Featured image: A digital illustration by Teshika of a femme person of color. She is wearing a pink shirt with matching pink eyeshadow and has long, wavy, light blue hair. Surrounding her are pink, light blue, and yellow flowers. Image courtesy of the artist.
Snapshot is a Sixty column that takes a quick look at art history as it happens in Chicago. We send artists and organizers short and sweet questions to tell us about what they are doing right at this moment. For this feature, we spoke with Teshika Silver, a freelance illustrator, designer, teaching artist, and spiritual cultural worker spending time and living freely in Washington Park, Chicago. As one of Sixty Inches From Center’s talented illustrators, she creates original digital illustrations to accompany essays, poetry, Art Picks, and more. In this interview, Teshika tells us about her creative practice, what she finds inspiring, and the most challenging parts of being an artist.
Sixty Inches From Center: What kind of art do you create and why is it important to you?
Teshika Silver: I create digital art that is colorful, joyful, fun, and indicative of the kind of world I wish to see. I do a lot of work for non-profit organizations so it is also movement-oriented and highlights marginalized groups.
SIFC: What originally got you into creating illustrations? Did you study art?
TS: I went to art school initially for graphic design, which I am still very much interested in, but I’ve been drawing all my life. I love the fact that I can recreate something from my imagination and make it real.
SIFC: For those of us who aren’t familiar with the digital illustration process, can you tell us a bit about how you create your work? Does it start with a sketch on paper, or do you go straight to your digital tools?
TS: There used to be a time when I would sketch and finish a drawing on paper, then scan it and bring it into Photoshop or Illustrator to clean it up, but those days are pretty much gone. Now I can go directly to my iPad, most times without ever touching my computer. I still certainly need my traditional skills, but it’s not at all necessary.
SIFC: Can you tell us about a project you worked on for a client that you particularly enjoyed? What do you like about your commissioned work vs. your personal art, and vice versa? Do you consider them connected?
TS: My favorite work is the kind where I simply get a prompt and people give me the freedom to do what I want. I recently did the cover for a November 2021 issue for the Chicago Reader. It took me some time to play with, but it was so perfectly aligned with the kind of art I typically do anyway, it only took me a couple of sittings over a weekend to finish.
SIFC: Who inspires you or influences your work, whether it be a writer, a painter, a comic artist, a specific graphic novel, etc.?
TS: I’m inspired by a lot of different people and a lot of artists, really too many to name. I get a lot of inspiration from Instagram photography and small creators/illustrators who make beautiful pieces that use bold colors or innovative techniques that challenge me to step outside of my comfort level. Even using a new program can be a source of inspiration.
SIFC: What are you currently working on and what excites you about it?
TS: Right now I’m working on pieces that take less that 30 minutes to do and challenging myself not to be attached to them. I often get too attached if my work doesn’t sell and I decide that it’s not good enough, mostly because I’ve spent days on end trying to make it perfect. But if I’ve done a small typography poster that’s taken me all of 15 minutes to do, I still get the satisfaction of being creative without so much emotional attachment. It’s helped me reorient my energy tremendously.
SIFC: What do you find most challenging about working as an artist? Most rewarding?
TS: The most challenging thing about what I do is being constantly motivated to keep doing it. It’s hard in our current economic climate to constantly be on and inspired, but the most rewarding aspect is getting to see the look on my clients or patron’s faces when they get the thing they’ve commissioned from me. I’ve had so many people tell me how much they appreciate and love my work, and that is such a humbling and joyful experience.