If you follow our #GIRLBOSS on Instagram, you may have already admired Stephanie Surtida‘s work. She caught our attention by ‘gramming a really impressive sketch of Sophia, but won our hearts with her fashion illustrations (in which she also chronicled some of her favorite looks at Burning Man). It seemed a natural fit to have the LA-based artist illustrates our inspiring Nasty Gal Fall Collection, and here she talks with us about piglets, Santee Alley, and, duh, what to wear to Burning Man.
How old are you, where are you from, and where do you live now?
I am 25 years old born and raised in California and currently living in LA!
What is your job title?
Have you always been interested in illustration? Were you one of those kids always drawing on tables at restaurants?
Yes and yes! Ever since I was a kid I loved drawing all kinds of things. It was my favorite creative outlet. One of my favorite memories as a kid was drawing on tables at Claim Jumper (my favorite restaurant) while waiting for our food with my family!
Has fashion always been an interest of yours as well?
Fashion was always a part of my life growing up. Since I was a kid and up until today I’ve always planned out my outfits the night before. I’ve always thought about my look and considered it, and always wanted to appear clean and presentable. Maybe it’s an OCD of mine? I first fell in love with fashion illustrating when I got my first job out of college as an assistant designer and trend researcher. I would spend the majority of my time at my desk doing fashion illustrations or flat sketches of garments based on what was trending on the market. I am forever grateful for that opportunity, because I learned so much on illustrating fashion figures and garments. After that, illustrating became my most notable skill at all of my other jobs.
In your ideal world, what would you be doing in 10-15 years?
Well, by then, I would for sure be fashion illustrating full-time! I’d be married living in my dream studio loft that has an elegant spiral staircase (I just have to have that) and large windows in the main room with a view of the city in LA. I’ll also have my dream pet piggy with me by then too! But I won’t just be at home illustrating, you’ll find me traveling across the country and overseas during fashion week sitting by the runways photographing and doing quick sketches of the models. I’ll also continue to do a little trend research for my blog while on my travels. And when I have some downtime at home, I’ll still be fit modeling on the side while taking dance classes and doing some home yoga; and spending days at the beach relaxing.
Is there any artist that has been a particular influence for your work?
Garance Doré and Paula Bonet—they are awesome! I try to adopt certain styles of the way they both illustrate when trying to find my perfect look. I love Garance Dore’s clean and simple technique and Paula Bonet’s detailed and sketchy way of illustrating.
In one sentence, how would you describe the aesthetic of your illustrations?
My dolls like to appear charming and act flirtatious, but are secretly dark and deceiving.
Unrelated to illustration, what are your other passions?
I’m a lot a bit of a spiritual junkie and I like going to workshops and meeting like-minded people that focus and teach you on following your inner intuition and how to use your sixth sense (I know, creepy, but I love it!). I also have a thing for dolls and making them. Oh, and I love dancing! My favorite classes to take have been bellydancing, Bollywood, and ballet. I also love doing yoga but I do it only at home because classes are effing expensive in LA.
How was Burning Man. Is it all it’s cracked up to be?
Yes I went! I was a first time burner and I want to go back! It was the best trip I’ve had this year. I’ve invested so much money in it just so that I’d be able to survive out there in the desert for a week, and it was worth it! Everyone should go, at least once. A ton of artists and sculptors and all kinds of people from all over the world go to display and share their work and it’s something I guarantee you’ve never seen before. It blows my mind just how insanely creative people can get. It was like Disneyland but PG-13, and rated R in some areas (which I didn’t go to, lol).
What was the fashion scene like at Burning Man?
The fashion scene was WILD! Having worked in the fashion industry as a trend researcher, if you want some inspiration, go to Burning Man and take as many outfit snaps as possible of people out there. People are in costume everyday. And the majority is homemade (mine was!). It’s fashion freedom. Some people don’t even wear any clothes and prefer it that way. But what I think is so important to consider about what you wear while out in the desert is that everything will be ruined by the time you get back. So don’t wear anything expensive out there, and work with what you’ve got or shop at $1 sales at vintage stores. Your stuff will get eff’d up.
How would you describe your personal style? Does this translate to the style of the figures you illustrate?
My style is not so much trendy. I can’t afford designer clothes, everything comes from small boutiques or vintage stores on Melrose or from downtown LA on Santee Alley. My style is playful and simple, and chic sometimes. I try to experiment with new looks, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t! My dolls are way more risky.. I’ll put clothes on them that don’t work on me! They’ll always look good!
Do you have any advice for young creatives who want to pursue their interest in illustration?
Practice, practice! I still practice my passion every day. If your friends or family don’t agree with this as a career path, it’s only because they were too afraid to follow their own passion. So keep going.