Whether it is painting, cooking or drawing, UNT senior Chelsea Tolin fills her life with various forms of art.
“Art goes into my whole life,” Tolin said. “I like telling stories, and I think that’s also a big portion of why I do what I do.”
Tolin started out drawing characters and stories when she was younger. Using paper and pencil, she tried to capture the emotion she felt when she saw a character go on an adventure or overcome an obstacle. She said in her free time she would use her imagination to recreate characters from one story in an alternate universe, and she even wrote a book called “The Dimension Travelers.” Eventually, she combined technology with her talent, which later turned into a passion, and eventually an entire career, with over a thousand Instagram followers keeping up with her work.
Tolin said the inspiration for her illustrations comes from childhood fantasy movies. Both her parents are also very artistic and have encouraged her to pursue her passion.
“One time we went to a movie…we were watching the credits, and I love looking at the credits to see who worked on the film and go see their work afterward,” Tolin said. “And so my dad, he was just looking at me and he was looking at the screen. He’d be like, ‘You’re gonna be up there one day.’”
Her current project is a graphic novel called “The Iron Slayer,” an idea that has been in the works for years and will also be used for an open-ended class project. She said she’d always had the mindset she needed to be at a certain point in her life to start the novel or that she needed to have a certain skill set but this year she decided she just had to start it. She will also infuse writing into her illustrations for the novel.
“[The project has] forced me to learn so much about graphic novels and how to appropriately convey action, emotions and storytelling,” Tolin said.
Communication design senior Adeline Fortenberry said Tolin’s bubbly personality is visible in her art. Tolin even dresses like a character sometimes, “like a cool comic,” Fortenberry said. She also said everyone who knows Tolin knows she’s destined to be an illustrator.
“She has sketchbooks upon sketchbooks that she has filled,” Fortenberry said. “And she often works on them in class during lectures to kind of stay focused. And so she’ll let us look through any sketchbooks…the spread is huge, gorgeous things. It’s incredible.”
Along with Fortenberry and sophomore Rebecca Beers, Tolin has started a student organization called Illustrator’s Society to help other students have a place where they can grow and share their art. The trio decided to form the organization because there is not a major specifically for illustrators on campus, and they felt the need to establish their own community. Members create illustrations to grow their portfolio and provide feedback to each other.
“She is so incredibly supportive of everybody all the time and she’s very willing to help people,” Beers said. “People in the club will come and ask a question about graphic design or something, and even if it’s not just about her own work, or specifically about illustrations, she has so much wisdom that she’s picked up through the past years.”
Initially, Tolin wondered whether she could make money off her passion, but now she works remotely as a lead background concept artist for a company in California, creating illustrations and developing backgrounds for a children’s TV show. Long-term, Tolin aims to work at a studio like Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon Studios as a visual development artist.
“I love storytelling and I feel like they, especially Cartoon Network, [are] coming out with such gorgeous, beautifully told stories like Steven Universe as a whole [is a] huge inspiration to me these days,” Tolin said. “And I just I would love to see my name on that screen one day.”
Featured image: Courtesy @realanimac on Instagram