Last year I talked with Andrea Manica about routine, astrological signs, and her process.
Andrea Manica is an illustrator in Toronto. She hold a degree in Illustration from the Ontario College of Art and Design. Her artwork is often seen in murals and signs and includes very natural, simplistic themes.
What’s your sign?
Cancer, Gemini rising. I can be a little bit more social and I’m very intrigued and curious about people. But I also need my alone time and I’m super emotional.
Where do the concepts for your murals come from?
Sometimes the people I’m working for will have ideas, sometimes they’ll just say “Do whatever you want.” But I think that I kind of want it to have some sort of meaning or relate to the space. Like when they let me do whatever I want I’ll have so much fun and kind of like insert hidden meanings.
Did you go to art school?
Oh yeah, I did. I went in Toronto to OCAD, Ontario College of Art and Design. I took Illustration there.
Did you already know before you went there that you wanted to be an illustrator?
Uh yeah, I always was drawing all the time. But then my high school was very not arts focused, like it was very sports/math kind of thing. So I was like “What can I do with art? I don’t know.” And I took online tests and they said (I should be a) ‘Graphic Designer.’ And I’m like “yeah, that sounds good, that sounds fine.” But then I like took a year of graphic design and all my friends were in Illustration. I’m like “This is a thing that you can do? This is a program you can take?” And so I reapplied and went back in for Illustration because I’m not a huge computer person. I’m good at spacing and aesthetics, like I could of been a good designer. And I still do stuff like sign painting and I’ve made a lot of posters and stuff like that. But it’s more hands on illustrative and using paint and not so much digital.
I see you’ve also been making animations, how’re you doing that?
I took an animation class at OCAD and it was just kind of using Adobe After Effects. Not like Flash or anything. There’s certain things that I still don’t understand, like I don’t get flash, I don’t know how to use Adobe Illustrator. I know Photoshop, I know After Effects and those like work really well together. And then I did another animation that was more of a stop motion kind of thing where I was drawing on this tablet for my friend Andrew’s Youtube channel. It’s just kind of like I would like to explore animation a little more. But it’s kind of just whatever comes up I’ll go with. So right now it’s the mural thing, people are asking me to do a bunch. And then we’ll see if I get bored with it, I probably won’t.
Did you always like using a lot of different mediums?
I think I just get bored really easily and I like variety. So I like seeing how my work can translate to different mediums. I think I was just trying to see what would take off. Because I was making lots of crafts and doing a lot of craft sales. Then I was trying to do window displays and doing paper mache kind of stuff for that and just exploring it to see how it went. I just like trying new things. But I feel like with all the different kinds of materials I use there’s still like similar style to it. That took a long time to find the look of it. I really admire people who can just change styles all the time. But I think changing mediums is the variety…
When you are illustrating do you ever think your new work looks too similar to your old work? Like faces that look the exact same.
I feel like I kind of do similar faces. Honestly I don’t really like drawing people. I like drawing objects and animals because I don’t like my work looking super childish. And I feel like when I do people and simplify it it looks too cartoony or something. I don’t wanna give up on drawing people but for now I’m not really into it. It all depends on what it is too. Like I’ve had people ask me to do portraits so I’ll do like portraits of them that looks more realistic. But in general I do like to simplify and make it really bare minimum. Yeah I’m super into the flat color, no shade. It’s kind of like I thought maybe doing big work would mean I’d have to insert more detail into it but it actual translates the best when you have a really tiny drawing your looking at then just make that bigger. Because from a distance it’s really clear. So that’s what I’m learned, like my friend Melissa is the one who got me into murals. She’d always have a tiny drawing on a scrap of paper and make that huge.
I know a lot of people who work in very small scale so it’s interesting how big of a factor size is.
I thought, because I was wanting to work on a bigger scale, “Maybe I should try to paint on canvas.” But that never really appealed to me because I feel like it wouldn’t translate well. And I like the idea of murals either being like an atmosphere or public so you don’t have to go to a gallery to see it, it’s just there for everybody. Then you don’t have to keep the canvas either, like where would I put it I don’t know. All I have to worry about is the paints and there’s lots of those.
Before you went to art school were you already in some time of community?
