Happy Hustler S.E. Tyler

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img_6104Tell us a little bit about your hustle and your happiness journey.

Right now I am working as a social media designer and outreach coordinator for AIDS Fund Philly by day. It's meaningful work being able to help the 19,500+ people living with HIV in the Philly region improve their quality of life. I consider myself as an advocate for the LGBTQ community and it is a blessing to be able to carry this passion into my professional work.  By night you can find me howling at a full moon and teaching painting classes at Painting With a Twist in Haddonfield, New Jersey. My work can feel like a heavy burden, but when I stop to think of all that I have accomplished it makes me excited to the next chapter of my journey.
When I think of how this all began, my mind is taken back to the 3rd grade when I first started to write stories that were accompanied by my drawings. By the time I reached 12, I would be staying up past hours to draw on printer paper in my bed, eraser shavings falling in between my bed sheets. The next day I would walk into the lunchroom excited to share my comics and cartoon strips with my friends. At 13 I vowed that I would attend an art college, admittedly I was torn between a career in visual arts and a life as a musical theater performer.
tumblr_o54kl1ggwe1vnsl06o5_1280Fast forward 8 years to my Sophomore year of art school and you would have found me still awake past the strike of midnight, furiously working on my next piece for critiques. This became a common practice, working all night and then finding 2 hours to nap before it was time to make the commute into the city. Art school was my childhood dream. I kept pushing myself harder and harder until the very end. After I graduated, I spent a good half hour staring at the honor cords I had earned from my four years as an Emerging Leader of the Arts Scholar. In that moment I finally released all the feelings from the stress and anxiety of the past four years with tears streaming down my face.
Up until that point I had viewed my life as a series of hurdles I had to jump in order to reach happiness. I will be happy once I am a great painter, I will be happy once I complete my thesis, I will be happy once I land that art job.  These are the thoughts that went through my mind until that point. Now I am trying to be present, keeping in mind that I am the only person responsible for my happiness. Choosing to be happy and to live in the moment, I can enjoy life so much more than before when I was always looking towards the next milestone.

tumblr_o9b5f61oxa1vnsl06o1_540What do you do to de-stress after or during a long, stressful day?

After I'm done work I usually have a long bike ride waiting for me. I channel the big feelings left over from the day into energy for the ride, accompanied by fast punk or metal music to get my blood pumping. When I get home I sometimes listen to more mellow music and sit in the dark with candles or Christmas lights. I also talk to my friends and family. Chances are they have had a stressful day too and we can help each other feel more grounded. And of course I will draw in my sketchbook. When I'm sketching I can slow down the anxious hamster wheels that are spinning nearly 24/7 in my head to focus on making something.

Where do you go for inspiration?

Music has always been a huge inspiration for my work. When I was 14 I once created a graphic novella with a story and characters all based off of Iron Maiden songs. My BFA thesis was a series of illustrations celebrating many of the American music icons that I have come to love. Whether you are tuned into Bone Thugs n' Harmony or Buddy Holly, music can transport you to another world, make you feel the joys and sorrows of someone you may have very little in common with day to day. Music can be a loud voice for the oppressed, it can be a silent confession. Music creates culture, and connects us all.

img_6086I am inspired a lot by my own life's experiences. Some ideas for my comics come from taking difficult feelings I have around navigating the world as a trans masculine non-binary person- and putting in in a light hearted humorous view. These are troubling times for folks who do not identify with their assigned birth gender, with laws being passed to keep us out of bathrooms, and not enough legislature available to protect people's rights to safe housing and employment. My comic Tranpire is an account of a gender nonconforming creature of the night. This vamp is full of spunk and keeps their head & their limp wrist up high, despite being a pariah from the living world, including the LGBT community. Luckily for me I have plenty of people in life that keep me from feeling like a lost soul, I hope my comic can bring a smile to the face of a gender rebel who feels broken down by society. If we can laugh, we can heal.

What are you currently reading or listening to (podcasts, books, blogs, etc.)?

I recently discovered a podcast called Season of the Witch on YouTube and it has a lot of great talk for people interested in spiritual magic practice. To me, magic is the willful manipulation of the energy around you- whatever energy you put into the universe you are bound to get back. This is very important in my pursuit of happiness- I am conscious to avoid negative energy being projected onto my future. If you believe you can't win, then you have already lost.

tumblr_od5hypm8fc1vnsl06o1_540What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone just starting their happy hustle journey?

