Episode 6: Discovering New Creative Pursuits with Shama Hussain

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Today I’m chatting with illustrator Shama Hussain about inspiration, her creative process, and discovering new creative pursuits as an adult.

Guest: Shama Hussain

Shama Hussain is a social media strategist and artist living in Manhattan. She currently works at IBM and has previously worked on social media for NBC, UN Women, New York Magazine, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, and the Obama White House. Outside of her day job, she is a self-taught illustrator and likes to create art that shares a story and a message. Shama is a native New Yorker and has lived around the world.


Here’s what we discussed on this episode:



You’re listening to How to Be Creative, a podcast about what it means to be creative across different disciplines, industries, life circumstances, and career structures. You’ll learn tips for fitting creativity into your daily life and hear from a bunch of different people about how being creative has helped them reach goals, open doors, and live a more rewarding–or at least more interesting–life. I’m your host, Kat O’Leary, and I’m excited to introduce you to some of my favorite creatives, as well as to the tools that help me get my most crucial work done.


Kat: Hi and welcome to How to be Creative. So today I’m going to be talking with artist Shama Hussain about her Sketched by Shama project and some other things about her creative process and motivation. Shama, thank you so much for joining me today.

Shama: Thank you for having me. I’ so excited to be here in your new podcast studio. [inaudible]

Kat: So that is true. So today’s pretty exciting for me because so far I’ve recorded a handful of episodes and all of those have happened in my apartment, whereas today Shama and I are actually coming to you from the podcast studio at the wing in Dumbo and is my first time here and I’m really enjoying it. Um, and it makes me feel definitely more like a professional versus someone who’s just like hanging out in her PJ’s talking into a microphone.

Shama: It’s an amazing setup.

Kat: Yeah, it’s really cool. Um, so again, thanks so much for joining me today and I wanted to start talking by talking a little bit about, um, your Instagram, which is at @sketchedbyshama and I’ll obviously throw that in the show notes as usual. Um, and I wanted to talk about kind of where the idea came from, how long you’ve been sketching, and um, also talk a little bit about a recent project you did, um, where you had people commissioned sketches with the money going to relief for Yemen. Yep.

Shama: So starting from the beginning, um, I actually have not been sketching that long. Interesting. Yeah. I only started sketching last year.

Kat: So I totally like self-taught? That’s incredible. Because as somebody who has no visual, artistic talent, I’m really in awe of that.

Shama: Oh, thank you. Well, so I’ve always liked to doodle. Um, so like from when I was a kid, I’d always be like, you know, scribbling and drawing like random pictures and my notebook. But last year I had this moment where I was like, I want to stop consuming stuff and start creating. And I’m like, how can I do that? How can I just stop like reading and watching TV and listening to music and just like put something else out into the universe. So I’m like, what am I good at? And I’m like, okay, why don’t I try drawing?

Shama: So I ordered a sketchbook off of Amazon. I had a picture in my phone that I looked at and I’m like, I’m going to try sketching this. And I loved it. Like I loved doing it. And so I, I kept doing that for a while. I kept just looking at pictures in my phone and sketching them and then I would send them to the people. I would sketch it like I was making the sketches up and they’d be like, these are amazing. So I’m like, all right, I can sketch people. So then I’m like, what can I sketch besides people? So that’s when I’m like, I started thinking about sketching feelings that I was having. Um, so like last year I was going through a lot of like, relationship stuff. So my sketches will reflect a lot of like how I was feeling when I was in those relationships. And then I started adding words to my sketches. Um, so they became like little stories, like standalone stories.

Kat: I love that. Oh my God. That’s so great. Yeah.

Shama: Yeah. So that was pretty much how I got started in this. Now it’s been like a little over a year that I’ve been sketching and it’s become like so therapeutic for me. It’s such an outlet. Um, and it’s just like, I, I discovered something I love doing.

Kat: That’s so great. So it sounds like you actually use sketching as a means of processing emotions while you’re actually going through them, which I think is so cool. And interesting. I don’t know if you follow Mari. Andrew?

Shama: Yes. I’m obsessed with her work. Completely obsessed with her work.

Kat: I saw her, it’s funny, I kind of came to her work kind of late, so I saw her speak at a conference a few months ago. It was actually the yellow conference, which was awesome. I hope they come back to New York next year as well. I saw her speak and I was just in awe of her and I recognized her work. Um, once I looked at it, now I’m like completely obsessed and, but during the interview, one of the things that she said was she actually gets her inspiration from going through old journals.

