We had the good fortune of connecting with Marissa Valdez and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Marissa, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
My number one advice for anyone starting out in the creative industry or starting a small business is to take risks. I would not have a career as a children’s book illustrator if I had not put myself out there and taken big risks, like sending my portfolio to literary agents, entering national contests and eventually quitting my day job. Risks are scary! But really necessary if you plan on having a successful brand and business. Expect to fail! It’s all part of the process. I try to regularly tell myself that if I’m not failing then I’m not taking risks that will help me grow my business and my portfolio.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’m primarily a children’s book illustrator at the moment, which means I spend my days drawing funny stories, cute kids and silly animals. I’d say that my background has helped set me apart from others. I have a degree in animation and I worked as a graphic designer for several years so I try to bring skills from those jobs into my illustrations. A lot of my characters have over the top expressions or are in exaggerated funky situations, which is something that I think I learned to do as an animator. It was certainly NOT easy getting to where I am today! I worked many years in other jobs before realizing that children’s illustration was my passion. And like many other freelancers, I had to work a full-time job to pay the bills while I worked on building my portfolio at night and on weekends. I learned that if you’re truly passionate about something, you need to put your full self into working towards that passion! I turned down going out with friends and stopped watching TV because I knew that every moment of my free time needed to be used to make art. It’s not a super sustainable way to work but if you really stick to it, that hard work will pay off!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Ooo! One of my favorite places in the whole world is the Houston Museum of Natural Science! Specifically the dinosaur hall. I’ve always been obsessed with paleontology and would love to one day illustrate a book about dinosaurs, so the HMNS is my number one go-to for anyone visiting Houston! Other Houston favorites of mine are the Honey Art Cafe for good art and coffee, Tea + Victory for board games and coffee (can you tell I love coffee?) and the ComedySportz Improv Theater for some serious laughter therapy!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Big shoutout to the Houston Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators! When I first moved to Houston, I didn’t have a community of like-minded people around me and that really stunted my creative and personal growth. In fact it took me years to find out about the SCBWI, but when I did, it was like I found home! They’re a great organization that is 110% supportive, caring, and full of important information that they are excited to share. I would not be where I am today without the lovely people at the SCBWI.