Sometimes the best opportunities are not going to be served to you on a silver platter. One summer I was tasked with finding an internship position. I applied to many of the big names in the industry, my heart was set on landing a spot with a leading toy company. I was met with rejection from every place I applied, until I opened my mind. I searched for small non profit organizations that were in need of a graphic designer. I got accepted not once, but twice. So I carried out two internships as the sole designer on the staff, and learned alot more of my skills and problem solving than I might have otherwise. I made closer relationships, and was more valued on the team as the only person able to get the job done. One position I held even lead to a job that I currently work today.
Don't be afraid to ride your unicycle down the side avenue to success, rather than waiting on the highway breathing in exhaust from all the other SUV's in front of you.

What are some of your favorite quotes or words to live by?

This quote comes from a woman that I met once while waiting outside of a train station. She was complimenting me on my bright pink hair at the time, saying she was excited to turn her grey hair purple as her first dye job at 74. Why was she suddenly confident to make such a bold style choice?

She told me this: "One thing I have learned in my life is that most people only truly care about themselves. They are too busy worrying about their own lives to be truly concerned with what you are doing or how you look. So you should just do what you like. Live like nobody is watching- do whatever you can to be happy and free, because they aren't watching, and they don't care."

tumblr_o54kl1ggwe1vnsl06o1_540In one word, sum up your life as a Happy Hustler.


What are the three core values of your hustle and how do those values relate to your happiness?

My three core values have to be positivity, faith, and hunger.
Finding a space for positive energy in my hustle has taken me far. People recognize me as a good energy to have around, which has opened the way to many opportunities. If you are dredged with negativity, you are bringing everyone else down around with you. It's an unattractive quality and prevents you from having some appreciation for life- even when life is sad. I would be lying if I said I felt happy all the time. Its normal to be sad. Its not a bad thing. A sad time in life can still be enjoyed with some positive vibrations.
12718121_10207925765815833_8281540123234945618_nNext is faith, and no I don't mean George Michael with a choir of angels. I am not sure what my next career move will be, I might return to a position as a substitute teacher, I may be auditioning for a theatrical production for the first time in 4 years. I might make a book that is a total failure, I could spend a long time hustling before I reach the place of security I am seeking. What keeps me going is my faith in the universal powers that be- whatever road I travel, I will be provided for. The next chapter might result in a lot of money, or I could learn a completely new skill. I might even live on another continent for a few months, just to see what is out there for me. Wisdom is the ability to release control, release yourself from the idea of a prescribed route to happiness and success. I have faith that whatever choices I make for my future, the journey will be all the more colorful for it.
tumblr_o54kl1ggwe1vnsl06o4_250And lastly I am and will forever be stricken with hunger. Hunger for change, hunger for growth, hunger that I use to propel me over seemingly impossible obstacles. Someone once told me that they believed musicians create worse music as soon as they have achieved a stature of fame and fortune. If you have nothing else to work towards, then your intentions become less sincere. This is why I stay hungry. To appreciate all that I have worked hard to gain, and to keep my focus on all there is left for me to conquer. I will never settle for satisfaction, I starve for excellence.

Happy Hustler Maria Sweeney




Maria Sweeney is a Moldova-born, New Jersey based freelance illustrator. Recent graduate of Moore College of Art and Design, Maria Sweeney has worked extensively in digital, oils, and other traditional mediums which are showcased in her commission works and sketches. Aside from illustrating her current project, In A Rut Comics, recreational time is generally used in some sort of artistic outlet ranging from working on self-published zines to sketching a possible unhealthy amount of portraits.




cover_openedbookTell us a little bit about your hustle and your happiness journey.

I wasn’t always outwardly artistic growing up. I wasn’t a child that drew the moment she could hold a pencil or was entertained in arts and crafts class. But with the start of high school, so came drawing to occupy some of my class time. By junior year, I was teaching myself daily how to draw, using online resources, the library, and anything I could get my hands on to improve. Getting accepted into art school continued much of the discipline I was already applying, but with tenfold the amount of responsibility and workload. Art school is notoriously difficult and as a recent graduate, the need to hustle in order to progress in my field is just as much as it was when I was hustling to get into art school.


inarut-3-bike-1What do you do to de-stress after or during a long, stressful day?

