Bernadette Sosa is an illustrator with a passion for creating visuals that inspire both young and old alike. She began illustrating at a young age and continued well into adulthood. She has received a BFA in Communication Design from FIT and has had positions such as art director and VP associate creative director. You can visit Bernadette’s website here.
1 – When did you discover your love of drawing?
My passion for making things all started with an eye patch and a terrible speech impediment. I also had a bowl haircut, which doesn’t have much to do with my story, but it does paint a wonderful image of who I once was. I was definitely not the cool kid in class, well, not until I got boobies, but I’m getting off subject.
Due to my speech impediment, I avoided speaking as much as possible. I kept my head down and doodled. I doodled on my mother’s walls, on my wooden bunk bed and even that damn eye patch I had to wear for my lazy eye got a doodle or two (picture below). If there was space, I had this urge to fill it.
Creating visuals was not only a way for me to avoid the other kids’ chuckles but also a way for me to clearly communicate the things I had trouble saying out loud. I became obsessed with the endless possibilities a single piece of paper could bring. Mermaids? Totally real. Unicorns too. Paper not only became my playground but my passion and I was hooked.
2 – Did you always know that you wanted to be a professional illustrator?
I grew up in the early ‘80s where the “arts” weren’t considered a possible or stable career path like they are today. I remember being completely lost my senior year of high school, not knowing what to do for college or if I should even attend. I knew I wanted to do something creative but heard that cliche ‘starving artist’ bit a lot. I had a portfolio overflowing with paintings but had no idea what to do with it until my sister Liz barged into my room one Saturday morning and grabbed my portfolio. She drove me to Brooklyn for a portfolio review at Pratt Institute.
I remember us freaking out about the car breaking down along the way and figuring out how to parallel park once we got there. Somehow we made it and as I walked into the auditorium filled with art nerds holding their oversized portfolios, I realized I had found my people.
She drove me to Brooklyn for a portfolio review at Pratt Institute. I remember us freaking out about the car breaking down along the way and figuring out how to parallel park once we got there. Somehow we made it and as I walked into the auditorium filled with art nerds holding their oversized portfolios, I realized I had found my people. I got into the Fashion Institute of Technology on the spot that day and that’s where I went to college. I still had no clue I wanted to become an illustrator but I knew I was heading in the right direction.
3 – When did you decide to become a freelance illustrator?
After graduating from FIT with a BFA in Communication Design, I became a designer in advertising. I worked my way up to an Art Director level and finally, a VP Associate Creative Director. Even though I had climbed the corporate ladder pretty quickly, I often had a gut feeling I should be doing something else. When I wasn’t working late at the agency, I’d write and illustrate little stories I had in mind.
At first these side projects were just a great way for me to release my creative frustrations, but it didn’t take long for these ministries to become my obsession. I often found myself daydreaming about getting them published one day. However, there was a huge problem. I had forgotten how to draw since I was now to computer focused. It took me a good two to three years to get the groove back in my hands and maybe another two years to find my style. The more I improved, the more I loved it. After about six years, I decided to make a daring jump and see if I could do this illustration thing full time.
4 – How did you start your illustration career?
In order to focus on building my illustration career, I needed to stop spending so much time and energy in the ad world so I quit a full-time job in Advertising even though everyone and their mother (including mine) told me not to. I became a freelancer and took on any work that came my way, regardless of what it was. When I had enough money to survive for a week or two, I would say no to incoming work and instead created new illustration pieces for my portfolio. Being a freelancer freed up loads of time and mental space for me to focus. I started producing more pieces for my portfolio, sent picture book manuscripts to editors and agents, started making things to sell, took a class at SVA and even tried needle felting on for size. I wouldn’t say I have an illustration career just yet since most of my income comes from Advertising work, but I’m definitely on my way.
5 – Are you self-taught or professionally trained?
I would say I’m half self-taught and have professionally trained. I grew up binge watching Bob Ross and owned a few how-to-draw books. Thankfully, I had an extremely artistic grandfather who was also making something. My favorite weekends as a child were spent sitting in his workshop, listening to classical music while painting on scraps of wood. Around the age of ten, I somehow got my hands on a basic version of Photoshop. At the time I had no idea it was Photoshop, I just enjoyed making colorful squares with it.
Since I went to FIT for graphic design, I would say I have professionally trained as well. FIT taught me attention to detail, typography, and all the programs at a deeper level.
6 – Can you describe your process when creating new work?
Being from an Advertising background, I concept a lot. I have a hard time just painting floral arrangements. I need an idea, a story to tell, a reason for the artwork. That said, I mainly think about larger projects such as a travel journal, children’s picture books, home decor or witty coffee table books before I begin drawing anything. Once I have a larger idea in mind, I write and sketch to find the project’s overall tone. As soon as I have a clearer idea of what that tone may be, I paint using gouache, watercolor and sometimes I throw color pencils into the mix for some additional pizzazz. Finally, I scan it all in and clean it up in Photoshop.
7 – What inspires your creativity the most?
Children! I think children are wonderful little creatures. Their minds haven’t been touched or molded by society yet so they see things they way they want to see them. It’s refreshing to see the world from their perspective. My nieces and nephews inspire me a ton.
8 – How Is your personality reflected in your work?
My personality is found all over my artwork. It’s sassy yet still playful, with just the right amount of quirkiness and a whole lot of cheery colors.
9 – What are some of your favorite projects to date?
My favorite project so far is an ongoing passion project of mine called Motherly Advice. Dating in New York City is not the easiest and you definitely meet some characters along the way. When I was single, my mom would frequently ask about my dates and give me advice. Thing was, her advice was a bit (sorry, Mom) outdated.
10 – What goals do you have for your illustration business?
I have a whole list of short and long-term goals, including publishing a bunch of books and selling items in retail stores but the first goal I need to focus on is getting the foundation right. So I’m working on a sexier website, sending out promo cards and networking. There’s a lot to get done, so here goes with fingers crossed.
You Can Find Bernadette Here! :