Bianca Lesaca works from her home as a Narrative Illustrator. She graduated with a BA in Multimedia Arts at DLS-CSB, and a BFA in Illustration at Savannah College of Art and Design. In 2009 she was awarded the NuRock Best Album Art Award for Sleepwalk Circus. In 2013 she worked on the Superga World’s Largest Shoe, which merited a Guinness World Record for largest shoe. And in 2014 she was a part of the Disney: ImagiNations Champion Team in HongKong, and received the HK Gov’t SPSS Outstanding Performance Scholarship, as well as the HK Gov’t SPSS Achievement Scholarship.
Currently, Bianca is working on character designs for Okedoki Studios in California, but also has several of her works in several publications. She was the artist behind one of the stories included in Shards Vol.2 Anthology, namely: “Flipside”. She is also responsible for the artwork in Chapter 2 and the Interval for Doorkeeper, which was published by Summit Media. Lastly, she’s the artist behind a few children’s books, namely Pahiram, published by Adarna House & the Credit Information Company, and Roar! (Wow God!) written by Yna Reyes and published by OMF Literature.
Q: Everyone has an origin story. Could you share with us the exact moment (or moments) wherein you realized that you wanted to become an artist?
I’ve been drawing and painting since I was four, but it never occurred to me to pursue art seriously until my 3rd year of design school. I read this book called “Fundamentals of Illustration” by Lawrence Zeegan, and I was clued in to the concept of illustration being the perfect marriage of fine art and design that I had been looking for.
Still, I was very apprehensive due to lack of observable role models in my community. So I tried my hand at web & graphic design -I was mediocre at best- until the summer of 2010, when I had an opportunity to attend a residency for Illustration at the School of Visual Arts in New York. That effectively sold the decision for me because I saw, firsthand, how a career in illustration could work out.
Q: From that moment, and throughout your journey as an artist, what has been your biggest struggle?
I always struggled with maintaining my conviction with my decisions. This usually manifests in how I define my art, my visual brand, and making important career-decisions. I’m a late bloomer because I didn’t have a lot of creative access or role models. With the exception of my mom, who used to work as an interior designer, nobody in my family really practiced art; and the limitations in available art education or community (this was the 90’s & early 2000’s) meant that a lot of unqualified voices could dictate what or how I should be producing art, and this confused me a lot.
I floundered so many times in my early career because I just didn’t know what was right for me. I was so visually inconsistent that despite having done so much work, my portfolio was totally schizophrenic. One of my illustration teachers had to help me with “portfolio surgery” just to straighten me out.
Q: How have you been able to cope with (or overcome) this struggle?
The crux of the problem was a disbelief in my artistic identity; I kept trying to look like other artists because I was compensating for a lack of foundational knowledge. While I was able to build on that over time, I realized hadn’t cultivated my personal voice - which is the most integral part of being an artist.
So this is an ongoing struggle, but I experienced a lot of improvement when I shifted my focus towards what was important for my individuality. I had to consciously engage my “natural hand” or my instincts for mark-making to surface more strongly in my work.
I also had to cut down a lot of my resources and start tailor-fitting them to, more effectively, suit my needs. That may sound like a lot of stuffy work, but there are SO many tutorials, art books, brushes, styles, and resources out there (I’ve hoarded a lot!) that can really overwhelm me. This goes the same for my reference library because I had to understand the difference between art I appreciate for its inherent beauty versus art that’s in alignment with my artistic objectives. Then it was about creating safe spaces for myself to experiment and play with subjects of interest.
Q: What would you consider is the ONE thing that REALLY helped you level up your skills?
I can get pretty frenetic with ideas; I fall in love with the potential of what a thing could be so I can start drawing and painting in a flurry then later get lost in the process. Physically quieting down and taking a slower but more attentive pace helped me improve a lot in my skills. I’m still working on building speed without sacrificing so much quality or mental health, but I’m not there yet.
I also do shortlists of things I can study -just to close the gaps. This helps me control the overwhelm that comes with growth, and effectively retain and apply them to my work.
Q: What is one thing you’d wish you’d known before you started your artistic career? Why?