Like most artists, and as ironic as it is, to de-stress myself I usually end up churning out a few sketches in my moleskine or painting a quick piece digitally. Sometimes I don’t need a break from art-making, just from the specific piece of art itself. Drawing something that isn’t for my comic project or for a commission can provide the energy I need to continue these projects. Reading, listening to music, snuggling with my bunny are also great alternatives for me to do if doodling isn’t cutting it!



Where do you go for inspiration?

I take a lot of inspiration from classical painters, particularly those from the Pre-Raphelite Brotherhood period. Some of my favorite painters come from this group: Waterhouse, Rossetti, Millias — the list goes on. Classical and Neo-Classical work will always be a source of inspiration for me.

Other sources of inspiration for me are alternative manga (such as Taiyo Matsumoto and Kyoko Okazaki) and indie comics (the Tamaki cousins, Glyn Dillion — to name a few.)

Often times, I am most inspired after reading work by some of my favorite creators.


whitebirchtrees_websiteWhat are you currently reading or listening to (podcasts, books, blogs, etc.)?

The last book I read was really great, it’s a comic called My Friend Dahmer by John “Derf" Backderf. It tells the story of the notorious serial killer, Jeffery Dahmer but from a very unique perspective. The creator of the comic actually grew up with Dahmer and the combination of thorough research and first-hand experiences interacting with him was really surreal to read about. The art is great and the storytelling feels much like the pacing of a movie — which is cool because it’s actually being made into one now!

As for blogs and anything else, I read MuddyColors blog regularly. The blog has rotating writers, all different artists and art directors in the illustration and fine arts field. Many of the artists that contribute are ones I look up to and it’s very insightful about how the business of illustration functions.


morningroutineWhat is one piece of advice you'd give to someone just starting their happy hustle journey?

My advice is to establish if hustling is something you actually want to do for your career. While often fulfilling and inspiring, hustling isn’t always happy and by definition, it isn’t easy. I wish creating art, getting paid for illustrating, and having consistent commission work wasn’t always a hustle, but it makes me happy in the long run and a sense of accomplishment. Art functions as both an outlet and a source of income, but both are work and require quite a lot of hustling! I would advise others to find what makes them want to hustle and to keep in mind that hustling is hard, but can be very rewarding.


What are some of your favorite quotes or words to live by?

As cliché as it may be, the painter and teacher Bob Ross often says it best, “You do your best work if you do a job that makes you happy.” And while art isn’t always easy, it ultimately makes me happy and happy enough to want to continue to illustrate.



In one word, sum up your life as a Happy Hustler.



What are the three core values of your hustle and how do those values relate to your happiness?

Discipline is essential — without discipline, art wouldn’t be made. When I’m disciplined, I can see the rewards through work being done on time, or improvement in a particular area of drawing that I lack in. Another core value would be to remain opened to criticism. Like most, this isn’t always easy for me, but it’s imperative to anyone wanting to improve in anything they do. Thankfully, I am blessed with supportive friends, often artistic ones themselves, that are able to give me constructive input and help me improve. Learning to rest is a final core value that I think is important. I don’t always do it and it seems contradictory to being disciplined, but they actually work together. Just as important as it is to be focused in illustrating, it’s also important to be disciplined in being healthy, getting enough rest, learning to take breaks when you are drawing, and allowing yourself time to go out of the studio and enjoy time with others. Often times, experiences outside of my work end up being reflected in it.

Connect with Maria:

Website // Facebook // Instagram // Tumblr 


APOP Studios Feature: Lucy Smith

LSmith1Name: Lucy Smith Age: 26

Original Goal: Getting rid of her Imposter Syndrome. Lucy describes it as that feeling when you are applying for a job and think to yourself, “Oh that has a few things I might like, but I can’t do all of it so I shouldn’t apply for it.” The constant feeling of someone else being more qualified than ourselves.

Today’s Goal: To get rid of Imposter Syndrome all together.

Advice: “You are never alone. You are going to find support no matter what, but support really starts within yourself.”