Kat: So she always deals with feelings that she’s already processed and put behind her. So she won’t draw anything that’s related to something she’s going through right at that moment. And really, um, and so I love hearing that your, your process is kind of the opposite and I wonder sort of what that means for her, like what the purpose is behind some of her stuff. If it’s, if it’s mostly dealing with, at least with when it comes to like romantic relationships, let’s say if she’s talking about a breakup, it’s probably one that happened three years ago that she just happened to read the journal.

Shama: Well, the way I see, I mean that’s pretty awesome that that’s her process. Cause like it, it gives her more clarity into how she felt.

Kat: That’s, that’s true. Yeah.

Shama: For me it’s like my emotions are so raw at the moment, so I’m like, this is my outlet for expressing that. Right. And you’re probably going to be, you’ll probably get the most honest interpretation of what you’re feeling when you haven’t already intellectualized it and packaged it up neatly and like found a purpose that it serves in your life. Or maybe that’s just me.

Shama: No, I agree. I’m also like, I realized like when I feel more, my sketches come out better.

Kat: Wow, that’s awesome. I love it.

Shama: It’s, this is like really sad to say, but it’s like when I’m more sad, the better my sketches. Um, and I get comments from people saying like, I love your sketch but I can tell your really sad. Um, so like, yeah, it’s definitely more like the whole, I guess the whole tortured artists where like, I am really putting all my emotions into my art.

Kat: That’s amazing. I love that. And it’s interesting because I think the first sketch of yours that I remember seeing, um, was right after you’d gone through a breakup. And that’s how I found out that you and your now ex-boyfriend had broken up. I think I sent you a message and it was like, I really hope this doesn’t mean what I think it means.

Shama: And it meant exactly what you thought.

Kat: Oh yeah. And I don’t think, I’m pretty sure that was on your private Instagram.

Shama: So it was a sketch of, it was a two-part sketch. It was, um, a girl and a guy laying together in bed. And then the next one was just the girl laying in bed by herself. And I had written, you can’t make homes out of human beings, which I did not come up with that saying that’s like from a poem. Yeah. Um, but like I just remember I couldn’t, I kept remembering that quote. And so sometimes this is how my thought process works too. I’ll remember something that I heard that really touched me and then I need to sketch it.

Kat: Yeah. Oh, that makes a lot of sense to me. Yeah. I mean I, it’s funny I do that, but I think, I think I usually just turn them into like Instagram caption. That’s my shallow version of art.

Shama: Um, I mean it’s for sure. Like I sometimes I’ll, I’ll like read a poem or see a quote on Instagram. Um, cause we, we read so many, like I follow a lot of accounts at least about like about like positivity and like female empowerment. And sometimes I see something amazing and I’m like, wow, I really want to create like an illustration to go with this. So sometimes that’s like where my inspiration comes from too.

Kat: Very cool. Yeah, I love that. Um, yeah. And so, um, so what drew you to create the Instagram account? Like what, at what point in sketching did you decide that you wanted to share things with the universe?

Shama: You know, I just created it last month. Um, so I had been posting like my personal, my sketches on my personal account on like just my stories, not even as posts cause I’m like, you know, it’s something that’s like a doodle I made and I just want to like share it. But then I get it started getting so much feedback from people saying I would love to see your work in one place. You should create a separate account. And I was like, ah, I don’t know how I feel about that because my sketches are so personal.

Kat: I was going to say, your work is so personal. That’s a lot to have out there.

Shama: It’s like these are like my feelings to have it public. It felt very like, I don’t know, it made me feel a little uncomfortable”. But I started doing it more and more and I loved like hearing people’s thoughts on like, “Oh, I could really relate to this” or “This really reminded me of my last breakup” and I would hear a lot of that.

Shama: And it made me feel good. It was like, I’m not alone in this. And my sketches are making other people like, you know, they’re invoking emotions in other people, which I love. So, um, after, uh, like a little over a year of sketching and I was like, okay, fine, I’m going to create a separate Instagram and just see what kind of responses it gets. And it felt very weird at first cause like I had some strangers following me and liking my posts and I was like, this is weird. It’s not my friend saying, Oh, I relate to this. This is just somebody like liking my photo or commenting.

