Education advice and solicitation for a little mentorship
I am currently in the process of planning a way forward to become a professional illustrator, and looking for help making a road map. I've read many threads on the topic here in the forum, and the brochures, and the handbook. I generally understand what skills one needs, but I could use advice and direction on how best to acquire these skills. I'm hoping someone might be willing to pen-pal with me a little, either in this thread or private email, and offer assistance with planning a direction forward.
I'll give a little background here without getting too wordy (I hope). I have a BS in Marine Biology from UC Santa Cruz - I was there when the science communication program was still there, and saw the wonderful illustration exhibits. I have a professional certificate in Museum and Field Studies from CU Boulder. My primary work study jobs through school were animal husbandry work and museum collections work. I also took a handful of drawing and design classes throughout whenever I could cram one in between the physics and chemistry, including a science illustration class at CU Boulder. I worked for several years at a public aquarium in Salt Lake City after graduating.
Since then, my husband has joined the Navy, we have two young children, and we live in the FL panhandle. In the identity crisis that tends to come with being an over-educated housewife, I realized that I want to be an illustrator when I grow up. But, running of off to Monterey isn't an option for me. So, I'm trying to cobble together some training. I'm making contacts with local art groups, I'm taking the MOOC offered by the University of Newcastle as a refresher, and I'm going to audit art courses at the local junior college. I'm also enrolling in an 18 week long Adobe Photoshop course offered by Continuing Ed at the college. I have contacts at the local NOAA as well - I'm heading there today for some specimen drawing practice. My concrete goal is to have a small portfolio to bring to the meeting next year in DC. In fact, it is likely we will be stationed in DC in the next year or two, so my Dream Big Goal is to become a competitive candidate for internships either at the Smithsonian or some other place that might offer illustration training.
Maybe when both of my children go to elementary school I can consider getting a Masters in Art wherever we are living when the time comes, but that's further down the line. I'm also exploring the online certificates offered by a couple of artists, but financially speaking we are somewhat limited in the money we can throw around. I need to streamline the classes I take and effort I put in, as time is at a premium in my household. I would very much appreciate any training advice or guidance anyone can offer - particularly from anyone who juggles children with their career, or someone who may have followed a round-about path to become an illustrator.
Thanks in advance, everyone.