Do you enjoy meeting new people? Hearing the stories of someone who is inspiring? If you answered yes to either of those, or find yourself enjoying having a simple conversation with someone else, we’re with you. And we want to offer this to you through THEM, a section of our blog that introduces the inspiring people we have had the fortunate experience of meeting.
Enjoy meeting Amber.
Amber Vittoria is a digital illustrator, artist, painter and currently lives in New York City working full time as a freelance artist. From her site, “her work focuses on the portrayal of women within art, and she has collaborated with like-minded brands, such as NBC, Warby Parker, Gucci, The New York Times, and Instagram, on pieces that further said narrative.”
We were first introduced to Amber in early 2018, and have since collaborated on a capsule collection of jackets that incorporated large scale embroidery of her work on the back. Amber’s illustrations focus on femininity and the female form, leveraging physical traits such as body hair, overtly extended limbs, and rounded features.
Images courtesy of Matt Lucier
Where did you grow up, what was your childhood like?
I grew up 1.5 hrs north of NYC in a town called Patterson, NY. I loved it. I could always visit the city, but it also had outdoors where I could play and explore and roll in the mud, quite literally.
Is anyone else in your family a creative? What influenced you to pursue art?
I am the first person that I can recall that does art professionally. My uncle Anthony always used to draw and I can remember my grandma always having his art. My dad did it as a passion too! He drew a lot, but again, both as personal hobbies. My mom's side sings, which is another great way to express yourself. In terms of influence and inspiration, I am very lucky that my parents are and were very big proponents of me following my passion and letting me explore what that is. When it became art, they continued to push me.
What led you to pursue art through college and beyond?
Our middle school had a studio art program and my mom stopped me and said, "would you ever want to do art as a career?" At the time, being 11, I said no and didn't think that was a thing but she said it definitely could! That was about 2001, and she kept saying I should stay open to it. As I got into high school, I continued with digital course and as I continued to college, seeing their programs inspired me to really go for it. I went to Boston University's college of fine arts.
How did you transition from school to your career?
After I graduated, I was fortunate to have moved home and lived with my parents for a little over a year, freelancing and finding odd jobs on Craigslist. My first job was at Victoria's Secret as a web designer. I started off "permalance" which now I laugh at that term...
Then I got hired full-time salary at VS, then left for Vayner Media as a designer and art director. I decided to leave VS to learn how to juggle multiple brands a time. I knew I wanted to work myself and knew that would be a good skill set to have for being on my own. After leaving Vayner, I started to do more freelance and illustrated more. I then took another design job at Avon while freelancing more, and then quit there to become full-time freelance!
Do you remember the first time you sold your artwork?
I remember the first editorial project I got for Man Repeller. I emailed them with these cute NYC pins I had made and they said sure, here is our mailing address! I followed up letting them know more about what I do, my illustrations and designs, and wondering if they need anything for editorial illustration. I was put into contact with someone named Emily, a lead creative there, who gave me my first job!
Have you always been a proponent for just shooting your shot all the time?
Yes. I would say almost all of the work I get is still from me reaching out via cold email. Now some of the work is from others reaching out to me, but most is still because I find a brand, really like what they do and then I email them.
Have you ever had to overcome a mental block of not being confident in reaching out, or do you always just do it?
I always just do it. In terms of confidence, some of my struggles come when I actually start working on a piece. I take a break, go for a walk or Netflix, then get past it. It usually never comes when I am reaching out to people.
How do you price your work?
For commercial, on the high end of the price scale is usage. Will the company own your work outright and can do whatever they want? Or they own the IP? Or are they licensing it? These kind of questions are the biggest differentiator for quotes. Buying the copyright is going to be a lot more than just using it for their social.
One thing you talk about on your platforms is when other brands and artists use your artwork without being compensated. Do you think there is a way to avoid this in the industry?
I would say 9/10 times, if a brand wants to share my work to promote anything, just DM me and ask. Most artists will say yea sure, just tag me! Just always ask. If you're not sure or don't own the artwork, just ask. The best is when I get tagged in something randomly, it's like the brand is saying "hey, we love your work!" Asking is always the easiest way to avoid problems, but it is also a learning curve. Most people just don't realize and say "I loved it and just wanted to share it." It also has to do with me personally. If it is coming from a page that I really don't support personally, I might say, "hey please take that down." Overall, if a brand is using the artwork for inspiration and they give credit, that's fine. If it is to profit from, that is different.
What are some principles that guide your work?
Most of the work I create focuses on femininity and the female form. Having gone to art school, and museums all the time, I see a lot of work of women who do not really portray women. It is oftentimes done by men, and speaks to a very specific type of woman and doesn't speak to the diverse range that women are. We look different, live different lives while fine art and advertising depict such a small range of that. I am really lucky that a lot of people resonate with that, and my work because of it.
Was that a realization that came to you during college or freelancing?
When I started working, right after graduation. Working at VS, seeing the same imagery over and over again, of a very specific type of woman and not being that, and then seeing it again in advertising, you feel like you don't fit in. I thought that a lot of others must feel the same thing and wanted to give them the opportunity to be reminded of themselves, or others they know, through my art.
What is your favorite type of collaboration that you like?
It's really nice to have a collaboration result in something you can hold and that is physical. It is kind of surreal, especially when my work is predominately digital. The lead times are a lot longer than an editorial piece though!
Do you have goals you're working towards right now?
Larger works. I have played with painting but with my small apartment that is kind of tough. Also, getting my own studio space. Lastly, just to continue to evolve and work with other brands.
You've done a good amount of stuff for the New York Times. Do you know the title and exactly how your work will be represented ahead of time?
For most editorial pieces you will get a title, maybe a synopsis or an early rough draft. Usually, art directors are good about matching artists with the piece itself. I also usually will say yes to a piece if it fits very well with my point of view or if I find it interesting. A while ago, a story that I did some work for got torn apart on Twitter, the writing more so, which was an interesting experience! A lot of my friends were like "that article got lit up on Twitter!" I still shared it, of course, the artwork was beautiful and the piece thought-provoking.
What is advice you would give to someone who is looking to pursue art as a career as a full-time freelancer? How did you know you were ready?
Everyone is different, especially when it comes to privilege and finance. There is no right way to become a freelancer. I was very fortunate to not have student loans or debt. If I did, I probably would still have balanced a full-time job and freelance career much longer. My advice is to know that your story is unique, and you should do what you feel is right for whatever will make you most confident wherever you are in your life.
Hopefully, you have enjoyed meeting Amber and hearing a little more about her. Subscribe to our email newsletter for other stories from THEM, the inspiring people we have had the fortunate experience of meeting.