Illustrator Olivia Fields has mastered the craft of editorial work
“There is something so refreshing about seeing yourself in the artwork of others where the people are depicted as simply being, simply existing,” says the Brooklyn-based creative.
- Joey Levenson
- 12 July 2021
- Reading Time
- 4 minute read
Cartoonist and illustrator Olivia Fields has an impressive portfolio. Known best for her editorial illustrations, Olivia’s clients range from Google to LA Times, NBC to XBOX, and The New York Times to NPR. There’s an emphasis on movement and vitality across all of Olivia’s work which gives her portfolio something of a beautiful cohesive feel to it. “Defining characteristics of my work include delicate line work, vibrant colours, and lots of texture,” Olivia tells It’s Nice That. Brooklyn born-and-raised, Olivia’s close proximity to the renowned art school Pratt Institute throughout her life has helped foster her artistic talents. “I took my first art classes there, I spent time doing after-school programs there in high school, and I participated in their pre-college program prior to graduating from high school,” she says. After a stint at a specialised high school for the arts, Olivia began to toy with art as a viable career path. Soon, she found herself deep in the world of illustration and “how expansive the industry could be,” she says. “I started doing actual editorial jobs while I was still in school,” Olivia tells us of her time at university, where she explored the various illustration classes on offer.
But, it wasn’t just school which helped Olivia find her trademark style and ability. “Being exposed to artists online is what really helped me find my centre,” she says. “When I was in high school, I was just starting to get into Tumblr and Twitter, seeing artists like F Choo, Sara Kipin, and Rosemary Valero-O'Connell for the first time and having my perspective shift entirely.” It was the confidence and appeal in the quality of these artist’s linework which really captivated Olivia, and pivoted her to work in ink over pencil sketches. “I started practicing my contour by drawing from life and being more selective with my line, and I could see a significant progression with my shape language in my illustrations.” Now upgrading her illustrations to the digital realm, Olivia has her sights set on ambitions which go beyond the scope of artistic forms. “My hope is that my work can uplift Black experiences and connect to young Black artists who may feel inspired to illustrate their own,” she explains.
Whilst in school, Olivia was only exposed to a handful of Black editorial illustrators, such as Richie Pope, Xia Gordon, and Loveis Wise. “I wanted to do the work they were doing and be successful at it,” Olivia says. “I've learned of so many more artists like myself through the years doing this work, and I want that to continue”. As Olivia goes on to become an inspiration for other Black editorial illustrators, she makes sure to balance the pressure with more personal projects. “I want my work to address heavy topics, but I try to balance this with mindfulness, unique approaches, and some unrelated self-indulgence every now and then,” she explains. “Even though I do work mostly in editorial, I'll have projects come along that are so different from what I'm used to doing, and it will make me really excited to pursue them.”
As a busy illustrator, Olivia’s creative process always varies. “It boils down to research, concept sketches, tightened sketches, linework, flat colours, textures, and final touches,” she tells us. “And if a colour palette isn't provided to me, I will make one up for the piece”. Most importantly, Olivia is always taking notes on what points can translate well into the visual realm, and what can’t. It’s perhaps why Olivia’s illustrations have been so successful with editorial – they all tell a story in the midst of their serene colours and characters. “My art director will approve the direction before I can proceed to the final,” she adds. “Once they pick a sketch, I finalise the artwork”. A recent piece for The New York Times about the postpartum foods people across various cultures eat in the weeks following giving birth was a hit for Olivia and the publication. “For this assignment, my art director was looking for both a lede and three or four spot illustrations,” she explains. “I was directed to depict someone cooking for the postpartum individual in the kitchen with all the ingredients and aromas swirling around them”. Olivia kept the colour palette for this illustration quite limited, and chose dishes based on characters that would lend themselves to a select few colours. “I also played around with negative space, thinking about how I could make the artwork interact with the webpage when it was published,” she adds. “Technique wise, I also opted to work with simple shapes, depicting the figures and environment in a more stylistic way because the subject matter was so light and fun”.
Olivia’s thorough thought processes and articulation of her style is a testament to how well she has honed the craft of illustration. It’s no surprise that she is an incredibly commissionable artist, as well as having a bevy of admirable personal projects. Whatever she’s working on next, we’ll be excited to see.
GalleryCopyright © Olivia Fields, 2021
Copyright © Olivia Fields, 2021