Amber: So, when I had time to take a step back and look at the work, I made majority of it of it was of human figures and like facial expressions and portraits and so I knew that drawing people was an interest to me. And I think it kind of happened naturally that I started to focus on women going to a bunch of galleries and museums both in Boston in New York really not seeing myself in any of the work that was represented. A lot of painters and artists are male that are in museums a lot of them are also Caucasian and their perception of women is very limited.
Jon: On the final episode of season one of Wellfed my guest today I'm super excited to introduce Amber Victoria she's a freelance illustrator living and working in New York and her work focuses on the accurate portrayal of women in art some of her collaborators and clients include Gucci, Rimowa, Adidas, CB2, Refinery29, The New York Times, Instagram Days Magazine, Man Repeller the list continues to go on. Amber thank you so much for joining me today.
Amber: Thanks for having me.
Jon: We've been trying to get this on the books for a bit.
Amber: Thanks for being patient.
Jon: Super excited how is your 2019? How’s your year been?
Amber: It's been good. It's cold in New York but I got back last week from a vacation in South America so that was kind of nice to be in the warmth for two weeks but 2019 has been good for work. I just finished my first year full-time freelancing I started in December 2017 so this is the beginning of year 2 which is exciting but yeah pretty good so far.
Jon: You before vacation you're also doing a little bit of traveling around the States as well, correct?
Amber: Okay yes so for New Year's my boyfriend and I went to Miami which is cool I've never been there really beautiful art scene. We went after scope, but it was really nice to still see all the murals and go into some galleries. And then I went to Rochester to RIT to do a workshop with their sophomore and junior students so that was a lot of fun too. A lot colder than here but always fun [laughs].
Jon: It's always kind of nice to go back and see what kids are working on what they're interested in, it kind of gives you that like energy and that sometimes you know you can use.
Amber: Yes they were so excited and it was really nice to work with sophomores and juniors because if I feel like this time in the school year seniors can be a little bit more stressed about finding a job we're like do I have to move home with my parents which I suggest if you can. So, it was really nice sophomores and juniors had like this energy about them that's like oh I guess college so it was really nice to visit them.
Jon: You also published a book in 2018 or was it 2019?
Amber: It is 2018. So, most of the work that I make is either like a one-off piece or if it's a piece that like lives on a product or is for social or for advertising so I really wanted to force myself to do something more sequential. So, I self-published this small poem that I wrote like ages ago and I really forced myself to make something that was more of a collective. So, hopefully in the next few years I could work on books that are published with publishers.
Jon: The book is titled “With Beautiful Large Feet”.
Amber: Yes, which is me my I have size 11 women's which I believe is men's 9 which is great when they don't have a women's 11 like men's 9 and they're like oh yeah that's right we can correlate that. So, I was very insecure when I was younger, I was significantly taller than a lot of my friends. Obviously with puberty that like you know eventually kind of averages out but yes, I would be picked on for being like kind of tall and awkward. And so, I wanted to kind of speak to that when I wrote that poem a few years ago and then illustrating it was really fun too. So, it's leaning into like what makes you unique both like emotionally and physically.
Jon: What was the process for self-publishing? You said you want to work sequentially with all of your body of work what goes into that how do you publish this, what were you looking for partners things like that?
Amber: Yes, so it was more of like a like a self-practice just forcing myself to make work that lives like within a body versus a singular piece. And then I've gotten a lot of advertising projects that will come out in the next few months that are like sequential so there are six images or eight images where they all live similarly and even though they tell their own narratives they still look like a cohesive piece as a body of work. So, I'm really glad that I did that project. In terms of publishing I just used Blurb. There's two publishers Blurb and Lulu I've used both like in college and out of college from like my own like one-off printing. And Blurb is great because you can like attach the barcode to it and then you can sell it on Amazon if you want to. The nice thing is you can print like one-offs or like two or three of them without it costing thousands of dollars.
Jon: Smaller runs.
Amber: So, it's great for like experimenting or like self-funded or self-initiated projects.
Jon: Totally. Before we get too far into some of your work and we're going to definitely talk about that are you originally from New York?
Amber: Yes, I group an hour and a half north of here.
Jon: Okay what town?
Amber: Paterson New York.
Jon: Paterson New York.
