Originally published in Forbes
This Trailblazers series takes a look at the pivotal milestones that make up the life trails of inspiring women from a diverse array of backgrounds and experiences. We all know what social media profiles display about the end results women have achieved. This series is intended to take a deeper, more authentic look at the journeys they have taken to get there.
Andrea Campos is a visual artist, author, and creative storyteller. She started DreasDoodles at the beginning of the pandemic, as a way to process the overwhelming events in the world around her. The proud daughter of immigrants, Andrea is passionate about telling inclusive and diverse stories that highlight the people, places and cultures she encounters.
After learning more about the trail that Andrea has blazed, I got the chance to ask her some questions.
Rebekah Bastian: What was your transition like going from being employed by companies to working for yourself?
Andrea Campos: Bumpy. You see for years I had wanted to go out on my own as a photographer and art director, but kept second-guessing myself and coming up with pragmatic reasons not to. I finally put in my notice in January 2020, then weeks later the pandemic hit and my dream suddenly felt like it was 100 miles away.
The feeling was surreal. I remember thinking ‘what now?’ My creative future in March 2020 looked bleak, and I wasn’t sure what to do next. So I took the first few months off to focus on recovering from being burnt out and found ways to make myself happy while I weathered out the storm. I worked out, I cooked, and I rediscovered my love for drawing.
What was meant to be a form of art therapy quickly turned into so much more and within months I had built a community around my artwork on Instagram, of people who were feeling just as overwhelmed and uncertain as I was during those unprecedented early pandemic days.
Today, nearly two years later, I have built a career around my artwork. But it still feels like I’m in transition, figuring it out as I go, and adapting to what feels like this ever-changing world around us. As someone who did not go to art school, my path here has been unconventional. But I’m grateful for all the unexpected twists and turns because it did not let me overthink it, which is huge for someone who is a recovering perfectionist.
The last two years have been filled with ups and downs, but one of the most beautiful things that has come out of it is that I’m finally using my full artistic voice. I’m not diluting it or adapting it to fit a brand’s need, which I had done previously when I was working in marketing.
“But I’m grateful for all the unexpected twists and turns because it did not let me overthink it, which is huge for someone who is a recovering perfectionist.”
Bastian: You describe your doodles as sunny and a little sassy. Do those attributes describe your general worldview, or do you channel that energy to help shape your perspectives?
Campos: It’s a mix of both. I’m someone that people would say has a sunny disposition, but I’m also critical when I need to be. My illustrations, for example, were originally meant to just be fun, whimsical images that made people smile. But 2020 was an exceptionally heavy year and there was so much I wanted to say as a first-gen woman of color about Black Lives Matter, the 2020 election, climate change, and more. I started using my art as a way to process my anger, frustration and heartbreak in a way that felt approachable to others–regardless of whether they shared the same values or belief system I did.
I’ve been told by various people that they like sharing my work because it has a certain softness to it, where people won’t immediately look away, and there’s power in that. I feel like that’s my superpower, and I want to keep using it to raise awareness about causes and issues that are important to me.
Bastian: You co-authored A Little Book About Culture. How do you hope to influence the ways kids think about culture?
Campos: I think culture is such a beautiful thing, and something that deserves to be celebrated, even if it looks a little different from person to person. This book is meant to be like a little seed that sparks the curiosity of young readers and opens their eyes to all the different things that go into culture, from our traditions to food, and everything in between. My hope is that books like this one inspire parents to have conversations with their young children about different cultures, which can be such an important first step in building empathy and understanding towards others.
Bastian: What advice would you give to artists that are considering sharing their art with the world for the first time?
Campos: Just do it. I know social media plays such a weird mind game with us, where our value feels attached to likes. But try to put that aside and get your work out there in whatever way makes sense to you – share it at a local cafe, host an art night with friends, start a newsletter, post it online. Heck, my first art show ever was at a retirement home–it wasn’t sexy, but it was a necessary step in helping me get past the fear of sharing my work.
Bastian: A strong support system can be so key to success and happiness. What ways have you found to ask for help on your journey?
Campos: Oh boy, asking for help has never come naturally to me. In fact, that’s something that I’m constantly working on. I swear it’s a first-gen kid thing, where you feel like you have to do it all on your own. It’s taken years, but I’ve finally chipped away at that belief, and I’ve realized that people generally want to help, but they can’t if they don’t know what you need.
Throughout this career transition, I’ve asked folks to read book drafts, connect me with contacts, and just give general career advice. I’ve been honest with folks within my community about what my goals are. No one is ever 100% self-made–there is always a community behind them. As I build mine I hope to be able to pay it forward.
Inspired? Us, too! Connect with Andrea on OwnTrail to follow her journey.