Kat: Or empathizing with you as a friend or a family member or whatever it is. Yeah.

Shama: So it felt like a little bit like baring my soul in public.

Kat: Um, it’s like invasive, but like an invasion that you’ve invited. Does that make sense?

Shama: That does make sense. It’s a lot like that. But now, now I’ve kind of built like a following on this account and um, I love, I actually do really like sharing my work work, um, and like getting feedback from other artists. So I have like a lot of spoken word artists following me. Yeah. They do like poetry and they’ll come and um, so it’s, it’s just nice to like be part of an artist community.

Kat: So cool. I love that so much. And also I feel like there’s potential for some kind of collaboration too.

Shama: Yeah. I’ve actually, like, I’ve had some people reach out and say like, you know, we should think about working together and I love opening the door to that. I have, I don’t have anything just yet because I’m just so new to this.

Kat: But, okay. But literally you started this a month ago and they’re already making these connections, which I think is really incredible. That’s awesome. And as a side note, I recently asked you to do some sketches of our upcoming guests, including yourself. Is that weird? Have you ever done a sketch of yourself?

Shama: I have. And those are the ones that always come up the worst. I like cannot draw myself. I don’t know what it is, but like I can’t look at my face and get it correct, but I can draw other people. So, we’ll see what happens. But I’m so excited about this because one having projects is so fun cause I’m not just drawing for myself. It gives me like accountability. It gives me a challenge. Um, so like it’s like, it gives me a purpose for my work. Yeah. And I think that’ll be really good.

Kat: That’s awesome. Yeah. And it’s so funny cause my thought process was like, it would be awesome if I could hire someone to do sketches of the guests. And I was like, it has to be someone who, I mean most of my guests will be women, I’m assuming. Um, and in particular, I was like, it has to be someone who will be able to capably draw women of color. Um, and I like, I I know from just kind of almost eavesdropping in different communities online that like, um, you know, white artists don’t always get it right. And so I’m sitting there thinking about this and I was like, I feel like I know the exact person that I want to do this for me. And then I was like, duh. I need to ask Shama. I’ve been meaning to commission her for something anyway, like, why am I so stupid?

Shama: I’m so excited you came to me, you know, speaking of like sketching women of color, I am like, I actively try to like draw different kinds of people.

Kat: Right. And so when I had seen recently, I’m trying to remember who, um, there was a particular quote and I that, that you had, um, Oh, it’s Nayyirah Waheed.

Shama: Yes, yes. She has, um, amazing poetry and yeah, but like, you know, she writes her poetry for women of color and I was like, the illustration I draw with this has to be someone of color obviously, or even like, um, I want to draw people of like different body types. I don’t want to always just draw like the same standard attractive women. Um, so that’s been something I’ve been thinking about.

Kat: I love that. That’s great. Yeah. And so as soon as it occurred to me, I was like, duh, that’s the only person I couldn’t have do this. Um, so yes, I’m really excited about that. So then I guess it makes sense to talk next about your recent project where you had people commission you to do sketches and donated the money to Yemen relief.

Shama: It was such a fun project. So I just wrapped it up. Um, basically earlier this summer, um, I had been sketching more and more and I got like some random requests saying like, Oh, can I commission you and like pay you to draw something. Um, and I had never sketched for money before. Um, and so I was a little hesitant about it, but then I thought, what if, like what if I asked people to, what if I said I could draw people and then used that money for a good cause? And that way I don’t feel bad about taking money from someone. And so I like put it out there. I was like, you know, what is, what’s the cause that I’m really passionate about? And so, um, just on August 19th, it was world humanitarian days, so I was thinking like the crisis in Yemen, it’s now like the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Shama: So the situation’s really bad. Um, and I thought, okay, like this is like a small contribution I can make to it. Yeah. So I posted on my personal account just saying like, Hey guys, I want to like draw for a cause, um, and I will draw whatever you want. So I get a lot of like random requests saying like, “Oh, draw like my favorite like sports team, or draw like me at my wedding.” And so I was like, okay, I will draw whatever you want. Um, and then I, uh, I was like, it’s, it’s at a suggested donation of $30. I’ll draw whatever you want and then donate it all towards the, um, IRC, which is the International Refugee Committee.

Kat: I’ll put that in the show notes.