Amber: So, there's a Paterson New Jersey which is more of a city.
Amber: I've never been it's more of a city Paterson New York is not a city. I went to Carmel High School so that area is Paterson, Carmel and Kent they're all very small towns so they all go to the same high school I mean it's definitely more rural I would say like Westchester County is the county between Putnam and New York City. So, like New York City is the City, Westchester is definitely more suburban and then Putnam is where it begins to get a little bit more rural definitely more suburban than like further upstate New York until like upstate but yes so, it's like a weird hybrid of like the suburbs and like farms if that make sense.
Jon: I read in a story that you were in second grade and you were drawing a self-portrait and I believe classmate at the time that said that you were drawing your self-portrait wrong because your arms and your legs were too long.
Amber: Yes. So, I actually have those my parents are moving soon so I was going through a lot of my old art work and--
Jon: Is it framed?
Amber: Those are actually so we had to do self-portrait every year from kindergarten through fourth grade that was my elementary school and they would staple them all together and when you graduate in fourth grade that's like what your art teacher gave you so I still have that it's not framed it's like old [laughs] somewhere.
Jon: Papers turning to dust.
Amber: So, it's funny because it's like this has like a hundred staples in the top-left corner and like the dates of each one we drew it. So, yes, I remember when he said that to me it's like no is this how I see myself and like it's interesting so a lot of the work that I make today definitely references that extending of the form even though now I do it consciously. So, when I was 8 I didn’t. So, it was really it was the first time that I realized that in art you could kind of portray yourself how you feel versus how other people see you.
Jon: That kind of thought right that there's always someone that is going to say potentially is like that's not how you do it. But that happens I'm sure today you know like in anyone's work of art, any one's kind of body of work there's always the people or the voices that are always like no that's not perfect it's not how you draw a face or whatever.
Jon: And it's interesting to see that you just at that point just ignored it and continue to do what you wanted to do.
Amber: I was like come on man I was like I'm an art class.
Jon: We’re in second grade.
Amber: Yes, we have math after this.
Jon: When is lunch?
Amber: Let me enjoy my like 29 minutes or however long it was [laughs].
Jon: Totally. Were you always interested in drawing interests in whatever it was coloring painting at that time?
Amber: Yes, I always loved drawing and coloring and my parents started to take notice and there's a few free programs like in the Patterson area. I got the library and stuff and they're like “Oh do you want to take art classes outside of school?” Like yeah sure why not. So, I took a few of those like free like watercolor and I don't know drawing colored pencil classes. So, I at young age I knew I loved it but I would say when I was probably like 11 or 12, I applied to a studio art program. So, like our middle school offered high school courses but you had to apply to get into them and studio art was one of them. And I remember you know putting my three pieces together one was like of a dog wrapped in an American flag. I love drawing animals when I was younger because it's easy to get like you know from like animal magazines.
Jon: And they sit still a lot longer than people.
Amber: They do exactly. And then like two others still lives and my mom was like I was putting them together and she was just like “Oh would you ever want to pursue art?” And like that's kind of when I was like oh yeah that could be a thing.
Jon: So, you went through middle school taking these kinds of accelerated courses, you made it through high school obviously and then you get to the point when you graduate high school you went to Boston University.
Jon: I believe you graduated summa cum laude.
Amber: I feel like in an art program it's sort of easy. [laughter] don't show up and you won’t get that.
Jon: Yes, make sure you submit work and then you can kind of get there.
Jon: What was the program like? What was it like you know going to school in Boston or being from New York?
Amber: So, everyone said I had a New York accent which I was like lies have you ever heard of anyone that lived in--
Jon: Do you hear all of you?
Amber: I was like do you have the accent people from Boston and then I was like have you ever heard something that actually grew up in New York City it's different. So, that was pretty funny like when I first went to orientation that people were like you're definitely from New York and I was like cool I didn't realize.
Jon: The New York girl over in the corner there.
Amber: And like a lot of people at BU come from outside of Boston which is nice but there are a significant amount of people that come from like the Boston metro area. I love Boston it was a pretty cold and winters that was tough especially walking with your portfolio like flailing in the wind.
Jon: Basically, just a sail.
