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Denzel Kessie

First published August 2, 2021

Denzel Kessie, aka BLLACK LINE, is an Illustrator, Graphic Designer, and Founding Member from North West London. Today, he’s sharing his freelance journey so far; the practicalities, and the pitfalls. Read on for more…

Denzel Kessie

Denzel, what’s your creative occupation?

I currently work as a freelance illustrator and graphic designer.

Where have you been?

During my first year as a freelancer (mid-2018 – 2019), I took on a decent amount of free work. I spent most of my time going to networking events, emailing businesses and expanding my portfolio to increase my chances of getting more commissions. I also worked retail on the weekends so I could support myself financially.

Occasionally, I would apply to different illustration competitions, such as the Guardian Illustration Prize, one I was a finalist in. During the middle of 2019, I decided to rebrand myself under the name BLLACK LINE. This rebrand included a logo, new business cards, a redone website, and a brand colour scheme. Eventually, this led to an increase in clients.

Mahalia illustration

During my first year freelancing I, unfortunately, ran into some issues such as; not being paid for work, charging too little, or doing too much in comparison to my pay. I also wasted a lot of time at events that were not worth the time, but it’s okay – all of this was a learning curve.

I still work retail on the weekends to make up for the months I don’t earn enough. DENZEL ON FREELANCE LIFE

Where are you now?

Three years into my career, I’ve done work with the likes of The NHS, Nike London, Creative Nerds, Fila, and many more. All the work I do is paid, with some commissions reaching over £1000, but I still work retail on the weekends to make up for the months I don’t earn enough. I also became part of the Converse All-Stars team in 2020.

Fila trainers illustration

Despite Covid’s interference, I still manage to make my way to networking events, even if some of them are digital. I also revamped the BLLACK LINE brand identity, something which, once again, created an increase in clients. Another thing that helped increase my clientele was that I managed to get myself featured in a reasonable amount of online magazines, such as GUAP and Creative Boom.

Partnering with the right people can be career-changing. DENZEL ON COLLABORATION

Where are you going?

I plan to continue expanding until I’m a household name within the London creative scene. After that, I plan on working internationally. But before that happens, I plan to earn enough from my creative work to the point where I don’t need to work retail on the weekends anymore!

Birth Of 22 illustration

Finally, what’s occupying your thoughts today?

There’s three things that I think about almost all the time. The first is, how can I take my work to the next level? I’m always thinking about how I can improve my work. The second is, what can I try out next? There are always new things to try that can increase the quality of your work. The last one is, who would be great to work with? Collaboration is crucial to me, and I believe partnering with the right people can be career-changing.

We totally agree. Thanks for sharing your journey, Denzel! Make sure you check out Denzel’s website, and give him a follow – bllackline.


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