I’ve had this interview in the works for a while, and I’m so excited to introduce you to Christine Fleming of Might Could Studios! Christine and I went to design school together, and I think it’s always so cool to hear what my classmates are up to.
Christine is a freelance illustrator with the most adorable style and flair, and I am always seeing her intricate yet cute drawings pop up on Instagram. She’s been teaching illustration classes on Skillshare for a while — I’ve always wanted to take one! The one about drawing comics looks particularly awesome, as do the pair about writing and illustrating picture books. Another freakishly cool thing? Christine has also published two coloring books for both kids and adults! (Stop by her Etsy shop to buy!) Be sure to read her story below! // susannah
P.S. This is the last Dream Job of the year! Don’t miss the whole series. I’ve already got a few in the works for 2016 that I can’t wait to share with you!
How would you describe Might Could Studios?
Might Could Studios is basically the name I operate under as a creative. It houses multiple different focuses including: publishing projects like picture books and graphic novels; editorial illustrations for magazines and blogs; my Etsy shop, where I sell adult coloring books and custom painted nesting dolls; my design studio where I work with clients to make logos, print work, and animations; and my six classes I teach on Skillshare.
What were you doing before Might Could Studios? What inspired you to change paths?
After graduating from North Carolina State University with a degree in graphic design, I worked as the lead graphic designer at a studio in Raleigh for about a year. I learned an immense amount of information there from my boss and co-workers, especially on how to function as a professional creative, how to manage my time, plan ahead, and communicate with clients. There’s no way I could have become a successful freelancer without that experience first, and I’m grateful for everything they taught me!
But, I also had the drive to be self-employed and independent. So, I left the studio, moved to Texas with my boyfriend, and began freelancing in 2012. I started out working in graphic design, and slowly transitioned into doing more illustration work. I then started working with Buzz Hoot Roar, through my friend Sarah, who I met in NC State. Buzz Hoot Roar is a team of scientists who explain scientific concepts in short, fun blog posts with illustrations. I worked as their Artist in Residence for a few months, and that was where my love of illustration really took off, and I decided this is what I wanted to do with all my time.
Fast forward through 6 months of self exploration, artistic struggles, and much couch wallowing, and I found myself at the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) New York Conference thinking about making a picture book. A week after the conference I was named the SCBWI Illustrator of the Month, and I’ve been chugging away at getting my books published ever since.
When ideas are scarce, where do you turn for creative inspiration?
I start every morning with breakfast and coffee while I browse Pinterest and Twitter oogling over other illustrator’s work (and maybe some foodie pics too). This gets me in the “Make something!” zone and inspires me. I started a hashtag, #moilloinspo, which stands for Morning Illustration Inspiration. So every morning while I’m drinking my coffee and looking at art, I pick the piece that strikes me the most and post it to Twitter under the hashtag, crediting the artist and linking to their website.
Click through to read more of the Q&A with illustrator Christine Fleming!
Describe your workspace.
My little studio is a desk and an IKEA filing cabinet wedged into a corner behind the kitchen table. When I first started working on my own, I dreamed of having a whole room for my studio and the way I would decorate it, and how it would be a little cocoon of inspiration. But I found this collection of photos of artist’s work spaces and was amazed at how tiny and simple these amazing artists work spaces were! Victo Ngai (one of my favorite illustrators) worked in an alcove in her tiny apartment in New York with a desk that’s about 2 feet wide! And her work is spectacular! So it dawned on me that it completely doesn’t matter what your studio looks like, as long as you have a little place where you can go and make stuff. And that’s what I have here at this desk, and it’s perfect.
What have been your biggest successes and challenges for Might Could Studios?
My biggest success was about two months ago when I signed on with my agent, Danielle Smith at Red Fox Literary. This was a huge moment for me and a big step in my career as an illustrator. Having Danielle now by my side to help improve and refine my work, submit my work to publishers, and be my partner in the book world is beyond amazing. I think some people may think that after getting an agent, it’s all down hill from there to getting published, but it’s actually quite the opposite. I feel a new sense of invigoration and am working harder than ever at improving my book and making more books!
My biggest challenge right now is balancing all the different aspects of Might Could Studios. One reason I’m able to be self-employed and support myself right now is that I have multiple streams of income. Being independent is important to me, and I don’t want to rely on others to support me, so it’s necessary for me to work in different areas while I’m still working on getting published. I’ve tried to balance this struggle by designating the first half of my day, from morning to lunch, to personal projects including my books. Then the second half of the day, I work on paid work like graphic design client work, my next coloring book, filling Etsy orders, and making and managing my Skillshare classes. So far, this new schedule has worked out really well and allowed me to work on my passion projects while still supporting myself financially.
What are your dreams for Might Could Studios?
Right now, it’s exciting and fun to have my hand in multiple different pots, but ultimately I would love to just focus on making books. Publishing children’s books is my number one priority and my biggest dream. I have multiple different books in the works, but there is one in particular that I’ve been working on for over 2 years, and if (nay, when!) it gets published, I think I will probably cry.
Who do you look up to?
Oh my, so many. The ones I think of immediately are personal connections. I look up to both my parents for doing what they love for their careers. They both went back to school when I was young because they were unsatisfied with their current careers and wanted to fulfill a different calling. In hindsight, that had a big impact on me and taught me that your career should be something meaningful to you, not just a job. They were also always supportive of me wanting to go into a creative field, which many parents are not supportive of, so I’m very grateful for that.
I also look up to my sister, who is one of the strongest women I know. She taught me how to take charge and be responsible growing up, how to work hard for the things you want, and how to not be afraid of change.
And finally, I look up to my grandma, Josie, who taught me how to just live life. She grew up in a one-bedroom cabin in the rural North Carolina mountains, went on to work in a city as an independent woman, and got married and had kids much later than most women at that time. She’s now 98 and is still laughing as much as ever.
Where and how do you love to spend your time off?
I love to travel as much as I can! We’ve been trying to see more of this area of the country while we’re here, exploring New Orleans, Austin and San Antonio. We’ve also explored Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Seattle — and this weekend we’re going to Atlanta! I’ve got my eyes set on Utah, Colorado and Maine next.
We also have a great group of friends here in Beaumont and get together to cook meals, play complicated board games, and let our gang of dogs run themselves to sleep.
What resources do you recommend to someone whose dream job is your job?
If you’re interested in children’s books and publishing, I absolutely recommend joining SCBWI! It’s a treasure trove of information, and the people you meet are so friendly and will share experiences with you!
There’s also a bunch of wonderful classes on Skillshare about illustration and that’s actually how I learned a lot starting out as well.
As you might expect, I read a ton of books and these are my favorites for illustration and writing:
- Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud
- Making Comics by Scott McCloud
- Writing Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul
- Drawn to Life: 20 Golden Years of Disney Master Classes: The Walt Stanchfield Lectures
- Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
- On Writing by Stephen King!
Oh, also if you’re interested in children’s publishing, join us on Thursday nights at 9 p.m. EST on Twitter for #kidlitart! It’s a group of author/illustrators that talk about writing, drawing and publishing. Just follow the hashtag using a program like TweetDeck.
If you weren’t running Might Could Studios, what would be your dream job?
I used to want to be a pastry chef when I was little, so maybe I would have ended up being a baker or something. I don’t think I have the personality necessary to be a restaurant chef, but I do love to cook!