Amber: Why didn’t I pick a colder state. [laughs] But other than that I really loved the program at the time their majors were painting sculpture and graphic design and I was 18 and I didn't really know like what type of artist I wanted to be nor should you when you're that young. So, I picked graphic design because you could kind of pull from different types of mediums and like put them together to tell the story so you let the idea kind of drive how you're creating the piece. And that bought me some time to figure out who I wanted to be and so for the first two years is pretty rooted in fine art practice. So, painting, sculpture and printmaking and drawing. And the last two years were more like typography, grid structure things like that. So yes, it's a great program I loved it.
Jon: Yes I noticed I mean it's I think if for anyone that would kind of stumble on your work today and not knowing you before they would look at you and say you know an illustrator have kind of qualities of a painter and things like that but you went through a design program. You went through and I think I looked at even some your work experience you did design for a long time.
Jon: At what point did you like the switch go off like oh I don't know if I want to do this anymore?
Amber: It was like gradual thing so in school is always drawing and a lot of my design work was very illustrative. It's funny to look back at my old work like this is terrible which is good I mean everyone makes shit work that's how you figure out what works for you.
Jon: Remember back at the time like this is so good I’m definitely going to nail this.
Amber: Like is definitely going to make me famous and you look back at it now and you’re like it’s never going to be famous.
Jon: Art blogs here it comes.
Amber: Exactly. So, a lot of my design work was very illustrative and when I graduated, I got my first like permanent slash full-time job was that Victoria's Secret as a web designer. I always knew I wanted to freelance and work for myself but I didn't know what that would look like. So, I wanted to you know meet people like in the design world and like work full-time and you know pay off college and things like that. So, I would always draw on the side it's like I'd bring my sketch book with me on the train, I lived at home for the first year after I graduated so when I commute, I would draw. And then as I left Victoria's Secret and started working at Vayner I started to do a lot more freelance. I did a bit of freelance in college just for like side money and then like freelance you know nights and weekends when I worked at BS. And then that slowed down a bit at Vayner just because it was an ad agency and the hours were a bit more demanding. And that's kind of when I realized I was like I love illustrating, I haven't done it in a while, I'm not doing any more freelance like let me kind of pivot and bring that back into my life. So, I started looking for different types of full-time work and I stumbled upon Avon; they're very like old-school beauty brand they're looking for a web designer. My friend Jay she used to work at Victoria's Secret she actually was like “Hey I work at Avon now we need another person.” She's like in the hours are really great like 9 to 5.
Jon: That’s awesome.
Amber: So, I went in at like 8:30 left a little after 4:30 which was really great.
Jon: That’s pretty clutch.
Amber: So, it gave me a lot of energy back to like start drawing and I had the knowledge from Vayner and had a kind of like leverage Instagram to put that artwork out there and start to create an audience. And so, with all that time back I started to build that up, started reaching out to people for freelance work, built up my client list and then a year and a half later I quit and here I am working for myself. [laughs]
Jon: I want to break some of that down a bit.
Amber: For sure that’s the longer readers Digest.
Jon: Yes, I could just end the episode. So, you said you were doing Web Design at Victoria's Secret [Amber: Yeah] I can imagine doing email blasts and things like that when you move to Vayner what were some of the projects that you were kind of focused on?
Amber: So, Vayner I when I first went to Vayner as a designer and the brand's I were on were more consumer-packaged goods so like Quaker- actually Pepsi was one of the companies, Quaker, Tropicana I’m trying to think--
Jon: CPG like that.
Amber: Yes. And then like a few like laundry brands that weren't associated with PepsiCo. So, yes and there's a lot of fun it was the first time I was art directing or helping art direct photoshoots and like working with a writer to come up with concepts and how that kind of lives on social. And it was prepaid for Facebook and prepaid for Instagram so everything was organic and like learning how to like grab people's attention without sounding too salesy. So, it was definitely a shift from Victoria's Secret but it was a good one.
Jon: What were some of the you know you kind of mentioned it was very much about organic reach at that time. What were some of the takeaways from Vayner that you think really helped you leverage or start to build that foundation of getting you know your own freelance practice?
Amber: Yes. So, in terms of leveraging Instagram I when I started researching people that worked for themselves as illustrators a lot of them had agents and so I started to reach out to agents and no one responded or they did like thanks but no thanks.
