Sticker Book Artist Interview: Karen Alleluia
In celebration of our recently launched Women’s Empowerment Sticker Book, we are featuring the six talented female artists who contributed their gifts to make these stickers come alive.
We sat down with artist and Passion Planner Creative Lead Karen Alleluia to find out the inspiration behind her designs and artwork.
Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you get into your art initially?
A: Art was always something I’ve gravitated towards for as long as I can remember, but it was also something I spent most of my life avoiding as a career.
I pursued Nursing because I was fascinated with the human body — its structure, how it moves, and how it literally encapsulates life. But after seven years working in the field, shining in school, and yet somehow still being rejected by countless programs, I realized that maybe this wasn’t where I was supposed to be. As I dived deeper into this field, I found that the sole reason why I avoided being an artist was because I was afraid. I didn’t want to starve.
Then I lost my home and my car. I spent months asking for rides, living in a gym, only eating fast food, and working three exhausting jobs. But you know what I looked forward to every day? Drawing. On nights when I had the energy, I’d stay up and draw. I knew, then, that if I wanted a fulfilling life, it was this.
Today, I have a full-time creative position at Passion Planner, a nice home, and a little art shop online. And at the end of every day, I still make time to draw for myself. I’m still figuring out my niche in the art world, but what I do know now is that I am truly living (and definitely not starving).
As part of a creative exercise, Karen enjoys painting various shapes at random, then draws in different characters with a black brush pen.
How has your art evolved over time and what steps do you take to continually improve your craft?
A: In the beginning of my art journey, I only drew with the intent to copy other artists (whether realistic or stylized), simply because the design was aesthetically appealing or because I was familiar with it. It wasn’t until I studied life drawing and illustration that I saw dramatic improvement in my work. I began to use drawing as a tool to understand my subjects and to tell a story.
As one of my favorite artists, Douglas R. Graves would say, “Figure drawing is the heartbeat of all artwork.” In order to improve my craft, I had to tackle my weakest points, and it started with figure drawing. Recognizing that all things have structure, form, and meaning helps me visualize concepts and draw all things. These are questions I ask myself every time I work through a drawing, and I believe it’s a huge reason why I’m still growing.
A comparative look at Karen’s personal illustrations over the last five years.
Where did you draw your inspiration from for your contributions to the Women’s Empowerment Sticker Book?
A: I started this project by first thinking of what women’s empowerment meant to me, and I understood this in a very personal way. I grew up around different kinds of churches and a few of them had many sexist practices. I was chastised by one church for chopping off my hair, for voicing basic disagreements against a man, and proposing that women should be able to pastor. The overall mentality was that women should not lead even if they could. When I was fully able to walk away from that, I felt a huge sense of freedom and strength, like I could take on the world if I wanted. These moments are what I wanted to depict within my illustrations -- the emotions of extreme joy, confidence, and peace. I’m very happy with how these stickers turned out and my hope is for users to resonate with them.
Karen’s digital concepts alongside the final printed design in the Women’s Empowerment Sticker Book.
How do you handle an art block or a creative rut?
A: My creative flow is very important to me, so I implement several things into my daily routine to address or prevent creative blocks.
- I have several projects in hand. If I feel stuck on one project, then I’ll hop onto another project so I have a clear mindset when I return.
- I’ll look at artists that have strong fundamentals and copy their work as a warmup or personal study. By allowing myself to get into their heads, I’m able to approach my own work in a different light.
- I’ll take a walk, try something fun, or allow myself to be bored. I might be stressed out or overworked, so these breaks allow me to understand what’s blocking my creative juices so I can come back refreshed.
- Lastly, I make it a point to look over my old work so I can see how much I’ve grown. Seeing my progress assures me that I will get through this rut, it encourages me to keep drawing, and it allows me to relish in my milestones.
Karen often takes breaks from her more rigorous illustrations by finding fun combos between drawing, shooting images, and spending time with her dogs.
What keeps you motivated in life or what is your ‘Why?’ in life?
A: Even though drawing and creating products is reliably fulfilling to me, my main reason for creating is to serve others and to uplift them. Sometimes it means creating portraits of loved ones or giving some tips to artists who want to improve in their craft. Other times, it means designing projects that speak for those whose voices have been silenced.
I had it rough growing up in a low-income, broken family and attending underprivileged schools, so I know how important it is to have just one person nudging you in the right direction. This is why I create. Through my work and understanding of art and design, I seek to share joy, inspire others, and empower them.
These illustrations were part of Karen’s June 2020 #BLM campaign. Karen opened up commission slots and gave 100% of proceeds to support the Black Lives Matter movement, black communities, and neighborhoods affected by the riots.
What’s your advice for artists who are just starting out?
A: Learn to love the process! Most of my life, I focused solely on my final products which hindered my growth and discouraged me from drawing. But by using pens and/or not allowing myself to throw away my drawings, I learned to be comfortable with my mistakes and actually started to like the messy aesthetic of my sketches. If you can train yourself to work through the imperfections and have fun drawing in spite of them, then you are definitely headed in the right direction. :)
Where can we find more of your work?
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〰️ BLM Commissions: Portrait Edition! 〰️ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ By drawing all you beautiful humans, we raised $500 for the La Mesa Disaster Recovery in San Diego! That’s $2,000 total raised to support BLM efforts and Black communities! Sometimes I feel heavy knowing that there are so many cruelties in the world, but seeing you all respond to this campaign is amazing. Seriously, what would I do without you all? 💛 ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Commissions are still closed, but they will reopen in September. :) 🖤 ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ (3 of 4)