Angelica Liv wants to evoke smiles and joy from her narrative-based illustrative creations
Using her work as an outlet to tell stories, the Colombia-born and Berlin-based illustrator pays much attention to the emotional development of her characters.
- Ayla Angelos
- 28 July 2020
New environments can almost always have a positive creative impact. Angelica Liv, an illustrator currently based in Berlin, was born in north-central Colombia in a small city called Bucaramanga, then she grew up in Sugarland, Texas, and moved across the pond to Germany in 2012. This change in her surroundings most certainly influenced her creatively, with the arts playing a key and important figure in her upbringing. Yet, like many, she wasn’t sure whether this was the right career path to take. “As a kid,” she tells It’s Nice That, “I was always involved in art projects varying from theatre to painting. Although everyone kept telling me that the arts were my ‘destiny’, once I graduated from high school I was convinced art could not be studied – I actually wanted to be a biologist.”
Continuing to recall these transitional moments of her past, Angelica points out a “rare” moment whereby her parents insisted that she continued to pursue something creatively. “Despite my efforts to stay in science, it’s in the creative arts where I developed my career and continue to grow as a person.” Angelica initially took interest in the medium of photography – so much so she would “always” travel with her analogue camera. Soon she decided to explore further image-making routes - “as far away from technology as possible” – and landed on illustration as her chosen medium. Synchronically she applied to Berlin University of Arts and entered the Wagenbreth class from which she graduated last year. “Illustration has really given me the creative freedom I longed for,” she continues, “and it’s motivated me to develop an identity as an artist. Once I found illustration, I never turned back.”
Inspired by folk art, Angelica says her two main muses are her grandmothers. Self-taught artists and creators, they showed her how to paint and sew at a young age. “Although I never thought I’d pursue a career as a creative, they have always been a big reference when it comes to art,” says Angelica. Symbols from popular South American folk art has always been in equal parts big references for the illustrator, and is an aesthetic that she always finds herself heading back to. “Colombian street signs, playing cards, colours and the fruit markets, labels of national products and carnival culture are very much part of my references,” she adds, defining her work as colourful, bold and fun as a result, “maybe even emotional”. This is because her work tends to draw on her own personal experiences, even from her own moments or from someone else’s.
“My work is like an outlet for stories that I need to tell or fantasise about,” she adds, “which is why the subjects I usually explore involve creating characters, celebrating identity and emotions, diverse sexuality, un-censorship, romantic or failed love, plus music.” Humanising problems and that which she sees around her is the way that Angelica prefers to work, which is also a process that allows her to take some weight off her shoulders. This can be seen in her recent work for an online exhibition by Zambo agency in Bogota. A handful of artists were selected to illustrate a text, with Angelica briefed to provide visuals for one about a woman who would “call upon different women” – interpreted as the “different types of women that live inside her”. The result was a page full of 15 women, with each in different poses that would reflect the woman written in the text.
Elsewhere, she also illustrated a Sexual Healing comic for Pure App. A project long awaited for the illustrator, Angelica has been itching for the chance to visualise a story like this. “It is inspired by my experiences and aims to lift up the spirits of those who have been confronted with abuse in their relationships, and those who are struggling to navigate towards healing,” she says, writing a script and drawing scenes that would “seem relevant” in the limited set of ten squares. Otherwise, she also published a personal project called Covid Hair – one that kicked off in March as the pandemic issue progressed in Bogota. “I read a lot of articles about how people around the world had one big worry: who was going to cut their hair during lockdown?” Worldwide drama ensued and Angelica responded with a humorous solution, picking apart society’s vanity and how you can “really can do just about anything with your hair”.
As you can imagine, Angelica’s main aim is to make people laugh or smile – or in any case, that she smiles too. “I can develop pieces on complicated subjects, as I’m also inspired by social struggles such as racism or homophobia,” she concludes. “But there will always be a humour component or ‘cute’ moment where I intend to make the audience just laugh about themselves.”
About the Author
Ayla is a London-based freelance writer, editor and consultant specialising in art, photography, design and culture. After joining It’s Nice That in 2017 as editorial assistant, she became online editor in 2022 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. She has written for i-D, Dazed, AnOther, WePresent, Port, Elephant and more, and she is also the managing editor of design magazine Anima.