On this week’s episode of Draws in Spanish, I speak with Colombian illustrator and multi-disciplinary artist Katty Huertas. We talk about her decision to move from Bogotá Colombia to Miami at age 19 completed changed the trajectory of her life and career. Although she is best known for her illustration work, Katty also has a graduate degree in graphic design from MICA, and she shares how an understanding of design elements like typography makes her a more well-rounded illustrator. From editorial work to AR, Katty and I discuss the details of some of her favorite projects including the key art for Disney’s Diary of a Future President. Join us on this week’s episode to hear how Katty continues to evolve as a designer and illustrator.
When Katty decided to move with her now-husband from Bogotá, Colombia to Miami at age 19, her whole family thought she was crazy. She quickly learned that she would have to acclimate to a new way of life including learning that her aspirations for being an artist and illustrator couldn’t be satisfied at the state university where she was attending college. It wasn’t until she moved to DC and attended MICA where she found a community of fellow creatives and built the graphic design skills she needed to become a more well-rounded and professional illustrator.
Her first big commission came from the art director at Lenny Letter - an opportunity Katty said she jumped at. She realized that this whole illustration thing could actually become a fulfilling career. You can now find Katty’s colorful work featured on nbcnews.com, The Today Show, and many other notable clients such as Adobe, HBO Max, and even The New York Times. Nothing beats a recent project she calls “a dream job.” Katty created the key art for Disney’s Diary of a Future President and hopes to do more key art in the future.
We discuss the details of Katty’s artistic process and how it has changed as she gains more experience and confidence in her craft. While her art is extremely recognizable from its bright color palette, something she says was influenced by her Colombian heritage, she also recognizes that she wants to evolve and change as an artist. Katty is experimenting with AR, ceramics, and photo collages making her a true multidisciplinary designer. Join me on this week’s episode to hear more about how Katty approaches her work with originality and authenticity.
Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, or on your favorite podcast platform.
Connect with Katty on Instagram and Youtube. You can also see more of her work on her website.
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[00:00:00] Fabiola Lara: Hi! Welcome to Draws in Spanish, a podcast that showcases the creative journey of notable Latinx, visual artists, and designers. I'm your host Fabiola Lara. Today on Draws in Spanish. We have Colombian illustrator and multi-disciplinary artist Katty Huertas. If you've ever visited nbcnews.com, then you've probably seen her work.
Katty is an editorial designer at the Today Show, and most recently illustrated the key art for Disney+'s Diary of a Future President. She's also illustrated for many other notable clients like Adobe, HBO Max, and even the New York Times. She's clearly crushing it. And I'm so excited to get the chat with her today. Let's get into it.
Katty, thank you so much for being on the podcast. I'm so excited. I've been following your work for a really long time. I think I first saw your work through Instagram, like an art director at NBC. And then I kind of followed that Instagram wormhole, and I saw that you've been making so much editorial work beyond just that.
And you've been crushing it since you graduated. So I'm so excited to have you here today. And I just wanted to before we get started - can you introduce yourself to any new listeners who maybe haven't seen your work before?
[00:01:23] Katty Huertas: Of course. Well, first thank you so much for having me. I'm also super excited to be here. So my name is Katty Huertas. I'm originally from Columbia. I lived a little bit in Miami, and I'm now in Washington, DC. I am a freelance illustrator, so I do a lot of editorial illustration, but also commercial illustration. And I also work as an editorial designer for The Today Show - the digital arm of The Today Show.
[00:01:48] Fabiola Lara: Awesome. Thank you so much for that intro. So like you know, this podcast is about art and Latinx identity and kind of how the two go hand in hand. So I want to start off by asking you a few questions about your Colombian heritage, especially given that you are a pretty recent immigrant here to the U.S. How long have you been in the states?
[00:02:10] Katty Huertas: I got here in 2012, so I was almost turning 19, but yeah, it was a big cultural shock. I was visiting here and one of the good things is that I arrived at Miami. So the culture is a little bit more similar. I mean, it was easier to find similar food but still like, you know, the system is completely different.
[00:02:31] Fabiola Lara: Right, I mean, yeah. Colombian food is everywhere in Miami so that had to be kind of heartwarming and kind of take you back home. But coming here at 19, I can't even imagine that's such a different culture, especially at that age when you already lived your whole life, you know, your whole adolescents and childhood in Columbia.
I know you were born in Bogotá, Columbia. Can you tell me about how you ended up in Washington DC?
[00:02:52] Katty Huertas: So it was never my plan to actually move to the U.S. And actually I moved kind of like with my then boyfriend who I married, uh, he was already living here, but he is also from Columbia and we met in Bogota kind of like when he was visiting. But my parents stayed there. It was kind of like this whole crazy adventure that I came here alone.
But I was doing my undergrad there at a university and I stopped that for, I was like in my second year and I had to stop it to come here. I wasn't sure if I was gonna like, stay safe for sure. I know I wanted to be with him and I've invested in Miami. I had some family here, so I moved there and then I transfer some of my credits. Completed my undergrad in FIU, which is like a state school in Miami. But I mean, none of those were art schools. Like it was, it wasn't like RISD or Pratt or anything like that.
So, you know, with big universities, they usually have their art department, a little bit like to the side, like our studios were kind of like in the parking lot. I mean, it was like, nice, but it's not like, you know, that same drive that's sometimes like art school kids have. So we then like after graduation because we, my husband and I, we both went to the same school. We moved to Maryland, and I started grad school in MICA in Baltimore. And that was kind of like, I finally got that out of my system of going to like an art school for sure. Yeah.