Jon: It's weird how that like you I guess as an artist you never think that and then it just like when you get hit with that wall I mean when you kind arrived at that point you're just like damn I can't even get this how does that happen.
Amber: Yes. So, I was like how do I kind of like walk backwards into becoming an illustrator. And so I started to share my work on Instagram and I was really fortunate a lot of my friends would reshare my work and I would cold-- I still do this today cold email a lot of brands, a lot of publications to either work with or to write about my work or to do a podcast and then that is kind of organic reach in and of itself. And then at the end I'd be like oh if you could just put my Instagram handle that would be great and then so I get followers that way. And then when publications are to also share my work people would find me through them and follow me. And then I try my best respond to everybody; it's tough sometimes you're like oh yes I responded to them and you didn't but in your brain you did. [laughs] But you know trying to be as active on it as possible really helps to start to grow the platform for me. And because of that I don't I don't know how I feel about what I'm about to say yet. But because I've developed like a nice following people, I feel like take me more seriously as an illustrator and I'm able to get work that way which is great because it circumvents the idea of an agent and then democratizes illustration.
Amber: I think you know social media is still too new to like really determine what follower count does to the psyche. So, TBD if that's going to be a positive thing but thus far has helped me kind of break into illustration without having to go through the traditional route.
Jon: That's kind of interesting that the thought of what follower count can do to the psyche.
Amber: I know.
Jon: It's kind of like it's like that makes me think of something similar in terms of like relatively new to how it affects someone it's like on a completely different plane CBD right like that's a super popular thing right now. Everyone's like what does it actually do to you and like everyone's like oh it's good just drink it.
Amber: [Laughs] put it in your coffee.
Jon: It'll make you feel great and then everyone's always like oh man I feel so much better and I'm like I don’t know about that.
Amber: It's like a sugared what is that called a placebo effect yes.
Jon: Totally-totally. When you went to Avon you said the hours are great it allowed you to kind of go home still have a lot of energy was there any time during your time there that you were able to kind of weave in some of the work you were doing outside?
Amber: Unfortunately not, so Avon definitely had a more of like a strict brand guideline just because they were the older of a company. They were at the time going through a lot of like restructuring and like figuring out who they were in like you know the 21st century in social media. But for the most part it was more like my Victoria Secret job like web design, banners things like that, which was kind of nice because I've done that for so long that I could go in and do that and then go home and like have all that energy, but I had never really woven my personal work with my corporate jobs.
Jon: And then in the in the time after because the hours seem to you know you get out at like 4:30/5:00 you get home you still have a lot of time you could even like eat something
Amber: [Laughs] eat.
Jon: Sit down for a few hours you know kind of get into a zone before you like try to go to bed before 12 o'clock.
Amber: Yes exactly.
Jon: Was it just a lot of as you mentioned building that client list, cold calling or cold emailing, working on illustrations was that kind of the routine for a little bit?
Amber: Yes, so for my entire time at Avon that was the routine and then the reason why I decided to leave was because Avon after a year and a half in they started to lay off a lot of people and hey so that made me nervous [Laughs].
Jon: That always happens.
Amber: And then so my workload started to increase a lot even though the hours were still very good in comparison to jobs that I had in the past it got to the point where I was like okay people want to meet me during the day now for freelance stuff and I can't do that because I have a full-time job. And I can't like you know take a call on my lunch break anymore because I have to work through my lunch. And then I started working later and later and later on my freelance work on the side. So, I was like you know what I'm going to try this. Like I don't have children. I'm very privileged in the fact that my parents helped pay off a lot of my college which definitely put me ahead in terms of I thought I'd do this maybe in my mid-30s not my late 20s, but that definitely helped. So, I don't have any dependence, didn't have any debt, I had some money saved from my full-time job, so I lived my boyfriend which was helpful also like if I couldn't quote-unquote “make rent” like he would obviously be there to help me out which knock on wood I’ve been okay [laughs]. So, all those decisions kind of let me take that leap. But I took I spent quite a bit of time like calculating and making sure that it wasn't just a blind leap of faith into working for myself. So, I remember I gave my notice. I gave them a month's notice just because at that point I believe is like one of like only a handful designers and I don't want to be like “Peace out.” They were all really nice so I gave them a month notice and then I started working for myself on December of 2017.
Jon: That day will be ingrained.
