Pop Culture With a Little Bit of Love
Hailing from Chicago, 24-year-old Tyler Feder is an illustrator who already draws for a massive following. Not only beloved by the masses online – where she posts her work on her blog – but noticed by major US television networks such as NBC, the awesome comedic actress Mindy Kaling, and ESPN. Tyler’s drawings are typically popular culture-influenced and easy to relate too – she draws characters from the comedies and movies you watch and finds the best way to express the self-deprecating pain of one’s early adult years. In short: she’s great. I spoke to her about how it all began.
How did your passion for illustration begin and develop?
I can’t remember a time in my life when drawing wasn’t my “thing.” My mom was a calligrapher and my dad is the king of doodling while on business calls. Growing up, my notebooks from class were filled with more doodles than actual notes. I took a cartooning class when I was 15, and it really changed things for me because I learned how I could make my art funny.
What are your biggest influences?
My mom was an amazing artistic role model for me. She was so smart and creative and strong-willed. She died of ovarian cancer when I was 19, and I feel connected to her whenever I’m working. Also, Tina Fey has been my life role model since, like, 8th grade. I think she’s brilliant, and we have the same initials! Other assorted artists and illustrators that have inspired and influenced me are: Gemma Correll, Nan Lawson, Mary Blair, Noelle Stevenson, Olivia Mew, Kali Ciesemier, Jen Collins, Lisa Congdon, Emily MacDowell, Beth Evans, Dr. Seuss, Mary Engelbreit, Zac Gorman, Grant Snider… I could keep going.
What is the most challenging part of your work?
Everything that’s not the art part: printing problems, writing up contracts, negotiating prices. I’m an artist first and a business lady second, so there’s been a real learning curve. Also, hand cramps!
You’ve been featured by major publications, acknowledged by television networks and famous actors – how does it feel knowing that what you do is so popular and well-received?
I’m really ambitious and I try to never get too complacent, but it definitely gives me warm fuzzies to know my work has been received well.
You were also asked to illustrate NFL teams for ESPN – what was that entire experience like?
A social media director at ESPN contacted me out of the blue and asked if I’d be interested in working on a social media campaign to usher in the start of football season. I was totally shocked! I had one month to do a page of five illustrations for each of the 32 teams in the NFL. As someone who repeatedly made a fool of herself in gym class growing up, and who watches the Super Bowl for the commercials and the snacks, it was a big leap (I definitely googled “quarterback” more than once that month.) The whole process was completely overwhelming, but it ended up being great experience. The folks at ESPN were lovely, and now I’m left with all of this knowledge about football I never thought I’d have. It feels like knowing another language.
You have an online shop where you sell more than just prints of your work – when and why did you decide to branch out?
From the beginning, I just wanted to do whatever I could to support myself with my art, so I started selling prints and custom work (like portraits, logo design, and blog headers) on Etsy. Some months I sell mostly prints, and other months I sell mostly custom work. The printing and shipping process is very regimented, and custom illustrations are much more organic, so it’s nice to have a balance of different kinds of projects.
If you could change one thing about popular culture today, what would it be?
I’d like to see more diversity, both behind and in front of the camera. Representation is so important, and seeing diverse, interesting characters (in race, ethnicity, body type, age, gender presentation, sexual orientation, level of disability, etc.) in media would have such a positive impact on so many people. I wish I could snap my fingers and make it happen today.
How do you stay creatively motivated?
I watch, ahem, a lot of television. I’m also studying comedy writing at Second City (I was a film major with a screenwriting concentration at Northwestern) and that’s been really helpful to my artistic process. Sometimes a sketch I’m writing will influence a drawing I make, and sometimes vice versa.
If you could work with anyone in the world, who would it be?
If I could ever work with Tina Fey on any kind of project, I think I would melt into a puddle on the floor and have to be scraped into a bucket.
What advice would you give to other young aspiring artists?
Just keep making art and putting it out into the world! Quantity over quality (the quality will develop as a result of the quantity). Every opportunity I’ve gotten has come as a result of posting lots of drawings online. The internet is your friend!
Where do you hope to be in the future and how will you get there?
Ooh, what a question… I’m just trying to work as hard as I can, keep doing my thing, and see where that takes me. Truly, I just want to keep making art and telling stories to more and more people. If that eventually involves wearing fancy dresses and embarrassing myself on late night talk shows, all the better.