Brazilian illustrator and graphic designer Niege Borges believes consistently producing work is the best way to grow your skillset and build career confidence.
For Niege, building her portfolio in the early days was all about getting out of her head and focusing on the work.
“My advice to young women hoping to build a creative career, is to focus on putting your work out there as much as you can,” Niege said.
“It doesn’t matter what the work is. If you don’t have clients yet, develop creative projects of your own and share it far and wide.”
“Don’t worry about making it perfect, just get the work done. The more you do, the more you will start to find your way.”
After studying graphic design at university, Niege got her professional start as an intern at a trend research agency in Porto Alegre.
“It was a cool place to work and thankfully I had a great boss who appreciated what I brought to the table,” Niege said.
“She gave me some really cool illustration assignments where I had a lot of freedom to create things the way I wanted.”
“That environment helped me figure out where I wanted to go in my career.”
Her internship led to a full time job and after two years under her belt and a well-established portfolio in tow, Niege began to freelance.
Transitioning into the world of freelance work
“My favourite thing about freelancing is that most of the time I get to choose when and where I work. Having that flexibility is great,” Niege said.
“My day usually starts with replying to emails and organising things. Sometimes I’ll also do some exercise. Then I start working.”
“If it’s a busy period I work normal business hours. But if not, I often take time in the afternoon to paint for myself while I still have good sunlight.”
“Before the pandemic I would also work some nights, so I could use my days to walk in the city and visit museums.”
Blocking out the noise and honing personal style
While her career trajectory may sound straightforward, Niege believes her biggest challenge has been honing her illustration style.
“Finding my personal illustration style was a long process and I still struggle with it sometimes,” Niege said.
“We have such easy access to thousands of amazing artists on the internet and it can feel overwhelming at times.”
“It makes me feel like I need to be super productive and have everything figured out.”
“I’ve spoken with other female illustrators who I admire and they also feel the same way sometimes. So that gives me reassurance.”
“I try to remember that if I am having fun at that same time as making a living, then that’s all that matters.”
Moving from Brazil to Brooklyn
Originally from Porto Alegre in the south of Brazil, Niege now lives and works in Brooklyn, New York City.
“I first came to New York City to complete post graduate study at the School of Visual Arts.”
“While I was here I fell in love with the city and my (now) husband and thankfully secured an artist visa that allows me to work in America.”
When considering the key differences between her experience in the workforce in Brazil and America, Niege points to deadlines and respect for illustration.
“As a freelancer, the main thing I noticed is that in the US the deadlines are less rushed,” Niege said.
“Of course there is a rush sometimes, but the timelines are more mindful than in Brazil.”
“I also feel that illustration is more valued here because the fees are usually better, even considering the currency differences.”
“On a different note, here in the US people really rush their lunch breaks. In Brazil, we usually take more time to have a proper break and grab something to eat.”
“That’s only my personal experience though, so I’d be interested to know what other people think!”
What’s next for Niege Borges?
Having completed work across a range of different clients, Niege said she is most proud of her work creating stickers for Instagram during Pride celebrations in 2020.
“Obviously it was great to have my work reach so many people,” Niege said.
“But I care a lot about Pride month and it what it stands for, so it was great to be invited to contribute to such an important celebration.”
“In terms of what’s next, I’m most looking forward to working on some exciting new projects, like my own book.”
“I’d also love to have my paintings exhibited at some point, and find other ways to expand my work and travel once things start looking better with COVID-19.”
Want more career-related reads? We’ve got you covered.