“There’s always something to learn from everyone. No matter what age they are.”
– Shaunt'e Lewis
Shaunt’e Lewis has always been a creative person. Since childhood, she has created in numerous mediums, including paintings, illustrations, designs, and fashion.
“It was just something that was in me,” Lewis said. “I was a really shy kid. Very quiet. Really reserved. And being creative was my way of expressing myself.”
Lewis achieved a cosmetology degree in order to work as a beautician to pay for art school.
Shortly after moving from Atlanta, Georgia to Indianapolis in 2011, Lewis enrolled at Ivy Tech Community College in Indianapolis with the intention of going to the Herron School of Art and Design afterward.
In her early 30s, Lewis felt going to Ivy Tech Indianapolis would be a good transition back into school.
“I got to meet a lot of different people. I was one of the older people in class … so, I felt like I had a little more life experience, but I was still new to the art world. So it opened my eyes to different things and viewing art in a different way,” Lewis described.
Lewis says that although she was one of a few older students in art classes at Ivy Tech Indianapolis, she still learned a lot from her younger peers.
“There's always something to learn from everyone no matter what age they are, even younger people,” Lewis said of her experience at Ivy Tech Indianapolis. “You might think that you could be a mentor or teacher, but they can also be a mentor or teacher to you and teach you something.”
After graduating from Ivy Tech Indianapolis with her general studies degree, Lewis gave birth to her son. Soon after, she opened a salon and ran her own cosmetology business for 13 years, nixing plans to attend Herron at IUPUI.
It wasn’t til 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, that her first dream of being a full-time artist came flooding back to her.
“When the pandemic hit, of course, the salons and stuff had to shut down,” Lewis said. “So, what better time to pursue my passion? That's when I started picking up my art more.”
She began making art again and quickly fell in love with her day-to-day time spent being creative.
In June 2020, Lewis started taking appointments at her salon again but quickly realized it wasn’t where she wanted to be anymore.
Lewis planned to save as much money as she could for the remainder of 2020 and promised herself that in January 2021, she would give herself a chance to be a full-time artist. Lewis said if it didn’t work out, she would return to her salon.
“And within four months, I hit my financial goal for the year. And I was like, ‘there's no going back,’” Lewis said, laughing. “It's been two years this January, and it's been amazing. I'm living my best life.”
Her biggest advice to students seeking to be full-time working artists is to be open-minded with the directions you decide to take as you start your career.
“When I first started doing art, I thought I was going to be painting in my studio, but I turned to more commercial illustration,” Lewis said. “I never thought I would be more of a digital illustrator. That was not even a thought in my mind. But I was open-minded to learn new things, experiment, and take on commissions.”
Lewis’ final piece of advice for students is to instill confidence in themselves.
“You may have the skills, but you may not think you're qualified. So just believe in yourself and pursue the things that you want to do,” Lewis said.
Since 2020, Lewis has become a nationally-recognized artist who has completed artwork for big-name companies such as Makers Mark, NCAA, Indy 500, and Meijer, to name a few. In addition, she has been featured in The New York Times, Complex Magazine, and several local publications.
Lewis has also created artwork for Ivy Tech Indianapolis by painting a mural inside the Ivy Tech Career Center and creating a digital illustration entitled “Transcending Boundaries.”
You can keep up with Lewis’ work on her website, shauntelewis.com, and follow her on Instagram.
About Ivy Tech Community College
Ivy Tech Community College is Indiana's largest public postsecondary institution and the nation's largest singly accredited statewide community college system, accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Ivy Tech has campuses throughout Indiana and also serves thousands of students annually online. It serves as the state's engine of workforce development, offering associate degrees, long- and short-term certificate programs, industry certifications, and training that aligns with the needs of the community. The College provides a seamless transfer to other colleges and universities in Indiana, as well as out of state, for a more affordable route to a bachelor's degree.