Gallardo began with eight rough sketches (like the one on the left). Her art director gave her feedback, and she developed a more precise composition. Then she added details like the nail polish. The final illustration includes bubbles and ripples in the water.


Marly Gallardo talks about being a freelance illustrator

Scholastic Art: What is your job?

Marly Gallardo: I am an editorial illustrator. I create illustrations mostly for newspaper and magazine articles. My job is to interpret the article in a single visual design. I work freelance, which means I work for myself, creating illustrations for many different clients.

SA: How do you make an illustration?

Gallardo poses with her illustration, which was featured in The New York Times.

MG: The process varies. When I created an illustration for an article about summer reading for The New York Times (right), I spoke with the art director for hours on the phone about ideas for the illustration. Then I created eight digital sketches for him to consider. Three had pools in them. One was of a book that was also a Popsicle, melting in the summer sun. Each sketch included four colors to show the mood in the illustration. Then the art director selected four designs for me to develop further, and then picked one for me to finalize.

SA: How did you get that assignment?

MG: About a year after I graduated from college, the art director who gave me the assignment started following me on Instagram—where I post my work. We began communicating about illustration and developed a friendship. Eventually, he reached out to me with the assignment.

SA: How important to your career is social media?

MG: Very important! Having a digital presence allows me to create an online world where art directors can discover my work. It also allows me to follow art directors I’m interested in working with.

SA: How do you develop the color palette for an illustration?

MG: The palette is determined by the subject of the article. For example, for the summer reading article, I chose reds and blues that were vibrant and popped—to reflect summer. But for an article about a more serious topic, I might go with a palette that reflects a more serious mood.

SA: When did you know you wanted to be an illustrator?

MG: There is nothing else that I ever wanted to be. I’ve been drawing forever. After four years in a serious high school art program, I knew I wanted to go to the Rhode Island School of Design. When I got there, I decided illustration was the right direction for me.

SA: Where do you work?

MG: The world is my studio! I work on my laptop, so I can work anywhere—in a coffee shop, on the train, at a museum, or anywhere else. I love to travel, so I am constantly in different places. But I don’t have to be “on vacation” because I can work from wherever I am!

SA: What is challenging about your job?

MG: The business part of the job can be challenging, especially dealing with all the tax forms! I also have to manage my time well to make sure I meet my deadlines.

SA: What do you love about your job?

MG: I love that a lot of my assignments inspire me to make something amazing. And because I have so much fun making the illustrations for my assignments, it doesn’t feel like work.

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