It’s never too late to start your creative career—a chat with Svilen Petrov

by Renee Fleck in Community

Today, we’re joined by character designer Svilen Petrov (also known as spovv), who shares his story, plus the most important lessons learned from building his creative career. Read on for an inspiring reminder that it’s never too late to start doing what you love.

Treat your work with respect. One day, you’ll find that it all made sense.

A little chat with Dribbble 🏀, an amazing community that has helped so much along my journey! 🙏

A little bit about me:

My name is Svilen Petrov (spovv), and I’m a character designer. I was born in the town of Shumen, Bulgaria
 (which means “noisy town” in direct translation!). I grew up in a multi-ethnic neighborhood that taught me to respect all people for who they are, no matter how they look. My sense of discipline and my values come from my parents (a nurse and a teacher), soccer, and my brother. I’m a huge fan of Dribbble and I’ve been an active Player for over eight years.

My background in design:

I’m a self-taught artist and I have developed a style of my own—it’s not something you’ll see in a tutorial. My 101 learning resource is Stephen Silver’s character design course. He compresses the most important knowledge you need. It’s worth it, you have my word! You can also check out some of my process videos here and see if you can discover something new for you.

As a character designer, the most important thing is to study people and their reactions. This has been my biggest teacher. I draw real-life events that have happened to me, even people I’ve met on the street just for seconds. And as we go in this direction, I would like to share a little known fact: The Shot below is me waiting for my beloved woman on our first date:

Waiting for…

It was a cold winter evening (-18 degrees!) and I waited for her for an hour and a half. But my patience was rewarded and my love is next to me.

Below are 5 important lessons that I’ve learned along the way in my career. I hope they help you in difficult times or moments of self-doubt:

1. It’s never too late

I am 38 years old now, and although I’ve been drawing since I was a kid, my career in art and design started when I was 26. I went through graphic, web, and UI design until I became an illustrator. And this happened only six years ago!

To become the professional I am today, I went through many different jobs—tennis court maintenance, school guard, waiter, bartender… I even went through the army. But the thing that kept me going was the desire to paint one day.

2. Look for people like you

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to meet people like you. My friends didn’t have the same interests as me. I also grew up during a time when the popular opinion in Bulgaria was, “artists do not feed the family”. And this is where Dribbble changed everything. (I remember waiting for a Dribbble Invite for eight months before joining the community!). Through my Dribbble Titans project, I’ve given back to the people who inspired me at the very beginning of my journey. Thank you, Dribbble!

3. Take your work seriously

To get better, you need to be persistent and work hard—nothing new here! But in all seriousness—start by creating a set of principles and values that you respect, and follow them as if they were your employer. Commit to not breaking them because you may be thrown out into the street. I’m not kidding, take things seriously, and treat your work with respect. One day you’ll find that it all made sense.

4. Share without fear of failure

Don’t worry about posting work that doesn’t follow the trends or doesn’t receive a lot of attention. Have you ever stopped to think, “What if the things I’m creating now are a step ahead of their time?”. If not, think about it.

To prove my point, I posted a Shot on Dribbble a while back that barely received any likes or views. But one day, I got contacted exactly through this Shot by an online university that asked for permission to share my work. In a single day, I received over 1000 new followers, all because I refused to listen to my ego. Today Dribbble is trying more than ever to direct your attention to the valuable work, not the likes and the views. Notice that. Just be yourself and share your style without worrying about your ego.

5. Invest in a good mood

Аlong with respecting your work, respect the work of your colleagues—especially the people who are just starting out. Comment, like, and have fun! Positive vibes can only recharge you.

This is from me—smile, friends! Because when there is a smile, everything is fine!