Bijou Karman Puts in the Work

Another day, another artist crush, amirite? Well, to be totally honest, we’ve had a bit of a thing for Bijou Karman’s work for a while now.

With her colorful work lighting up our lives on the reg, we knew it was time to collaborate on a few projects. Bijou helped us spread the love on Valentine’s Day by creating the sweetest animation and curating a collection of tender tunes for us to share. She also let us pick her brain about all things Instagram for our social study series. After all that, we realized we wanted more. Mainly, we wanted to know more about her evolution as an artist, how she works, and everything in between.

Bijou Karman sitting in a chair

When did you discover your love for drawing? Was there a particular memorable moment when you knew you wanted to be an illustrator or did that realization happen gradually over time?

There wasn’t really a memorable moment for either, but I’ve loved drawing and making art my whole life. The interest came naturally to me, maybe because I come from a family of artists. I found illustration specifically in college, when I chose to pursue it as a major. When I began school, I thought I would earn an Illustration degree, but pursue a career as a fashion editor. By graduation I had fallen in love with illustration as a career and gradually started gaining clients.

How long did it take for your drawing style to fully emerge?

It’s still developing. I like to try new techniques all the time and see what I like. But I kind of nailed down a general style by the end of college. So you could say 4+ years!

Illustration of fashionable women witbold patterned clothing and stlyish sunglasses

You have an impressive client list which includes The Atlantic, Nike, Rolling Stone, and Refinery29. How do you land these gigs? What would you say the mix is in terms of them coming to you compared to you pitching them?

I put my work out there all the time, on social media and by updating my website regularly. I feel like this leads to work coming my way. The majority of my clients come to me. I’ve (thankfully!) reached a point in my career for now where work is steadily flowing in. But I consider my personal work and periodic emails/mailers to clients the “work” that makes that happen.

Working for yourself can be awesome, but it can also be tricky to navigate in terms of structure and routine. How do you approach your workday? Are you the kind of person who likes a lot of structure, or do you keep things loosey-goosey?

I actually work well without structure because I’m prone to multi-tasking. I have a really unconventional and irregular work schedule, but I always get everything done. I know some people need a strict routine, but every day is so different for me and I enjoy the daily variety that being a freelancer can offer. That said, unless I am giving myself a “day off,” I make sure to do some work every day. This may be 1 hour or 10 hours, just depends what needs to get done. And anyone who knows me well would probably call me a workaholic! Being freelance means you don’t really get a weekend, but I love my work so I am usually fine with that.

With so much creativity necessary for day-to-day work, how do you find time for personal creative projects like 300 Polaroids and the zines in your shop?

I work a lot of hours (see above comment about being a workaholic)! Honestly the only way to find time is to make time. This often means working late at night after I’ve finished my client work. But I add it to my to-do list for the week or day, so my personal work is equally as important as my other to-do’s. This helps keep me accountable. If it’s personal work that I love doing then it isn’t hard to find the motivation to work extra to get things like that done. They’re fun!

As far as social media goes, you only use Instagram (something we discuss in-depth in our social study interview). Do you do any promotion beyond that platform?

I make sure to keep my website portfolio up to date, and I do send out occasional mailers and emails to clients. Other than that, I would say my main form of promotion is saying yes to things! This doesn’t mean I will say yes to anything by any means, but I like to look at every new project or opportunity that arises as a way to grow my portfolio, contacts, or fan base. Doing more projects leads to more projects coming my way. You never know where things will lead you.

Illustration of woman with long hair with flower patterned background

Creative burnout is a real thing - what’s your approach to working through it?

I look at lots of reference, or go out to get inspired. I like seeing work in galleries and museums, reading new books, seeing films, listening to podcasts, and just taking walks to get some new ideas or clear my mind.

If you weren’t doing illustration as a living, what would you be doing instead?

I have lots of other things I dream of doing! I have always had a little dream of being a photographer. It’s just a different way to create images, so not far from what I do now! Or I would love to own a vintage shop or plant nursery.

Back of a woman working on an illustration sitting in a room with images on the walls

Like what you see? Give Bijou a follow on Instagram or pick up a zine or postcard set from her shop!

Vanessa Wardy

Community at Big Cartel. Easily amused. Endlessly curious. Likes most things. Heart on sleeve.

Make a store & sell your art with Big Cartel. It’s easy.

Sign up