Just this year, illustrator Loveis Wise (her name is a sentence, as she jokes in her Insta bio) graduated from art school and landed her first New Yorker cover.
The cover shows a woman of color holding a baby while watering the lush plants around her. It bears Wise’s trademark bold and saturated color, and her figure seems caught in mid-movement—as if we’ve walked in on her tending a growing garden.
You might’ve seen Wise’s work in plenty of other publications, if not her Instagram which currently has more than 13 thousand followers. We caught up with Wise to talk about her artistic journey, the need for representation in illustration, and her advice to young illustrators.
I remember coming across your work and a lot of online and print feminist magazines specifically. I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit about what that journey was like in getting your work in some of these really amazing feminist publications.
So, honestly, it was completely random how it came to be. I was just starting to create lot of pieces that felt like home to me. And I was just making all of these pieces about like woman-ism and feminism and from my own view as a black woman. Because I didn’t really get a chance to experience those narratives especially while in art school. I wanted to push that and to see what felt right for myself. I first was approached by Refinery29 and they just wanted me to make something that was pretty much like the work that I was doing. And then things started to pick up from there and it just kind of wild. But in all the best ways.
That’s awesome! I feel like that kind of editorial illustration is really hard. You do such a good job of taking the theme of an article and putting it into one illustration. Was that kind of a skill you had to train, how to transform a story into an illustration that was also in your style?
Yes. That’s something that I’m continuously working on, just trying to interpret different symbols. And translate text too, without being too cliché and pulling from ideas that have been done many times before.
It’s kind of hard but it’s great when you have a sketchbook. I’m always making doodles and sometimes those doodles kind of help to inform the work that I’m making whenever I’m approached with an article or text that I have to make a visual for.
I also like that your figures are so colorful and so bright. What was it like developing that style?
I just wanted to experiment with color in general. Color has always felt right to me. I’ve always been very experimental with how I use color and color placement. Just trying to play around with the tools that I use like Photoshop — every color is pretty much at your hands when you’re working digitally. That’s how the palette kind of came about. And just inspiration, seeing other artists that I love just [using] color in a different way and trying to interpret that in my own style.
What I really like is that your figures are super fashionable. They have great outfits. Where do you usually get your outfit inspo? Do you do a lot of people watching?
Yes. I’m always doing people watching and I’m always style watching for myself and I’m drawing things that I would want to wear or clothes that I wish I had in my closet. That’s where the clothes come from, pretty much.
It’s like your own dream closet but on your figures.
I was also thinking about the sense of movement in your pieces. It feels you’re walking in on a scene happening, like these figures were doing their thing and you caught a snapshot of it.
Yeah, I’m trying to work on narrative pieces. I just want people to be able to interact with the figures and move through them and take their time with them. With Instagram or any other social media platform, when you’re seeing an image and it’s just a still of that image, you’re just looking at it but you’re not really taking time to sit with it. And I want people to just like pause when they see the image and look through it and try to move with it.
Speaking of social media, people have really responded to your work on there. Has it been an important tool for you?
Oh definitely. It’s definitely helped a lot with building bridges and being able to just put out there and show other people too that they can do the same. You can put your stuff out there and build a community where people can connect with your images. There’s always going to be someone who’s feeling the vibe of what you’re making. It’s really scary sometimes to put yourself out there too because you never know how people are going to feel about it.
Do you feel like it’s gotten easier? Or is it always kind of a process?
It’s always kind of a process. It’s a little bit easier but sometimes I try not to get in my head about it. Like I’ll post something and I’ll try to leave it.
You do a lot of activism through your work as well. I saw that you recently did something for March of Dimes recently. Is that something you always saw yourself doing?
It definitely came up during my journey. As you grow older, you start to learn more about the world and it’s very important as an artist to be able to add to the conversation with your work and contribute to the world with your message. Or what you feel is important to you. So I mean especially right now in our political time, I felt it was very important for me to create something that sat with people, something that they can connect with and feel comfort in. And still taking this strong political message whether it be about self-love or self-care or learning about what’s happening with mothers of color. It’s very important for me to make work that shares that message.
I was first really interested in your work because at least from my vantage point, it was hard to find women of color or figures of color in illustration. Did you have that feeling too?
Oh my God, yes. It was ridiculous. Especially even learning about other illustrators that were of color, like women of color illustrators. I didn’t really find any until social media, until Instagram.
And then during undergrad I had to do a project—I was in a history of illustration class. And I noticed that the teacher never talked about any woman of color illustrators, especially Black and Brown illustrators of color.
And I did a project on Black illustrators and then I had to really dig deep to find out about the first Black woman who did illustration. And he didn’t even know about it. And this person was teaching this class for like 15 years I think. Which is ridiculous to me because you should know about your roots and the people who came before you who were doing all the great work that you’re doing. But they kind of get left out of the conversation.
Have you had any reactions from other people saying the same thing to you now that they’ve seen your work?
Yes all the time. And it really makes me happy because it just opens up more room for other people. Especially younger folks who want to be an illustrator. It makes it very possible for them to be able to just jump into it. I was kind of skeptical too when I first started. I’ve always been into drawing and art but I didn’t know how far I could go because I wasn’t exposed to Black illustrators formally. Of course we were all exposed to illustrations through children’s books – the first thing that we learn about — but just knowing about it the way that it has evolved now.
And there’s this new opportunity for a younger generation like you said because they are so much more used to social media. They have the opportunity to reach out to people like you and message you and see your work in a way that wasn’t possible before.
Yeah, the internet is amazing. When it’s not wild, it’s great.
I saw you’re a recent grad. Congratulations! What tips do you have for illustrators who are trying to balance creating their work and doing school?
It all feels like a blur, honestly. Stay on top of time management. That is wild. And please get rest, always. And self-care. I know what got me through working and school was taking the steps to take care of myself. I had some time to be able to rest a little bit more sometimes. Or to be able to do things that I actually appreciated and loved. Or just taking time to be with myself. Listen to some music or eat food. Just working on things that make me happy because those pieces in my sketchbook almost always turn into images that I can use for professional work. Take care of yourself, take it easy. Also you’re in no rush. You don’t have to jump ahead towards the finish line. Take your time with it, learn yourself, explore your art and then all the great opportunities will follow. I know that’s a little cliché, but.
I think sometimes social media makes it hard because it’s everyone’s highlight reel in a way. I like the idea of going back to the sketchbook as a way to take the pressure off.
It’s your own secret. No one has to know about your sketchbook but you. It’s your ultimate safe space.
Are there spaces you like sketching in? Does location make a difference?
I get really sketchbook shy so I don’t sketch in public usually. I normally sketch at home because home feels really nice. I’m always playing a podcast or music. I have to be really comfortable. It has to be really chill in order for me to sketch right. And make images that I feel good about.
Are there any dream projects you’re working on right now?
Right now I’m currently going back to a zine that I started working on about six months ago where I interviewed seven people of color, mostly women of color and non-binary folks about their feelings after Trump. I interviewed them and I drew their portraits. I’m working on some finishing touches on those. I’d love to get into books soon. And I’d love to get into podcasting about what it’s like being a woman of color diving into a creative field such as illustration. That’s a goal for the summer but still figuring it out.