Shama: And so, um, and I was so surprised by how many people have signed up to do it. So like I ended up doing 14 commissions in total. Awesome. Yeah. So we raised $500 in total. Um, and it was very fun just getting all these different requests. So I had some really fun challenges. Like one person was like, “Oh, I want a celebration of friendship.” So a very general topic. One person said, “I want you to draw me and my son dancing at his wedding.” And then I had a friend who was like, I want you to draw me how Game of Thrones should have ended.”

Kat: That’s so that’s like, that’s perfect for you, too. What a fun project.

Shama: Such a fun projects, and you can see the variety of requests too.And it gave me like, you know, it gave me, it like opened a new door to my sketchings so I loved it. I like discovered so much and um, just like really homed in on my skills and had to like force myself to be even more creative. Cause I thought for every person who requested a sketch, I want that sketch to be very tailored to them. Right. Um, so I don’t want to just create like something random for them. I want it to be like, so, you know, if a friend asks me for something, I thought, “What do I think when I think about her, what does she remind me of? Um, like what has she gone through in her life? And then I would draw that.

Kat: I love that so much.

Shama: Yeah. So put in a lot of, um, time into creating something custom for them.

Kat: Very cool. And then, um, so how many of the commissioned pieces did you end up sharing on your Instagram? So I saw one from our mutual friend Chris Saunders who is a musician and you had done I think his favorite, his favorite lyric from Bob Marley.

Shama: So he sent me his favorite lyric to sketch. It was a Bob Marley quote. So I, and he, you know, he’s all about his music. So of course his sketch had to be music related. Yeah, of course. Um, I’ve posted a few of them, so definitely haven’t gotten around to posting of them on my Instagram. Um, because so I also want my Instagram at sketch by Shauna to be like more, um, more like on-brand for what I create. Um, so a lot of the sketches were very specific requests that I don’t think would be something I would always, I would consider as part of like what I do. So again, like I said, I want to create stories and feelings and some of these were like, draw me at my like wedding.

Kat: Right. Which is not, yeah, that makes sense. And that was actually a question I had about kind of where do you, how do you find that balance between you and your work and your kind of brand, for lack of a better term, versus trying to deliver on that very specific request and make it feel like it was meant for that person.

Shama: Yeah. Um, so that’s, that’s something I’ve been trying to figure out myself. I want my sketches to like, I want people to look at them and be like, Oh, Shama created this. Right? Um, it’s hard with commissions cause sometimes people have very specific things in mind and I’m happy to draw that for them. Uh, but if I love when people give me requests that aren’t so specific, they’re like, Oh, just draw me. Like I had the friend who said, “Draw me a celebration of friendship.” And so I had like the room to be creative and add my own touch into it and add my own words. Um, so like it’s again, really it’s trying to find a way to, to tailor their, what they want to like what I usually do. Yeah. Yeah. Makes total sense. Yeah. But it was really fun just coming up with that.

Shama: I had one request from somebody who she wanted a sketch for somebody as a gift and she wanted to gift it to her friend who’s in an abusive marriage. And she said, “Can you please create something really uplifting for her and incorporate religion into it?” And I was like, that is such a meaningful request. So of course I thought a lot about it. Like I spent a lot of time just thinking, what can I create for this person? Um, and I, I, uh, ended up drawing her this girl praying and it says, “God will give you something better than what’s been taken from you.” Yeah. I think it’s one of the most meaningful sketches that so much.

Kat: Okay. I saw that one. I love that one so much. And the other thing of just thinking about it from the perspective of, um, you know, I spent I guess five years as an advocate for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. And so where my brain went first was like also when you’re good, when you’re producing something like that to be given to someone who’s in an abusive situation, you also kind of have to walk that line of like making sure that whatever it is isn’t going to like endanger them further. And so that’s a very, that’s a very safe image for that person to be quote unquote caught with.

Shama: Yeah. Her spouse. Yeah. I had to also, I had to really think about that sketch cause I’m like, I don’t want her to look at it and feel sad or triggered,

Kat: judged or like that. Like preachy or like here’s a solution. And it’s like,

Shama: So I I that’s why I said it was one of the more meaningful ones. I really spent a lot of time coming up with a concept for it.

