Nat: Speaking of school, Erin, in middle school and high school, were you the one student that everybody wanted to be on their team if art was involved in the project? (Just so my readers know – I never had this problem. I was more interested in chewing on markers and such at this time.) If so, were the other students trying to bribe you with lunch money and candy to help them out a little?
Erin: Oh, no, not at all! Like I mentioned before, I was the QUINTESSENTIAL nerd type kid, so friends in school weren’t something I really had, let alone people wanting to work with me! Actually, if there was a group assignment, more often than not, I was that kid stuck doing all the work. I was that kid that would get tripped in the hallways and unfortunately, sat alone at lunch.
The few friends I did have, either were real talented art wise themselves (and I always looked at them in such awe because they were so good), or never asked me to do things for them- I’d do it anyway, but they’d never ask. I was always at the top of art class, so that was always something I’d pride myself on.
Nat: Let me say first of all, that I know some of those kids are looking back and saying, “Gee, I wish I had been nicer.” Sucks to be them now. A message to both young and old: Be nice to everyone; you never know who you’re not inviting to eat lunch with you.
Now on with the interview. Erin, a lot of people, just make merchandise regardless of licensing issues and approval procedures. Still, you have been working as a Lucasfilms LTD merchandise artist for a while now, and this year, your portfolio started to include licensed Marvel merchandise.
How did you get these prime gigs? We know you’re talented, and not everyone earns such exclusive privileges, so spill the tea. How did it all come to be? What steps led you to the point where you’re winning film awards for the best poster design?
Erin: Well, the first thing I will say is it was a lot of work beforehand, and it’s still a lot of ongoing work now. I really had to take the time to not only find my artistic voice but also to find ways to fine-tune and improve my work. And I’m still constantly trying to improve in any way I can and learn from people I look up to still in the industry.
I was very fortunate to have a friend who mentored me at the beginning of my career who was in the animation industry, who also had been pushing me for a while to get social media as a way of having a digital portfolio. I was stubborn and didn’t for a couple of years until around 2017, where I finally gave in to the idea. It was such a scary step for me, but if it wasn’t for that step, I wouldn’t have had the courage to turn my resume into several large companies that summer.
Rejection after rejection after rejection came in. And I’m not going to lie; it was extremely hard for me to take. Especially when they were companies I had dreamed of working for since I was a child. That was up until August of 2017-I got an email to do official work for Lucasfilms. Star Wars was quite honestly one of my very first fandoms, so the thought of it was just mind-blowing.
Fast forward to this year, and I get another email reaching out inviting me to do official Marvel work, and again really, it doesn’t feel real at all. I took a lot of freelance jobs before, and I still do take freelance jobs on here and there. No project is too good or too beneath you to do. Sometimes you just have to give it a try! And you will fail at times, but you do your best to learn from it and improve for the next time.
Nat: That is so awesome. Hard work and persistence do pay off big. Remember, it only takes one, “Yes.”
*Well, folks, that’s part two of our interview with Erin Lefler, and it was a real pleasure. Erin is so delightful. If you’re interested in seeing (and possibly buying) some of her fantastic art, visit her Etsy shop, ButternutGouache.
You can also stay abreast of what Erin’s thinking and doing by following her on Twitter, @Butternutgouach, and on Instagram, butternut_gouache. For the rest of Erin’s interview, check the Comic Con Addicts website and FB page regularly.
*About Nat, the interviewer:
Nat Niemi is an award-winning writer and a dreamer with introvert opinions (the kind that sound loud in her own mind). She has written unnoticed books, unnoticed screenplays, and a million grocery lists greatly appreciated by grocery stores throughout the Atlanta area.
Nat is also one of the Executive producers and writers of the upcoming comedy web series, “Bad Practice”. When not dreaming about comic-con conventions, writing, or being walked by her dog, Nat serves as the Director of the Lizzie Newman Brown Scholarship Fund, a non-profit organization that gives a yearly scholarship to an exceptional student whose good grades are nearly eclipsed by his/her contributions to the community.