While your dream might be someone else’s idea of hell, we all have a passion, even if we don’t indulge it. Holly Shortall’s pursuit of passion both within and outside her working life will make you feel inspired!
Holly Shortall, 28, works in communications for recycling firm Repak. She’s also an amazing illustrator, but after trying her hand at that full-time, she’s decided the balance of work and passion works best for her.
“I’ve been drawing literally since the day I could hold a pencil. I was always obsessed with celebrities and growing up would look at my granny’s Hello and OK magazines and draw Paula Yates, Liz Hurley and the Spice Girls to name a few. I’m still drawing in the same style I was 25 years ago – a single figure on an A4 page.
I went to college to study fashion design after school but on day one I realised it wasn’t for me – the only class I liked was the illustration one. I stayed for the year, then fell into working in retail, always trying to apply my creativity where possible which helped me go from a sales assistant to an award-winning Visual Merchandising in a few short years.
Then with the rise of social media, about 5 years ago I started drawing celebs in my free time again, trying to reach them on Instagram etc. Kim Kardashian, Kris Jenner, Kelly Osbourne, Nicole Sherzinger are a few of the famous faces who have shared my work, and getting that exposure led to more and more commissions, mainly for personalised illustrations for people’s weddings, birthdays, business cards, etc. alongside some bigger jobs with Cosmopolitan, Conde Nast and The Sunday Times Style Magazine.
Then in 2015 I came home from a volunteering trip and realised I didn’t want to work in fashion anymore. When you work for yourself at home, it can be isolating, and I was ready for a new challenge. I have no qualifications so I really had to try to sell myself. I applied for jobs in November 2015 and was lucky to be hired almost immediately in a digital agency. After 14 fab months there and a huge amount experience gained, I went in-house with my favourite client, Repak, as a Creative Marketing Consultant four days a week. It’s a not-for-profit company that promotes recycling for business and the home and I absolutely love it – I like that it has a purpose. And having Fridays off means I’m free to draw.
I’m really starting to enjoy it again now that I don’t rely on drawing to pay my bills. With the security of a job I can pick and choose what commissions I take and am now more so working with commercial clients, such as Primark whose Snapchat filters I designed last year, or of course my fave magazine, Stellar! I love seeing my work in print every month.
I remember when I decided to go back into full time employment I felt like my business had failed, but now that I realise I can do both, I feel proud of myself. I think because of social media we think we can get so caught up on what others are up to, and compare our lives to everyone else’s, but it’s really important to just focus on yourself and what’s right for you.
I’m currently in the early discussions of a book deal which I can’t say too much about just yet! These things take time but fingers crossed it all goes well. I am really happy with where I am now, being able to work with some great brands while enjoying my daily work with Repak.”
This story first appeared in the July issue of STELLAR Magazine. Our September issue is on shelves now.
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