When artist and illustrator Amber Vittoria confronted portrayals of women in the art she saw in museums, she was discouraged. Frustrated. Disenfranchised. Vittoria simply did not see herself in the frame, so she decided to create images of women that speak to who she is and what inspires her. To few’s surprise, Vittoria’s authenticity, in conjunction with her talent and skill, paid off. Vittoria’s playful, colorful, jubilant designs have been picked up by brands like NBC, Gucci, New York Times, and Instagram, just to name a few. As a freelance artist and New York Resident, Vittoria spends her days investing in her own creative practice and bringing whatever inspires her to her client work.
Since she was a child, Vittoria has been enamored of the visual arts. “I've loved art-making since childhood: drawing, coloring, painting, and making objects were my favorite,” Vittoria said. “As I grew older and went to art school for graphic design, I learned about illustration, and it felt right for my work.” Vittoria attended Boston University’s College of Fine Arts, where she studied graphic design and paid special attention to the program’s emphasis on the fine arts. “Our program was very heavily entrenched in fine-art making, which is why I fell into illustration shortly after graduating. The combination of digital making, design thinking, and a fine art approach lead me to how I currently make work.”
Vittoria’s illustrations portray women, but not the women we might encounter in media or gallery depictions. Vittoria’s website ambervittoria.com tells us, “Her pieces focus on femininity and the female form, leveraging physical traits such as body hair, overtly extended limbs, and rounded features.” Indeed, these women are both unreal and relatable, foreign and familiar. “The women portrayed in my work are inspired by the women in my life, the women I pass by in the world, and the women I read about. Each has a specific story, which reveals itself as I work,” Vittoria said. “Frequenting several art museums and galleries over the years, and not seeing myself in the work portrayed of women, I felt inclined to begin to make work I could see myself in. I've been fortunate others can see themselves within my work as well.”
Each workday looks a bit different for Vittoria, but she makes sure to integrate her own personal creative practice with her client work on a daily basis. “On a day-to-day schedule, my days can fluctuate. Typically, I wake up early to exercise, get ready for the day, answer emails, work on client and personal work, have meetings/calls, and end to aim my day with sketching or reading,” Vittoria said. “Working on personal pieces enables me to experiment and take said explorations into client projects.” Typically, Vittoria’s client work involves paperwork, then pencil work, then digital work. “Once the contract, timeline and invoicing elements are in place, my first step is to make directional pencil sketches,” Vittoria said. “Once a client has chosen their favorite direction, I start on the digital aspects of my work. I then send that digital work in progress over for client approval, and once approved, I print the piece, apply the final details by hand, scan it back in, and send over to the client.”
Vittoria works from the apartment she shares with her partner Dave, a space where she leverages the fondness and familiarity of home to take risks in her illustrations. “Our home is filled with art and collectibles from our past, our travels together, and gifts from loved ones. It is a space where I feel comfortable to experiment within my work,” Vittoria said. From her apartment to the faces of major brands, Vittoria’s women are making waves. These illustrations generate joy. They beg us to uninhibit ourselves. They pour color and irregularity into our lives. Most importantly, though, they come from a place of authenticity.
Mary Ryan Karnes is a freelance writer and a Master's candidate in fiction at the University of Southern Mississippi.