Art and design are abundant in society since mostly everything contains some aspect of visual appeal. However, it is an unfortunate fact that many creative individuals are little appreciated despite their awe-inspiring abilities. Hence, I decided to start an “Artist Spotlight” series where I will interview various artists in order to gain a deeper insight into what inspires their creativity and what they plan to do with their careers.
Estrella Vega, an illustrator and designer based in New York, recently agreed to be interviewed for this series. Estrella started her career as an art director who worked for advertising agencies but she soon expanded into the field of illustration. Since then, Estrella has self-published 11 books and tabled at MOCCA, APE, Brooklyn Comics and Graphic Arts Festival, TCAF, and Grand Festival. Estrella is also a co-founder of “Three-Armed Squid,” a comic anthology that she works on with fellow illustrators Alexandra Beguez and Alden Viguilla. Below, Estrella answered a series of questions about what is it like to be an artist:
Q: What influenced you to become an illustrator?
I’ve always loved cartoons / comic books and luckily for me, I’ve always had a knack for drawing. But like many people, I gave up on my dreams of being an artist for practical reasons. I didn’t want to be a starving artist and struggle to make a living. So I made a compromise and became an art director at an advertising agency because it was a creative job that made money. It wasn’t until I learned I had cancer 6 years ago that I re-examined my career choice and my life in general. Working in advertising, for me, had more cons than pros. Yes, I could make a living, but it didn’t satisfy my creative urges. It was also very stressful and demanding with very little payoff. The fact that I had been taking continuing education classes at the School of Visual Arts helped me a lot in making the transition from a salaried employee to a freelancer. I got a lot of advice, inspiration and encouragement from teachers and fellow students to pursue art.
Q: In terms of subject matter, what are your cartoons about and what inspired the ideas for them?
I can be all over the place with my subject matter (just to keep things interesting for me) but the one recurrent theme that pops up over and over is animals. I’ve always been fascinated with animals. Maybe it’s because they are so similar to us and yet so different. Or maybe it’s because I’ve always lived in cities that nature seems alluring. Whatever the reason, I want my work to incite people to take an interest in wildlife.
Q: As far as working in illustration, what has been your most rewarding experience so far?
I love going to conventions and see people’s reaction to my work. It’s a far cry to my experience when I worked in advertising. I used to mostly design direct mail pieces, what lay-people would call “junk mail”, and I never got to see the client’s or the audience’s reaction to my work. Given it was junk mail I assume it all swiftly went to the trash. With the conventions, I like that I can see for myself if people like / hate / or are indifferent to my work. It motivates me to keep on going and do better.
Q: What are your ultimate goals for the future?
I once thought my goal was to get a children’s book published, but after my experience with cancer I’ve become extremely impatient. As a result, I hate submitting things to publishers and art directors and having to wait for a response if there is a response at all. Ultimately, I realized that while gate-keepers, like publishers, can print millions of copies of your book to reach a likewise huge audience, I don’t need that kind of reach to be happy. As long as my work makes a connection with just one person, I’m satisfied.
Q: Are there any up and coming projects that you would like to mention?
I’m starting work on the fourth book in my series “The Paleozoic” entitled “The Carboniferous”. The series is about life before the dinosaurs, and this particular book will cover the evolution of the amniote egg, coal-producing swamps and giant bugs! Each of the books in the series is a 6 feet long accordion with, on the front, a huge illustration of the animals and plants you’d find in that period, ands in the back, a synopsis of the major events in the period.
Q: Where do you hope to be, career wise, in ten years?
I gave up on long term plans. If you asked me the same question ten years ago, I would have said “Creative director at an ad agency”. Things happened and now my goals are completely different. The ego-maniac in me would like to become the next Maurice Sendak, but at the same time I’m happy where I’m at today. I just have to keep on doing what I’m doing and see where life takes me.
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For more information about Estrella Vega, visit her official website: