25 Apr My #realfreelancelife True Story: Sami Fasse
I draw the way I draw because I like the way it looks.
Fresh out of college, Sami Fasse is a local graphic designer and illustrator who refuses to bow down to the haters and choose only one career path. I love the quirky and handmade aesthetic Sami brings to her funky animal illustrations—they enhance any space they’re in! She’s also a barista, along with every single one of her roommates, so they make some AWESOME coffee, y’all!
Sami and I chatted before the COVID-19 outbreak. Since then, the entire world has changed, so we added a Quarantine Update at the end. Enjoy!
Mandy: Hi, Sami! I know from your Instagram that you’re really into illustration. Have you always drawn? How did you get into art?
Sami: I’ve always been drawing, for as long as I can remember anyway, and I’ve always drawn animals. Up until college, I didn’t really have a specific style…everything was very naturalistic, and I just drew realistic animals. But I felt like I was copying real life a little too much. At some point, I decided to just draw what I want to draw, and I started abstracting the animals that I made.
One big inspiration for me was ancient art from South America and other places, where the animals they draw and paint are often very abstract. You can still tell what they are, but they are also very pleasing to look at. I started copying their techniques and doing more conceptualized drawings.
At first, I didn’t even notice how heavily they were influencing my art. Then one day, a stranger messaged me on Instagram and was like, “Are you trying to bring out more primal styles of art, but in a modern way?” And I was like, “What are you talking about? Who are you?” and we got into a discussion about it. I realized that I was trying to do that in my own colorful way…and now that stranger is my boyfriend!
(By the way, I feel like such a Gen Zer saying I met my boyfriend on Instagram lol. Usually I tell people that we met talking about art, which is true!)
M: Haha, that’s hilar! I think it’s super romantic…so, where else do you find inspiration?
S: I would say that Keith Haring is the artist that inspires me most. He was very into, “Art should be for everyone.” It should be very colorful and expressive. And that’s very much what I do. There’s no extremely deep meaning, it’s not supposed to make you really think, it’s just supposed to be fun and inspire delight.
M: And that’s meaning in itself actually…
S: Exactly, it’s art for enjoyment. And I do really enjoy my art. Like when I’m thinking about composition in my work, I have to have things to fill the space, I have to think about the geometry, each part of the animal, stuff like that. It’s really fun and expressive for me! I draw the way I draw because I like the way it looks.
M: But you majored in design at NKU, is that right?
S: Yes, I majored in graphic design, but I tried to sneak in my illustration every chance I get. A lot of principles of graphic design can be applied to illustration, like composition, color, what you’re communicating, and stuff like that. I also minored in Japanese, which is really fun, and I like to incorporate that style into my work too.
A lot of people tell me that I can’t do both design and illustration. People who’ve gotten to know me through Instagram only know my illustration, so when they find out that I also do design, they say, “Don’t do design, just do your illustration.” And people who know my design more say, “You don’t do design because it’s not on your Instagram.” People are always telling me that I have to be one or the other.
M: I’ve had the same struggle being a graphic designer, interior designer and photographer. I’ve had a lot of people tell me I need to “focus,” but I disagree. I think exploring other methods of creativity is what makes my work what it is and I’m proud of it!
What are your plans now that you’ve graduated?
S: I’m doing an internship with LPK, which I’ve really enjoyed, so that’s shaped how I view my future. This internship (and one I did at Landor previously) has helped me to learn what I like in a workplace. I hope that I can continue to work at LPK, or continue my career working somewhere similar as a designer.
I know a lot of people who are freelancers and they say it’s the best thing ever, but I don’t really know how to get there right now. I also really enjoy the community of working at a Landor or LPK, coming together and working as a team on a project.
M: That’s really smart! Even if you want to be a freelancer someday, you will learn so much by working at a big agency and make so many connections. What is one of the most important things you’ve learned in school so far?
S: For me, it’s making room for creativity in my day. Burnout is one of the biggest problems in design or illustration or anything creative. In my earlier years in school, I would get so burnt out on projects that I didn’t need to be so stressed over. I knew what I was supposed to do, but I would sit there and do nothing.
That’s when I started learning to paint on the side, do wheel-throwing, etc. And that really helped! Now when I get tired of design, I’ll go to illustration or vice versa. Or I’ll go and look at a gallery or do something that’s creative but that’s not going to put more stress on me because it’s a project.
M: What would you say is most challenging and most rewarding about what you do?
S: At first, I really struggled with finding my style. I could draw realistic animals and I knew that was acceptable, but it didn’t feel right and it had no piece of me in it at all.
But I was afraid that people would think that my drawings were really weird. Once I started talking to people in my graphic design classes and showing them my stuff, they would be like “That’s super cool, can you keep doing that?” or “Can you make one for me?” That’s when I knew I was going to keep doing this. To know that it had some purpose or worth to other people other than just making me happy.
My style is still developing of course. That’s the fun part. To keep finding new inspiration and keep developing and evolving your style over the years. The fact that I get to explore is so rewarding. Especially with illustration, I can just be like, “I want to draw a squiggly dog, that’s all I want to do.” And it’s just very rewarding to make something until I get it to what I want it to be. It makes me happy.
M: I love that! What are you passionate about outside of work?
S: I guess it’s my hobby to say yes to things. My friends are always getting me into new things. Like a few weeks ago, I went to a skate park and I nearly broke both my ankles. I’ve seen a lot of people push off invites to things but I say, “Why not? Let’s go do that.”