[00:04:18] Fabiola Lara: Right. Yeah. No, I . Totally understand about the state school art system is a little bit underwhelming. First of all, that's crazy that you decided to do all of that when you are 19. That's a really big kind of leap of faith for not only art, but your entire life, you know, to just transition it.
What's your experience been like now as a Colombiana in DC? How does that feel like?
[00:04:40] Katty Huertas: I feel like it was a little different because again, coming from Miami, a lot of my classmates, like every store you go to, like people talk to you in Spanish. Like even though you're an immigrant, you're still like a little bit more in a Hispanic community, but then when I got here, it's definitely not as much.
And I think I'm still lucky in the sense that DC is very open city and there's a lot of immigration, but it's immigration from like all over the place. So it's not so much like Latin America. So it's been interesting. I've gotten to know people from like different backgrounds, but I still miss a little bit of that kind of like cultural...
[00:05:18] Fabiola Lara: Familiarity or something?
[00:05:20] Katty Huertas: Yeah. I still miss some of that cultural like familiarity on even the food. I mean, there are some Colombian restaurants here, but they're not, they're not as common. And some of it is like fancy Columbian. There's like a nice Columbia restaurant, but it's like the fancy, like small dish Columbian food that it's not like super authentic. I mean, it is by a Columbian chef, but still.
[00:05:42] Fabiola Lara: Yeah. It's not necessarily like home-style cooking.
[00:05:45] Katty Huertas: Yeah, exactly.
[00:05:46] Fabiola Lara: Like your family. Right. Right. So you, you did say your, most of your family like your immediate family is back in Columbia?
[00:05:52] Katty Huertas: So when I moved here, my parents stayed there and all of my family was there and everyone was like, oh my God, that's crazy. She is leaving so young. Uh, but then I became a citizen kinda like recently, and I petitioned for them. And now they are in Miami, and I'm in DC and I get to go a lot. That's why I'm kind of like always traveling there visiting.
[00:06:13] Fabiola Lara: Oh my God. Congratulations. That's really huge. That's a really big accomplishment. Not only to become a citizen, but also to then get your parents to be able to come here, congrats.
[00:06:22] Katty Huertas: Yeah, for sure. I mean, I feel like if it was crazy for me to come at that age, like so young and kinda like by myself, it was also crazy for them to come because they're, they're like obviously older, they don't speak the language.
[00:06:35] Fabiola Lara: They are set in their ways, right?
[00:06:37] Katty Huertas: Yeah, exactly. So Miami was like the perfect place in that sense too. And I love it because I get to visit. So I have my vacation spot in there.
[00:06:46] Fabiola Lara: Exactly. You get to leave the cold of DC whenever you want, which is great. And, um, what's one, I asked this because I feel like in general, here in the U.S. When people say Latinx or Latin American, they don't really know what that means. It's like maybe they just think of Central America or Mexico. Like the concept in general seems so small.
What's one Colombian thing you wish people knew about?
[00:07:10] Katty Huertas: I feel like Columbia specifically has had a lot of bad reputation because of like historical context, you know, like in the eighties, like drugs and that kind of stuff. And a lot of people still associated with that. But one thing about Columbia is that the people are extremely friendly. And I still notice that when they go back like customer service, I dunno, like your grocery store is like incredible, like people are always willing to help and they're very open. Like you can make friends like waiting for a bus or something, which I feel like it's a little bit harder here.
[00:07:41] Fabiola Lara: Definitely. Yeah. It's the hospitality is totally different. I love that you said that because I think in general in Latin America it's like that, but there are so many stereotypes that people associate with each country. My best friend actually from childhood is Colombian. So I feel like the nicest people or like my second family is Colombian and they were so nice, obviously.
So getting a little bit more back into your work, do you think that your Colombian roots influence your work at all? And if so, how?
[00:08:07] Katty Huertas: Yeah, they definitely do. And I feel like my roots have always influenced my work kind of like, uh, subconsciously. It was only until I got to grad school that I started to pay more attention and kind of like the deeper why.
And I realized that, especially because I did grad school for design, not for illustration. I realized a lot of what we were being taught was Swiss minimalism and like European design and that kind of like black and white, like aesthetic. And I'm like, that's not me. I'm like full of like color and textures. And it also made me question, like, why? Why is that considered like the good design?
So I've been more consciously active in like, including my heritage and paying more attention of like what comes into the work. Like even if it's topography, like who made that type or why those colors, like my whole thesis was basically an experiment on designing and illustrating from a Colombian point of view.
[00:09:03] Fabiola Lara: That's great. I feel like I can see a lot of the texture and vividness in your work, and that's why I wanted to see like, you know, your take, obviously.
Okay. So how does your family feel about your career as an artist? And did you ever have any pushback or face any skepticism? I mean, you took a really big leap going to you know FIU, going to Miami. So can you tell me more about that?
[00:09:26] Katty Huertas: Yeah. My parents have always been supportive. They never like forced me to do something else. But there were like, when I was thinking about what major to do when I was in high school, because like university works a little bit different in Columbia. Like, I feel like here, if you go to a big university, you have like your two years to kind of like to declare your major, but in Columbia you go straight in and those four years of college are full on your career. So you're not going to take like a math class or a bio class. It's all going to be like art. And so there were comments like maybe, I don't know. They used to tell me like, oh, you're so good at arguing. You could be like a lawyer or something.