As human beings, the way that we are raised says a lot about the problems and insecurities that many of us face as adults. For Lucy, growing up as the daughter of a very southern conservative father, and a liberal mother was a constant challenge. As a self-proclaimed hardcore liberal, Lucy and her father clashed heads a lot growing up. However, this tug and pull relationship with her father is what she credits a large part of her finding such self assurance and confidence in her young adult life.

One of the biggest hurdles that Lucy faces day to day is her body. With a smaller, more petite frame but not falling into the “slender” category, she has faced a lot of negative backlash for her silhouette and body type.

“People are like, ‘oh you’re fat’ because I’m not slender. People automatically think it’s a bad thing-- but I mean, being fat is an adjective. To me, it’s just a descriptor.”


One of the ways that Lucy has come to accept her body image was through a stint of time that she spent burlesque dancing. Being able to go up on stage and improv was something that really helped to build Lucy’s self confidence. People really supported her burlesque dancing, and one of the more defining highlights of her time spent dancing culminated after one of her performances. “A woman came up to me and said, ‘ I didn’t know people like you could be sexy. You showed me that.’ It was great, it was wonderful.”

Using social media as a platform to discuss fat positivity and Imposter Syndrome has also been very cathartic for Lucy on her journey to loving herself. Lucy uses her social media pages to help bring awareness and draw community together around those dealing with their journeys to self love and worthiness. The internet is a massive tangle of people, so finding others that are in need of support and hope is not something that is hard to find. Although it’s certainly a cathartic experience for Lucy, to be able to help others on their journey to beating their own versions of Imposter Syndrome.

In my opinion, it’s more important to be proactive and stand up for yourself and say the unpopular things, because somewhere along the line someone else agrees with you.”

LSmith2One of the defining moments in Lucy’s journey came several years ago when a family member slipped her an informational pamphlet about Cryosurgery. Cryosurgery: surgery using the local application of intense cold to destroy unwanted tissue. In most instances the unwanted tissue are localized fat cells.

Lucy was having trouble fitting into the clothes that she wanted to, and her silhouette was not what she wanted it to be. Working hard in the gym was having no results on the lover stomach bulge that she wanted to eliminate. When in theatre school, a professor encouraged her to get into good cardiac shape to be able to make it through a two and a half hour show. Even after doing forty-five minutes on an elliptical every day, she was seeing results everywhere on her body BUT her lower stomach.

After doing all of her research on Cryosurgery/Coolsculpting she decided to go and do the surgery. Lucy describes the process like having your skin sucked into a high intensity vacuum. After her treatment, Lucy had bruises where the coolsculpting had been performed.

I wanted to improve my silhouette because I knew that this was stubborn fat. Because of my circumstances, I was eligible for this treatment because when they touched my stomach...when they grabbed it...they said that it was really soft so the treatment would work.”

The surgery was a real turning point in helping to motivate Lucy to begin to exercise more. Before she underwent the coolsculpting Lucy had been having no success with working out to help achieve the look she wanted. With the fat cells removed, she was starting to see tangible success with working out.

It’s worth saying that I loved and will continue to love my body no matter what my stomach looks like- but I got my silhouette changed because of my own preference. It is not anyone's prerogative to judge anyone else's body based on their own individual preferences...My shape is more appropriate for my body now. I don’t feel like anything is out of shape, or place. That’s what motivates me to get out and exercise.”


Lucy has learned a lot through her journey, but one of the best things she has gleaned from her ups and downs has been just how important being more assertive is for her well-being.

“Getting rid of that little voice in the back of my head telling me that nobody wants to hear what I have to say. Being more positive and extending that generosity to others. If negativity can’t be influenced by positivity, it might be best leave that conversation or that person behind.”

Now Lucy is exercising two days per week in addition to light walking around the city of Philadelphia. She has achieved her own personal preferred silhouette and has changed her outlook on life to reflect a mindset of happiness. In addition to her physical and mental health achievements, Lucy is also on her way to academic and entrepreneurial success. Lucy is a graduating senior illustration student at Moore College of Art & Design, running her illustration business Lucy Smith Illustrations, and a weekend business venture “Snow Princess Parties.”


Can you explain more about Cryosurgery?

I guess the technical term is coolsculpting, because it freezes the fat cells. When it freezes them, it kills them. The fat cells don’t grow back unless you really go all out with your diet/lifestyle, but for the most part they never come back. On average it takes about one hour per section for treatment. They cover your skin in a gel, so that the sucking of the vacuum doesn’t really hurt.


