Inside the Color-Drenched World of Ana Jaks
Illustrator Ana Jaks caught my eye because of her incredibly colorful work. I’m not sure which piece of hers I saw first, but it led me down the rabbit hole of her color-drenched Instagram account. The characters in her illustrations felt like all of the coolest people on the internet (complete with fluffy eyebrows and statement earrings and hip sneakers), transformed into technicolor cartoons.
While Ana mainly works as a freelance illustrator for companies like Facebook, Nike, The Washington Post, and more, she also runs a Big Cartel shop where she sells prints of personal work. I wanted to know more about how she balances it all, and how she came to a style that feels current and relatable, but still totally her own.
I love the variety of people you represent in your work. How do you approach race and gender when creating an illustration?
Thank you so much, it’s really great that people recognise that in my work and it’s something I’m forever trying to improve on. I’ve made a conscious effort to follow a huge range of different people online - mostly Twitter & Instagram - who aren’t only illustrators & artists, but representative of their communities so that I’m constantly living in a reality that is full of amazing people, who inspire & influence the characters that are put into my work. Most of the clients I work with do want this type of inclusion, and I’ve been fortunate enough to work with people - like Callisto Media on The Gender Identity Workbook for Teens - who really encouraged me to push my style more and spend time focusing on & putting great detail into representing different genders & races. I’ve had honest conversations with other illustrators in the past where they’ve brought up how important it is to really understand how to draw facial features of different ethnicities in order to represent correctly, as opposed to just drawing a character and changing the skin colour. I feel like, in our world all types of people are present, and all people want to feel included & reflected in what they see, so as an illustrator why would I not make a conscious effort to fulfill that? When approaching any illustration project, I do try my hardest to represent an even amount of people. Something I’m working on at the moment is featuring more gender ambiguous characters, so a lot of personal work for me is taken up by that & will hopefully feed back into client work.
How often do you add new products to your shop?
What I’ve been trying to do is create “themed” personal pieces throughout the seasons, and then once those seasons are over I will update my shop. I would say I add a line of new products at the end of Spring/Summer, and then again around Winter!
How do you make time for your shop and balance it along side your client work?
I would love to put more time and effort into the shop side of things. And I think over the course of my career it is something I would like to focus on more. Since COVID - due to social distancing guidelines and a lot of businesses having to close their shop fronts - I decided to print with a studio who offer a dropship service and honestly it’s made balancing the two things so much easier for me! I’m not having to store packaging, or take trips to the post office. I can just upload my digital file onto an online form, choose my paper type & sizing, and I’m good to go!
What’s something unexpectedly fun or hard about selling your work online?
I must admit I find the marketing around selling my own work online particularly difficult, and I’m always in awe of people who manage that incredibly well. My favourite thing is when people who’ve bought from your shop randomly tag you in a photograph they’ve taken of your print up in their space! It’s so lovely to see!
Regarding the marketing challenges, what have you found that works or feels authentic? Have you found any tricks?
I absolutely need to work harder on this. I am always in absolute awe of the kinds of artists/illustrators who are great at curating their Instagram feeds or photographing their products in a really sellable & beautiful way. I think I probably need to do more of that. What I found really worked for me sales-wise was getting featured in magazines that showcased “artworks to brighten your space.” I had a couple of features and couldn’t believe the orders I got off the back of those! Whereas I’m used to emailing clients asking for work, perhaps I need to begin emailing publications about features to lift sales!
You seem to do a lot of editorial or client work. What’s a dream client or project for you?
Mostly I specialise in advertising or brand identity work now, with a little bit of packaging! I have just landed a dream job which is so, so exciting & overwhelming but not due out until 2022 - it’s just about to start! I think my ULTIMATE dream project would be working with any sort of fashion/clothing brand and seeing my designs on garments. Like Olimpia Zagnoli for Prada style or Freya Hartas for Gucci style. Incredible!
What’s a moment in your career that you’re proud of?
Last year when Callisto Media asked me to illustrate for The Gender Identity Workbook for Teens, and another international job that I worked on at the end of last year for a big retail company - yet to be released - were probably some of my proudest moments. And it wasn’t that they were the biggest jobs ever or the biggest names ever, but it was because of the nature of the brief. They both asked for a diverse representation of races & genders & body types, and it felt like I’d finally reached a point - style wise - that I wanted to, and that clients wanted me for. I think I struggled for a while to create exactly what I wanted, or be pleased with my visual language. It feels kind of there now! Finally!
How did you settle on using Big Cartel for your online shop?
I love Big Cartel’s online presence, and I love the way you can create your online shop to fit “you” or your “brand.” It felt more fun & exciting than other online shop options. I also find the interface incredibly easy to understand, which is a big plus for me because I actually find softwares and websites quite tricky, haha. With Big Cartel, I’ve never had any issues and I’ve always felt supported.
What are you looking forward to working on next?
I’m looking forward to getting stuck into this big dream project I managed to land - eeeeee! I should be getting formally briefed on it next week, so by the time this interview is out I will be working on it. I think it’ll be a few months of solid work and it’s for all sorts - web, socials, packaging etc. Incredibly excited to see my work in lots of different formats.