And that’s gotten me into so many things. Like a few months ago, I went to a Japanese book sale at NKU and this man came over and interviewed me for their YouTube video. I talked to them in Japanese, and now they invite me over to their house sometimes to taste their cooking and help with their videos. And that’s such a cool situation that I would never have been a part of if I had refused to talk to them!
M: That’s so insane (in a good way)! You’re totally right! Being a yes person opens so many more doors in life than being a no person!
What is a typical day like for you?
S: A lot of my days are completely different. I like a lot of variety. I usually wake up very early and spend like an hour or two drinking coffee and just thinking. I just feel like that’s a very good way to wake up and start your day. Sometimes I’ll eat or start drawing that early, like 6 or 7 in the morning. Just doodling around or drawing is fun.
From there I usually go to work (I’m a design intern at LPK). I’m also a part-time barista at Starbucks. Me and all my roommates are, so we all go to work in the afternoon/evening together.
After work, I come back here and if there’s not something pressing I need to do, I usually unwind by drawing again or just playing video games or hanging out with my roommates. I want to have that work/life balance. I don’t want to get too stressed but want to engage with people and hang out with them sometimes.
M: That’s great! It’s so important to take breaks. When you do, you come back to your work refreshed and with a different point of view…
S: Yes! And often while I’m unwinding, my mind is still working and I’ll think of a way to solve a design problem or something. Or even if I’m just talking to another person, it might click suddenly and I’m like, “Oh, that makes complete sense. I need to run to my room real quick!”
Something we talked about at Landor this summer was what kind of creative you are. And we talked about how some people take from experiences and observations and use that in their creative process. It could be anything. And I think that’s very telling of me.
I’ll take something from a conversation I had that wasn’t about design or art or anything, and I’ll bring that into my art somehow. Or I’ll try something new and completely unrelated and it will find its way back into my art style. It’s like having a little file folder in your mind of unrelated things that will sometimes come up. Not all inspiration has to come from other art. You can draw from life around you rather than Pinterest.
M: I completely agree. Wise words! Ok, I have a few rapid-fire questions to finish things off. Just give me the answer off the top of your head.
What is your life mantra?
Just say yes to things.
What’s your favorite song right now?
Sunflower, by Vampire Weekend.
What’s your favorite TV show right now?
Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. I didn’t watch anime until I was in Japanese class. Everyone was watching it, so I tried it and it’s just ridiculous, I love it!
What’s your favorite emoji?
Tiger. I feel like I only use animal emojis.
Favorite place you’ve ever traveled to?
Something you’ve always wanted to learn?
Every language I can. It’s super fun and you can talk to many people.
What is your worst habit?
Not sleeping. Just working on something and knowing I need to go to bed, but not doing it.
M: Since Sami and chatted a few months ago, the way we work and live has changed dramatically. I checked in with her recently to get some updates.
Last time we talked, you were getting ready to start your internship at LPK. How has the pandemic affected that experience?
S: It’s taught me a bit more about being self-disciplined, self-motivated, and how to find inspiration. LPK does a wonderful job at making this whole working-from-home experience as great as possible. I love all the casual Zoom calls at lunch, presentations, and meetings that I get to be a part of. It makes me feel a lot better about being away during an internship. It feels like a different experience to add to my internship rather than an obstacle.
M: How has it changed your view / approach toward your career moving forward?
S: I think this could be said for a lot of people, but I have learned that working from home is a possibility. I don’t think it’s something I would like to do full-time because I really do miss interacting with everyone in the office, and the environment of LPK’s workplace. But maybe a day a week working from home would ease a little stress from the work week.
M: How has it changed your art?
S: It’s allowed me to keep exploring more often. Because I have time and I’m always near my supplies, I can try new things whenever something comes to mind. It also allows me to reach over and easily doodle something in between work. It’s really helped me act on my thoughts and ideas more easily. The time has allowed me to start things I’ve always wanted to as well—like I’ve started to practice drawing human figures again, study the patterns and markings of bugs, and try out different painting styles.
M: How has your daily routine changed now that you’re home all day?
S: I get to sleep in a little bit longer now, and I spend my lunch breaks playing Animal Crossing lol. I’ve gotten to put a little more time into preparing breakfast and dinner, which makes me feel a little more relaxed as well. I usually pick up my laptop and rotate between my desk, couch, bed, and kitchen throughout the day just to get a slight change of scenery. My end of day is also usually now marked by my coworker (cat), Kylo, telling me it’s 5:00 and it’s time for dinner.
M: What are you doing to keep yourself mentally and physically healthy?
S: I try to just keep in touch with myself and pay attention to what I’m feeling. If I’m feeling stressed, I’ll take a moment to grab a china marker and draw a crazy-looking animal. If I’m feeling restless, I’ll take a hike. To keep healthy in the physical sense, I try to drink a lot of water and remember to eat. I am prone to migraines that last days, so I have to pay attention to how I’m treating myself working from home. I’ve also bought a pair of rollerblades and whenever it’s nice out, I go to the skatepark and injure myself in the name of fun.
Haha, you’re always into something new! Thanks so much for chatting with me, Sami!
To follow Sami’s adventures, you can reach her on Instagram:
And stay tuned to @therealfreelancelife to win some of Sami’s amazing work, including a hand-thrown ceramic jar with a handprinted tiger (we know all you Tiger King lovers out there will be all about this!).