Laura Gulshani; Toronto; @lauragulshani
Let’s say we’ve just met at a cocktail party. How would you describe, in a nutshell, what you do?
I would *want* to say that I’m a fashion artist/painter, but I think I’d actually say I’m a fashion illustrator, just because that description is more commonly understood. Then I’d name-drop so you would take me seriously because too many people still give me that discouraging “are-you-serious-your-parents-failed-you’re-gonna be-broke- in-three-years” look.
Where did you go to school and what did you study?
I studied fashion communications at Ryerson University.
What was your first paying gig out of school? (In your field, or not.)
I interned at The Kit while finishing up university, and at the end of the internship, they offered me my very first paid illustration project—supporting visuals for the site’s horoscopes.
What was your BIG break? How did you land it?
I don’t know if I’ve had one life-changing gig yet; I’ve had the privilege to work with really great brands and amazing private clients which has led from one thing to another consistently. I never thought I’d get to work with Missoni or Chanel, but it happened!
Describe the moment in which you first realized, I think this is actually going to work out?
The first year out of uni, I painted for months without any word of a gig (and I needed to pay my student loans!). I really didn’t know what I was doing, but I knew that I loved painting and I was the happiest when doing it. I kept posting my work on Instagram and trying to get it out there. One day I got an email from my now-agent who saw my work online and asked if I would be interested in live-sketching portraits for Juicy Couture at Toronto Fashion Week. It was definitely a moment when I finally received some sort of remuneration for the blood, sweat and tears I had put into developing a style. I thought, Ok, maybe I have what it takes for now.
What would you say has been your biggest failure or shortcoming, career-wise, to date? How did you bounce back?
Live-sketching gigs are always the tensest commissions for me. I love the rush, but I also really want the guests to like my interpretation of them. I worked a pivotal live-sketching event earlier this year that I wish had gone better, but a lack of sleep and nerves got the best of me. I forgot to enjoy the moment and remember why I got into this career in the first place. But I let it go—not every event will be perfect. I’ve also got a long way to go, so I better get used to ups and downs.
Name one piece of career advice you always give.
Something I always tell myself is to have lots and lots of patience. If a week goes by without a commission and I get anxious (which is overreacting, really, a week is not a long time), I remind myself that I’ve been in these moments before and I’m worrying myself for nothing because something better is always just over the horizon.
Did you deal with barriers in your field because you are a woman? If so, what were they?
To be honest, I don’t know. I have always thought my skill set is what determines whether people will hire me. My clients have mostly been women, so maybe that has something to do with it, although I’ve also read that some women try to hold each other down. However, I’ve never felt held down by anyone I’ve worked with! Sigh, I’m just going to stick with ‘I don’t know.’
Are you making a fair income for your work? Why or why not? Do you have a side hustle for extra cash? If so, what is it?
I totally believe I’m making a fair income for my work, but I’m still trying to get my name out there and sell my pieces. Which is why I also have a full-time job as a copy writer to sustain me until I can live 100 percent off of my painting income. And I’m dying to make that a reality ASAP.
What’s the worst stereotype you’ve heard about millennials at work?
That we’re lazy and want to be rewarded for everything single thing we do. Which is totally not true, all of millennial friends are the most hardworking, boss-ass ladies I know who are aware that success doesn’t come cheap, and are willing to hustle for it.