How do you stay active?

I love walking all around the city. When I come back at night, I’m like “that was really fun AND I walked all around the city AND I got to pet dogs in Rittenhouse Park.” I can do all of those things now while exercising.


How did this surgery change the way you look and relate to your body?

It has really motivated me to exercise. Before, my body would look the same after three months of real exercise and I would just feel like, “What’s the point?” I feel more free. I can walk around and not feel self-conscious about my lower stomach. I can walk around with so much more confidence.


When you find yourself in a negative mindset how do you get out of that?

Start thinking of all the things that I am grateful for. My family had a house fire last year, and we are still hanging in there and plugging forward.  People ask me, “How can you be so confident?” I say it’s because I love myself, and a lot of people don’t. What are a few things you’re grateful for?

My health, mentally, emotionally, and physically. I’ve lost four pounds. My family. My dog Ruby, she’s my daughter.



20140514_163943This feature was sponsored by APOP Studios’ Creative Stress Management Workshops. Schedule your group stress management workshop today! Great for work and school events. Email or find more information at




#APOPFNF Profile: Stormy Smith

unnamed-5Name: Stormy Smith Age: 22

Weight: Mind your own business

Occupation: Illustration Student

Challenge: Overcoming depression and anxiety

"There is no before and after picture for depression. There is no scale or measurement or handy little chart or progressive slide show. The only real way to see improvement is to know the person and know who they were before they took steps to improve, or stick around long enough to see them slip up. When someone loses weight anyone can see it, but when someone treats an illness it can be hard to understand and identify.

It was around middle school when I started to notice a difference between me and just about the whole world. I didn’t really want to do things or go places or talk to anyone, but I did. I went out with friends and the whole time I wished for it to be over, I found myself anticipating the end of the day, not the activities. Everyone just chalked it up to thirteen-year-old hormones and being a crabby person.

unnamed-6High school is when depression really kicked my ass. Depression comes in many forms, not just sadness and mine came out in anger. I was mean. Not just snarky, but like that one girl everybody knew they could never show weakness in front of because she would eat them alive. I became the friend you only invited out if you were desperate, and it hurt. I couldn’t understand why people didn’t like me, because I couldn’t understand I was hurting them. Everything hurt me, and I just assumed that was the way it was suppose to be, I cried every night, but I never thought to tell anyone. My senior year everything came to a head. I didn’t so much break down as I had already been broken for quite some time.

The steps to getting myself help were the hardest and greatest things I ever did. The first step to solving any problem is talking and boy did I do a lot of that. I talked to family, I talked to friends, I talked to doctors, and I talked to therapists. Not every method works for every person and for me talking became too much. I tried a few different therapists, but it became apparent that it wasn’t so much the therapists themselves, than the act of therapy that wasn’t working. A lot of people choose not to became medicated, but let me tell you I am not one of them. I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety, couple that with dyslexia and insomnia, I was a constant ball of nerves. No amount of talking and breathing exercises were going to change that. I was lucky though, the first medication the doctors put me on was a success, which doesn’t always happen.

While I had a great support system in the form of family, I didn’t have that same support in school. My friends had come to know me as a certain person and it scared them that I was changing so rapidly. Some of them were uncomfortable talking about my illness because of the stigma we place on mental illnesses and some of them just didn’t like change. Unfortunately I lost a lot of friends, but who needs friends that can't support you changing for the better. When I was struggling I was able to discern who was really there for me and who wasn’t.

unnamed-4I started the journey to improvement when I was seventeen and it has not always been smooth sailing. Like anyone I have fallen of the wagon. Sometimes I isolate myself or stop taking my meds, but the person I want to be is always there reminding me to get back up, not to mention all the amazing friends and family I have always helping guide me (and even sometimes dragging me kicking and screaming). It’s been five years since I made the steps to change myself and it will always be hard, but it will always be worth it."

Do you have an inspiring health or fitness story? Comment below or share on social media using the hashtag #APOPFNF (APOP Fitness Nerd Family) with a reason you should be featured in our next #APOPFNF profile! I will be adding a new profile every other Sunday so get your entries in now :)