I wish I knew to be more assertive about my passions growing up! That way, I could’ve communicated my need for expanding my creative library or creating these safe spaces for exploration. I might have even managed to find appropriate training or mentorship much earlier which could’ve benefited my present career.
I think so much of my career handicaps are rooted in limiting ideas of what is acceptable. The fear of being punished or mocked (for trying things, asking questions or indulging in what I really like) has been a plague because it runs counter to any kind of growth.
There is so much discomfort and uncertainty in pursuing a career in art, that it really takes a lot of courage to deal with that vulnerability. Knowing all of that doesn’t make the job easier, but it would’ve saved me a lot of time.
Q: What drives or inspires you to continue making your art?
It’s an outlet for my experiences. What I am unable to express in words, I can do so with illustration. I’m also inspired by people who have helped me along the way -their faith in me makes me want to prove them right! I’m also driven by the idea that the art I create could potentially help or inspire someone else; just as other artists have done for me.
Q: What does your average day look like? (And when do you fit in the time to create art?)
I work from home and for myself, so it’s illustration full-time - that means I have to be responsible about maintaining a focused but flexible routine. When I get up in the morning, I review what I need to do for the day over breakfast (or brunch). I’ll usually do a shortlist of things I need to prioritize and answer emails during this time. If I don’t have any pressing errands or meetings that take me outside, I just go straight to work.
Then I reboot my system with a little coffee break - this is my favorite part because I get to take a break especially whenever the work requires heavy problem solving. Then, back to work again until dinner time.
I’ll block off two evenings of the week for exercise so I’m forced to get a bulk of work done before clock-out on those days. I’ve found that making time for this really invigorates my focus so I try to keep that up. I usually have problems with delayed sleep because I can be wired well into the night but I do my best to keep regular so my work days remain efficient. I generally avoid pulling all nighters; they do happen on rare occasions but I’ll avoid them as much as I can because they cost me twice as much energy to recover from.
Q: How do you deal with distractions or challenges that you encounter while you’re working on your art?
I do different things depending on my mood. Focus music, podcasts or I’ll play a movie/series I’ve already seen just for ambient noise. I’m currently trying to work in 90 min intervals, to keep my mind fresh. Coffee helps me focus too, although I limit intake to 1-2 cups a day. If there’s a particularly challenging part to my work, I’ll try sketching by hand just to change it up a bit or find tips online; or in a lot of cases, I just need a break!
Q: What do you do when you feel just completely uninspired or burnt out? How do you motivate yourself to start working again?
I take a break! I can get pretty relentless especially when it’s a tough problem. I’ll pound at the work all day or the next few days till I get it right, so I have to remind myself to take breaks. Self-care is important! Sometimes I just need to do something different like watch a movie, play a video game, look at other art, browse my social feed; or if I’m getting really frustrated, food or sleep are the best.
When I feel lazy or uninspired, I’ll start with reference gathering because it’s a lesser brain-drain. Usually this helps summon the ideas to form rather than waiting around for lightning to strike.
Q: What would you say has been your most EPIC win so far?
I’ve had a taste of some pretty legitimate wins in the past -like the Disney ImagiNations win- but, there’s always the eagerness for what’s next. Every project I wrap-up feels like an epic win just because it’s so much work to manage as an independent artist. I’m happiest that I’ve made it this far though, and there’s still more to grow into.
Q: What would you say has been your biggest failure?
A few years ago, I was disheartened by my inability to band my closest art friends together to start an art collective or studio of sorts: there was talk of doing portfolio reviews and skill-sharing but commitments were very soft and there was a lot of complicated personal stuff going on at the same time, so nothing actually happened.
Obviously, it didn’t work because it was the wrong fit; everyone needed to do their own thing. It felt like a failure because I was just so bright-eyed and eager from graduating, and I took it really hard. Effective lesson about choosing work-partners though!
Q: What, for you, has been the best way to promote yourself and your work to potential fans, clients, or publishers?
I’ve flitted around a lot over the past decade trying to sort out my craft and doing client-work, so I haven’t managed to build a sizeable fanbase yet. As for clients and publishers however, I get my contacts through these channels:
Curated, Official Website - I keep it clean, updated and easy to navigate. It also makes it easier for people to refer back to me through this site. Remember that not everyone hiring is present in every social media platform.