Kat: Right. Um, yeah I’ll link to that. Um, there, there are a couple of sketches that we’ve talked about that I’ll link to individually in the show notes in addition to linking to the Instagram account. Um, wow, that’s amazing. Cause I haven’t seen that with no context for it. I already thought it was like this really meaningful, um, piece of art and was it, you know, that something that drew a visceral reaction for me and, and also, you know, really lines up with kind of how I think about life now. And yeah, there was this entire other dimension that no one who was seeing your account could actually see. That’s amazing. I love that. I feel like that’s true of a lot of your sketches where like we’re seeing kind of, and also it’s open to interpretation, right? Like everyone’s gonna see it and get something out of it. And it probably looks a little bit different depending on whose perspective it is.

Shama: For sure. And even like some of my sketches are, that’s why I said they’re so personal. It’s like I could have been in a really bad place when I drew that. Um, and so you’ll see some of the emotion, but you won’t know like a lot of this, this, a lot of what, what detail drew me to like draw that or um, even just drawing it for somebody else to, yeah. So that’s, I think that’s like the beauty of art too. So I, as long as it invokes emotion in somebody, I think I’m, I’m getting, I’m doing what I want with my art.

Kat: Yeah. That’s fantastic. And I also think it kind of serves combining things that you’re doing for yourself and things you’re doing for others in one place kind of serves as like a protective layer for you almost. Because if I’m looking at something I don’t necessarily know, is this something Shama drew, um, about a situation that she’s dealing with personally or is it something that someone else asked her to draw? So, um, you know, I think when you’re, when you’re putting something out there that’s so personal to you, um, as we talked about earlier, it can feel very, uh, vulnerable, but maybe this like if not like subtracts a layer of vulnerability. Vulnerability like allows you a little bit of space.

Shama: Yeah. It’ll, it gives me a little bit of like protection. Cause I, you know, you don’t, nobody ever wants to like share everything that’s going on in your soul, um, for, so for sure it does that. Um, it just, it’s been really fun, like drawing cause I’ve just been drawing for myself, so it has been really fun to like draw for other people too and try to like incorporate their lives into these drawings.

Kat: I love that. And I think, um, I think this across like a broad range of mediums like, um, and not just necessarily what we think of as art, but I think empathy is such a powerful tool for doing great work. And I think this is a perfect example of that. Yeah.

Shama: Yeah. I hope so.

Kat: Yeah. No, that’s amazing. I love that.

Shama: Um, and it’s, it’s also like really fun to like, since I do did this commissioning project, I get people like sending me pictures of how they framed their sketches and put it up in their homes that I’m like, that that like is so meaningful to me. I’m like, that’s really amazing. Love it. You liked the sketch enough to like hang it somewhere or frame it somewhere or like frame it and gift it to somebody. So like, that’s just, it’s been a really special project.

Kat: I love it. Yeah. That’s so great.

Shama: It made me really happy.

Kat: Yeah. Um, and actually this is a sidebar but that just occurred to me. So you and I have both been kind of dabbling in these alcohol ink painting recently, which is so cool. And I feel like if you’re a way better than, I know I talked about it on every episode, just like obsessed. I’m like starting an alcohol ink cult. So props to yang from tailor made shop. I’ll throw that in the show notes cause she’s the one who taught both of us and I am now like I’ve had so many friends reach out and be like, what is this? How do I purchase it? I want to learn more about that. Um, but I, it just occurred to me like that could be kind of cool in terms of like using an alcohol ink piece as a base layer and then once it dries doing like a sketch over that,

Shama: Oh, I actually thought about it, but I am not good. I’m not nowhere near as good as you’ve become with these.

Kat: I don’t think it’s a talent. I think it’s like I, it is like a bit random. It’s completely random. I don’t know if it’ll turn out good or not. And honestly the best one I’ve done so far I think ended up kind of looking like a skull. Like they send out my Instagram. I think that’s the best one I’ve done. Like I had someone reach out and tried to commission a piece. Wow. For me after seeing it I was like, Oh no, I’m sorry it wasn’t that one. It was a different one I had done and the one actually the one I, the one I did where, um, where someone reached out for a commissioned piece was like the photo paper I bought wasn’t working. I found a piece of glossy cardboard on my floor and used that instead and just like threw some stuff together accidentally made rainbow colors and like it came out beautiful.

Kat: It’s like on my, over my desk at work now. But um, no, but I think, Oh my God, no, you’re totally talented enough with those to to do something and I think it’d be really cool.

