristic?
I'm super tall so, that! But as an artist, it's my wildly colorful style that people somehow always recognize.
What is your motto?
Always have something to look forward to.
What are some things you are proud to have accomplished?
Since I'm 25 years old, having done projects for several big clients AND signing an agent all within the same year is something I feel grateful for and proud of. I didn't expect so many of my dreams to come true all at once but I guess since I literally illustrate sometimes for 14 hours a day and research opportunities obsessively that's the result. Being prolific is essential to success.
What keeps you going when you feel like you are knee deep in mud?
During Oprah's Life You Want Tour, I remember Iyanla Vanzant getting on stage in all her vigor asking "Haven't you always been there for yourself??" I try to keep in mind that being stuck is all a part of the process; you've been stuck before and you'll be stuck again. As my dad says 'Don't force it!' Actually, just last night I was struggling with a pattern illustration, I woke up today and finished it by 1pm! Being that I illustrate anywhere from 8-14 hours a day, I get stuck a lot but I also get through it a lot!
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to women who are about to embark on the journey you are on?
I could talk your ear off with advice! As a seeker of guidance and knowledge at every turn, I'm more than happy to pass along what I know.
A general piece of advice which I learned as an intern for Disney in regards to being prolific:
Don't just make one piece of art, make 10. (Numbers 9 and 10 will probably end up being your best and you'll have more work to choose from.) Don't just come up with two or three ideas, come up with 20 or 30. (This way your ideas are more unique to you.) Don't just set two goals for the day, set five. (Then when you achieve almost all if not all of them, it's more than you would just having set two.) This, I've found, has been my secret to success.
Let me break it down into categories:
If you're looking into freelance graphic-design/illustration/photography:
Make the kind of work you want to be hired to do. If you're looking at a magazine ad or illustration on an app and you think "Hey! I bet I could do that! How can I get hired to do that??" Research, research, research the opportunities out there. Obsessively build your portfolio until it's really freaking good. Keep a list of contacts of art directors and inquire about opportunities when you're ready. (For example, when I've built enough of an editorial/magazine illustration portfolio, only then can I begin to reach out to those people.) Continue to build your knowledge base through taking classes (Good online classes I recommend: Lynda.com and skillshare.com. Skillshare is the more fun and quirky of the two, Lynda offers sophisticated technical knowledge.) Once you begin to get clients, you muse never miss a deadline. I once read this advice: "Be super honest with your clients and make them happy." This is something I live by as a freelancer.
If you're looking into picture book writing and/or illustration:
There are several good schooling programs out there. I chose the UC San Diego Extension program for Picture Book Illustration, which took me a year to complete and ended up being absolutely amazing! You MUSTjoin the SCBWI and attend conferences and meetings, read the monthly SCBWI magazine/bulletin that gets mailed to you. You also must be actively working on your writing and/or illustrating several times a week if not every day when you get home from work. Make it your new obsession. Learn about different publishers and figure out what you'll need in your portfolio to be ready to query agents. Design promotional mailers you can mail to art directors. Also, join twitter because the #kidlit world essentially lives there!
Also, make a list of assignments for yourself. Research events, classes, and workshops that you can take in your free time.
If you're looking into makeup artistry:
The beauty industry is everywhere, so if you learn makeup or skincare you're likely to be able to find a job anywhere you move to. That was appealing to me. Once you learn the steps of doing makeup and understand the different types of skin (comes with experience) you're likely to get the hang of it. I like to do things step-by-step and makeup artistry ended up being exactly that! I suggest finding a makeup artistry program or taking personal makeup lessons. All of the different prestige brands (Smashbox Cosmetics, Urban Decay, IT Cosmetics- to name a few) hire freelancers to travel locally and do makeup! Shoot for those positions starting out. They pay better than makeup retail positions and you get to move around! There's also wedding makeup, working at a cosmetic counter, film and television, etc.