“I still think making art is the best feeling in the world”: Celia Jacobs on finding her place in the creative industry

11 July 2019

Back in 2017, when we last featured Celia Jacobs, the Californian illustrator had just graduated from art school, and the creative industry was her oyster. Since then, she worked for a small clothing company after graduation and now works as a freelance illustrator. During this relatively short time in the working world, she has already been commissioned by a couple of dream clients (including The New York Times and The New Yorker) and is well on her way to becoming a fully established full-time illustrator. She tells It’s Nice That: “I just feel like I’ve gotten some hold on calling myself an illustrator as my job role! I can’t believe it’s how I make my living and spend most of my days,” she adds graciously.

For her recent commission for The New Yorker, Celia was presented with the tough job of depicting a rather serious topic: redefining infertility. “I like being able to make heavier topics more accessible,” says the illustrator on the editorial commission. “One of the hardest parts of my job is figuring out how to transform something complex into an interesting, communicative, playful and beautiful image.” Though it took her a couple of tries to pinpoint the right tone, with the help of some thoughtful feedback courtesy of art director Sebit Min, Celia found a way to strengthen the conceptual thinking around the topic which was then translated through illustration.

“I love it when art directors give feedback that goes beyond the surface appearance of a piece and actually improves the idea behind it,” says Celia. Deeply appreciative of being about to call herself an illustrator, nearly every day Celia asks herself: “How can I do this thing in a way that I can do it for the rest of my life?” She’s wary of that all-too-familiar feeling of burnout because she’s met the beast before, and astutely recognises the potentially dangerous pressures of being a young creative in today’s working climate. “I’ve been brought up in this intense, work-focused culture (my college, the world, LA or any big city, 2019, millennial, working creatives, whatever) but no matter what,” she says, “I still think making art is the best feeling in the world.”


Celia Jacobs: Infertility, The New Yorker

As she gradually starts to find her place within the industry, Celia tells us about her changing attitudes towards her work. “I’m getting less competitive with other people and trying to just compete with myself, which is a cliche but a good one. I’m trying to focus less on constant exponential growth, chasing ‘status jobs’ and tying my worth so closely to my income.” And I’m sure we can all relate to Celia in some way, shape or form there.

Fundamentally, the illustrator wants to build a sustainable career and lifestyle that remains fulfilling and viable for a very long time. She’s focused on defining her own goals that feel attainable to her while challenging herself to the best of her ability at the same time. And with hopes of one day working on books, brand collaborations and more politically-motivated projects, more than anything, Celia wants to maintain that exciting “new job” feeling that she experiences over and over again.


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About the Author

Jynann Ong

Jynann joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor. She went freelance in 2022.

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