Social Media - Each platform has a different temper so I try to cater to each account differently. Personally, I’m a lot more active and at ease on IG because of the grid-view and ease of organization.
Conventions- Boothing can be very expensive and I’m still trying to find a way to sustainably participate in these events. However, it’s such an incredible thrill to meet customers and other artists there. You get an immediate response to your work and that’s an irreplaceable experience. Some of these encounters have actually led to viable work opportunities for me, so I encourage everyone to always present themselves well because you never know where that’ll go!
Direct Emailing - Very often, companies, art directors, publishers, etc are simply too busy to find my work so I have to endeavor to contact them with curated samples of my portfolio. I basically just let them know I’m available for hire. Often recipients maybe unresponsive - don’t let that discourage you! I found out that some actually keep your work on file until they need you.
Q: What has been your game plan throughout your journey? What’s the BIG picture here? The ultimate dream? The end game?
My loftiest dream is to have my own production studio that has a wider reach -not just books or comics; but also film, tv, games, and immersive exhibitions. I just have no idea how to make that work at the moment, haha, but that’s why I’m keen on developing my personal artistry first because I know that’s where it starts.
My general endgame is to develop a long, illustrious career making art that moves people. There’s a lot of power in that, and I’m hoping to wield it enough to make significant contributions to the local art community, like setting up scholarships or an art guild that offers resources and work opportunities for starting artists.
Q: What, for you personally, has been the source of your ideas, creativity and talent?
I take inspiration from anything that exists in my periphery - so it’s everything or anyone I come into contact with or experience whether spiritual, violent, mundane, funny or fleeting. It doesn’t have to be all entertainment art. Sometimes it’s the little things people say or do that inspires the ideas.
Q: What is your big “WHY”? Why do you feel the need to make art? Who are you doing it for? What’s the hidden reason behind your big dream?
It’s an outlet that works for me; I feel more aligned with a purpose when I’m creating. The silver-lining of my having floundered around a lot in the past decade was the process of elimination. I know that illustration is a career I’m willing to suffer for. I’m also extremely lucky that my family (especially my mom!) has been so encouraging about my journey. I suppose that’s an integral part of why I kept with it.
Q: What 3 stories (comics, movies, documentaries, novels, etc.) would you say influenced and inspired your work the most?
Influences from different times and different reasons:
The Solitaire Mystery - book by Jostein Gaarder (Sophie’s World), shared by a friend of mine. It’s the main inspiration for my college thesis, which really got me wired into the idea of writing my own stories someday.
Dragon Ball / Dragon Ball Z - Akira Toriyama is the reason I learned to draw people!
The Shawshank Redemption - this film encouraged me to challenge authority and the social norms that imprison us, particularly when they don’t make any sense for human growth.
Q: What are the top books, art books, blogs, podcasts, or workshops you’d recommend that helped you level up your
BOOKS: Studio Ghibli Layout Designs, The Graphic Artist’s Guild Handbook, I Moved to LA to Work in Animation by Natalie Nourigat
Q: If you could work remotely, from anywhere in the world, where would your office be? Why?
Either Japan because it’s an artistic and childhood dream-place, and it’d be interesting to create work in such a culturally advanced, but totally homey environment; or somewhere in the LA area because I want to know if the US, being the perceived epicenter of my industry, can really make a difference in my career.
Q: Name ONE artist/writer that, if you could, you would pick their brain and find out all the hidden secrets behind their amazing work?
I’m really curious about how Bobby Chiu built Imaginism Studios and Schoolism. He already shares a lot of his journey and his artistry, but I’d really like to pick his brain more on how he built his business, choosing the right people, and managing all of that while still maintaining time to make art.
Q: Who do you consider your biggest mentor that helped you improve your skills? (Doesn’t have to be someone you’ve met personally. Can be someone you look up to, or someone whose art has inspired you to get better, over the years.)
My professors at SCAD have been integral to my development; even the ones I didn’t take courses with. I could go on for hours on how they’ve mentored me, kicked my butt (figuratively) and counseled me to do better. Also, my mom has remained the greatest mentor of all. She sacrificed so much of her craft so I could pursue mine freely. Her encouragement and advice are always invaluable.