Inspiration

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How illustrator Fabi Aguilar found her calling

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Authenticity. Reading the words of freelance illustrator Fabi Aguilar, this is what modern society lacks the most – the will to nurture unique personalities, captivate passions and help people find their true essence.

It was not until the age of 32 that Fabi found her true calling. Despite feeling too 'old' to change careers back then, she decided to take the leap and pursue her newfound creative passion. She hasn't looked back ever since.

Fabi is now based in Melbourne, Australia, and spends most of her time painting portraits of surfers along the coasts, or using her talent to draw up beautiful stylised portraits like the ones you can see below. For this Member Spotlight, we are taking a sneak peek into the life of a driven illustrator, and one of the most enthusiastic members in the Creativepool community.

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How did you get into the industry?

It was totally coincidental. I discovered my passion for graphic design (my first step before illustration) while preparing a CV for an advertising company in Huntington Beach (Los Angeles). At that time, my priority was to move there, so I needed to get that job. There was no option for a No. When you think something is possible, your brain finds the way to make it happen. I wanted to do a CV totally different from what we are used to seeing. I had no idea about layouts, icons or color theory, but my desire to get that job was stronger than my lack of knowledge or skills, so I found the way to draw my vision. I realised while I was doing it that I was feeling pure joy, something that I never experienced before while working, only when I was a child and playing. I then asked myself: is it possible to turn that game into a job? I was 32 at the time and as you can imagine, I felt “old” to change my professional path, starting again from scratch without any type of experience.

But something had changed inside me, the fire was ignited and there was no turning back. I decided then to take that risk even if I was “old”, but the chances of finding bliss were enormous. And it paid off, oh dear, it really paid off.

It doesn’t matter what age you are when you discover your mission, you discovered it! So you won the lotto.

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Where are you based now and who do you work for?

I’m based in Melbourne, Australia but originally I’m from Spain and have been living in another 6 countries in between 4 continents. How I ended up here is another story… 

I’m currently freelancing. I believe that I reach my full potential when I feel free and work on my own terms.

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If you weren’t in your current industry, what would you be doing?

Mmm, good question. I think I would certainly be working in the personal development field. Because the current society is not pushing you to follow your dreams, they just want you to be busy 24/7 without having a life purpose. I believe in helping people to follow their true passion, to find their mission, despite what family or society tells them to do, because happiness is just waiting on the other side of the fear.

The current world education standardised us since we were babies to follow the mass and not think. The ones that walk outside the lines are punished and their authenticity suppressed. Thus we are more easily manageable, right? What is the outcome? A society with chronic dissatisfaction. 

So answering the question… I would spread this word in a professional way farther from my closest environmental circle.

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Can you explain your creative process?

Sure!  First of all, I have to tell you what I draw and why.

As a good self-taught person and passionate reader, I found a book while being on holidays (with nothing else to do) that marked me deeply and that is actually one of the reasons why I draw portraits today. It is called: “Drawing on the right side of the brain” by Betty Edwards.  

Without a doubt, portraits are what I love to draw the most since they are part of my DNA: my mother’s work as a photojournalist and my grandmother’s work as a portrait painter.

I started drawing them in black and white, but I felt that I needed to add some color, because in the end… life is in color and not in black and white, right? So I said: hey and why don’t I give a bohemian touch to all this by incorporating patterns and colors around every portrait? And this is how all started...

I decided to include all the prints and colors that were engraved in my brain since very little, coming from all the travels and places where I’ve been living around the globe. So this combination ended up in a very particular style.

Returning to the question of my creative process. When I’m hired to commission a portrait, I always ask the person to send me their favourite one in high resolution. A good photo is very important. And by good photo I mean a picture that shows the soul of this person through the look. I first draw the person on Procreate app on my iPad with an apple pencil and an air soft brush. After that I elaborate a colour palette based on their favourite colours. Sometimes I paint all the elements with acrylic paint and brush (I love the analogue part) and scan it or I just paint directly with dry digital brushes around the portrait. The patterns always change depending on how I feel in that particular moment (the music that I’m listening to has a big impact on it as well). To finish, I always do 3 rounds of changes with the person and send the final files. Super simple.

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How has technology affected the way you work (if at all)?

My god, on E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G. 

Thanks to technology I had the ability to connect with more people like me, access all the knowledge & tools that help me to professionally grow as well as show my work to the whole world in just one click, instantly and for free. Isn’t it magic? 

What’s the work achievement you’re most proud of?

I’m proud of every work achievement, to be honest. All of them have a lot of hours and learning behind and are equally important. 
Anyway, I have to say that the bigger is the goal, the bigger is the challenge. Every time that I achieve one, I realise that I was right when listening and following my gut: I chose the path that is making me truly happy over a glamorous profession.

The most recent achievement has been the nomination as an external artist assessor for Melbourne Council’s funding programs. I arrived here 2,5 years ago with a 23kg suitcase, knowing anybody, starting from 0 in a new country on the other side of the world and a head full of dreams. And now I will be assessing individual grants and sponsorships for the next 4 year in the Melbourne Council, crazy!! isn’t it?. Everything is possible if you trust in yourself and break big goals into mini achievable goals.

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How do you recharge away from the office?

Doing activities that require my 100% focus: practising different sports, dancing salsa, travelling, gardening, cooking, having deep conversations with inspiring people, photography, reading and above all, sleeping.

I also like to take around 5-6 weeks off every year to stay with my family and see my friends from home. Pure work disconnection recharges my creative battery levels. Having nothing to do and being bored have always led me to new paths.

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What advice would you give to other aspiring creatives looking for work?

There is a quote from Kai Brach that has been my motto along this path: “Be patient, put in the hours and show up every day. Don’t optimise for fame or money; optimise for a fulfilling lifestyle that you are in charge of”.

I will also add to this quote. Trust in yourself and question all the time: how can I help and serve better through my talents?

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What’s your one big hope for the future of the creative industries?

The big hope that I have for the future is a radical change on the education system in schools, all over the world. I know that it sound ideal, but think about it:

At an early age, the mind is like a rainbow, full of possibilities and potential that is not being used.

I believe in a pedagogical system that provides tools for children to exercise their creative “muscle” as far as they can, through any type of craft. First like a game and after like a problem solver, instead of memorising non relevant information like a parrot, turning your amazing brain completely off.

If children were encouraged to create from a very early age without being judged and limited by teachers or family, the impact on the future of creative industries would be incalculable.

If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?

Make as easy as possible the search and access to knowledge-sharing groups. 

Being a member of different specific illustration/design slack groups have boosted my graphic design and illustration development. But the discovery of them… is another story. 

New aspiring creatives can feel easily lost and overwhelmed. These groups are just what they need to get rid all their fears off, get a boost of motivation and get in touch with the real market and not the idyllic paradigm of the university with perfect clients.

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