Duration: I’ve been freelance for four years. Previously, I’ve worked five years at agencies.
Location: Edmonton, Canada.
Education: Bachelor of design in illustration, MacEwan University, Edmonton, Canada.
Career path: As a child, I struggled with self-confidence; I was very shy and didn’t say much in school unless I absolutely had to. However, I got excited about art assignments and creating title pages for every new subject. It was the one thing that made me feel good about myself at a young age. Later, I started looking into design and commercial art as a viable career and put together a portfolio to see if I could get into art school. I did get in, which led to an internship, and from that point on, I never looked back.
At university, my professors said that it was nearly impossible to be a full-time illustrator in Edmonton, and that corporate work was the way to go and print was dead. I always took that suggestion as a dare rather than as advice. I am lucky that I came into my own during the age of social media because that has been the catalyst for all of my freelance opportunities since leaving agency work.
Now, I mainly do editorial illustrations and cover art for clients all over the world. Most of my projects come from art directors who see my work online—through Behance and Dribbble—and request illustrations in a similar style or theme. I tend to attract clients looking for something colorful, specific to a certain time and place, and a little bit retro; most of that work requires historical research and location referencing, which are things I absolutely love doing.
Artistic influences: I really love the midcentury modern aesthetic, the corresponding ephemera, and the illustrative style that came from the illusion of the American dream, seen in those sparkly, full page lifestyle advertisements from the ’50s and ’60s and that idealized world of shiny things and perfect front yards. I try to bring that sense of the “ideal” into my work to make even mundane objects feel slightly magical and unnecessarily beautiful. My love for the golden age of cinema, film noir and the technicolor palettes of those classic studio productions also informed my aesthetic sensibilities.
My great-great uncle William Conor was a celebrated Ulster artist, and seeing him as an example of artistic success gave me the idea that it was possible. My tricultural upbringing—being Irish-Mexican and raised in the desolate prairies of Canada by an artistic family—also shaped my worldview and fueled my imagination. Illustrators and artists close to my heart include Saul Bass, Sheilah Beckett, Chesley Bonestell, M.C. Escher, Edward Gorey, Ernst Haeckel, Charley Harper, Chuck Jones and J. Frederick Smith.
Favorite projects: In February of 2019, I completely fractured my dominant wrist and broke my ulna and radius. I couldn’t hold a fork or put my hair up, let alone work or use a tablet. Using my hand felt like I’d attached someone’s foot as a bionic arm, and I started to feel depressed. Then, local ad agency FKA contacted me looking for an illustrator for its Just Add Alberta campaign for the Alberta Liquor Store Association. Despite my injury, I signed on and worked using only my trackpad, shapes and the pathfinder tool. During the process, I slowly started to regain some strength in my hand, and by the time the project was completed, I had a semi-usable hand again. The whole process helped me heal—both physically and emotionally. It essentially unbroke my spirit.
I am also proud of the series of illustrations I did for Canada’s History magazine, because it was the perfect intersection between my style and my love for vintage Canadiana.
Approach: My style and technique come from my emotions, anxieties, viewpoints, feminine perspective and specific tastes that have been curated and influenced over time by my experiences. I also always try to exceed expectations: if I haven’t impressed myself with my work, it’s probably not good enough.
Philosophy: To give a damn about the work I am doing, no matter the size or scope of the project. I always want to feel proud of what I am putting out into the world, and I remind myself that every project is a reflection of who I am—even if no one knows I did it.
Anything else? I have imposter syndrome, which means it’s hard for me to internalize my achievements and accept that I have done well at something. I think it’s common—especially for women and people of color—to feel uncomfortable with your success, to doubt your skills, and to wonder if your advancements are based on merit or a diversity quota. If I could give my younger self advice, it would be: “Don’t be afraid to take up space.”