A watercolor illustration of a blank canvas by Kris Avilla
Art Artist Journey Creative Career Personal Development

The Beginning of an Artist Journey: From Graphic Design to Illustration

2020: Thank you for the lessons, but don’t let the door hit you on the way out. 

2021: Thank you for the fresh start.

Over the last several months, I’d started to transition into more illustration work, coming from 5+ years of working as a graphic designer. During my years in art school, studying fine art and thereafter, I’d spent more time sketching and drawing. With more time on the computer, this became less and less. Though I’ve come to really love graphic design, I’d felt like something was missing in my creativity and creative practice.

Here and there for freelance work, I was lucky enough to take on illustration pieces that would add handmade elements to a brand’s look and feel as well as their marketing materials. Then over the last few years, I dabbled with watercolor and tried to pick up oil painting again. But with oil painting, the set up, materials and clean up became more daunting especially with a busy schedule. Then with watercolor, it was easy to just pick up a paint palette set, a small sketchbook, a pen or pencil and start a sketch. Although I’d started and given up many times over the past couple years, I kept at it, eventually practicing more regularly and learning techniques through YouTube channels and blogs. I’d go back and forth between watercolor and digital painting, practicing my skills with both.

In the last year or so, I posted a few sketches I’d done on my iPad with Procreate or did with pen and ink in my sketchbook, adding bits of watercolor. Not thinking much of them and taking a break from design. Then last summer, I got an opportunity to illustrate a series of book covers, and continued practicing. Soon enough, I felt like I was discovering a new pathway open up, just like I did when I started learning graphic design on my own. Not long after, and thanks to my coach and mastermind group, I realized I wanted to pursue illustration and combine it with my art and design work. By the fall of last year, I established a more regular creative practice week to week, experimenting with different styles and materials, and sharing my progress on social media.

Fast forward to the end of 2020, and I’m lucky to be working on another book cover and have an opportunity to illustrate and collaborate on a children’s book series in early 2021.

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