We had the good fortune of connecting with Shelly Gertan and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Shelly, can you share a quote or affirmation with us?
“Life is an expensive game. So get your money’s worth.” You wouldn’t want to play a game safe in hopes of staying in the comfort of the initial start location. Even if you only had one game-life, you’d try to explore the game world as much as possible and discover everything it has to offer. That applies to life as well. You only have one, so don’t be afraid to make it as exciting as possible!

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Whenever I faced a struggle in my life, or a moment I wanted to escape, I would translate my thoughts into a fantasy world. By giving my problems to my characters, I could safely watch them deal with them, and didn’t have to struggle myself. I then applied their solutions to my life, which allowed me a neutral perspective to find the best outcome. But sometimes, a situation is out of our control. In this case, we are not always helpless – we can still control how we react to that situation. Over time, this fantasy world took on its own storyline, and grew into something much bigger: “Reyn: Angel of Freedom.” An animated fantasy-drama-musical for teens and young adults. It is my goal to share this story in hopes that it can help others the same way it has helped me: to learn self-awareness, reflection, empathy, and seeing the bigger picture in our lives.

Currently, I publish new webcomic episodes of Reyn weekly on Webtoon, and pitch the animated show any chance I get.

In school, I was the only student to graduate without picking a university to enroll in. Studying art was out of the question – it couldn’t pay the bills, and I had excellent grades that would be wasted, so I didn’t even consider it. I chose to study psychology in the end, in order to improve “Reyn,” and attended the first day of classes. Secretly, I was yearning for a story-telling course, and applied to SCAD’s online program. I got in and even received a partial scholarship. So I made a bet with myself. 20th Century Fox was holding a drawing contest. If I won, I would choose to pursue art professionally and never look back. If I lost, I wasn’t good enough for the career anyway. (A terrible way to make life decisions, really.) But I won, and used the $1,000 prize for my first tuition payment. I dropped out of psychology school, and worked as an executive secretary in a hedge fund for 2 years while studying at SCAD online. I lived in Vienna, Austria, at the time, and my family didn’t have the financial means to send me to college abroad, so I saved up during this time.

Then I moved to the US. The sudden change was hard, especially with limited finances, but it was also a lot of fun. I met some of my closest friends and learned more than I could have imagined.

6 months before graduation, I ran out of money. College loans weren’t possible for me, and I applied to jobs instead of continuing my degree. My former employer at the hedge fund got word of it and co-signed a loan for me, telling me I worked too hard to allow money to stop me from getting my degree. 2 days before classes resumed, I bought a plane ticket back and ended up getting my degree with a 4.0 GPA.

I fell into a similar predicament after graduating and looking for my first job in the industry. After 150 rejected applications and almost running out of time on my visa requirements, I met Shabnam Rezaei. She gave me the opportunity to learn from her as an intern at Big Bad Boo, and taught me more than I learned in an entire year of college.

Thinking back, I can’t believe I was ever struggling to figure out what career to pursue. When you work towards a specific goal, the world seems to fall in place. Not because everything suddenly lines up in your favor, but because when it doesn’t, you only want to achieve it more, and keep pushing forward. The people around us are watching us climb, and help can come from the most unexpected places.
I’d like to believe that we can achieve anything if we don’t give up on it.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I love nature and eye-appealing landscapes, especially by water. My favorite hangout would be to just have a cold drink and stare up at a beautiful sky with good conversation.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
It takes a village to support an artist, and I’ve had the blessing to be surrounded by the right people when I needed them most. My family, especially my sisters, are my biggest supporters, and I love them more than words can say. My mentor. Shabnam Rezaei at Big Bad Boo, who helped me navigate the industry and empowered me to continue believing in my passion-project. My former boss, Eduard Pomeranz, who believed in me when no one else would. My friends, webtoon colleagues, and pretzels, who surround me with love, support, and entertainment. I wouldn’t be who I am without all of you. Thank you!

Website: https://www.erlance.com

Instagram: www.Instagram.com/erlance

Twitter: https://mobile.twitter.com/erlancea

Youtube: https://youtube.com/c/ErlanceW

Other: Read “Reyn: Angel of Freedom” on Webtoon: https://www.webtoons.com/en/challenge/reyn-angel-of-freedom/list?title_no=423104

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