We had the good fortune of connecting with Sheila Fein and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sheila, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
When I was in High School in the 1970’s, I wanted to find work beyond the fast-food job, and the clothing salesgirl job I procured because all I wanted to do was art. I gathered my nerve and brought to a small, Long Island Gallery my clay, Zodiac series. To my surprise they agreed to show them and when the first one sold, it opened a new world for me. When I was an art student at Buffalo State College, living off grants, loans, and work study, I needed additional income to get by. The lesson that gallery taught me was if I persevered, I could earn money doing what I loved to do most: my art. I shortly landed a small job putting ads together at the Tonawanda, Penny Saver near my college. Within a short time, I saw they needed an illustrator for some of these ads and I convinced them to take a chance on me. If I had stayed quiet, I would not have made that step to further gain confidence. When I was first married, we lived in Schenectady, NY while my husband was in law school. Creative jobs were hard to come by, but I opened the phonebook (there was no internet then) and began to call ad agencies until they would meet with me. I got a disappointing job at an agency, where I had no way to be a creative, which convinced me to become a freelance artist. I had so much creative drive then that I plunged ahead and did not look back or question my decision. I learned once you gain the confidence and experience, a “no” from someone does not have to be a dead end. You need to push past the fear and try again. So, through the years of raising my four daughters I sought opportunities to work on my own as a fine artist, graphic designer, and illustrator. Over time, I created a body of work I could rely on with a style of my own, my brand, and a freelance business. I had a niche I could proudly create in.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
As a freelance illustrator and fine artist, there were many avenues to find work in, but I never found a consistent path. Doors were always opening and closing depending on where I lived, how much I was able to market myself, and more recently the challenges from the pandemic. As a freelance artist, I always found I needed to adapt and to find new clients. I have been putting my work up on the internet since it developed. Now, there are so many sites where an artist can be part of online art shows and to sell work. One site I have been successful on is Society6. This site became a place for me to experiment with my designs and a sales tool where I could offer my clients prints and products of original work. I also joined freelanced.com where I have found consistent work as an illustrator, designer, and fine artist. Also, during the pandemic, Cartoon for Hire reached out to me and offered to put some of my work up on their site. This was a generous thing for them to do and I have gotten some wonderful projects from their clients. It is a new world from where I began, and I embrace the new avenues in which to be a creative. I am always on the lookout for new outlets.
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?
I recently met up with a friend at The Stonehaus, which is part of the Westlake Village Inn. It is like visiting a vineyard with nooks and crannies for privacy or people watching. Since I am recently experiencing the world again as Covid subsides, this was a perfect place to sit and have coffee with her and catch up. As we are both artists we have vowed to go back with our sketchpads and have a glass of wine. Another one of my favorite places is the Sunset Restaurant in Malibu which is on the beach. Sitting at an open window watching the world or wandering on the shoreline clears my mind. As I live close, I am grateful I can go anytime and bringing visiting friends is a bonus. Lastly, I have been enjoying Monty’s in Woodland Hills. The food is wonderful, and you can have that old time LA feel (which reminds me of Dan Tana’s) without the drive. We are all so lucky we have places to go again and people to see.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
There are many people in my life that have given me the building blocks to achieve success in my field. But the shoutout I will give will be to my four creative daughters. The inspiration I gained from raising them and seeing the world through their eyes has sustained me and caused me to grow in all aspects of my life. They are grown now and are achieving success as creatives with their writing, imagery, and storytelling. My oldest daughter has brought grandchildren into my life. The circle of life through new eyes is once again part of my world and I am grateful! All my love to Jenna, Kara, Caitlin, Amanda, my three grandchildren, and my husband who is still steering our ship.
Instagram: @sheilafeinillustrator @sheilafein
Photos of Sheila Fein by Artist and friend Suzy Mandel Canter