Shama: I would love to try that actually. Now that you mention it, I think it’d be really fun cause I’m always thinking about like what’s the next step for the sketching? Right. Um, and I’m thinking how can I add color to these sketches? How can I like add more dimension to them? So alcohol inks is definitely one. Another thing I really want to do is, um, I sketch on hand. So just using a sketchbook and a pen. Yeah. But I’d love to try it digitally. Cool. And start illustrating. Yeah. And coloring them. I think people would like to see more of that. So it like gives me a, it opens the door to a lot of creative pursuits.

Kat: I love that. And like one of the things I’ve been thinking about with the alcohol ink stuff, and it’s funny, he’s like, as I was saying, like I have no visual, artistic ability. Like this is the first thing where I create where I’m actually creating things and I think they look good afterwards. So that’s a new, uh, feeling for me. But I’ve been thinking about turning alcohol ink work into like kind of more multimedia stuff. Like whether it’s um, you know, like, uh, adding yarn or embroidery floss or something and doing some kind of like embroidery onto, um, an alcohol ink piece that I’ve done. I’m going to start exploring that. I haven’t, I, it’s something I want to strategize about a little bit more. But I love like mixed media work is like always so fascinating to me.

Kat: Um, and I kind of want to, it’s funny. So I, I there’s this, um, there’s this comic that I discovered, um, a while back. I totally going to not remember who made it, but I’ll put it in the show notes. But it’s about how it takes like seven years to master something. And so if you start this process when you are, um, I don’t remember how old, but basically there’s this idea of like, you can have like 11 lives within your one life. And so I’ve been thinking a lot lately about like, well, within however many seven year blocks I have left in my life, what are the other identities or lives that I want to have during that time? And so, um, one of them is like mixed media artist. And so I’m trying to start thinking about like, well, what does that look like for me?

Kat: And like another is, um, like I’ve always, I wanted to go to fashion school in high school and I didn’t obviously. Um, and so like at some point I want to be like an avant garde fashion designer for like seven years. Um, so it’s a lot about like how to blend all of these things together.

Shama: It’s like you want to discover what’s, what talents you have in you.

Kat: That you don’t know about.

Shama: Yeah. Cause you really don’t know unless you’ve tried any of these things. Like I, uh, two years ago I wasn’t sketching, so, um, and suddenly I’m doing it all the time. Um, and we’ve never tried alcohol inks until this summer.

Kat: And now we’re obsessed.

Shama: So yes. It’s like, like try all of the things. Yeah. And then the ones that you love and like you’re saying, mix them to create something really, truly unique just to you. I love it.

Kat: Yeah, that’s totally where I’m at. And, and I think as adults, and I talk about this a little bit on one of my solo episodes, but I think as adults it’s very easy to, uh, conform to old ideas we have about ourselves or identities that we have formed for ourselves where you’re just thinking, well, I’m a person who does this, not a person who does that. I’m good at this. I’m not good at that. I like this. I like that. And I, I’ve really tried over the past few years to just kind of throw that out completely. And, and um, you know, growth is a very big thing in my life and part of that is not holding onto things that are no longer serving me.

Kat: And I try to incorporate that mindset in, in things like art, which is, you know, as I seen, like visual arts really new to me, but I, yeah. And it would be easy to kind of have like imposter syndrome and think like, Oh, I’m not good at this, or I don’t do this. I’m not a person who does this. And instead I’m just kind of trying to explore it and play with it and see what happens.

Shama: It’s so important for creativity because I think our minds are way too rigid and it’s like our minds are way too organized. We put ourselves in a box. And say, you know, this is who I am and this is what I do and I don’t do any of the other things. But like, like you’re saying, throw that box away, and just try it.

Kat: I love it. Throw the box away. Um, that’s awesome.

Shama: Yeah. So, uh, that’s, that’s really what the creative process is. It’s like nobody has to teach you that you’re good at something. You kind of just have to figure it out for yourself.

Kat: For yourself. Yeah. And so I want us to talk a little bit about what kind of, what it looks like for you to carve out time for sketching and if that’s even the right way to ask it, because it might just be more like you feel inspired and you just drop things and do it. Within reason. Like we both have full time jobs, like not always do that.