[00:10:05] Fabiola Lara: That's a classic one.
[00:10:07] Katty Huertas: I know. But I was like super set on my ways. And I was being, I've been drawing since I was little. So they were like, okay. So they were very supportive. But I don't know what expectations they had. I mean, they, for sure they didn't know like illustration was a career because I didn't even know.
[00:10:21] Fabiola Lara: I mean, nobody really knows.
[00:10:24] Katty Huertas: So I think they're very happy to see that I'm, that I'm doing well now. And I still, like, every time I publish something or something gets printed, I save a copy for them. So they, they have them in their house.
[00:10:35] Fabiola Lara: They have proof of the work. Okay. Yeah. That's, I'm glad that you haven't faced too much pushback from your parents because that can be pretty common, like just maybe skepticism, but I'm glad that you have supportive parents. Um, and it shows because your work is really strong and like confident.
Are there any Colombian or Latinx stereotypes that you're tired of hearing of just in case anyone listening believes these things now?
[00:11:00] Katty Huertas: Yeah, there are definitely a lot. I feel like one is, yeah drugs, of course, like that's a huge one, especially with new series, like Narcos and things like that. It kind of like brings the past up. I like, I mean, that was a reality it's not made up, but it's no longer a the case. So the fact that till this day Colombian people are associated with that it's kind of like unfair.
Because the U.S. has had a lot of problems too, but because we see them from so many angles, we don't associate like one particular issue with that country, or like with any country in general.
So that's one and the other one is that plastic surgeries are really cheap in Columbia. And so everyone thinks that everyone has plastic surgeries. Like I remember when I was going to, I think it was my immigration doctor in Miami or a doctor. I don't remember, but they asked me if I had a plastic surgery and I was like, no.
And they're like, oh my God, you're the first Columbian person that I know that doesn't have one. And I'm like, that's rude. You shouldn't say that.
[00:12:00] Fabiola Lara: Yeah. That is crazy. A. To say that. If true, that is also crazy, but that can't...
[00:12:06] Katty Huertas: No, it cannot be true. I mean, I know people that have had them and like good for them, like nothing against that, but it's like, you're a doctor. You probably shouldn't be saying those things and making those generalizations.
[00:12:18] Fabiola Lara: I was going to say, like the Hispanic doctors, they say a little more, their bedside manner is a little bit different.
[00:12:25] Katty Huertas: I feel like that's a lot of like cultural too. Like my mom, like people in general, like, you know, there's not that political correctness here. Like, you know, if there's someone that is a little like heavy they'll call them gordito or like...
[00:12:40] Fabiola Lara: Day one like the first minute, like, oh, I know your friend is a little gordita, and you're like, Mom, she's right here.
[00:12:46] Katty Huertas: I know so it's like that inappropriateness sometimes.
[00:12:50] Fabiola Lara: So that's what I'm saying. I could see the doctor saying that for sure. For sure. There's so many stereotypes so I feel like I want to ask that so that everybody listening to the podcast, maybe they're not Latino can kind of, you know, learn a little bit.
[00:13:03] Katty Huertas: Yeah. If it happens to them, it's not like, I don't think it's like, mean-spirited, it's not like coming from a bad place. It's just like, oh, it is, you know.
[00:13:12] Fabiola Lara: Yeah, if somebody calls you gordito/gordita don't take it to heart. You heard it here. Like flipping that coin are there any like American things that maybe when you first moved here, you were like, I can't believe that's happening or why do people do this? Anything like that?
[00:13:26] Katty Huertas: When I was in Columbia, like the American person, the gringo was like, you know, like blonde, blue-eyed, white, right? And then you get here and it's like, no, like everyone can be an American. And that, I love that, you know, like that made me feel like better about myself. It's not like if you're immigrating to a country, that's like where everyone looks the same then you would probably would stand out a little bit more. But here there's so much diversity, especially in the cities that I've been lucky to live in. I don't know about other parts of the country. I'm always being like on the coast.
[00:13:56] Fabiola Lara: Yeah. I guess if you're in the major cities, you'll see that. I grew up in a really small suburb town in Florida. And that's when I realized that that is not always the case, but in most cities you see a lot of diversity.
[00:14:09] Katty Huertas: So that makes me happy about that. And still like, sometimes my family is like, oh no, but that's like an American a real America, because, and I'm like, no, everyone's the real American, you know, like.
[00:14:20] Fabiola Lara: Yeah, no, I get what they're trying to say like.
[00:14:23] Katty Huertas: Yeah, no, but that was truly American because that, that was blonde. And I'm like, no, I know. And it was like, I'm American too. I'm a citizen now. So like...
[00:14:36] Fabiola Lara: But yeah, I feel you. I feel you. I feel you. So now I want to talk about your work, even though I know they're very tied together. When did you first know that you were artsy?
[00:14:45] Katty Huertas: I always knew I was artsy. I mean, I was always drawing since I was little like making stuff, not only like drawing, but like making stuff with cardboard boxes. So I always know I wanted to be either a painter, like a fine artist, or like a veterinarian. That crossed my mind for a little bit. But, um, that didn't stick.
[00:15:03] Fabiola Lara: Oh my god, we have the same two careers. That was my thought too.
