Recent alumnus Joana Avillez (MFA 2012 Illustration as Visual Essay) hasn’t slowed down a bit since graduating from SVA. Aside from her various ongoing illustration projects, Avillez was recently picked to sketch the season two premiere of HBO’s Girls for Vogue magazine, and is currently illustrating an upcoming advice book by the show’s creator and star, Lena Dunham. SVA Close Up recently caught up with Avillez via email to talk about her work with Dunham, the challenges and triumphs of being an illustrator, and life after college.
How’s life been so far post-SVA? Is there anything you miss about being in school?
Post-SVA life has been really good work-wise, no doubt in thanks to the MFA Illustration as Visual Essay program! I miss being able to get the advice/thoughts of my classmates so readily, and I also miss hearing Marshall Arisman‘s crazy stories.
How did you end up sketching the season two premiere of Girls? What was it like? Seems like it would be hard with people moving around so much…
It was really hard! I had to send the drawings to Vogue the same night, so whatever I got, I got. The paparazzi on the red carpet were especially interested in me, they kept asking what I was doing. I couldn’t have done it without the drawing class taught by Carol Fabricatore at SVA. We spent a year wandering around the city, drawing everywhere from crowded terminals to backstage at the Met Opera house. She taught me a lot.
Can you tell us about the work you’re doing for Lena Dunham’s forthcoming advice book?
I’m very excited about it! Lena truly loves illustration—her tattoos are all drawings by Hilary Knight (Eloise) and Robert Lawson (Ferdinand the Bull) so it’s a really fun project—drawing is important to her. So far, Lena sends me essays and pieces of writing and I send her drawings riffed off and inspired by text. We go back and forth.
What other projects are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on a book of drawings of annotated fashion characters (that I originally did for Refinery29), with a publisher in London. I’m also doing more live-drawing, like the Girls premiere, for different magazines and companies. I’m thrilled to be able to do that; it’s a different way of drawing and it’s a nice counter to being alone in the studio. And illustration!
What is the hardest part about being an illustrator? What’s the best?
Since I work from home, the hardest part is knowing when to stop working and clock-out. And also remembering to go outside and take a walk so I don’t get stir-crazy. The best part about being an illustrator is that I am able to put my imagination to work.
Any advice for current SVA students?
Work hard and have fun.
See more of Avillez’s work on her website.
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