Shama: Yeah. Um, I no, I don’t really need to like force myself to carve out time cause it’s really like whenever I’m feeling something and I have this idea that I need to sketch this feeling into a drawing, um, that’s when that’s when the sketch will come out good. And I can’t like wait to get to my sketchbook.

Kat: Yup. So that’s kind of writing to, I completely understand that.

Shama: So even just like last week I had this, I was like, I was somewhere surrounded by people and I’m like, even surrounded by people I feel so like alone in this situation. And I’m like, I want to sketch this. So I went home and I like sketched a girl at a party and I remembered this Drake lyric where he was like, um, I never actually am alone. I just always feel alone.

Kat: Like emo, Drake lyrics.

Shama: So I used it for a sketch, but again, like when I have moments like that and I’m like, I need to sketch this, but sometimes I won’t, you know, I’ll go like a couple of weeks and I don’t feel like inspired to draw anything. So it’s really like waiting for that inspiration to come. But that’s why I like commission sketches also helps because people are giving me,

Kat: Yeah, it’s like forced inspiration, slmost. Yes, that’s exactly. Yeah. Yeah. And then I think we kind of already touched upon like the motivation. It sounds like when you, when you get the idea or the inspiration, like you have to do it. So it seems like motivation isn’t really an issue for you. But I do think it’s probably an issue for some people listening. So I don’t know if you have any, any tips?

Shama: Um, well, I’ve had a really tough year, so I’ve had a lot of motivation this year. But I think when, whenever you’re like, whenever you’re in a situation where you’re feeling an emotion more strongly, ask yourself, how can I translate this into whatever creative field I’m in. Yeah.

Kat: Versus like numbing out with Netflix, which I think is very common. It’s like, I don’t want to feel this way, so I’m just gonna like trying to shut it, shut it off.

Shama: Exactly. Instead of avoiding that feeling, ask yourself, how can I use that feeling to like, um, be more creative.

Kat: I love that. That’s great. Um, so another thing I wanted to talk about is kind of what your process has been for growing your, um, audience on Instagram.

Shama: Um, I’m so new, so I just started my Instagram account last month, so I’m still like, I’m still figuring it out, but I did find that one starting it, it’s like, um, your friends and family who have liked your work will probably want to follow you wherever you’re putting that work. So I’ve had people who have been really like great about that. Um, and then it’s also like finding people who do similar things to what you do. So like I went out and followed a lot of artists whose work I like and a lot of like, you know, people who are putting out poetry and quotes, um, similar things to that and you’ll find that they start reciprocating because they’re doing something similar.

Shama: So they’ll probably, you know, be interested in seeing what you’re putting out too. So that’s my recommendation for building your audience. It’s like, look to see who else is in that space and then, um, support, support them so, and they’ll support you.

Kat: Yeah, that makes total sense. And it’s interesting, like, so we met at work, um, working in social media. And so I’m wondering like how much of that background, and you have like a really, you have definitely a deeper social background than I do. You’ve worked for some pretty big brands and I’m wondering like how much that experience comes into this or if it’s just a completely separate thing.

Shama: It’s, it plays a little bit into like promoting your work. Right? So like, I guess now I, that I started on Instagram, it is like, okay, thinking about like, okay, what’s my brand? Um, which is such a funny thing to say for something.

Kat: I’m, I’m in the same process. Like I’m like, how do I make a brand? That’s basically me. Yeah. But that,

Shama: Exactly. It’s like, that’s where like my PR and social background come into. Like, it absolutely does play a role. You know, I, I’ve noticed when working with a lot of brands first on social, they, they all, they always have to have a feel of this came from that one brand. So like if I’m doing something for, um, a media outlet, it has to look like it came from that media outlet. Like what does, what differentiates them? Um, why couldn’t it be any other outlet that put out that one thing. So that’s why it’s like when you’re thinking about, um, when I’m thinking about my art, it’s like I want it to look like it came from me. So that was, that’s where like the branding came in. I was like, what should, like I don’t what, what kind of branding should I add to my sketches? And that’s when I thought of like Sketched by Shama. And so now I’ve started adding that to all my sketches so that I have like my logo

Kat: And when the internet steals it and like, like someone can say can look at it and see, Oh this is who it was stolen from. Let me go check that person out.

Shama: Cause how many times do you come across something amazing on it, on the internet and you’re like, I don’t know which artists created this.

