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Sara Wong

Sara Wong

Meet Maryland-based illustrator and art director, Sara Wong

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Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m an illustrator currently working as an art director at Facebook.

 

Describe the city you’re living in and what it’s like to live there.

I moved from the Bay Area to a Baltimore suburb during the pandemic, and I’m living in Baltimore city.

 

What is the best and worst thing about living in your city?

I might not have lived in Baltimore long enough to represent it accurately, but it feels very genuine—it’s diverse, full of local businesses and strong foundations for community. It’s not insular or homogenous, at least in my understanding of it. But, it does struggle with poverty and the lasting effects of racist design.

 

I might not have lived in Baltimore long enough to represent it accurately, but it feels very genuine—it’s diverse, full of local businesses and strong foundations for community.

 

Give us 3 words that describe what it’s like to be a creative in your city.

Colorful, buzzing, sprouting

 

How did you start your career in art?

I studied illustration at Washington University in St. Louis. After graduation, I started full-time at a local design studio. It was a very jack-of-all-trades place, mostly focused on b2b communications—one day I might be designing an infographic and another I might be typesetting a very long pharmaceutical review. I learned a lot during my time there but I did race home each day to get down to what I really wanted to be doing: illustrating. I built up a post-grad portfolio that way and was thrilled when I slowly dipped into the editorial world.

About a year outside of college I got an email from Facebook which I thought was 100% a fake spam catfish situation, but lo and behold it was real and they were building an internal illustration team. I decided I had to see what it was about and I’ve been there ever since, meeting people who have become some of my best friends and most inspiring mentors. Along the way I’ve continued my freelance practice, mostly in editorial but bleeding into commercial work.

 

About a year outside of college I got an email from Facebook which I thought was 100% a fake spam catfish situation, but lo and behold it was real and they were building an internal illustration team. I decided I had to see what it was about and I’ve been there ever since, meeting people who have become some of my best friends and most inspiring mentors. Along the way I’ve continued my freelance practice, mostly in editorial but bleeding into commercial work.

 

Were the people around you supportive of your decision on working as a creative?

I’m very lucky to be able to say yes. My parents noticed and fed my interest with art classes throughout my childhood, which culminated in an after school conservatory program in high school.

 

What are some goals and ambitions you have for your future work?

I’d love to create a Cormac McCarthy book cover, or (because I am a huge dork) a Buffy the Vampire Slayer anything, or an illustrated collection of tearjerker stories. My crazy dream would be to create a movie poster that wasn’t some kind of limited edition art variant, but the real original you saw at the theater, like in the good old days of painted posters. Specific project-manifesting aside, I’d also like to explore teaching.

 

If you could collaborate with any person in the world who would it be?

Kim Salt (please come paint a mural on my house!)

 

What are the biggest challenges you face in working as a creative?

With the pandemic I’ve been grappling hard with burnout and feeling like I haven’t grown as an illustrator. Maybe that isn’t the biggest challenge when stacked up alongside the others—navigating toxic workplaces, chasing freelance payments—but it feels biggest to me because being a creative is so core to my perception of myself. A lot of my life has changed with the pandemic, and the way I spend my time is no longer 100% illustration; will there be a day that I put down my pencil for the last time, so to speak, and don’t even realize it? I’m lucky to have friends and mentors to support me through this. If you’re reading this, experiencing burnout, I’m happy to report that the consensus is you’ll never stop being a creative. I just wish I could experience that for myself soon.

 

Beautiful, strong, clever as hell, and FUNNY!

 

How would you describe the women around you?

Beautiful, strong, clever as hell, and FUNNY!

 

Were there any local female creatives that you looked up to when you were growing up?

All my art teachers from elementary to high school.

 

We talk a lot about how being nice goes a long way but I think it’s important to remember to still put yourself first, in some ways. If your houseplant needs soil, water, sunlight, what do you need to thrive?

 

Do you have any advice for other women who are aspiring to work in your field?

We talk a lot about how being nice goes a long way but I think it’s important to remember to still put yourself first, in some ways. If your houseplant needs soil, water, sunlight, what do you need to thrive?

 


What type of music do you like to listen to?

All kinds. Right now I’m back into Mariah Carey, who was played religiously in my house growing up. Try

 

What’s your favorite local food spot?

The Sip & Bite!

 

Jeannie Phan asks: How has your personal life influenced your creative work?

My creative work is very connected to my personal life; I’m a rumanitor and drawing is like a physical extension of that process for me. This is great in that I enjoy using my emotions to inspire my work, but it’s horrible during times of stress.

 

Yehwan Song asks: Where do you usually get inspiration from?

Emotional narratives wherever I can find them, either by experience, podcast, movie, book, etc. Bittersweet is best.

 

What question would you like us to ask the next artist?

What non-art thing have you gotten into lately?

 

 

Photos courtesy of Sara Wong

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