[00:15:07] Katty Huertas: I also briefly consider being a fashion designer. And I was like really close to doing that. But at the end I realized like I'm always going to be drawing. So I've always been artsy and I'm the only one in my family, like neither my parents or my brother are. So I feel like maybe that's something that I was born with that I really wanted to keep pursuing.
[00:15:29] Fabiola Lara: That's awesome. I'm glad that you kind of felt that you identified with that from the start is like so nice to hear that somebody kind of followed it from the beginning and it's not like, oh, I rejected it. And then it came back to me.
[00:15:41] Katty Huertas: But why you also wanted to be a veterinarian?
[00:15:44] Fabiola Lara: I did. I really did because I loved animals. So I was like artist or veterinarian. Like if you asked me I would say. But I changed it like a million times too.
[00:15:53] Katty Huertas: But yeah, I love animals through, and I saw you illustrated like a vegan guide for eating right in Philly?
[00:15:59] Fabiola Lara: I did. And I learned, cause I was, you know, stalking you for the interview. I learned that you've been vegetarian for a really long time since you were like 15? Are you still?
[00:16:07] Katty Huertas: Yeah. I'm still. It's that same reason. Like I love animals, so yeah.
[00:16:10] Fabiola Lara: Okay. So at what point did you start feeling like, okay, maybe this isn't a hobby, maybe this is a real career? What was that like point for you?
[00:16:18] Katty Huertas: So I've, I've never been much of a planner. I just kind of like, do what feels right. So when I was in college, I was like, I'm just doing this. Who knows what will happen? I was like completely fine with doing anything after college you know, I was like, I mean, no, one's hiring artists. So, whatever comes my way.
When I was doing my undergrad, I started like posting my work online, like on tumbler and flicker. And I got like my first big commission for Lenny Letter. And I was like, such a fun of, of like Lena Dunham back then and like, like Lenny Letter so I was like, oh my God, this can not be possible.
And like, they wanted to pay me and it was like five illustrations. So like my first one was starting with fives. And back then, for me, that was a lot of money. So it was like, oh my God. So that's when it clicked. I was like, this could be something.
[00:17:04] Fabiola Lara: There's something here. Yeah. There's something here. That's awesome that your first client was Lenny Letter. They were really cool. I mean, when they, when they were around they were awesome.
[00:17:13] Katty Huertas: Yeah. And I kept working with them repeatedly and the art director is awesome. She's a Latina too. Leia Garcia.
[00:17:20] Fabiola Lara: Leia Garcia. Yes. I know Leia. I worked with Lenny Letter, like one of the last couple of years that they were around. Cause she was in New York. So I've met her a couple of times. So I'm glad that she was the one who also reached out to you.
[00:17:31] Katty Huertas: Yeah, literally like open the doors because I feel like I wouldn't, I don't know what I would have done. I know now that you have to like reach out to art directors and things like that, but I never did that so I don't, I have no clue how this works.
[00:17:44] Fabiola Lara: Right. I think if somebody doesn't tell you, like, this is what illustration is in college, you don't realize that there is like a market or that there are people emailing each other. Emailing each other about art. You're like, well, I didn't even know these emails existed.
I'm so glad that you worked with them, especially that they helped kind of open the doors for you. Bringing this back to the today. So, can you tell me briefly how you maybe started working with NBC after you graduated or maybe during and after that?
[00:18:11] Katty Huertas: Yeah, so I graduated 2020, like right with the pandemic, yeah. So everything was closed. And I knew, I kind of knew my plan was to move to New York. That changed completely. I have always followed like this, art director, uh she's she's the senior art director at NBC News and MSNBC and Today. And I know she posted the job and I'm like, oh wow, this cannot be true because it's also like a lot of illustrations. So it was like a total design and illustration. And I was like, this is perfect for me. So I applied and I couldn't believe it, but I got it.
[00:18:44] Fabiola Lara: That's incredible. I feel like not a lot of illustrators kind of have the opportunity to work in house, like you so rarely hear about those jobs, especially now as like media companies constantly change things.
So it's awesome to hear that you, a Latina, got in there and made it happen, especially after college. You know, like I feel like after college, everyone is like, not sure what's going to happen.
[00:19:07] Katty Huertas: For sure. And it's really great because I get to both design, so use my design skills that I learned at MICA, but also do a lot of illustrations every day. So I really love it.
[00:19:18] Fabiola Lara: I've been seeing all of your work, and I see the variety of work that you produce both like more kind of traditional editorial illustration, and then kind of the more like photo illustration collage work. Can you tell me how like studying graphic design at MICA kind of helps you with your editorial illustration process or with your work at NBC?
[00:19:36] Katty Huertas: Yeah, for sure. So I didn't have a background in graphic design when I got into MICA. So I didn't know a lot about typography. I just kinda like did what looked right. But if I see my work now from then I was drawing and I was doing commissions like for Lenny Letter and other publications, but my typography was horrible. And a thing with topographies that I think it's really hard to work with because a lot of type faces look like very similar, just like with the minor like difference.
And so what MICA really helped me with. Paying attention to detail. So looking at the little stuff and that changed how I approach design but also illustration. Even how I send my sketches now, before I used to send them like all like five loose JPEGs, these are my sketches, but now I like put them in a nice presentation with nice typography, and I think it makes everything look a little bit more professional.