Kat: It makes me really mad. Especially when I see something and I’m like, I know who created that and it’s gross that you’re stealing it and passing it off as your own. And that happens so much lately and it’s, I don’t know, like how do you not feel gross about that?

Shama: Like that was one of the things that when I started my Instagram we kinda, I saw like people posting it and I, I thought like it’s great that they’re posting my work. It means they liked it. They did give credit, but I still felt protective of it. So you have to like learn to be comfortable with just realizing that that’s what the internet is. That’s the blessing and the curse. Your work will reach so many more people, but you’re going to have to give up a little bit of that, um, ownership of it. Yeah, no, that makes a lot of sense.

Kat: Um, so we talked a little bit about kind of what you’re thinking in, in terms of potentially adding color to your sketches or exploring kind of multimedia, um, opportunities. Um, is there anything else you kind of have in the pipeline that you wanted to talk about?

Shama: Um, well, I definitely want to buy an iPad and start digital sketches now. So that’s my next step and I’m really excited for it cause I, it’ll be something totally new for me. Um, so it’ll actually end up being a totally different product that I’m creating. So we’ll see how that goes.

Kat: That’s really cool. And I like that because it then makes it, I feel like it makes it so much easier for you to then just share a digital copy, turn it into like if you want to do, if you’re, if you ended up wanting to do work for a brand, let’s say you could, that makes it so much easier to like turn into various like social sizes and stuff like that. Um, it seems, and also probably makes it easier to add color within the sketches themselves.

Shama: That’s the hope. It’s like I’m at once I start doing it all, see how it opens more doors and um, like even lets me try newer things. So I’m like excited. I love it. Yeah.

Kat: No, and I think that’s kind of, I think that’s kind of what the heart of it, right? Where you can have all these ideas of like, Oh, I think I’m going to do this thing and then I’m going to do this thing. And then after that I’m going to do this thing. And then a lot of the time that doesn’t, it doesn’t happen quite how you expect. But yeah, at least in my case, I find that a lot of the time the things that I did not imagine doing ended up being some of the best things.

Shama: Yeah, I absolutely agree. You again, that’s us putting ourselves in those boxes. So I started sketching and I’m like, I’m, you know, I think I’m good at sketching. So I was like, I must be good at painting, and I got all these paint supplies and I realized like I’m not going to paint it at all. I tried acrylics and it just, it didn’t look as like, you know, this is nice, but clearly my talent is in drawing and not painting.

Kat: Or maybe it’s something like you can do some kind of abstract sort of thing with the acrylics and then draw over them when they’re dried or something. I don’t know.

Shama: Again, it’s trying, trying every outlet open to you, but dabbling in all of those things is what’s fun and like you’re saying, coming to realize what you are good at, what you, you know, what you’re not so great at. Yeah.

Kat: And the, the other thing is we don’t have to be good at everything either. And that’s something that I’m, I’ve gotten more comfortable. I then continued to try to get more comfortable with as an adult.

Shama: Absolutely. It’s like, um, try all the things. You don’t have to love all the things.

Kat: Yeah. And you didn’t have to be able to monetize things. That’s so important. Companies are great. We should like, you should be able to have hobbies. You don’t need to be great at anything. I mean, yeah.

Shama: If it’s bringing you joy, then it’s already adding value to life.

Kat: Oh, that’s great.

Shama: Yeah. Like, um, I don’t need people to pay me for my sketches. I’m happy just doing it because yeah. It’s therapeutic.

Kat: Yeah. I really do think that like creative work has intrinsic value and it’s very easy, I think, especially under capitalism. And I feel like I like talking about capitalism a lot apparently, but, um, I think it’s very easy to get into that mindset of like, Oh, this has to serve X, Y, or Z purpose, or it’s not worth doing. And I find that to be highly untrue.

Shama: I think that’s a really bad way of thinking because it prohibits you from exploring how creative you can be. Yeah, yeah. Sure.

Kat: Yeah. Well, thank you so much for joining me. I feel like this has been an amazing conversation and I’m really excited to bring it to our listeners. Um, Shama, thanks so much for joining me.

Shama: Thank you for having me. I’m so excited to work together on our, on the sketches for your podcasts.

Kat: Agreed.


So that’s this week’s episode of How to Be Creative. As always, you can find show notes, including a complete episode transcript and links to everything discussed at howtobecreative.org.

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