Madeleine Sandrolini is an artist who graduated from the New York School of Visual Arts with a BFA in Illustration and is currently based in San Francisco working as a freelance illustrator. Sandrolini's work consists of a mixture of mostly gouache and ink but she also experiments with printmaking, graphic design and typography. The artist's images are a wonderful celebration of colours with a distinctive illustrative style. We spoke to the artist about the creative scenes in San Francisco and New York and about how her style has developed over the years.
"I grew up in the California Bay Area, moving around between sleepy towns just outside San Francisco. After realising I wanted to be an illustrator and artist, I committed to living and studying in New York, and attended The School of Visual Arts. I graduated almost half a year ago and I'm currently based in San Francisco doing freelance illustration." Sandrolini was exposed to the possibility of turning her passion for art into a career when she was younger. "I had a really close family friend when I was in high school who was an artist and getting her degree in illustration at the time. She was a huge influence on me and basically showed me that drawing can be something you study and eventually turn into a job. In my last year of high school I decided I wasn't going to go the liberal arts route and try to be a writer or something so I quickly threw together a portfolio and applied to a lot of California based art schools, as well as SVA in New York."
Sandrolini has experienced living in two very creative cities in the United States, each with their own ups and downs. "San Francisco is a lot about tech but also animation. LucasFilms and Pixar are based here in the Bay Area and a bunch of small animation studios so that community is pretty strong but I don't see as much freelance and editorial work here as much as there is in New York. Here, there aren't many people trying to do what I'm trying to do so I have to constantly remind myself that I'm doing the right thing. But San Francisco is really interesting because it has such a strong do-it-yourself culture and homemade way about doing things, which in part might be in rebellion to the cold and sterile tech world that SF has become."
"My illustrative style is usually described as being weird, quirky, and distinctive. I use a lot of bright bold colours that often clash or can be a little bit much but it's more fun to sort of ignore the rules of colour theory. Throughout my life I've collected work from artists who inspired me at the time and who I look back to whenever I need, artists like Maira Kalman, Richard Diebenkorn, Lisa Hanawalt, Tomi Ungerer, and David Hockney. When I was young I wasn't concerned with having a style but I was very focused on becoming a better drawer and I took a lot of figure drawing classes outside of what my high school offered in hopes of getting better. I didn't have a strong sense of self and that definitely came out in the art I made, the subject matter stayed the same but the style changed constantly, which is how it should be when you're a kid! In the past few years I've developed a much stronger voice in my work and it's changed a lot. It feels more closer to who I am and what I want my work to be. Art school definitely helped with that and living in New York with so many incredible artists helps you become better as well."
Sandrolini captures emotions in her pieces effortlessly and seems to enjoy drawing human figures in motion. "Lately I've been into drawing people in movement and drawing things that compositionally have a lot movement. Ballet and modern dance is something that I can easily get entranced by and drawing dancers is my usual go-to in my sketchbook. I also tend to draw furniture in my illustrations, usually chairs, I'm not sure why but it's a theme I recently noticed. Dogs are my go-to as well! "
"In the past few years I've developed a much stronger voice in my work and it's changed a lot. It feels more closer to who I am and what I want my work to be"
"The best thing I can do for my creative block is to just keep working even if I'm making terrible work. I try to shut my brain off as much as possible and keep my hands busy. For me, creative block usually comes from working too much and not remembering to go out and experience things. You obviously need to draw inspiration and get ideas from somewhere, so being around people and nature is definitely vital to making interesting work. Going to a museum or art gallery is always a safe bet for me too! Aside from painting and drawing, Sandrolini also has a passion for food. "I love to cook and to bake, it's a hobby I've had since I was a kid. My dad's Italian and French so learning to cook was a big part of my childhood. My dad taught my siblings and I how to make pasta from scratch and ever since then cooking has been a nostalgic and relaxing way to be creative and also have a tangible product at the end too."
Sandrolini has a well deserved exciting career ahead of her and we spoke to her about plans for the future. "In a few years I hope to still be here in San Francisco, illustrating editorially and getting consistent work. I definitely want to have a distinctive voice and have my work better reflect who I am and how my brain works. Right now, I just finished an exciting little design for Jay Som, a Bay Area based indie pop band. And I believe a few illustrations of mine will be published in a new zine called Clean Sheets coming out in October created by artists Nico and Sage, which I'm excited for!"