Today’s featured interview is with someone who started with the Sugar Paper team years ago, and while she's since moved on to her own ventures, we're lucky enough to have her continue to pop in for special projects. Meet Joanna: the multi-talented, impressively creative illustrator who has contributed touches of hand lettering to many of our collaborations. From some of our bespoke letterpress holiday album designs, to hand lettering for J.Crew, and most recently our exciting new line with Target for the holidays, her fun yet classic work always finds a home in a handful of our designs, one way or another. Today, she’s giving us a peek into her private studio and walking us through the space she draws inspiration from, as well as the background on her creative journey thus far.
How did you get into lettering?
I have a fine art background, but I didn’t start doing lettering until I worked at Sugar Paper - I used to work for the company full time as the Wholesale Custom & Production Manager before switching to freelance work as an illustrator. One of the first lettering jobs I did was for a custom stationery order that came in - Sugar Paper wasn't working with a monogram artist at the time so I asked if I could take it on. I practiced hand lettering on my own at night and slowly started doing more projects with Sugar Paper, both for products and custom orders.
What do you use to illustrate? Do you work in pen, ink, watercolor?
I always start with rough pencil layouts then usually add ink and color with Sakura Pigma Micron pens and Prismacolor markers. I’ve been getting into the Pigma Brush pen lately—it’s incredible for rough black and white illustrations. I also have a couple really beat-up old paint brushes that are perfect for scratchy lettering. The more messed up, the better!
Where are you based and where is your workspace?
I lucked out. I have a studio space in my apartment, over in the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles.
How would you describe your workspace/studio?
Full, cozy, and inspiring. It holds an odd assortment of new & antique trinkets, books, and art supplies. It is the first work space I’ve ever had that is all my own. I’m so happy when I’m in it.
What do you love most about your workspace/studio?
I love that my studio is a place where I work on a really wide spectrum of creative projects. I do a lot of lettering and illustration, but I also paint, design costumes, have a small home decor company, etc. Each day that I work in my studio I’m doing something different. It's really energizing in that way.
What are the most important items on your desk right now?
A cup of hot coffee, a Westcott 8ths beveled ruler, a .3 mm mechanical pencil with H lead, my sketchbook, and a very long to-do list.
What are you working on? Any particular project keeping you at your desk these days?
Holiday season has officially begun, so I’m already busy working on custom lettering for Sugar Paper clients! Outside of that, I’m designing new products for my own shop, working on a new series of illustrations, and also starting work on a large sculptural costume project. I studied fine art and fashion design in college and this project is a marriage of the two.
What are you finding most inspiring at the moment? Maybe your top favorite illustrators or fellow creatives?
I've always looked to film, art, and old books with gorgeous illustrations and typography for inspiration - things like fabric folds and clothing details in Rembrandt paintings or the palettes of Tim Burton and Wes Anderson films. I'm a big fan of falling down the research rabbit hole, finding out how the style of one artist or period influenced another and bringing those elements into my work in a unique way.
Could you share with us three songs from your current playlist?
Don't you Worry 'Bout A Thing by Stevie Wonder, Downtown by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, and Forever by Haim. I always play happy, upbeat music while I work. Absolutely no mopey tunes allowed in my studio.
Reading right now?
All the Light we Cannot See by Anthony Doerr and a collection of Emerson’s essays, on loan from my dad.
Written word or email?
Absolutely written word—with fancy lettering for the recipient's address!
What would you like people to know about you?
I used to be really focused on the idea of having a single focus in my career—that to be successful I had to pick one vocation and stick with it. It didn’t seem reasonable or possible to have multiple creative interests on a professional level and do any of them well. As long as I’m present and intentional in any given project, creative diversity can be an amazing thing.
And, finally, could you leave our readers with a favorite quote or meaningful personal motto?
To download a free desktop background of this quote, click here.