[00:20:27] Fabiola Lara: Definitely. I see that being a big change, but I'm super impressed that you went to school for graphic design, because I think a lot of illustrators, they either come from like a fine art background or they come from graphic design, but it really like shifts the way that you finalize your work. And because I'm sure it helps you think about how it's going to be presented, you know, the context. Right?
[00:20:48] Katty Huertas: For sure. My undergrad was in art, like fine art. And I think that focused more on the work. And my grad school, like my post-grad that was focusing more in design. So kind of like how you present and how you brand yourself.
So I think it's a good combination to have, and I even considered going to grad school for illustration because I know MICA has also like a great program in illustration, but I was like, okay, I'm already kind of like doing commissions. I already know how to draw. I don't think my style is going to change that much. What I don't know at all is typography, and like I am lacking. So I think I saw it more as a question of which program can I get more out of? You know.
[00:21:30] Fabiola Lara: Right. That's super smart. I was going to say, if you would recommend somebody who's interested in illustration what route to go to get a post-grad in graphic design or a post-grad in illustration, which way would you recommend someone to go?
[00:21:44] Katty Huertas: I think it depends on what stage they are. So if they're like I don't know if they did their undergrad in like finance or something like a lot of people do that, you know, like they try to like please their parents doing like a more traditional undergrad, and then they decide they want to go to art school.
I guess, in that case, you should do what you love the most. And if you've never done illustration, then go to like the illustration MFA. And that will teach you to find your voice and maybe develop a work ethic in that sense, and kind of like learn all those tricks like, oh, you have to, email art directors and that kind of like stuff that is like that I wasn't taught at school, but if you're already getting clients and you already know what you like and what you don't like with illustration, then I would definitely recommend graphic design. Because I see that often there are so many like illustrators that are so good at what they do and their work is beautiful, but then they put like a horrible typeface on top of it. And it like, kind of like brings everything down.
[00:22:38] Fabiola Lara: Yes. That's the harsh truth that a lot of people I'm sure don't want to hear. I'm glad you're here saying the facts. Yeah. I mean, topography, like you said, it's its own kind of field and you have to really study it to be an expert. So it really shows in your work when everything harmonizes so beautifully.
[00:22:55] Katty Huertas: Aw, thanks. But yeah, typography is a beast. I still struggle with it. And I feel like it's not like a hard science, but you kind of like, know it when you see it.
[00:23:04] Fabiola Lara: Right. I've taken like a million Skillshare classes. I'm still confused, but you know, we're trying everyday. So I recently saw that you completed the key art for Diary of a Future President. And I'm sure it has to be crazy to work with a big brand like Disney who's like, you know, has such a crazy reputation. Can you tell me about your experience working with them and what it was like?
[00:23:25] Katty Huertas: Honestly, that was like a dream job. I think I've never done anything like that. And when they reached out, I waslike me? Like I couldn't believe it, but first, I mean, the series is great too. The show is like about, um, a Latina kid in Miami and I was like, this is lovely. I love it. I mean, she was, she becomes the first female president. So I love this story. It was like very wholesome and working with them, honestly, like I couldn't believe it. I was like, this is a dream project and I've always wanted to do stuff like that, you know, like key art and I still want to do more like that. But I feel like those projects don't come as often as let's say editorial.
[00:24:02] Fabiola Lara: Maybe we think that there's not a lot, but I feel like when you think about it there's so much out on Netflix, on Hulu, that those opportunities are definitely out there. And I think, you know, you get one and hopefully you start attracting more.
[00:24:16] Katty Huertas: Hopefully, because I mean, with editorial, like I feel like every art director commissions like five every day, so there's, it's like, there's work for everyone. But shows are not coming us often.
And like not every show is going to have a drawn key art, but I mean, it was like really such a dream job because at the same time I was like, okay, maybe because it's Disney they're going to be like very particular, like, they're going to be like, oh, it has to be this way. But they were like, no, you're the artist. Like we want your vision. So they were very open.
[00:24:45] Fabiola Lara: Wow. That's so great to hear. And how long was that process? Like, like editorial, the turnarounds are really short. So what was kind of the timeline for something on that scale?
[00:24:57] Katty Huertas: It was a little longer but the longer part was in sketches, like doing the sketches, the concept had to be right. So I sketched a lot, definitely more than what you do with editorial. I usually send like three sketches or maybe five for like a news article. This was definitely a lot of sketches and rewriting the sketches. So a little bit over a month I would say. Also the result is so great. I mean, they also kind of like gave me credit, which I wasn't expecting because it's their rights and their project.
So the fact that they credited me, I was like, oh my God. And then I was able to go back to Miami with my family, to like the Miami Children's Museum. I don't know if you've been there.
[00:25:38] Fabiola Lara: I haven't been to the museum itself, but I've been to Miami so that's why I was confused.
[00:25:42] Katty Huertas: The children's museum is really nice and and they had kids paint the key art. So they color it in, they had the outline and they work. And so I was there, like handing them out posters. I mean the whole project was like a dream, not only doing the illustration, but getting to do that and like...
[00:25:59] Fabiola Lara: Kind of the whole entire execution of the project. That's incredible. I mean, I feel like you hear horror stories sometimes when you have to when illustrators work with such kind of big name brands. So I'm glad to hear like a good, wholesome story about how it went and it turned out beautiful. I actually wanted to ask you if you could explain your process for portraiture because there's the main characters is in that key art and I was just wondering like a quick synopsis of what it's like for you to do. I know a quick synopsis was like probably the opposite, but yeah.
