Elizabeth Martinez is the supremely talented artist that designed our new 2020 Dated Mighty Yellow Passion Planner. We sat down with her to ask her about her creative process, where she finds inspiration, and how she stays motivated to keep creating.
Tell us a bit about yourself. How’d you get into art initially?
I got into digital art at an early age; I was really obsessed with pixel art in elementary school. I liked how you didn’t need a fancy program for it either - a lot of pixel art I saw was created in Microsoft Paint. It lead me into making these tiny vegetable looking creatures (with awful pillow shading) that I’d later animate with Microsoft Gif Animator. They would blink or sparkle, nothing too crazy.
How has your art evolved over time and what steps do you take to continually improve your craft?
I traded Microsoft Paint for Gimp in middle school and upgraded to Adobe Illustrator + Photoshop in college. In middle school and high school, I spent more time editing photos, drawing, and learning anything I could off Google. I was super addicted to massively multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPGs). I’d always learn whatever program someone mentioned in game dedicated forums so I could do the same thing.
I went into a lot of different directions with my art and it was always influenced by what I liked at that moment. I loved reading manga so I’d screenshot my favorite chapters and edited the characters in Gimp. I loved pixel art sites so I learned how to do basic HTML coding. I loved playing MMORPGs so I’d photo manipulate and animate my characters as forum signatures. I honestly don’t think I ever stopped being the Microsoft Paint girl I was in elementary school though. A lot of the things I make now are just refined versions of those tiny creatures I used to make.
I try to vector weekly. I think the only way to improve your craft is to consistently work at it. I still Google how to do things and look for tutorials whenever I’m confused. What’s been the most helpful is admitting when I don’t know how to do something and asking a coworker, friend, or peer for help.
Where did you draw your inspiration from for the 2020 Passion Planner cover that you created?
I drew inspiration from plants, tarot cards, mandalas, and how I view a pencil. A pencil symbolizes opportunity and endless potential to me: it's the universal tool that sets our paths into motion. It's cheesy, but I wanted to communicate how something so ubiquitous in our everyday life lets us flourish in the best way.
How do you find time to create with a busy schedule?
I try to set aside at least two days a week to work on my personal art. What helps the most is writing out specifically what I want to do and which days I want to work on a to-do list. It keeps myself accountable and it's super satisfying to check off the box when I complete a project.
What also helps is knowing what times I work best. I noticed that my creative “prime time hours” were always after 10PM. It’s when I have the best ideas. Whenever I’m vectoring something during these hours, it goes so smoothly. I make it a point to schedule things around this time, that way I can only focus on my work (usually on the weekends so I don’t get too tired at my job!)
How do you handle an art block or a creative rut?
I give myself a break! When I hit an art block, I find it best to actually step away and relax. By the time I get back to whatever I’m working on, I’m in a better headspace to make progress.
When I was in college, I’d try to power through my art block and keep going. While it did (eventually) work out, I would be mentally drained by the time I finished. The times where I chose to call it a day or just take a walk and return to my piece later, were the times I made significant progress.
What keeps you motivated in life or what is your ‘Why?’ in life?
My childhood self keeps me motivated. I was nine when I knew I wanted to be a graphic designer and knowing how far this one dream went is what keeps me going. It makes me want to improve day by day so nine-year-old me can be proud of my present self.
Photo by Jeanette Villaseñor
Do you have any advice for fellow artists/those just starting out?
Practice makes progress.
It’s okay if what you’re producing isn’t how you initially imagined it. It's extremely difficult to translate what’s in your head into a tangible object. Just because it may look different, does not mean it is a failure.
Not everything you make will be “good” by your own standards and that’s completely okay.
You don’t have to like everything you make (I definitely don’t), but you do have to keep going. If you’re unhappy with a piece, move on and return to it later, don’t trash it.
There’s no such thing as competition.
We can all make it, there’s room for all of us, don’t believe otherwise. I interviewed for the same position my friend did last year; we both high-fived each other after our interviews and ate dinner together afterward (we also both didn’t get the position, haha).
Be a part of your community.
Go to local art shows, student receptions, museums, lectures, whatever you can in your area. Take the time to support your community, even if they’re strangers to you right now.
What's a goal you have for 2020?
Transitioning my Etsy shop to Shopify! I bought the domain already, all that’s left is to actually start!
Where can we find more of your work?