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Meet Katie Villareal

Today we’d like to introduce you to Katie Villareal.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
I grew up loving coloring books, picture books, and arts and craft projects in school. I didn’t think much of myself as an artist but just continued to be drawn to it my whole childhood. By the time I got to middle school, I decided to keep taking art every semester. One day my art teacher Ms. Harvey entered my work into a competition, and I received second place for a pastel drawing of a hibiscus flower. This award helped me understand that anyone can truly be an artist. There was nothing special about me, but yet someone thought my work was “art” and all I did was draw a flower. So that’s what I kept doing my whole high school career. I took art every year, and kept countless sketchbooks and just kept drawing. I never felt like a true artist even though I got all the way to Art IV in high school, which only a handful of students made it too. By the time I was a senior, and everyone was preparing college applications, I decided I wanted to go to college for art. I had no idea if I would become anything with it, but I believed I just had to keep creating art no matter what. So I went straight to California State University Fullerton to originally pursue a degree in animation. The program at CSUF really help mold me into the artist I am today as it taught me how to draw with little to no talent what so ever. I learned a variety of mediums, form, design and most of all to draw from my own creativity. The first few two years I had no idea what I was doing honestly, but I just kept making art with no real goal. By this time I declared my concentration in Illustration, deciding that drawing was more my passion then animation. I made tons of friends and grew as an artist over the five and half years at CSUF, but at the very end, I still felt lost if I truly was an artist now that I was getting my degree. Even though I was an honor roll student five years running and countless works to my name, I still didn’t feel like an artist. Over half my life dedicated to being something and I lost that understanding that it’s not education, talent or people that make you an artist, but yourself and your ability to create. Only three months out of college and I still am struggling in my identity as an artist, but I try to keep my vision alive by reminding myself that I am an artist no matter what, all I have to do is just keep drawing.

Please tell us about your art.
I’m simply am an artist; I create because it makes me happy to express myself. It’s like excising a part of my brain that sees the world a way only I can understand and feel. It’s important for me to create because its something that I love to do and most importantly do for myself.

I more specifically classify myself as an illustrator, who has a strong passion for children’s book illustration and visual development for animation. I however like most young artists am still unsure where I will end up in my craft, as art is such a vast industry I do not plan to limit myself and my skills.

During my time at CSUF, I took a majority of classes outside of my specific concentration to help me explore such as creative photography, drawing and painting with experimental methods, and life drawing for animation. These classes helped me understand that art comes in a variety of mediums and it was all there just waiting for me to explore it.

I have found that my art, or what I like to focus on is surrounding the idea of what I find beautiful about life, which is displayed in a variety of brilliantly saturated colors, happy characters, and female heroines. I have crafted illustrations for three books all focusing around young girls and their love for adventure! My first two children book projects featured taking stories such as Peter Pan and Howl’s Moving Castle and focusing on Wendy’s and Sophie’s specific storyline. I soon began branching out to my own original content with the development of an original picture book titled Lady and Jane’s Adventures, featuring my dog and myself. I enjoyed this project immensely as I explored character design, layout drafting, and writing.

Even with my love for storybooks, I wanted to expand more on what I enjoyed to create. Thus the creation of my Happiness postcard set was created! Being the final portfolio of my college career, I spent five months developing and painting this series. I took inspiration of life moments that I experienced or hoped to one day experience. They all have a colorful, impressionist type of look. They had little to no real direction as they were designed to help me explore and get out of the box I had created for myself.

My art is my outlet; it helps me explore parts of myself that I desire to strengthen and show to the world. I use it as a coping mechanism for my anxiety and depression, so sometimes it may feel like a chore to stare at a piece that feels wrong, but without it, I’d never be able to see past the pain. I hope my art spreads happiness, magic, and love to the people who look at it. Life can be grey and boring, but my wish is that everyone can begin to see it like the beautiful playground it is.

My current project is for the National Resource Center for Asian Cultural Languages and will be published by July 2019. I have been gifted the opportunity to illustrate the life of a Vietnamese American girl and her families struggle. I’m excited to show a culturally diverse family based around a female main character and her understanding of life. I hope to continue to teach lessons such as these through my art today and in the future.

Do you have any advice for other artists? Any lessons you wished you learned earlier?
Be kind and most importantly take care of yourself. A positive outlook will always help you achieve whenever things get rough. I wish someone told me how important goals, priorities, and mental health could affect your art. So my best advice is this, start by make a goal board, put everything you ever dream of on it and look at it when all you want to do is give up. Write down a simple priority list and read it over and over again so when it comes time to make a decision you have guidance from the most important person, yourself. Make inspirational messages on sticky notes from yourself like “Believe in yourself!”, and “Stick to your schedule.” Have hobbies outside of your own craft to help inspire you to enjoy life and the world around you. Have inspirational quotes surrounding you so no matter where you look you are reminded that you got this. Keep a positive workspace with these items and the things you love most around you to help fuel you and your creativity. Your mentality is everything and as an artist its what fuels us. One of my favorite quotes near me I keep is “Believe in yourself. You’re braver than you think, more talented than you know, and more capable of more than you imagine.” Roy T Bennett. I know listening to advice is hard, even when you know all it can do is benefit you, but one struggling artist to another I encourage you to try any one of these suggestions and see how your life and most importantly your art changes. Good luck, take breaks, be kind and love yourself, friend!

How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
You can follow my artwork on my Instagram: katie_villareal and my Website: katie.villareal.com.

To help support me, you can connect and endorse me via LinkedIn, linkedin.com/in/katievart.

For job inquiries or commissions you can easily email me at kathrynvillarealart@gmail.com.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Photo of myself was taken by Isela Garcia

Getting in touch: SDVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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