Rosemary Valero-O'Connell is an outlier as far as illustrators go.
While other young artists scramble to make ends meet, squeezing their artwork between shifts waiting on tables or working a day job, the 25-year-old Minneapolis native and graduate of the Minneapolis College of Art and Design leapfrogged over the "emerging artist" stage and went straight to established-illustrator status. She has worked for DC Comics, been featured in gallery shows both locally and internationally and been nominated for an Eisner Award, the comic world's equivalent of an Academy Award. The secret behind her "overnight" success: She's been doing this all her life. We chatted with her via e-mail while she was in England for a comics show.
Q: What interested you about drawing Oh, You Turkey?
A: Fall in Minneapolis is one of my absolute favorite things, and I'm happy for any chance to get to celebrate and revel in that.
Q: Were there earlier versions of the turkey that you moved away from? If so, how did you decide to go with this one?
A: I knew I wanted it to look like a centerpiece at a Thanksgiving feast, so gourds were always a must.
Q: Are you going to color it yourself? Or, have you already done so?
A: I haven't taken a crack at it yet, but I'm sure I will once I get my hands on a copy of the Star Tribune!
Q: How old were you when you first got interested in art? And what got you interested?
A: I can't remember a time in my life when drawing wasn't important to me. I think everyone draws and makes things when they're younger, and some people just don't stop. I'm one of the ones who never stopped, and my love of comics was one of the things that kept me excited about art and drawing through the years.
Q: Along that line, while you were working on the turkey, did you reflect on all the youngsters who will be using it to unleash their artistic talents?
A: Absolutely! Kids are overflowing with creativity, and it's an honor to get to be even a tiny part of something that might get them drawing.
Q: What is your favorite thing about being an illustrator?
A: Nothing compares to the feeling of getting to do the thing I love more than anything else every single day, and I wouldn't trade the freedom a freelance career allows for the world.
Q: How would you describe your artistic style?
A: Twisting lines and limited color.
Q: Who/what have been the influences on your style?
A: Jillian Tamaki, Emily Carroll, Masaaki Yuasa.
Q: Can you tell us about how you approach your work? Do you have a studio? A corner of your living room you work in? A coffee shop you go to for inspiration? Do you have a favorite time to work — mornings, late at night, etc.?
A: I try to keep semiregular 10-6 hours to preserve my own sanity, and I've worked out of every imaginable setup; co-working space, private studio, my living room, coffee shops all across the city. I find that I'm the most productive if I'm sharing a space with other creatives that keep me motivated and focused, and the earlier I start my day the better I am at keeping up my momentum.
Q: Many young would-be artists — and probably some older ones — will be working on the turkey. What advice can you offer to people hoping for a career as an illustrator?
A: Make the work that you eventually want to be paid to make, then show it to everyone who will listen. Post it online, make it into a zine and sell it at shows, submit it to galleries and art directors, curate a gallery show in your living room and invite all your friends. All the work I've gotten as an illustrator has come from the right person seeing my work at the right time, and having your work in as many spaces as possible increases your chances of that right person stumbling into it.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I'm happily working away at two new graphic novels with two different publishers that will keep me busy for the next two years.
Jeff Strickler • 612-673-7392 • @stribstrick