[00:26:31] Katty Huertas: I mean, I do a lot of portraits, not only for this, but like for different editorial projects as well. And the thing with portraits, when they require likeness, you definitely need a reference photo.
Like for a lot of my other illustrations where it's just like humans, like random humans, I don't use reference I just like kind like do the skeleton and like fill it in. But when it's like a person that needs to be recognizable, you definitely need reference. And that can be many different ways. Like either you're looking at a picture or a multitude of photos and kind of like mixing them up.
I like to do that because if you let's say pick five different photos and kinda like pick the eyes from one and kind of like the general idea of a person that way first, you don't get into any trouble for copyright reasons. But second, it's more like this the spirit of the person rather than a single moment.
[00:27:21] Fabiola Lara: Right you get to capture their just like entire vibe as opposed to the exact photo.
[00:27:27] Katty Huertas: And if you are going to use a single photo, whichI have sometimes done like as reference, then you definitely need to license that photo. So that's advice for anyone. Like you can not just take any picture on the internet then kind of like make something out of it because the photographer also, those are like the photographer rights. So if you're doing celebrities, I mean, Getty has a ton of images.
[00:27:49] Fabiola Lara: Just yeah the advices to license the image of the celebrity before you do the exact portrait.
[00:27:54] Katty Huertas: Exactly. Or if you're not doing the exact portrait, like for example, I did one for Selena for the New Yorker, and that one was kind of like a mix of Selenas and also kind of like a mix between like the singer and the actress who's doing the Netflix show because it was about the show. So it's not like you're not gonna find that photo anywhere.
[00:28:13] Fabiola Lara: Right. Right. It's like your own beautiful Frankenstein version.
[00:28:17] Katty Huertas: Yeah, exactly. So no one can sue me.
[00:28:20] Fabiola Lara: No, no, one's suing you. Not today. I love it. And you have something that I noticed, you know, just following your work, but also on your website and everything, you have such a defined color palette. It's like very moody, but also bright, but like kind of cool tones. How did you land at that color palette that you are using regularly?
[00:28:40] Katty Huertas: That one, my color pallette came actually from my fine art background. So I started painting before doing any digital work and I still paint, not as much as I would like to. When I started, I mean, I was like, okay, it's really annoying and expensive and hard to have like a million of colors to paint. Color theory always tells you, like, you just need your primaries and maybe like white and a darker one. So that's how it came to be. And like all of my paintings from a series were just using kind of like blue, red, which it was more like a pinkish red and yellow, and that translated to my digital work. So blues and pinks are very prevalent in my work. The good thing with digital is that I get to add more because I have unlimited colors, but I still kind of like keep it in the same family.
[00:29:26] Fabiola Lara: It makes for a really cohesive body of work, but it's also kind of provides a lot of different emotions. Like if you use more pink, it feels a little lighter. And if you use the darker blues it'smore moody.
[00:29:37] Katty Huertas: Yeah, for sure. And that was looking at my Instagram recently and I was like, oh my God, my work is getting so dark. Like lately everything's been more blue and darker and I'm like, am I okay?
[00:29:48] Fabiola Lara: You seem fine. I saw the one that kind of felt a little different was it was a science magazine.
[00:29:57] Katty Huertas: Yeah.
[00:29:57] Fabiola Lara: And that one had more greens and that felt a little different. Was that different for you or am I perceiving it that way?
[00:30:04] Katty Huertas: No, it was a little different. When I have to plan some, like I'm going to pull the green and I love green. I feel like that green kind of like stands in for the blue. So it's kind of like in the same family somehow kind of like the same saturation. I think the only thing that changes is the hue from green to blue, but it's still is like a bluish green. So it does look a little different, but I'm also trying to expand a little, just to be able to include like maybe more yellows or oranges. It's scary because at the same time, I feel like my style changes without me noticing it. And then I notice it and I'm like, what if this is not good for my career?
[00:30:38] Fabiola Lara: And what if nobody wants this? No, I think people will want it. It's still beautiful. Regardless of the colors. I really feel like I see the colors of your work, and I know that it's been done by you before I even have to see kind of like the caption or anything like that. I can identify it as your work. So I think that's pretty cool. And if you evolve it just going to be better, I think you'll only continue to top yourself.
[00:31:02] Katty Huertas: I hope so and also like, I don't want to be doing the same thing forever. Like if something comes along or like my hand changes the way, like I put a color, I want to give myself the opportunity to change and explore and not be too tied to anything.
[00:31:16] Fabiola Lara: It'll be exciting to see how your work evolves naturally. But I don't think anything that you'll do at this point is going to be like, oh my God, that's out of left field. You know, like even though I think maybe sometimes as artists, we feel like that's so random for me to do. But then from this point of view, it all seems to make sense.
[00:31:34] Katty Huertas: Ah thanks, yeah. I asked that to people in their jlike it seems like it's from the same family. And I'm like...
[00:31:38] Fabiola Lara: That's what I'm saying. Yeah. Like that green was like different. It still seems like your work. Do you have a type of illustration project that is kind of your favorite type of illustration? I know you work across editorial and more graphic design, commercial art. So what would be maybe your preferred project?
[00:31:53] Katty Huertas: I definitely want to get more into commercial stuff. I haven't done a lot. I've only worked with, I mean Disney, HBO Max, which that one was also really cool to work on. And then Honda. I feel like there's so much more to explore with commercial work, because it also allows for longer timelines, you know, and the project can get bigger.
