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Miriam  Martincic

Illustrator Miriam Martincic's style is as unique as her passion for anything visual. As long as there is a way to solve problems visually and communicate something, Miriam is in her natural environment and that's where she mostly excels.

A simple look at the textured style of her illustrations below, combining her love for volumes with 2D and composition, yields an abundance of incredibly imaginative imagery, a dreamlike body of work which we can't stop staring at.

(Interview credit: Creative Pool editorial team)

How did you get into the industry?

It’s been a long a winding path. I gone from fine art (stone sculpture and oil painting) to graphic design, to illustration. I’ve taught intermittently throughout. 

Where are you based now and who do you work for?

I live in Ames, Iowa, teach graphic design at Iowa State University, and am represented by Illustration Zone as an illustrator.

If you weren’t in your current industry, what would you be doing?

I could be happy in any field where I am problem-solving and working with visual communication (and drawing!)—graphic design, industrial design, type design, medical illustration.

Can you explain your creative process?

I start with word lists, doodles, brainstorming, free-associating, google searches, Wikipedia, looking up etymology or synonym for relevant words or themes. Then I make lots of thumbnails. My client sketches are either refined line or value. After approval, I almost always create a finished piece in black and white before I make the final piece in color.

How would you describe your style?

I combine my love of volume with my love of composition, alignment, and 2-d space. I work from imagination as much as possible, using reference only if something looks wrong or generic. Years of still-life drawing and previous assignments are my visual library. The idiosyncrasies and and imperfection of memory help create voice in my work.

Which individuals do you gain inspiration from? Do you have any heroes in the industry?

Harry Brockway, Armando Veve, Peter Van Den Ende, Marc Burckhardt, David Álvarez, and countless others. 

If you had to pick one ideal client/employer, who would that be and why?

Folio Society. I love books and revere writers. Making images that heighten and accompany text is cool AF! The beauty and physicality of FS’s output—printing, binding, clothbound covers, book sleeves with die cuts, metallic inks, and more—appeals to the graphic designer, the artist, and the illustrator in me.

How has technology affected the way you work?

As I mentioned, I started as a stone carver and painter before moving to graphic design. Becoming a designer not only involved working on a computer and learning software, but separating design from production—making creative decisions that are executed by someone else (a printer, sign-maker, web developer, etc). Design tools affected not only the look of work, but how I think. Creating iterations on a computer helped me realize my love of grids and systems. As an illustrator, I combine processes and technology from both my art and design design experiences. 

What’s your secret to staying inspired and motivated?

Look around! Physically, get outside your house. Mentally, get outside your work, yourself, your field.

What’s the work achievement you’re most proud of?

I’ve recently done some editorial projects for AD SooJin Buzelli. For years, I’ve admired SooJin’s art direction and the range of exceptional illustrators she hires—Bill Mayer, James Yang, John Cuneo, Simone Virgini, Jing Wei, Scott Bakall, Gérard DuBois, Chris Buzelli, Katherine Streeter, Brian Stauffer, and more. It’s an honor to work with a great AD and to have my work in the company of so many other fantastic illustrators.

How do you recharge away from the office?

I swim laps, walk the dachshund, dance tango, read, have drinks with friends. (My current drink favorite is a smokey Manhattan.)

What is one tip for other aspiring creatives looking for work?

Get connected with other illustrators through online programs like Visual Arts Passage and conferences like ICON. Get connected with potential clients through local business networks, AIGA meet-ups, etc. Illustrators will support you, share info, and talk shop; non-illustrators will hire you. Cultivate networks in both places. Be REALLY patient. Keep going. The hardest part is getting started.

What is the one thing that you would change about the industry?

I wouldn’t change the industry, I’d change the country I live in. Free college and universal healthcare in the US would make illustration more accessible and diverse. 

Any websites, books or resources you would recommend?

I take inspiration from interviews of creatives in related fields like comedy, acting, set design, and writing. Illustrator, actors, and comedians do different work, but we all have craft, process, and are trying to make something of our own. I look at illustration every day, but making connections with other creative areas feels energizing in a special way. It makes my world bigger. It makes me more curious. Being inspired by creativity broadly shifts inspiration from image-making to humanity. Creatives share many of the same struggles and our sources of inspiration and curiosity also give us common ground.

My favourite podcast/interviews platforms are: This American Life, The Good Place Podcast, WTF with Marc Maron, and Fresh Air.