Published on

Q&A with Andrea Pippins

Illustrator and author

I spent my early years, from the age of six months to four years, in a sewing studio in the Washington, D.C., neighborhood of Georgetown. It was run by a French woman it was occupied by a team of four women who spent their days constructing, hemming, and altering clothes. These ladies, except for one African-American woman, were all immigrants—including my mother who’s from Brazil. While my mother was sewing and fitting clothes I would be drawing and coloring for hours. I believe that space planted seeds for my own creativity, my love for textiles, patterns and color, and my desire to become an entrepreneur. But that all would come together much later.

I didn’t really know about graphic design until I saw Halle Berry playing the role of Angela in the film Boomerang. Angela was an art director and artist, and it was my first time seeing a woman of color doing that kind of work. Even though it was fiction, it blew me away. But it wasn’t until I started applying for college that I really learned about careers in graphic design, or what was then called commercial art or graphic art. I applied to Tyler School of Art at Temple University and after several tries, because of a lackluster portfolio, I was finally accepted into the design program.

After working as a graphic designer at companies like Hallmark Cards and TV Land/Nick@Nite I returned to Tyler and graduated with an MFA in Graphic and Interactive Design so I could teach design on a college level. After several years as a full-time assistant professor, teaching courses in graphic design I decided to take a leap of faith and pursue a path as a full-time freelance designer and illustrator. Currently, my work is transitioning from graphic design to a focus on art and illustration. I’ve always solved design problems with illustration, not realizing that that is where my skills and talent flourish.

Tell me about your book “We Inspire Me”, when did you start with this idea? Was it inspiring itself to write the book about inspiration?

We Inspire Me is an iteration of an idea I had for about eight years. I’ve actually proposed the book concept several times to different publishers, and it morphed through each submission until it landed at Chronicle Books.

The book is about nurturing our creative communities. The people around me inspire me and have supported my dreams and I wanted to not only celebrate those relationships but share how we can all cultivate those important relationships to thrive and grow in our professional and social lives.

What are main differences between working for an illustration agency and being a freelance illustrator?

I’ve only ever worked as a freelance illustrator so I can’t speak on the differences. But I will say as a freelancer you are wearing all the hats. From the creative work to the administrative responsibilities it often falls on you (until you can hire help). Therefore it’s important to be organized and focused. I’m still learning how to navigate the demands of working for myself.

How big is a circle of creative people with whom you are in touch in Stockholm?

I’m still fairly new to Stockholm, and still connecting with the community here, so my creative circle is fairly small. My creative circle is still primarily in the U.S., where I’m from.

Could you mention some of your colleagues you work with.

I don’t have any colleagues because I work alone from home.

What is the most important for you, as a creative person, in collaborations with other people?

When collaborating with clients it’s important to me that I am able to let my stylistic approach shine through and for the client to be happy with the results.