Meet Simini Blocker, a freelance illustrator, children's book artist, visual developer, and one of the participating artists in the current 6 Degrees Exhibition. After graduating from Bringham Young University in 2011, Simini received an internship at Disney Interactive, Avalanche Studios, and worked alongside the visual development team at Disney Infinity. She currently resides in New York as a freelance illustrator, working on projects such as Fairy Birds, illustrations for The Friend Magazine, and most recently, Goodreads.
It has been wonderful collaborating with Simini for the 6 Degrees Exhibition. It is always inspiring to see her characters and environments, and even more inspiring to hear about her never-ending motivation to create!
Can you tell me about the piece you created for the 6 Degrees Exhibition? What was your inspiration, place depicted, story?
I’m still pretty new to New York. Something I love about the city is everywhere you look there’s so much story. So many different people, lots of interesting architecture, all right outside your apartment. I like going for walks and just looking when I need to get out of my head. A few months ago, I moved to Queens and it’s much more residential than where I was previously in Manhattan- there are all these smaller townhouses, instead of big apartment blocks. I loved how lived-in and personal they seemed. It also felt more like a neighborhood, kids playing in the street and everything. I wanted to capture that feeling, as well as maybe a hopefulness for a new start in a new place.
Does travel and location inform your work? Are you most inspired by the people and places around you?
I’ve been lucky to travel a bit, in and out of the country, and even live in Uruguay for a time. A few years ago I was able to go to Israel and work on a mural for a children’s hospital. Travel is one of my favorite things, and even if the content of my illustrations isn’t directly related, I think it’s informed my world view. I hope that's something I can bring to my work. When you travel it’s amazing to see how many different people and ways of living there are, but at the same time so much that’s universal. And I do find my city very inspiring- something about the energy of the place that make me want to draw everything.
You are relatively new to the illustration world. What changes have you been through since being a student, new approaches to art making, new philosophies, etc.?
It’s been a pretty big change, especially going freelance. Suddenly there’s no supervisor to keep track of my hours or tell me what to do, no teacher giving me projects with deadlines and built in feedback. My personal projects and and the business side of things, networking, promotion, all of that, is all up to me, and if I draw or don’t draw, no one will necessarily hold me accountable (except for needing to pay the bills). It’s also very solitary working from home, and very easy to let the work overwhelm my life. I’m still working on figuring those things out, but at the same time, I really enjoy the freedom to set my own schedule and pursue the work I’m passionate about - that’s really excellent. I think my work has changed quite a bit since leaving school a giving myself permission to go after subjects I’m really drawn to, rather than what I think others want to see. It’s incredibly satisfying whenever that then resonates with someone else or fulfills the needs of a client.
You have been working on and toward several exciting things, such as your recent internship with Disney or your upcoming Children's book. Can you talk about your experiences,projects, and some of the highlights?
My internship with Disney Interactive was excellent. I worked with the team doing visual development for Disney Infinity for about a year. I feel like I progressed a lot as an artist, surrounded by professional artists everyday and working on real projects. As interns we were given design assignments just like the other concept artists, which made it a very experience heavy internship, and that was awesome. I learned a lot about collaborating as a team and designing to solve specific problems. And how quickly you must be ready to move on to another solution, and embrace it, even after investing a great deal of energy into something else.
Fairy Birds was the next big project I worked on. The authors contacted me with the opportunity, looking to expand their company into the children’s market. It was my first full length children’s book (I’d previously done some smaller readers) and a great opportunity to experience the whole process of getting a book out. I loved being able to take characters across a whole book in final illustrations, instead of quickly moving on from one design to the next. And I got to indulge my love of saturated colors and patterns which was really fun.
Do you often collaborate with other creatives or look to others for critique and conversation?
My favorite thing about my time at Avalanche was the collaborative atmosphere and being surrounded by other artists. Working freelance, I enjoy being able to see a piece through to the final product, but I do miss the collaborative process and the opportunity to get input from a team and expand on each other’s ideas. I think it’s pretty essential as an illustrator to get out of your head and get feedback from others. You get places you never would with just your own brain. It’s more difficult to do as a freelancer than it was at the studio, but then even working on your own, there’s still can be a lot of collaboration with clients or art directors. I’m working on incorporating it more in my day to day. I’m very grateful for avenues like tumblr and twitter, they’ve helped a lot- even just seeing into the process of another illustrator can be helpful.
What is the best piece of advice (for creators) that you have ever heard?
“Don’t be so precious with your work.” - from Natalie Ascencios at a lecture I attended. I think it sticks in my head because I struggle with perfectionism, and it goes along with the idea that any creative endeavor is learned by doing. There’s a lot mess you have to make before you can arrive at something good. But you’ll never get there if you get so bogged down in “perfecting” one thing and fail to move on and grow or are afraid to take risks. And then when you have something “good,” don’t stop there- keep improving, keep learning- don’t put it on a pedestal.
This time of year, especially, we are thinking about deadlines, new goals, motivation, and changes. Do you have any goals or projects for the new year?
A big goal for the year is to find a balance between creating and living. I’m easily completely absorbed in illustration (there’s so much to do!), but I know it’s important to keep “the well” filled and step away from the computer once in awhile- so I can continue to have inspiration and energy for the work. Because I do hope to do a lot of illustrating- I want to try some new formats- more sequential work, maybe some product or pattern design, and always more narrative illustration. I want to make it a year of doing!
Thanks, Simini! You can check out more of Simini Blocker's work on her website or blog here. You can also see Simini's work for the 6 Degrees Exhibition along with the 80+ other artists who created intimate and awe-inspiring images of their hometowns on the digital gallery or Light Grey Shop.