Tina Zellmer / How Illustration Has Changed My Life

Tina Zellmer

When I finished art college in Holland nearly 25 years ago, I wanted to do only one thing: discover the world and earn my living doing what I loved most: working as an illustrator. I started by traveling to Australia for one year. My main goal was to discover other cultures and ways of life, to have fun collaborating with other creative people. I wasn’t famous, but I was brave and busy creating every day. And I was good at it. So, I just went to all kinds of magazines and newspapers and tried my luck, talking with art directors and trying to get jobs.

And to my surprise: it went really well. I hit the jackpot and immediately earned money working for the biggest publisher in Sydney. Of course, it was not easy to travel around and take on assignments. Mobile phones had only just been invented, and laptops didn’t exist. Everything had to be made by hand, sent by post or, even better, I needed to see the clients in person. I loved having contact with art directors and working closely together on projects. I got to work abroad, to connect with people and countries from all over the world and to stay open to all kinds of cultures and experiences.

I tried to use my illustrations to share some of my personal messages and to show my own visions and perspectives. I gave lectures and worked with art universities, schools, businesses and individuals.

My most memorable illustration assignment was when my wonderful agent Anna Goodson launched her yearly campaign to “Work For Free” in support of non-profit organizations. A charity organization based in the UK wanted me to travel with them to Uganda. They needed illustrations and I was more than honoured to be part of their project.

I didn’t know what to expect and that it would completely change my life. Seeing this part of the world, being in such intense contact, was a whole new experience. As hard as it was to see their poverty and life struggles, the people were so incredibly loving and open hearted. I realized I wanted to help people in a more meaningful way. It rewards me to be able to give back and make people smile. I wanted to continue to connect with people in need and try to make the world a better place. That was also one of the main reasons I decided to become an art therapist.

Since then, life has presented another adventure. I have a daughter now and this brings new challenges every day. I am still busy figuring out how to make the best of private life and work, even though I can’t always separate them. Sometimes I struggle. I want to be able to create something and I want energy back, but sometimes I just want to enjoy the miracle of having a child. When we sit at the kitchen table together making funny drawings or just playing around and laughing, I feel content and happy. Our house is filled with drawings and paintings. I love how they all tell a story, and I can remember the moments we shared. I feel lucky to work as a professional illustrator and to be a mum at the same time. My life would not be the same otherwise.