In this incredibly insightful interview, artist Isabela Escobar lets us into her magical world of enchanting and untamed illustrations. Not only does she explain the many sources and catapults for her success and inspiration, she also offers some extremely valuable advice for those who strive to make a living off their art. Join us as we navigate through the colorful dimension Escobar has brought to life through years of hard work and development of her craft. Full interview below.
1. What is the earliest memory you have of yourself doing something creative?
Ah, the childhood story. Ever since I could pick up a pencil I began to draw whatever I had in my head– which at the time I was a whole lot of magic and fairies. My room was a chaos of markers by the time I was about 4 years old. And it still is! Except now it’s my entire studio. By the time I was 9 or 10 I was already drawing my own comics about demon hunters. At some point during the rebellious teenage years I picked up some spray paints and decided to teach myself how to do street art. I guess not a lot has changed.
2. What kind of creative work do you do?
I am an illustrator. That’s my specialty. But I also paint and sculpt, do murals occasionally and have my own brand.. But what my job really consists of is taking an idea or a concept and communicating it visually. Aside from just drawing for a living, I offer a lot of other visual solutions for my clients. From branding to social media marketing, to art direction to visual consultation. Apparel design is a big one for me too.
On the more technical side, my expertise is alcohol-based ink markers and digital illustration, but I am also adept with watercolors, clay sculpture, acrylic painting, oil painting, spray painting, and block/screen printing.
3. Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
I’m Colombian but couldn’t call myself from any specific region. I immigrated to the US in 2016 to finish art school and decided to stay in Miami because of the art scene.
4. How would you describe your specific style? What makes you unique?
Style is such an interesting thing to discuss for me because I believe it’s not a “real” thing. In the sense that there will always be a subconscious, unintentional, and natural way to express form, no matter how much an artist may train themselves in a technique.
Style is composed of three main elements in my opinion: Genre, Influence and Abstraction.
Abstraction is the way we perceive and freely express reality in art, using our preferred medium. How a shape, color, value, light, shadow, curve, proportion catches our eye, how our brain interprets it and how it comes out the other end, through the hand. The process of observation/thought changes the final result by passing it through a ton of micro decisions that ultimately add up together to form the full result. even in the most hyperrealistic of paintings, there is abstraction, at the base of every stroke.
Influences are part of the artist’s personality and context- where and when they grew up, what their interests were, what kind of media they were exposed to. Things that affect an artist’s work are stuff like socioeconomic status, sexual orientation & gender identity, level of education, religious background, political climate, family values, culture and race. Millions more variables.
And genre? What are the themes that the artist speaks about and expresses.What does the work say. What’s the concept, what’s the message and what is the context.
If i had to define my art style i would say it’s very clearly influenced by western and eastern animation and comics. My forms are angular and the proportions are elongated, and my color choices are saturated and surreal rather than naturalistic. I speak about themes in my work such as divine femininity, and each piece is filled with emotional expression. I usually call my pieces “Emotional Self Portraits” because I deliberately take an emotion and try to express it in a way that is understandable to the audience.
5. What has been some of the biggest influences and sources of inspiration in your work?
There is so much to unpack here I’ll try to keep it brief. I consume art at the rate of a steamroller, constantly looking at it all day every day.
Mythology and folklore are my biggest influencers- from greek and roman, nordic, asian, native american, african, indian, caribbean, to even catholic iconography or pagan occultism. Most of my pieces include some element of spirituality of ancient religion. To me it is magic.
Major inspiration always comes to me from taking elements from the masters of history. Modern artists such as Frida Kahlo and Klimt. Rococo aesthetics from pre-french revolution. Greek and roman sculpture and well in turn, the great Renaissance artists that came after –one of my favorites; Artemisia Gentileschi. Anime and manga of course are the epicenter of my aesthetic and some of my favorite Japanese artists are Junji Ito, Hideyuki Kikuchi (Vampire Hunter D), Chico Saito (Utena). I keep returning to their work over and over again to find ideas.
Western comics book artists like Mike Mignola (Hellboy, Atlantis) and Jamie Hewlett (Tank Girl, Gorillaz) also inspire me time over time. Literature plays a big role in my work, Women Who run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estees has inspired more than a few of my favorite pieces.
And of course, contemporary artists who mainly have their presence on social media. My top three have to be Audra Auclair, Lauren YS, and Flesh.png.
6. Do you have any rituals to help you get the creative juices flowing?
A glass of ice coffee, a clean desk and “Lofi hip hop beats to relax/Study to” on youtube.
7. What have been some of your favorite projects you’ve worked on? Any current projects you’d like to mention?
Worth mentioning, I recently completed a series of posters for the Redbull Zeltron tour with Denzel Curry. That was a sweet gig. Right now I’m working as lead artist for an issue of an independent comic book called Tart. I also have my own clothing brand and run a side project called Bruja Tropical which is all about spirituality and witchcraft as a latinx.
8. What are some of the best lessons you’ve learned while developing your craft? What valuable advice could you offer to other Creators like you?
This is for all you creatives who are just establishing themselves: I heard the same things you heard when you decided to become an artist “It’s not a real job, you wont make any money, there is no work, it’s a very competitive field”. The main thing is that if you want to be a full time artist you have to assume the challenges that come with it. It IS hard. It IS competitive. I think that out of my graduating class I am the only one who lives fully off of my own art. And I studied with a very talented bunch. But talent is only about 10% of what makes up an artist. “Hard work” is another 10%. Discipline is the rest. And even then, In my early 30s, I am constantly tweaking and correcting the structure of my modus operandi every single day.
If you want to become a full time artist you also have to be an entrepreneur. That means that you have to be your own accountant, website designer, marketing strategist, social media manager, researcher, copywriter and more. You constantly have to learn new skills outside of the art field and keep yourself at the forefront of any current trends. If you can assume the challenges it takes then you will see the rewards. It takes time and consistency but it is possible- and the best part? It gets easier the more you do it.
9. Where can we find more of your work and follow your journey?
My website is my digital portfolio and shop, IsabelaEscobar.com . Also, i’m most active on my instagram account @isabelaescobart