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Make way! What we can learn from emerging creatives

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Make way! What we can learn from emerging creatives

I started September with a serious dose of imposter syndrome. I mean, we all get it at some point, right? And I am no stranger to it, but this was a big one. I’d been asked by Creative Lives in Progress to take part in a portfolio review at their (very sexy) HQ in Holborn.'I was moved and inspired by the variety, passion, inventiveness and skill of all the people I encountered ... ' grey roundel with red spiky graphic

CLIP, for those who don’t know, is an inclusive resource which connects emerging talent with the creative industry and we’re lucky enough to be one of their partners. The basic premise of the evening was that 10 industry expert reviewers (that includes me – hence the imposter syndrome) would be shown the work of 30 emerging illustrators, with each reviewee having the opportunity to present three times, get feedback and share good practice… Kind of like speed dating for illustrators, with breaks for networking (fancy word for making pals) and eating snacks (yay)!

‘Post’ Covid, creative industries are under great financial pressure and newly emerging creatives are finding themselves competing with ever-greater numbers of graduates from pandemic times who have either struggled to find work or had lost their roles and internships. The result is an abundance of brilliant people who are being forced to take low paid jobs that do not meet the job descriptions, or to undertake unpaid and voluntary work in the name of ‘experience’ or ‘exposure’. There are too many problems with this for me to unpack here BUT there is an encouraging drive in the UK for transparency and accuracy in advertising roles and salaries AND many wonderful organisations such as CLIP and The HudsonBec Group who are working to remove barriers and facilitate access to creative roles for people of all backgrounds.


PHEW! As I said, too much to unpack here…. Back to the Portfolio Review event…

I was moved and inspired by the variety, passion, inventiveness, and skill of all of the people I encountered that evening. Here are some of the wonderful people who shared their work with me…

  • Fruzsina Menyhei – This incredibly talented young woman has a clear, natural understanding of the graphic design rules as well as an ability to break them in her illustration work. She is one of those special wonders who can pull off being multidisciplinary. I would love to have her on my studio team.
  • Maryam Adam – This young person has already completed successful projects for the NHS and for Newham Heritage and has a clearly defined personal style which she is able to balance perfectly with client needs. Her portfolio was incredible and very professional.
  • Zhao Zilan – This prolific and creative woman was fascinating to talk to, and her work conveys the unique way she perceives the banal. Her brain is brilliantly bizarre and I think she will be someone really exciting to follow. If I was an agent I’d snap her up!



Top takeaways 'Do more and show more of what you actually love' red roundel with spiky graphic

CLIP themselves have some great portfolio advice which you can check out here and here, so I won’t tread on any toes, but here are some things I found myself saying during the event;

  • Do more/show more of what you actually love – don’t put work in your portfolio that doesn’t speak of who you are and what you want to do.
  • Keep it snappy – there’s no need to show and explain everything. Pick a few passion projects and invite further conversation about them.
  • Underqualified? Try anyway – ask for opportunities where you want them to be. Ask people you admire for advice and feedback. Reach out and be vulnerable.
  • Be human – a bit of personality goes a long way, baby.

'Be more human - a bit of personality goes a long wa baby' grey green roundel with spiky red graphic

I can only hope that the attendees found something useful in my contributions, although I think that it was me who benefited more. I went away truly inspired.

It’s incredibly energising to share ideas with the creative community. Putting yourself ‘out there’ is the only way to find your people. For both emerging creatives and for established (or ‘old’) folks like me, leaning into discomfort, the feeling of inexperience, the imposter syndrome, can offer incredible growth opportunities.

Now I’m off to polish up my own portfolio!

By Kat Hassell

Grey socals posts promo banner with Alive X and CLIP logos

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DR ELENI ATHANASAKOS, Lead Paediatric Clinical Scientist — NHS Barts Health

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Keren McCarron, Head of Corporate Affairs & Communications — KP Snacks

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