Shelby Bergen
BFA in Illustration
Freelance Illustrator

Where are you originally from and how did you hear about MCAD?

I'm from Brooklyn Park, about fifteen minutes outside of the Twin Cities proper. I went to Perpich Center for Arts Education, so MCAD was always just kind of in my periphery, but I didn't truly decide to apply until I met with the MCAD representative at Perpich's portfolio day

What was your major and how did you choose it?

Illustration. I knew I wanted to go into illustration when I was in high school. I love telling stories with my work and I love that illustration isn't tied to any one medium. It's a really versatile form of art that crosses over into a lot of other kinds of art-making, so you can kind of follow your bliss with it, which I really loved. My art and I felt at home in illustration, y'know?

Who was your favorite teacher and why?

It's cruel to make me choose! I learned so many things from every teacher I had at MCAD, and there's no way I could possibly choose! I know this answer is a cop-out but truly, they were all pretty great. 

How do you feel about the Twin Cities?

Love the Twin Cities. I can't imagine living anywhere else! The Twin Cities also has a really, really great fat community—there's even a facebook group! [laughs]—that I love very much. 

Where are you living now?

Brooklyn Park, still!

Best thing you ever got on the free shelf?

Free food, always. 

Describe your internship.

I worked with Plays for Young Audiences, which is a part of the Children's Theatre Company. They license out the scripts for shows that they've put on in the past and scripts by playwrights that they work with. I did illustrations to accompany the plays that were in their catalogue. I loved being able to bring stories told in words into a visual medium. It was so much fun. 

What advice do you have for current MCAD students?

Post your work online! Right now! It doesn't matter if you feel your art isn't good enough yet! I assure you, it is!! Show people your art! 

What kind of work do you do?

I have a "day job" and I also work as a freelance illustrator. I don't care for my day job, but I love freelancing! I love getting to make so many weird and cool things for people. 

How do you get your freelance work? 

Most people who want to hire me find me through my social media channels! 

What is your main source of networking?

Social media, always! I use Twitter and Instagram right now. 

What inspires you?

Right now, I make a lot of art that focuses on body diversity, body positivity, and fat acceptance. I'm inspired by all the fat people in my life and all the fat people in my community. Basically, I draw a lot of fat people right now!

I didn't realize just how important it was for people to feel represented in commercial art until I started to draw the occasional fat girl. I can't tell you how many messages I get of people just thanking me for representing them because they'd never seen themselves in any kind of media before.

I suppose I'm also inspired by the fact that fat people aren't represented in media really at all. Well, unless we're the villain, or the mom, or the hot girl's fun sidekick friend. I want to make art that depicts fat bodies in a loving and honest way. I want to show that we aren't just the roles that popular media typecasts fat people as. If nobody else will represent people like me, I guess I will! 

Current obsession?

Gardening? I guess I garden now? I have giant zucchini plants and let me tell you, I am very proud of them. 

Your biggest takeaway from MCAD?

Follow your bliss. MCAD helped me stop making art that I thought I should be making and helped me start making art I wanted to be making. Make the things you want to make!