I mean, I was doing posters for music stuff and things like that. But when I took a year off I went back to my hometown and I just like worked on my art. I started going to like punk shows and house shows and like flyers for them. So I felt like I was kind of like “Okay, I’m working now.” And then my community was mainly like art school people. And then coming out of art school was… I don’t know. I stuck with a couple of people and we, my friend Melissa, I was assisting her. Because she took a mural painting class and there’s a few initiatives in Toronto to do paintings on electrical boxes and like traffic boxes. Just to make it prettier. So I was helping her with that and I’m like “Oh, this is so much fun,” and I helped her paint a sign for a neighborhood. Just like a big “Welcome to Riverside,” is what it said. And after that my friend Nicole also helped us paint so we made a little collective. We called it the ‘Buck-Teeth Girls Club’ because Melissa would always make these girl faces with teeth so she just called it that. I feel like you do get a little bit more-like people think you’re an artist when you have a group of people together. It’s like strength in numbers. But then after that there’d be things that people were like “Oh can you do this for us.” And Melissa wouldn’t have time or Nicole wouldn’t have time. And I’d just be like “I wanna do it, so can I?” And they were like “Yeah, go for it.” So I started doing things on my own and then yeah. It’s kind of crazy I feel like I’m still pretty new to it and then people always come to me for advice of like “How do you price it?” Or like “What kind of materials do you use?” And I’m like “Yeah, let me tell you all about it.” The more out there, the better.
How do you feel about other females’ work? Are you a part of that community?
We’re all fans of each other, we love each other’s work. Me personally, I specifically wanna help girls and women do work. Because I feel like street art is so overrun with dudes. I mean I’m into helping youth and queer people, people that are generally marginalized or have a little bit less opportunity. But yeah, I feel like it’s so important to stick together because doing art and freelance is like you’re on your own a lot of the time. If you have nobody to help you or turn to I don’t know what I would do because every job is so different. You’re gonna have questions and if I get to talk to, like a have a certain friend that I talk to about illustration stuff and then there’s like other people that I’m like “Oh you’re so good at murals like you’ve done it for way longer than me.” I asked a guy once to help me price something and he was like sort of rude about it… He was just like “I don’t get it, what are you talking about?” And I’m like “I’m just asking you, like you don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to. I know that you’ve done something similar to this.” I try to seek out people who’re like very specific to whatever job I’m doing. And just ask them and then at the same time I’m really open and I wanna be there if other people have questions and help them as much as possible. It’s weird cause in OCAD they were like “You’re all gonna be competing for the same jobs.” It was so competitive and cut throat but there’s enough jobs for everyone. It’s great to feel proud of your friends for getting it. I’ve definitely felt jealous of people who’re successful but sometimes it just takes more time. I feel like now I’m starting to get a lot of jobs where things are happening. So I just have to realize, just wait and it’ll be fine.
I feel like that makes sense in fields like graphic design but in illustration you can work together with many different styles and everyone can make money.
That’s kind of how you have to do it. Because if you try to do anything alone you can really hone your skills. But you need to be in touch with other people to get it out there. Which is like-I don’t know-I’m not super into networking. My idea of networking is just like meeting friends and then your friends will give you tips or you can ask them things. It’s more sincere.
It’s important not to force relationships for the sake of art. In my opinion the end product won’t come out as good as you want.
And you don’t have to work with everyone. It’s also like when you’re collaborating you kind of have to let go of some parts of yourself which is like a good exercise especially when you’re working with yourself a lot. It’s good problem solving too, I don’t know, working with other people is sort of like working with a client. It’s a little different.
Would you agree that when you work with another artist and you do a collaboration that it’s constantly changing all the time and that it’s push and pull?
Oh yeah, because it’s like with a client they might not know about art. But with another artist there’s that extra like “I know what looks good to me.” So that sometimes is hard.
Would you say you have a set schedule or routine?
Yeah, I’ve definitely… because I really like having a schedule. And sometimes it’s hard to just be doing freelance because it’s so unpredictable. I think I’m very prompt at answering emails and everything but I’m bad at giving myself time. That’s something I wanna work on. I definitely keep an agenda to go through everyday what I have to do. And usually I do that, like I’ll wake up and work on stuff from it. But it’s not super structured.
Are you mostly home?
Yeah I’ll be at home, like I don’t have a studio. So sometimes I’ll just like go to a coffee shop or something for a change of scenery. But it’s generally like I’ll be home for a period of time and planning and then I’ll go out and paint wherever. But yeah it’s kind of like half and half, being at home sitting there, half doing really tough manual labor.
Would you say when you do the work that you’re thinking about the semantics or do you already have those down before you start painting?
I don’t really do it on the spot. I’ll plan it out and have a color concept of what I’m doing. I’ll draw it out according to the size of the wall, make sure it fits perfectly. Sometimes I’ll project it, sometimes I won’t. Because sometimes I have people helping me. I think in general I think about the composition the most and then if there’s any parts of it that I’m not sure how to draw I’ll do some research about figures or fruits or animals or whatever is in there. I feel like composition is the most important to me.
What projects do you have coming up?
I have a couple murals in Toronto, at like two different offices. And then a logo design for this birthing center that’s focused on helping queer folks have children or adopt. Yeah, there’s just a few things that are up in the air. But I feel like these couple things are heard about are gonna be a go because I already made sketches… And then I’m planning to move to Australia for the winter. So I don’t have to be in the snow. And hopefully paint there, in Melbourne.
Sarah’s work can be found at Andreamanica.com or on her instagram @andreamanica