Meet Arielle, a NYC-based artist who double majored in Illustration and Fiction Writing at Parsons School of Design in New York City, New York. She is currently a freelance illustrator and comic artist who kickstarted Ladies of Literature, and organized the #Ham4Pamphlet zine for the cast and crew of Hamilton.
Arielle’s work is characterized by a love of storytelling and character. Her illustrations are packed with characters interacting in complex and emotional ways, weaving stories for the viewer to enjoy. Her work often features bright colors, especially pinks and reds, and tons and tons of little details. We’ve had such a great time working with her in our current exhibition, tobeyou, and in our upcoming exhibition, Color Anthropology. Read more to learn about her passions, practice, work, and more. For more of her work, visit her website, or her other links below the interview!
Can you tell me more about yourself?
I was born and raised on Long Island, close enough to the city to watch Broadway musicals very regularly -- I have a quite a large Playbill collection. :) I got into illustration because I'm really passionate about the power of storytelling, and how tiny details can help create specific narratives. I'm very fascinated with how this specificity can then, in turn, create empathy.
What does your studio/workspace look like? Is the space a beacon of dedicated focus or disjointed stress? What’s your dream workspace?
My workspace comprises my laptop and Wacom Cintiq, a lot of books for reference and inspiration, and an Apple TV for streaming good background noise -- mostly podcasts, video compilations of 90s boy bands, and probably Yuri on Ice for the hundredth time. To keep focus, I tell myself I'm not allowed to sit in my desk chair unless I'm about to start working. Any other chair in the room is fair game for shenanigans to ensue, but the work chair means serious business.
My dream workspace would definitely comprise of more art colleagues all working together in concentrated silence. Illustration gets pretty lonely!
What is your creative process like? Is it made of simple linear steps or do you just wing it? What kind of research goes into your process?
I have a couple recent process posts here and here. It's pretty straight forward. Thumbnail, tighter undersketch, lineart, color, and adjustments, like clockwork. I do a lot of image research through books I have, photos I take, Google Image, and my new personal favorite: The New York Public Library Digital Image Collection -- such an amazing resource for obscure images!
What are some things in your art that you feel are so uniquely you? What influences you to make and create?
This is always such a hard question to answer, since I feel uniqueness is relative to the viewer's scope of reference. I will say that I do go out of my way to add as many subtle touches and fun details to my work as possible, whether it's in the fashion choices, the quirks of body language, or the choice in furniture or decorative knick knacks in an interior space. I always joke and say it's because I spent a lot of time in the background ensembles of high school musicals; I actually think this made me very conscious of the tiny minutiae that goes into creating a believable world. I always wanted to put my all on stage and commit to my ensemble character even when I wasn't the focus of a scene. I think part of me always wants to give the tiny background details a chance to shine too. A reminder that every part of a drawing is living or has been touched by a living thing.
Can you tell us more about your piece for ToBeYou? What’s the long version of the story?
I had a particularly difficult year recently, and a lot of that difficulty came as a result of my propensity towards very anxious thoughts. It made me think of the Nine of Swords, a tarot card about fear, but the specific kind of fear that is psychological and internalized. When reversed, the card suggests a turning of the tide. The same mind that creates powerful dark thoughts can create powerfully optimistic and empowering thoughts too.
Were there any significant moments you had while working on the piece?
Initially, it was a little intimidating for me to interpret iconic imagery like tarot. As I was sketching it out in my notebook I found that it came together rather easily once I decided to abandon the familiar bed imagery of the original Rider-Waite tarot illustrations. Something that I love in the original Nine of Swords is the ladder symbolism; it's the idea that, while the swords can still hurt you, you can acknowledge that pain and that feeling, and still use it to climb back out of the dark. These are themes I tried to put into my version.
What are some hobbies you enjoy doing? Anything you’d love to have more time to do?
I love collecting succulents! I recently re-appropriated an old fish tank into a terrarium and I'm excited to buy more succulents for it. They come in such a colorful range of shapes and sizes and I find them incredibly calming!
Aside from that, I do try to consume as many different pieces of storytelling as possible to keep me energized and inspired. Right now, I'm very into Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Speaking of specificity in storytelling, it meant the world to me to see a Filipino family party depicted on that show so earnestly and truthfully. That's the sort of thing I live for and that I'd love to have in my own work.
Do you have any projects you’d like to talk about?
I'm planning a few personal projects, but nothing I can discuss in detail just yet.
What sorts of communities are you apart of? Does your social life influence your work?
My social life influences my work in the sense that I think it's important to have a social life in the first place. I think there's often a lot of talk about the solitary artist who's locked in their room doing work all day, but for me it's 500% necessary to have a life outside of work because that's where you learn to appreciate the nuances of life that you can then reflect back into your art. I find the balance of rich experience goes back into rich and inspired art.
In what ways would you like your work to give back?
Something I'm trying to develop into my work is the feeling that the viewer has looked into a slice of someone else's life, with the idea that beyond this one snapshot, the world in the illustration goes on.
Where can people find your work?
Thanks a ton for your time, Arielle!