We had the good fortune of connecting with Shelby Meeks and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Shelby, how do you think about risk?
My whole career has been sponsored by risks. I have a long backstory of how I ended up where I am today, and the theme that’s most recurring is risk taking. The job I have now is all because of a friend who reached out over facebook asking if I’d be interested in a small graphic design job at a church. I’m way too honest, and not a “fake it ‘til you make it” kinda gal, so I responded with, “I know nothing about any of those programs, but I am so willing to learn”. I spent the next month spam-calling my future director to try to get her to hire me! Thankfully, she ALSO took a risk and hired me sans portfolio (which was basically non existent at the time) over the phone, without meeting me, all because I was the crazy girl that called her weekly for a month. For the next 3+ years, everything was trial and error, TRYING to adapt to the “fake it ‘til you make it” mantra. Even to this day, people approach me with commissions that I have never tried before. I think if it weren’t for YEARS of saying yes to anything and everything (all the late nights trying to figure a problem out, learning new skills on the fly, etc.) I would not be in the position I am now. Word of mouth is a crazy, wonderful, scary thing. Not every project has been a win, but I refuse to NOT take risks and try new things. If you were to show me 5 years ago—heck, even last year—what my portfolio would look like today I would have told you you got the wrong Shelby Meeks. Risk taking is so necessary in the world of creativity (trying things your own way, other people’s way, or a way that you accidentally discovered), and however terrifying it may be, it’s all so fun and oh so worth it.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I feel like my story is all over the place! I briefly mentioned how I got to where I am today earlier, but it’s been a wild ride for sure. I have an anxiety disorder that I’ve been dealing with since about 2014 called panic attack disorder. That’s a huge part of my story. I became a recluse, severed a lot of friendships unintentionally and began to channel my thoughts and feelings into creativity and art. Panic attack disorder is different for everyone, but I was having upwards of 10 panic attacks a day. I was just surviving, not living. It’s crazy, because in retrospect your story makes sense and you feel like things that happened, happened for a reason, so because of my anxiety disorder I have discovered my love for digital art and design. I pushed myself really hard to get through the day before I eventually sought help and therapy. I was unable to collaborate with people. Art is a VERY personal thing for me, and I could barely talk or look people in the eye that I had known for years because of my disorder. After working up the courage for 4 years to seek help, I now have a therapist that I owe A LOT to. She has empowered me and made me view myself and my talents in a great light. The thing I think that I am most proud of is how I never gave up on making art. When I first got on medication, I paused for a brief stint because I always felt so unmotivated and tired, but once I found it again I fell back in love even more-so with it. I gained a newfound confidence that has allowed me to meet and work with so many different people over the last few years, and that has grown my skill exponentially!
What sets me apart from most other graphic designers and digital artists is the fact that I am able to do both skills at the same level! Usually, you are more skilled in one area than the other, but I’m pretty equally skilled in both areas. I used to consider being self taught a hindrance, however being self taught on both from the beginning has played a huge role, too! If I can’t design something through illustrator or photoshop I can typically figure out another way through drawing digitally. To me, it broadens the possibilities and commissions I’m able to take on! I like to think of my self as a type of “hybrid”. It’s really hard to learn several different mediums at the same time, as any artist would agree, but getting noticed through my drawing and being brought into the graphic design world for a career definitely fast tracked learning both! I do have a degree in interior design, so some of those basic principals and elements of design have translated, but it’s learning the programs that have been tricky! But as I have grown into my own type of artist/designer, I see that I’ve never really been put into a creative box. I’ve figured out how to achieve projects in my own way, which has been as liberating as it has been frustrating, but I have learned to appreciate that about myself and my art. Not having been put in a box has allowed me to experiment with my design, helping me be able to learn other types of creative mediums like motion graphics and photography!
I’m just rambling now, my story has so many high and low points. The thing I am most excited about is the more I work and team up with people, the more I am developing and getting the chance to create in my own style! It’s a great feeling when you have made it to a point where your self expression and what you do for others collides!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
The DFW has great outdoor areas and parks! One of my personal favorite is the Cedar Hill State Park! Other cool, trendy spots with great food and cool shops would be the Bishop Arts district in Dallas, and Magnolia Street in Ft worth! I’m from Burleson, so if you’re looking for a more small town feel, downtown Burleson is a great place too for shopping, coffee and food!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Gosh, my family and husband for sure. They have seen me in every era. My husband, Garrett, especially, who has been the biggest therapist, coach, shoulder to lean on, etc!! Also, a special shoutout to my best friends, Kaitlyn Walker and Casey Mallory. Kaitlyn taught me so much at the beginning of my career and Casey, who has always pushed me in the best way, made me believe in myself. I’d like to also shoutout to Leslie Waldson, the crazy lady who answered the crazy phone call and offered me a job! I would not have found my creative path without her taking the biggest chance on me!
All art is original design of Shelby Meeks.