D&AD Meets is a regular series where we elevate the work of need-to-know creatives. Each season of features is curated by a creative who can reach beyond our established networks to help us find the new talent deserving of a spotlight, the ones to watch, and the ones to work with. Here, the current curator and interviewer Shannie Mears meets illustrator-on-the rise Cherise Hewitt, and talks about art as therapy, establishing a career and drawing inspiration from fashion and art.
Shannie Mears is Co-Founder and Head of Talent at The Elephant Room, an agency working directly to address advertising's lack of diversity and inclusion. She also runs Girl's Let's Talk, a platform and collective dedicated to creating safe spaces for womxn. We are dedicating the space for this season of articles to exploring the work of emerging Black and POC creatives, focusing on their stories, successes, and talent.
Hey Cherise, Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your story?
Hey! I am a illustrator and artist from the south side of London. I also dabble with a bit of graphic design and fashion design too. I’ve always had creative tendencies but the journey really began around March of last year, when I decided to take my creativity seriously.
Your name on Instagram is @artsvdme. Can you tell us what that means or represents?
Short for Art Saved Me. For me, art is therapy. It keeps me grounded. Art and creating is my own journey of healing. I create what I want, how I want; without others reigning their judgement or opinions on me. It’s just me, myself, my thoughts and my feelings. It’s the closest thing to freedom I’ve felt throughout my entire existence.
After finishing University I felt quite lost and stagnant. I had my job but I knew there was more I could give. I was constantly thinking, what’s next, questioning myself and my position in my life and what direction to go in. I got my first commission Jan 2020 and every month since. Art has literally saved me; it has given me purpose and fulfilment. I believe I am on the right path, working in a shirt and shoes or being in the corporate world is not for me. I am a chilled individual that likes baggy clothes and Nikes lol. I want to work on my terms, be creative and leaving a piece of myself every step of the way.
When did you first start to express yourself through drawing/illustration?
I’ve always been quite creative. I’ve been interested in art since doing art therapy in primary school, although I didn’t know that was what I was doing at the time, I just enjoyed art. It kind of continued through to secondary school age where graffiti writing, cartoon characters and having art holders was a thing (even if you didn’t do art). I used to use magazines and copy pictures of famous people, cartoons or just do bubble writing. I had sketch books full of art. As I got older and education got more serious I wasn’t really encouraged to pursue anything creative, so I lost interest. It was something I would do once in a while when I was bored. It wasn’t until I started my current job where I’m surrounded by a lot of creative people that my interest grew again. I’d say it’s been less than a year that I’ve been drawing/ illustrating seriously.
Was there anything specific that sparked your interest/curiosity?
I have a love for Art & Fashion. They both contribute to who I am and how I express myself. For example, my brand Sekani, which is my up and coming fashion brand that fuses art, fashion and culture.
Completing my dissertation on mental health within the BAME community also sparked my interest. I wanted to explore ways of tackling mental health in a less intrusive way and look at using creativity to address mental health. Not your typical sit down therapy session as I feel BAME communities aren’t very open when it comes to their mental well-being. This contributed to ArtSvdMe.
What is your biggest achievement to date?
My biggest achievement to date would be having my work exhibited in Zari gallery for Black History Month.
Also to add, being fully transparent, I’m proud of me! Who I have become and what I have overcome. Life is a beautiful journey to be lived and I feel like I’m finally living. I have a plan and purpose which brings me life.
And your biggest lesson so far?
I would say my biggest lesson would be to live for yourself and not others. When I was younger I lived my life to please others and it felt like a never ending battle. It was like other people’s approval of what I was doing held more importance than my own happiness. It comes down to the fact, you only have one life, and it’s yours to live. There will be many voices in your ears trying to “guide” you but do what makes you happy, something that makes you proud. Choose you!
Can you tell us anything about your motivation, what keeps you going?
More than anything, my past and not being a product of my upbringing or a statistic; this is my biggest motivation.
As much as the end goal is happiness, I ensure the journey will be happier. The journey is what matters most.
I know you work and do other things, how do you find your ability to be flexible? Is it challenging, (to balance with other employment?),do you enjoy it?
I feel like it’s been a big challenge however COVID-19 has slowed things down and made me take time to prioritise my creative life and get a better balance as I’m able to work from home for my current job. I’m still working on finding the balance between everyday work life and being a creative, ideally I would like to be a full time creative.
Is there anyone out there who is inspiring for you? if so, who? if not why?
Maya Angelou : because of where she came from and what she overcame. Her outlet was poetry, inspiring generations with messages of hope and harmony. She went from being mute to being heard everywhere, even after her death. The very definition of a phenomenal woman.
Teyana Taylor: she’s unapologetically herself, she grinds for what she wants. Her growth and come up is just amazing to watch, she’s so underrated.
What are your plans or aspirations for the year?
My plans and aspirations for this year is to take ArtSvdMe to the next level. Hopefully have my own exhibition and get my fashion brand off the ground. I also wish to have my own creative charity that focuses on mental health, so I aim to look further into getting this done.
What is the best advice you could pass on to other emerging creatives, and why has this proven so useful to you personally?
Be authentic, do what is in your heart, not what is popular/ trending. Authenticity is something that can’t be duplicated. Also, stop holding your talent hostage because of perfectionism, It’s the enemy of progress. We worry so much about whether our work will be liked or accepted. Yes some people may not like what you do, but someone out there will dig it. Release your gift... the world needs it.
Don’t get me wrong I am the biggest perfectionist when it comes to my work but I’ve had to learn to let go. I’ve done amazing things in less than a year that I never could have imagined all because I put my work out there. If I worried about my work not being accepted, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I would probably be in the same position I was before, feeling lost and stagnant.
What is the worst advice you've ever received and why?
You must have a certified title such as a teacher, lawyer, doctor to be successful. Biggest lie ever told!
D&AD is committed to showcasing a diverse range of creatives in our D&AD Meets content. We acknowledge the obstacles to getting into the creative industries for some underrepresented groups and so behind the scenes we offer mentorship pairings with a creative from the professional D&AD community to help to develop the careers of some of the emerging creatives featured.If you want to lend your time to portfolio reviews or a networking meeting please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org