I recently met Ana Benaroya on a thesis panel at The Society of Illustrators. She is calm, direct and clear while her work is energetic, confrontational and playful. In her own words she is "...an illustrator, artist, typographer, and designer; but above all, she is a decent human being. This is quite possibly her proudest accomplishment to date."
How would you describe you what is it that you do?
I make a lot of different things.
How much sketching or research goes into the planning of a new piece?
It depends - if it’s personal work, then less sketching will happen before I make a piece. If it’s commercial, then I’ll have to do more research and a series of sketches.
Your content and aesthetic are bold and confrontational. Do you think this has helped or hurt you as an illustrator? Why?
I think both. I think my work can be eye-catching - and that works to my advantage. But I also think it scares a lot of people off - particularly some commercial clients. It’s something I think about a lot, but I don’t think I would change.
Are you trying to challenge viewers through your work?
In some ways, yes. In other ways, I’m just creating the work I want to create - not for any particular effect. I am very aware of how I depict women in my work - I tend to sexualize men more than women. I am never drawing or painting a woman just so she looks sexy and appealing - I feel like there is so much of that crap out there. I want my women to be slightly off-putting and intimidating.
When you were five, what did you aspire to be? Why? And how has that impacted your career if at all?
I think I wanted to be a firefighter or policewoman. I didn’t ever think about being an artist as a career until I was in high school.
What is the most rewarding thing about being an illustrator?
The ability to be your own boss and have a lot of ownership over what you do during the day - even if there are art directors and editors involved - you are still making something that is yours.
Does your creative work pay your bills?
Yes - but to be specific - I do a lot of different creative work, not just illustration. Illustration takes up half my week and the other half is spent doing more traditional graphic design.
Have you always done this for a living or did you transition from something else? What triggered your decision to make a change?
I’ve gone through lots of different types of jobs - but I have always maintained some level of freelance illustration work. I’ve had full time jobs, part-time jobs, no jobs...and through all of that I’ve done illustration. I am still trying to figure out the right balance for me - this is something I’ve been giving a lot of thought recently. What type of work schedule is best for my sanity?
What is the most challenging thing about practicing your craft? How do you deal with that challenge?
I think the most challenging thing is dealing with your own mind. I tend to be very introspective and because of this I think I torture myself sometimes with my own expectations of how things should be. Maybe this fuels my art though, who knows?
Do you still practice? If so, what do your practice sessions look like?
I guess I still do practice but I never really thought of it like that before. I tend to just keep making things and view each piece as a new learning process. Because I work pretty quickly and intuitively I guess you could say each piece is practice.
Where do you find inspiration?
What kind of music do you listen to while you work?
All sorts - classical, pop, indie rock...depends on my mood. Recently I’ve been into listening to talk radio though.
Where are you when you have the most a-ha moments?
Usually one hour into working on something this can happen. Or sometimes I’m just sitting, not creating anything and an idea will pop into my mind.
How do you define creativity?
I think creativity just means removing all the restrictions and inhibitions that we place on ourselves.
What do you do to maintain a creative flow?
I’m not sure really, haha. I guess it usually happens in my studio but I also find that if I’m working in a place I don’t traditionally work in - I can be more creative.
How much do you rely on feedback from other to help shape your ideas?
Not too much. I ask my two best friends (who are also artists) for their feedback and opinions, but sometimes I don’t even listen to their advice, haha. I guess I’m kinda stubborn when it comes to my own work.
What is the greatest obstacle to creativity?
Not keeping in the habit of making things - I think that creativity is something you need to practice.
When you complete a project, how often does it resemble your initial concept or conceived idea? How important is this for you?
Hmm, things rarely turn out how I expect them to. And I think I like to allow for error and discovering things along the way. If something is completely planned out I think it destroys some of the joy for me.
How do you know when you’re done?
If I take a little time away from the piece and then look back a few hours later, I will know.
How do you resolve creative differences with clients or creative partners?
I tend not to argue too much with art directors or editors. If the edits start getting really out of hand then maybe I’ll say something. But usually I respect their opinions, since they are paying me.
What keeps you motivated even if you don’t connect personally with the project?
My own will not to give up on something. I hate feeling like I haven’t put in a real effort.
What do you do when you are stuck and have some sort of deadline or other pressure?
Usually I try and force myself to work through any creative blocks, but recently I’m wondering if this is the best tactic. I have a very hard time allowing myself to take a break. Sometimes I wonder if I’m pushing myself to burnout.
How do you achieve your creative vision with a limited budget?
I work with cheap materials! I suppose my most expensive tool is my computer - but otherwise I’m working in my sketchbook, on cheap posterboard, using markers or brush and ink.
What are the top 3 tools in your creative tool kit? ie. software, pencil, paper, journal etc.
Definitely my pencil, pen, and sketchbook.
What are the top 3 creative habits that have proven to be the most useful for you in your career?
To keep a schedule, define times when you will be “creating”, and to work out.
If you could offer a single piece of advice to a budding professional, what would it be?
Believe in yourself as much as humanly possible. I know it’s easy to lapse into periods of self-loathing, but you really got to make it through, otherwise no one else will believe in you.