Sara Wong Fresh

Sara Wong

This St. Louis–based illustrator balances well-designed compositions with artistic flourishes in her work.

Sara Wong

saraarielwong.com

Duration: One year.

Location: St. Louis, Missouri. 

Education: BFA in communication design with a concentration in illustration, Washington University in St. Louis. 

Career path: I’ve always been drawing, and I was fortunate to have parents who put me in a lot of extracurricular art programs up through high school. For all this extra education, though, I never heard the word illustration until I happened to flip through an issue of Communication Arts during my senior year of high school. I went to college believing I wanted to be a children’s book illustrator, but I have since fallen in love with the world of editorial illustration. A lot of our school assignments at Washington University mimicked editorial assignments; I enjoyed jumping across projects, interpreting and visualizing different texts. As for actually getting work in the real world, I’m supremely lucky that my professor John Hendrix gave us a crash course in freelancing: how to get your work in front of art directors, how to make an invoice, what different opportunities are out there and how you can break into them—things like that. He made handouts that I still refer to. Per his advice, I put myself out there as much as possible, but I also seem to have a few illustration angels who have passed my name along and helped me get my freelance career started. 

Make good work that does good. Strive to make today’s work a million times better than yesterday’s.”

Artistic influences: My dad and his entire side of the family are workaholics. Their work ethic has rubbed off on me; I’m constantly tryin gto make my process more efficient, but I’m also a firm believer that sometimes, the secret ingredient is time. Artistically, I look to a few source for inspiration. Since my degree had a heavy background in design and typography that has bled into my work. I’m drawn to illustrations that have thoughtful arrangements, with focal points and color, and illustrations that lead the eye. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I also love work that incorporates a strong sense of play—with more painterly flourishes and texture—and I find ways to layer this with my illustration designs. In addition, my mom is an avid scarf collector, and whenever I see her, I walk away with more scarfs. I’m close to having a collection of my own, and I love looking at it for pattern and abstraction inspiration; my favorites are a loose sea life scarf by Ken Done and a floral Oscar de la Renta.

Favorite projects: I’m most proud of the work I got to do for BuzzFeed News article “30 Stories About Abortion From Around The World,” art directed by Lixia Guo. I felt honored to work with such intimate stories, and I loved the challenge of interacting with a huge variety of experiences and emotions, figuring out how to best tell each one through an image and how to represent the text as a whole in the opening image. I also hold this project closest to my heart because one of the women who submitted her story wrote to tell me how perfectly my illustration had captured her experience. Knowing that I handled this assignment with the right balance of sensitivity and visual exaggeration to strike true to the original stories—and do justice to the women trusting us with them—was a huge personal accomplishment.

Aspirations:  I’m so new to all of this that it’s hard for me to know exactly where I want to be next. I just want to be making good images and working with great narratives, in whatever forms they may take and however my images may be applied. I’d love it if that eventually led to working on a book.

Philosophy: Make good work that does good. Strive to make today’s work a million times better than yesterday’s.

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