And I love editorial, and I always want to do a tutorial, but I feel like I've already done enough, I think. And I know the gist of it, you know, like the quick pays and how to deliver sketches. So I would like to explore more commercial stuff while still being conceptual.
[00:32:30] Fabiola Lara: Definitely. And I think the more the projects that you have done kind of give you a taste for it. And now you're like, what else is out there?
[00:32:37] Katty Huertas: I know, like for editorial illustration, I really like working on conceptual stuff. Like I like to ask myself if it could be a photo, you know, like if that scene could be a photo, then maybe it should be a photo. So I like to create things that are a little bit more like surreal or something. And that's not always possible, you know, like maybe the editor will want something more realistic.
[00:32:59] Fabiola Lara: Like a portrait.
[00:33:00] Katty Huertas: Yeah. But if it's a portrait, then let's say, for example, for the Disney one, they're like inside a book and like flying things around. So I liked that and I want to keep doing more conceptual stuff where things are a little bit hard to believe that couldn't exist in reality.
[00:33:12] Fabiola Lara: That's really good advice for anyone trying to get into editorial to kind of think about their work beyond making it better than a photo could capture.
[00:33:20] Katty Huertas: Yeah. I mean, if it could be a photo, then why does it have to be an illustration?
[00:33:24] Fabiola Lara: Definitely. What's your least favorite part of the illustration process? If you could do without something in the process, what would it be?
[00:33:31] Katty Huertas: Sometimes I would say low rates. I mean, there are so many low rates out there that it's crazy because they haven't gone up like in a while. Not that I've been doing this for many, many years, but like, I've read about it. I mean, it seems like they've stayed the same and even the different clients that I've worked with, there's like a huge disparity. Sometimes they offer like so little. And I think people out of schools are definitely gonna take it.
Right. So it kinda like brings prices down. So that's one thing that could be better. One thing that also could be better would be deadlines. Sometimes they're so tight. So I do like the fast pace environment, but sometimes it's just like a lot, you know, like when they're from one day to the next. So I have been better at saying no as well.
Before I used to take everything that came my way. I'm kind of like being better just about like, if, if the budget doesn't work or if the deadline is too tight, then I might say, no.
[00:34:20] Fabiola Lara: How are you able to balance your day job as a editorial designer and illustrator with maybe freelance opportunities?
[00:34:27] Katty Huertas: I mean, my day job takes most of my time, but it also is most of like the great majority of my income. So that allows me to be more picky with what I do. So first, if, the deadline is crazy and I cannot do it just because I'm working then I am going to say no. Also because I have that financial security from my job, I'm not going to just take on anything. Like, I completely understand when, if they offer you like a $300 illustration and you're like, oh my God, I need to pay this. I'm gonna take it. The position that I am now, that it's very fortunate I'm just not going to take it. It's kinda like giving me that security that no matter what I do outside of my job, I'm still doing something creative in my job. So I feel like I don't have whatever I do outside of it is because I really want to do it.
[00:35:07] Fabiola Lara: Right. So you're taking what's more precious to you, but because you're also producing so much work in your day job. When do you choose to use a more typical editorial illustration versus kind of the more photo collage illustration that I've seen you work in?
[00:35:20] Katty Huertas: I feel like drawn illustrations definitely take longer. So time is one huge part of it. Like in my job like if you need something like within the hour, two, there's no way, like you can, at least I can make a drawing in that time. So for illustration works their best. There's also like topics, if you're talking like about Biden or like politics or anything like that, I think sometimes photos serve that purpose better.
So that's one thing that I've learned in my job too is that not everything has to be drawn, which is what I was doing before. And also kind of like, think about what serves this story best because before, as a freelance illustrator, you kind of like are also thinking a lot of your work and like, what do you want to do.
Like, oh, maybe this is a cool opportunity to do this that I've always wanted to do, but maybe that doesn't serve the story. So it kind of like allows you to put yourself in the place of looking at what is going to serve the story best. And like maybe a drawn illustration is not the best approach for this.
[00:36:16] Fabiola Lara: That's awesome to hear. I feel like your photo illustration work really plays really well with your editorial. Like you, I've seen, you use like drawn elements with the photos and that really I can see what you mean by using something, mixing mediums to kind of better serve the story. I'm always really impressed with how you pull that off. Even when you're using like a stock photo, which I feel like maybe I don't know if it's just me, but illustrators are like a little scared to use.
[00:36:43] Katty Huertas: Yeah. I mean, stock photos are hard, like, especially when they look like super stocky, but there are some that are good.
[00:36:48] Fabiola Lara: Looking forward a little bit with your career. I saw that you've been sharing like little sneak peeks about your Skillshare class. Can you tell me a little bit more about what to expect in the Skillshare class and how it was like to make it?
[00:37:00] Katty Huertas: Yes for sure. So I got commissioned by the creative fund. So not a full like rate of residency, but just like a commission. And from there, they recommended me to Skillshare. I've been working with Skillshare to create a class and they've been like helping me with the script and like how to format it. So it's been really amazing because I've always wanted to do one, but I was like I have no clue and I have no time. The person I'm working with there she's been amazing. She's always giving feedback. So I think once the script was done, I realized what I wanted to know more about. And I even ask on my Instagram, like what would be useful? So I'm talking a little bit about everything. So this would be kind of like the crash course I needed when I started. So I'm talking about like technique first of how I use Pro Create and then how I finish my illustrations on Photoshop, but that can vary for everyone.
