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Meet Carolyn Le

Today we’d like to introduce you to Carolyn Le.

Carolyn, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
As a kid, I was a dreamer–usually staring off into space or sitting in a corner somewhere drawing, painting or reading. My exposure to art was through the picture books I read and the cartoons I saw on TV. When I went to college, I decided to choose a career that I would want to do for the rest of my life. For me it was art.

I studied fashion design at a local community college because I figured that was the only path to a creative career. Then I took a life drawing class, this opened a whole new world to me. When I transferred to Otis College of Art and Design, I majored in Illustration.

After graduation, I worked as a display artist and visual merchandiser (my initial major in fashion design came in handy). This allowed me to continue taking art classes and learning and growing as an artist. I discovered that three years of art school hadn’t really prepared me for a career in art–especially since I had no previous experience. I had the skill sets; I could draw and paint anything I looked at. I understood perspective, color theory, composition and art principles, but I needed to be able to apply all of this to my illustrations. And I just wasn’t there yet. 

While I was working and taking classes, my nephew came along, and I started reading picture books to him. His reactions to the books and his connections to the characters reminded me of my love for this genre. I realized that I wanted to be a children’s book illustrator. I wanted to create books that a child would love and connect to. With the support of my family, I was able to pursue this goal.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
There were and still are a lot of twists and turns to this path I have chosen: rejections, self-doubt, making enough money to pay the bills.

By working a 9 to 5 job as a display artist/visual merchandiser, I was able to pay the bills, buy art supplies and chocolate. But this didn’t really allow me a lot of  time to pursue my goal of becoming a children’s book illustrator –it became more of a hobby.

This was sometimes frustrating because it seemed as if I wasn’t making any progress to achieving my goal. I felt like I was letting myself down; I was letting my family down. It was also hard to submit my work to agents and editors and get rejections or even total silence. This always made me question my ability as an artist.

Especially since I am an introvert, and I find it really hard to talk about myself or my art. As a freelance artist, promotion and attending conferences and workshops are some of the key ways to getting my work seen. In the beginning, this was very difficult for me.

Now I am better at it, but I still have moments when I would rather sit in a corner drawing, painting or reading. Some days I question whether I have made the right decision to pursue a career in art, but overall I feel I’ve made the right decision for me.

Because there’s nothing better than seeing a child reading a book I’ve illustrated or the excitement on children’s faces when Im doing a school visit.

We’d love to hear more about what you do.
I tell stories with art: whether its illustrating, writing or designing and bring traditional painting and drawing skills to my illustrations and design.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
Success is working hard to overcome obstacles and achieve personal goals. It’s listening, learning and growing. And not letting others define what would make me successful.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Jennifer Le, Dung Trinh

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