Amber: Yes, and then a week later I found out I had a severe nut allergy.
Amber: This is great - this is interesting.
Jon: You just go home and have a bunch of peanut butter and you're like oh wait I feel so bad now.
Amber: Yes, I like have a handful of almonds and then I ended up in the ER is like this is a great first week.
Jon: Just as you’re walking out, you're like I quit and then you take a handful of almonds and they’re like “You don't look so well right now.”
Amber: “You need to go to the ER.” Which I'd say a word to think those that are deciding to go freelance I'm a full-time job make sure that you know like if you are to leave try to leave in the beginning of a month because you're covered through the end of that month.
Jon: For the health care.
Amber: Yes which gives you yeah which gives you a few weeks to kind of either like apply for like loss of health coverage with another insurance company or my case because I did it at the end of the year I could do what is it called like open enrollment for health care. So, that was my dad's advice to me so I like to pass it on because people are like I never thought of it and like neither did I and it saves me thousands of dollars [laughs].
Jon: Especially after eating a handful of almonds.
Jon: So, you make the step you get out of the ER of course [laughs] the work that you were doing as you started off I look at your portfolio now it's very much in what I believe is your style very much your color palette you work in the kind of familiar way of depicting the form. Was that the case when you started freelancing? You know was that right off the bat you started doing that or did you have to kind of bend a little bit in terms of what you were interested in?
Amber: I definitely had to bend especially while I was at Avon a lot of my freelance work was more design based just because a lot of the work I was getting from friends that I worked with at Vayner that now worked at other companies and needed a designer for like Instagram stories or Instagram posts. And then I would slowly try to weave my illustration work into that and if it didn't work whatever didn't work it's still freelance and I get to learn something from it. But then over time I slowly got more work that was illustration in the style that I do now and less design work.
Jon: Was there anything that you changed when you were talking with clients or how you represented yourself?
Amber: So, I changed my website to be just illustration and I had like a like a presentation of my design work that I would send out as a PDF if someone were interested that way the first thing people saw for me was my website being all illustration, my Instagram being all illustration and I would specifically reach out to publications that used illustrators and reach out to brands that either have used illustrators or it might be an easy transition for them to use an illustrator for a project. And I would just kind of pitch that work in and that really helped me slowly transition from getting like design jobs to getting illustration work.
Jon: So, it was very much also being proactive and seeking out the clients or seeking out those opportunities where you might have an easier foot in the door then say just like walking up to Gucci like hey guys.
Amber: Exactly [laughs]. The Gucci story is interesting I like loved their aesthetic it's experiments with a lot of color and pattern which is very similar to my work. And I for the life of me could not figure out their email cadence [laughs] and then another artist they worked with posted on Instagram she did like a huge collaboration with them her like moniker is @unskilledworker and so they had like a launch party for her collab and she tagged everyone that she worked with and I was like gold mine. Like I DM’ed like two or three of them and I was like most people don't check they were like message requests on Instagram so it could have been a lost cause. And then one other creative directors she did and she's like “Here's my email send me kind of like a two-page like summary of you and your work and a will see if you're fit for anything.” And so, I've worked with them twice on two social media campaigns. So, you know the DMing can work but emailing is always better but you know DMing sometimes if you cannot find an email.
Jon: You can't figure out that cadence yourself.
Jon: So, you were as you mentioned you bent a little bit to start getting you know starting that that conversation of, I'm an illustrator I'm not just a designer anymore you were proactively seeking out the opportunities. When was it that you started to hone in on your style of illustration or kind of your main theme that you had throughout all of your body of work?
Amber: So, when I had time to take a step back and look at the work I made majority of it of it was of human figures and like facial expressions and portraits and so I knew that drawing people was of interest to me and I think it kind of happened naturally that I started to focus on women going to a bunch of galleries and museums both in Boston and New York really not seeing myself in any of the work that was represented. A lot of painters and artists are male veteran museums a lot of them are also Caucasian and their perception of women is very limited. It's either biblical because it was commissioned by the church or very maternal or very sexual. So, I didn't feel it was super accurate like it's a very narrow lens of how women were represented. And I was like I want to make work that I could kind of see myself in. So, I started to do that and then I started to share it and got really fortunate that other women resonated with the work that I made; so, it slowly started to kind of takeoff from there.