So what I say in the class is like, even if you don't use those tools, like it's still useful. Like some people do like hand painted illustrations. So I also talk more about like the business side of like contacting art directors and like pricing your work and putting your work out there. So it's kind of like a overall like course. It's not like very specific in one thing, but just going over the entire thing.
[00:38:12] Fabiola Lara: So I'll definitely be taking your Skillshare class. I noticed that early in your career, you worked with ceramics. Is that something that you hope to get back into?
[00:38:20] Katty Huertas: Oh a hundred percent. I love ceramics. I mean, it's one of my passions has just first. I don't have a kiln. I might get like a membership to a studio or something. I recently moved so I still don't know what's close like what's nearby. I love it so much. I want to be more mindful of it because when I was doing ceramics before I made a bunch of stuff, and then I'd be moving around with heavy boxes of ceramics that I'm not capable of throwing away, but they're like really heavy and it's a lot of work.
[00:38:51] Fabiola Lara: Like moving rocks, but a little bit more important.
[00:38:53] Katty Huertas: Yeah, I know. And I'm like, I'm not going to throw this, I made it. But then it's like, it's not doing anything there.
[00:38:58] Fabiola Lara: And are there any techniques or mediums that you're interested in experimenting with that you haven't had a chance to work with yet?
[00:39:05] Katty Huertas: Yeah, I've done a little bit of AR and I definitely want to do more. I started playing with Unity, which was this app to make AR things and it's so hard.
[00:39:18] Fabiola Lara: What was it? You said you started working with it. What did you make in AR?
[00:39:22] Katty Huertas: So I made this sculpture for my thesis, like a sculpture of month mother. So it's like hand painted in wood and then with the app you can see like leaves. So the same wooden leaves that I painted under like flying and rotating around. So it's like, it's like super basic, but it looks very cool because it's like new technology. So everything that you make, I think with AR, even if it's just like very basic is like super impressive. I don't know. But like you can make insane stuff in there.
I've seen some projects that people have done and I'm like, oh my god. I definitely want to learn that, but it's so hard and I'm not like a coder or anything like that.
[00:39:58] Fabiola Lara: It's like maybe something that you could get a collaborator or something like that to help you with the kind of techie part of it.
[00:40:04] Katty Huertas: For sure. That would be amazing because yeah, I tried coding and it was a failure, like creative coding, not, yeah. I did a little project, but it again is very hard. I don't, I don't think I worked that way.
[00:40:20] Fabiola Lara: Right. Yeah. I feel like you either love it and you get it immediately or the whole time you're kind of like walking through the mud, like trying to make it work and happy for whatever you get.
What's a dream project for you?
[00:40:31] Katty Huertas: There are so many. I want to do like a little bit of everything. Yeah. I would love to do more key art but I would also love to like collaborations with fashion, like prints.
[00:40:41] Fabiola Lara: Maybe like more artists collabs.
[00:40:43] Katty Huertas: Yeah. Also like music videos, mostly illustration. So I do have my background in design, but I want to focus on illustration and then this line supports it, but not the other way around. Yeah.
[00:40:53] Fabiola Lara: And then this is something that I want to ask everyone: your favorite Columbian dish.
[00:40:57] Katty Huertas: Ajiaco.
[00:40:58] Fabiola Lara: Your favorite, maybe your art medium?
[00:41:00] Katty Huertas: Painting acrylic on canvas. Yeah.
[00:41:02] Fabiola Lara: And then do you have a favorite sketchbook?
[00:41:04] Katty Huertas: I do. And I love it so much that I don't use it because I don't want to ruin it, but it's really nice.
[00:41:10] Fabiola Lara: Is it a specific brand?
[00:41:12] Katty Huertas: Yeah, I don't know the brand, but I know it was brought from Japan and the paper is like really special and it's huge. I actually have it here.
[00:41:19] Fabiola Lara: Okay. And then the other one was favorite movie.
[00:41:21] Katty Huertas: I really used to like Closer. So that's not my favorite movie now, but it was my favorite movie when I was like a teenager. The Little Prince as a book, The Little Prince also growing up.
[00:41:31] Fabiola Lara: Do you have anything that you want to kind of shout out that you have going on? How people can support you in your work?
[00:41:37] Katty Huertas: I mean, just like follow me on Instagram and watch my Skillshare class when it's out, please do. I'll have a link. So you'll have like I don't know how many days free, so you can watch as many as you want.
[00:41:48] Fabiola Lara: Perfect. Thank you so much, Katty, for your time for coming on the podcast and talking about your work. I really appreciate it. And thank you so much.
[00:41:57] Katty Huertas: Thank you so much for having me. Can't wait to listen to the rest of the episodes.
[00:42:07] Fabiola Lara: All right, everyone. Thanks for listening to this conversation with Colombian illustrator and artist, Katty Huertas. If you want to see more of her work, visit her Instagram @kattyhuertas. And that way you can keep up with her work and keep an eye out for her new Skillshare class, which is coming soon.
Listeners of the podcast can get a free, undated weekly and monthly planner inspired by the show by using the link in our show notes or going to drawsinspanish.com. If there's a Latinx visual artist you think we should speak to on the show, nominate them by going to drawsinspanish.com/nominate. If you liked today's episode, be sure to hit subscribe so you can get all future episodes, wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks so much for listening. See you next time.