Artist Profile: Amelia Giller - Los Angeles
Hey Amelia! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hi! I’m an art director, illustrator and animator based out of LA. I’m currently staff at Buck Design and do a little bit of editorial work in my spare time.
What is your background (i.e. education, previous jobs, experiences that led you to create)?
I’m originally from Texas, and so like most good Texas students, I went to the University of Texas for my undergraduate degrees. I majored in Plan II, an interdisciplinary honors program, and added on a double major in Film so that I could learn some animation. When I came out of school, I took on a number of freelance jobs in Austin, my favorite of which was for indie hair company Verb Products.
I wasn’t super happy with the other jobs I was getting or my experience as a filmmaker, and so a great mentor of mine (Dr. Donna Kornhaber) suggested I go to grad school. I got into USC’s MFA program in Animation and Digital Art and moved to Los Angeles. It’s been the best decision I’ve ever made.
Since graduating, my clients have included The New York Times, Nickelodeon, Nylon, Ted, Facebook, Elle etc.
When did you begin illustration? How has your style evolved over time?
I’ve always illustrated! I’ve been drawing since I was able to hold a pencil. For most of my life, I thought it was just a hobby and something that I wouldn’t be able to pursue for my career. It wasn’t until college that I realized that a lot of people actually do this for work, and make a good living out of it.
My style has evolved but always stayed really close to my heart. In middle school, I was drawing comics about cute girl characters, and of course now, I’m doing the same. For better or worse, I draw like I draw. I’m not an artist who is easily moldable into new styles. It is all about refining my personal style.
What are the different aspects of your design work? Are you mostly creating for yourself or clients?
It’s pretty evenly divided between personal and client work. The stuff that you see on my Instagram is all personal work for the most part. For my day job at Buck, I spend a lot of time art directing rather than making. My team is about 15 people - animators and illustrators. It’s fun and challenging.
At home, I do a lot of drawing on my iPad Pro. I’m really lazy - I love to lounge on the couch with my dog and draw. I’ve been trying to get more into comics and have been trying to tell more stories. I have been very tired of just still illustrations and I want to tell more narratives. Comics is a way for me to start doing that on a smaller scale than a large animated film.
What draws you to illustrate women? How does the female body inspire your work
Women are so beautiful! The curves and clothes. A few years ago, I started thinking about how men throughout art history have drawn the female form as if they own it. I really hate that concept, even if I really love some of the art that was made. I started drawing nude women in both my still illustrations and in some of my animated pieces. I wanted to take back the female nude for women artists! It’s funny to me that it has become a trend. I now see male artists making these funny female nudes and I want to shake my finger at them like “Not yours buddy.”
What is your relationship with social media and your art?
This is a tough question! Social media has really built up my confidence in my own work. Before I started posting more regularly on Tumblr and then Instagram, I didn’t feel that good about my art. It’s helped me gain courage to post personal work more and more.
What is one of your favorite projects?
I did a 4 min film for The New York Times last year as part of their Conception series. It was such a hard project. I’d just moved into an art director role at Buck and was working crazy hours. But I loved making the film. I loved telling the story of Cassandra and her family, her hesitation to have a child and the joy she felt when she finally had one.
What makes you passionate about the work that you do?
What I’m most passionate about changes and grows and evolves. It’s hard to put into words what drives me about the specific work that I do, but a lot of my passion stems from the desire to create something outside of my own thoughts. To have an idea and change it from something small and private to something seen and consumed. Of course, I’m also inspired by feminism, graphic novels, the way food is animated in classic Disney films, and California fashion trends. But these inspirations are different than the passion to create.
What are some of the setbacks or challenges you face with your work?
I’ve been pigeonholed lately as someone who only does one thing. I love the style that I work in and I studied a long time to get to where I am with style - however, sometimes I feel like others treat me like a one trick pony. I have been trying to challenge that assumption in my personal work by moving away from illustration for the sake of illustration and into more complex forms of expression. I want to make more narratives and to direct more films.
The desire to make and do more in itself is a challenge. I work a 40 hour work week, plus freelance on top of that. To do art for just myself, especially a long term project, is just so hard.
At The Glossary, we believe in women working together and helping one another. Why do you think it is important for women to support each other? How have women supported you?
I’m a strong believer in Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow’s “Shine Theory.” It says “I don’t shine if you don’t shine.” In order for women to be treated as the queens that we are, we have to support one another.
I have been fortunate enough to cultivate relationships with amazing mentors who have pushed me to challenge myself and do my best. In return, I find it really important to mentor other women as well. I would be nowhere without the generosity of Georgia Tribuiani, a creative director at Psyop who works in the fashion world, as well. She gave me some great advice when I was her intern, and asked her how I could repay her for the connections and experience she gave to me. “Pass it on,” she said, “when you are a director, help out someone younger. That’s all you need to do.” I’ve really tried to take women illustrators at Buck under my wing and help them shine brightly.
What women bring you inspiration?
I recently went to Mexico City and I had two realizations about women artists. The first, is that despite the hokey commercialism and bad replicas, Frida Kahlo is such an inspiration. I visited her studio and I was overwhelmed with feelings. I have struggled with a number of illnesses since I was a child, and seeing how she lived and worked with all of her physical ailments flooded me with emotions.
The other realization that I had when I was in Mexico was the discovery of Clara Porset. She designed many of the pieces in Luis Barragan’s house, all accented with a wooden square as her signature. I fell in love with the “Miguelito,” a chair that she and Barragan made in collaboration. Her work felt unique and special while remaining simple and sophisticated.
Do you have a dream collaboration?
I have many! I would love to do work for the New Yorker. I would love to work with Miranda July, Greta Gerwig, and Jenny Slate among many other amazing women.
Do you have any resources that have been helpful to you that we should know of?
I just found out that The Art Institute of Chicago allows unrestricted access to 52,000 high res images from their collection online here: https://www.artic.edu/collection. You can zoom in on Nighthawks by Hopper so far that you can see the figures’ faces. It’s pretty neat.
Is there someone who helped shape your career path?
My dad was actually the first person who saw what I was drawing and making in art class, and pushed me towards computer graphics at a young age. I learned Photoshop at 9 years old, 3dsMax at 12. He is a surgeon and his mother (my grandmother) is an artist. He saw that I also had a very visual sensibility and he cultivated it into something beyond finger paint and play doh. When I was in college and bored in my Liberal Arts Program, he was the one who suggested adding in some animation courses.
What are you trying to learn right now or what is something that you are wanting to learn?
I would love to learn how to train my dog past 5:45 AM! Creatively, I don’t feel like I’m ever going to stop learning. Some things on my mind: graphic design, oil painting, cinema4d, jewelry making….okay it’s a long list.
What are some of your favorite places in LA?
Cookbook in HLP and Echo Park. Little Flower in Pasadena. Creatures of Comfort in Silverlake. Night Market Song in Silverlake.
What's coming up for you?
Not so sure. I feel like I’m in a strange lull in my life. Things are moving along happily but nothing crazy is happening in my life.