Jon: I think some of my thoughts is that you it's almost like you make a stand. You made a stand I think a lot of some other brands are starting to do this as well where you have this friction point or this problem and for you is like I don't see myself in any of these works and anything I'm looking at I'm trying to learn from it's just maybe that kind of creates a barrier as to how you can relate to it or even see yourself creating something like that.
Amber: For sure.
Jon: And I don't remember where I first saw your work, I feel like it was Refinery29 maybe I don’t know.
Jon: But I think for me it was just this beautiful abstract portrayal of Anatomy you know it's just like I'm not a great drawer but it's always nice to see a really confident decision in small details like a nose or hands or legs or even like when some of your images the body kind of just fills up the whole frame I think you don't see enough of that.
Jon: I think it kind of goes back to like maybe some people just have that initial voice that's just like that's not how you do it so stop.
Jon: But I think your work is very confident in that and it's very refreshing and then also the color palette for me is like I use it for inspiration a lot all the time.
Jon: Where do you find--
Amber: Color palette?
Amber: So, usually you look at my work chronologically which pretty accurate on Instagram not as accurate anymore because I will post things out of order from when I make them based on my mood. But I would say that like I would start with a color palette inspired by nature I like to go to like national parks and be outside; so kind of pulling natural colors and then adding a lot more like vivid tones to it and then once I have a palette that I love I start to like introduce new colors and then remove old colors and it slowly evolves. So, I kind of gave myself permission to make work that even if like five pieces in a row looks similar that's okay eventually it's going to change because you're a human and you change and you're going to get tired of seeing the same color. So, I just try to let it naturally evolve as best as I can.
Jon: So, in terms of we talked a little bit about your client work, but you also create pieces one-offs and things like that yeah and you are able to kind of sell your work and produce materials. I think you've done clothing collaborations things like that. For someone that is maybe in a similar situation like an illustrator or painter or someone that is looking to supplement some of their rent maybe yeah whatever how does someone begin that process you know what are some of the steps that you take?
Amber: So, for me I sell I try to make as much work for myself as I can in addition to doing client work because the work you make for yourself will inform that future client work. A lot of the times clients will send me mood boards with my own work in it. Most of the time I don't get a mood board they're like “Here's the brief.” I'm like cool but when I do get a mood board it is of my work so that's very helpful because you're informing your future self if that makes sense and then I sell that work. So, also originals I just put that on my site and then I sell prints through Society6. They've been really great because I live had a very small apartment storing like editions and having multiple sizes of every piece that I make would be impossible to make it would fill this apartment [laughs]. I think so that's a really great way and I could set my own profit margins on all of those so that's been very helpful in terms of supplemental income. Selling smaller drawings to like one-off smaller pieces I love to do when I'm traveling or if I have extra paper or if I'm experimenting with something it's been really nice to be able to sell that through Instagram like I have people DM me and Venmo me or they PayPal me or whatever is easiest and then I mail it to them. So, it's really a nice way to experiment without having to store all of my work. I'd rather it live with someone than like in my closet. So, using Instagram has been really integral and me selling one-off pieces as well.
Jon: Do you find that it's a good way to kind of gauge reaction in terms of what people are attracted to and like in the personal work you know is there ever a time where you're really excited about a piece you showed on Instagram it just like kind of falls flat [laughs] but then you have that opposite kind of…?
Amber: So, I try so I try not to let me like performance of a piece effect like I don't really check the numbers. Like I'll check and I'll know when a post doesn't do as well because I posted it too close to my last post. So, I know that's not because people don't like the work it's because people aren't seeing it and even if they don't like it like I try not to let that get to me because ultimately it's like my experience is that I'm putting down on paper and I feel like that would definitely fuck with my brain like oh my god I didn’t do-- and it definitely did in the beginning, but now I've gotten to a point where I'm like I don't care. So, a good example is like with painting, I've been experimenting more with painting I did a little bit over the summer and like I keep that painting that I have over there--
Jon: I will take a picture off that and put on the website it's beautiful.
Amber: Thanks, I would say so like I did a few pieces like that and I feel like that's a good example of me caving into like the pressure of like what people would expect from me painting and like even though I love the processes like it still doesn't feel like me. That's why I kind of keep that there not everything you make is going to feel right and that's okay and that's the beauty of being able to sell a bunch of stuff and experiment. So, I recently discovered which is stupid of me because they've been around for a while acrylic paint pens.
Amber: So, what I love about my work is its part digital and then part done by hand I feel like it very much resonates with the time period I live in. So, painting I don't know it just never really felt like that paint pens kind of do so I started like I made all- you can take pictures of the smaller pieces behind you that I think that is more that feels more honest to who I am instead of me trying to be a quote-unquote painter; so that's why I keep that one around. Everyone's like I love it are you selling it, I'm like no it's a good reminder of like you always need to experiment and push yourself out of your comfort zone and eventually you'll find yourself again.
Amber: But I try not to back to your question [laughs] I try not to let post-performance dictate if a piece did well or not.
Jon: It's very hard in today’s age.
Amber: Yes, in theory I try to ignore it but in actuality sometimes like, oh man, I love that piece no one liked it. [Laughter]
Jon: This is my favorite.
Jon: That’s okay. You mentioned putting yourself out there stepping out of your comfort zone I kind of want to get into you know what you're doing outside of painting you know where do you find the time to relax and release yourself from you know creating and things like that. You said you were recently traveling I'm wondering if the whole time you're away you think of like that's inspiring I need to get that down on paper and stuff like that.
Amber: Yes [laughs]
Jon: So, a good example is when we went to Buenos Aires in Rio, I started like the digital portion of a lot of drawings that I'm slowly starting to come out with. So, I don't know if I ever take like a proper break but my goal is to not put too much pressure on myself like oh you need to make a piece because you haven't shared it in a while. Like if I'm not in the mood to make anything I won't but I would say more often than not I am. A lot of the work that I make I don't share because I start a piece and like guys is cool and I let it sit for day and like I don't really know where it's going I'm just going to kind of put it in the back pocket maybe in a year or two it will inspire me. So, I feel like I am always making but I try not to force myself to if I'm not feeling it.
Jon: Are there any things that you do to break away and clear your mind things like that? I notice that you tend to run a lot.
Amber: Yes, so recently I've been doing a lot of cycling I found out that like--
Jon: Like SoulCycle or just like…?
Amber: Just at the gym it's a class but it's not SoulCycle. I've done I did SoulCycle a while ago when I had a few free passes kind of expensive anyway that's a lot of money [laughs].
Jon: The music is great.
Amber: It's like you're at like a club but you're working out.
Jon: Attached to a ****bike.
Amber: Yes, it's an interesting experience. So, I used to run a lot. I ran the marathon a few years ago but I injured my ankle. I have I just found out just like severely flat foot in one leg so I just got orthotics and so once it gets nicer out, I'm going to try running again. So, I figured it's I've been resting it for about six months now. So, I like to exercise just a kind of not think of you know drawing. I feel like because you're so focused on don't die, don’t have a heart attack, don't fall- I've definitely fallen several times while running it’s so embarrassing- don't break anything.
Jon: Don’t get hit by traffic.
Amber: Yes, don't get hit by a car. So even though that's terrible things to think about while you're working out it is a nice distraction from the fact that I do work for myself now to can kind of take a mental break from my normal day to day.
Jon: You've won a bunch of awards for your illustrations for your work, but you've also are part of the Society of Illustrators and you won a gold medal- you're a gold medalist from that correct?
Amber: Yes. So, I don't do the Society of Illustrators membership I try to experiment with a different membership a year because it's a lot. I mean all of them obviously makes sense like they're well deserving of their annual membership fees so I try. This year I didn't do any one yet.
Jon: We’ll probably just skip this part [laughs] and cut it out.
Amber: No. I did so the beautiful thing about all of these- my point being like the beautiful thing about all of these like different clubs if you will is you don't have to be a member to apply for the awards which is really nice I think that keeps it very inclusive especially for illustrators starting out like me or I can't spend hundreds of dollars a year to be member but I can pay one off for awards or one off for events and I follow them all on Instagram. So, I've been really fortunate to be able to win a bunch.
Jon: Young Guns and Art Directors Club.
Jon: Yes, so it's the same kind of process you’re you know applying for the specific competitions or contests whatever it may be. I get the Young Guns ones a lot and I get the- I don't get the Art Directors Club I feel like I'm not cool enough to be in that one, but is that kind of the something that you do also to get your work out there and be seen.
Amber: Yes, so the same thing with like becoming a member of like different groups I approach Awards the same way. I try to only do like one or two a year just because they are expensive and like it is very much subjective on who the judges are and like how they respond to your work. So, the Young Guns one I've wanted for a long time I learned about that while I was in college as most designers have like one day, I'm going to win that.
Jon: You've seen the new brand identities every year like argh.
Amber: Yes, beautiful I judged last years and I won the year before and it was really fun to kind of see the backend of judging. So, for that one I was shocked that I want. I applied when I was like 24 and obviously, I didn't get in look at my work that applied then and I was like woof that was terrible [laughs] but that's okay it was cool.
Jon: I never applied so you’re already one up.
Amber: And then I applied again for Young Guns 15. I was like feel like my work feels a lot like me and like if I don't win that's okay it's just an award. But it was really nice to meet so many people that won that year and like friends of people that won that year so that was definitely the biggest plus the cube is cool over there. I'll show you. It is cool but the nicest part is like being able to meet other people that are kind of in your industry, but they might be painters and they might be designers or typographers and that was definitely the best part for that one.
Jon: Totally. you published a book in 2018 you are still working with a ton of really great clients and things like that. Going into 2019 even though we’re a few months in already are there any goals or kind of milestones that you're looking to hit for the new year?
Amber: Yes. One of them comes out I know this will be out a little bit after--
Jon: Definitely [laughs] late on this podcast.
Amber: That’s my fault because I suck with scheduling with podcasting. I forgot what happened in January when we had to reschedule. I forgot what happened.
Jon: Maybe a snow storm.
Amber: I feel like I got sick. I'm like stupid immune system fucking me up. Anyway so for this year I want to do last year's also a resolution to do more product based collaboration so having my work live on objects a lot of people that follow me are like “I love your work but you know I can't like spend a 100 or 200 or such amount of money like on just an art piece.” So, the idea of accessible prints is great but also having my work on an object that someone can also use kind of pays off in two ways; they have the art work but then it's also on something that they needed. So, if for International Women's Day I collaborated with K-swiss so we're doing a sneaker.
Jon: Dope. Sneaker that’s huge.
Amber: Yes, so that's a few days that's you yeah so it's a few days from when I'm talking but it will probably be a few months ago [laughs]. But yeah so I was really exciting but for this year hopefully this year into 2020 doing more murals I did a mural with an industry city a few months ago that was a really fun one to just kind of paint on such a large scale by myself and I learned a lot from it so hopefully I can take those learnings into more murals. But I'm similar to you I don't like make like resolutions like I'll make goals, but they don't have to be completed by the end of 2019 it's just like here's a new thing that I want to do in the next few years.
Jon: We'll see I think if I look back on the list that I made for last like three years always on there's like “buy a place” [laughs]. That one is not this year either.
Amber: Exactly like soon and then when you do, you're like oh I did that like it worked so hard to get to that goal.
Jon: It was ten years in the making.
Amber: Exactly I try not to ever put limits on it because I was just like, oh man, I'm going to be really disappointed in myself so it's more of like I'm going to start this goal and when I get there, I'll be great.
Jon: Could people find you on the web or you know any events coming up in real life IRL? Where can people connect with you?
Amber: So, my website is just my name AmberVictoria.com. The best place is on Instagram which is Amber_ Victoria.
Jon: Highly recommend.
Amber: Thanks, two T's no C. And I feel like if anyone ever has questions feel free to email me by my email on my website or DM me. I'm pretty good at checking them so yeah.
Jon: Awesome thank you so much Amber.
Amber: Thank you.
Sitting down with Amber Vittoria this year was one of my highlights for this podcast. Her work is amazing and hearing her story of how she went from studying design in school to where she is today as a sought after illustrator was a huge learning experience. Amber is the perfect example of how it is never to late to change things up in your career.
In this episode we talk about her experience in school and finding a job as a designer. How she totally switched careers from marketing and social media to working with clients such as Gucci, K-Swiss, Rimowa and many more. We close the episode and the season with some of Amber's goals for 2019 and what she looks forward to in 2020.
Thank you for listening and following along to this first season! I can't wait to see what is in store for season 2. Make sure to follow along on instagram.