I have the honor of being one of the judges for this year’s Illustration West 61 competition. Illustration West is an annual competition and exhibition highlighting the year’s best illustration – both from L.A. and from all around the world. Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles has been interviewing all of the artists who will be judges this year, and they’ve shared my interview this week so I thought I’d share a bit of it here, as well as some more info about the competition and links to more interviews with the other amazing artists who are judges this year too.

a glimpse of some of my paintings featured in the interview

What inspired you to become an illustrator?

A deep love for making art. To be an illustrator, to be a painter, fine artist, visual artist, whatever you want to call it, it came from that deep connection with the making of art and storytelling and speaking in that form that inspired me to want to be doing that as much as I could.

Do you feel the fundamental skills are still important in professional illustration?

Yes, absolutely. The combination of fundamental skills and life experience creates our own unique vision and story. The fundamental skills give us the foundation and strength to form the rest of the vision. With those skills, we gain the confidence, having that foundation engrained in us which becomes second nature as we explore beyond it.

Was there a particular assignment that changed your trajectory? If so how?

Not as much a changing of trajectory, but there are several moments in my life that I can point to for challenging me and further developing my intention and purpose. In terms of assignments, one would absolutely be illustrating The Left Hand Of Darkness. Another would be a personal series, my Liminal Beings solo exhibition. Both are different in some ways, but similar in that they challenged my perception and view, opened my eyes and mind to much more than I had been seeing prior, and I find those types of projects help to make me a better human, which will reflect in the work I create and the message I share.

Can you share some highlights from your career?

Meeting and getting to know the people behind the work they do. There are way too many of those to mention here in a short answer, and not all are artists or art-related. But hands down, meeting the good humans who share their stories and take so much care in sharing with others and cultivating their vision is such a wonderful thing that I’m so grateful I’m able to say has happened in my life.

You can read more of my interview on the Illustration West website. I answer more questions about inspiration, influence, training, and more.. See the rest of the interview here: Illustration West 61 / Vanessa Lemen  ..Thanks to SILA Secretary, Jon Messer, for the interview.

There are 8 judges for Illustration West 61. They are:  Orlando Arocena, Thomas Blackshear, Karina Granda, Anita Kunz, Vanessa Lemen, Rick Sealock, Robert St. Pierre, Francis Vallejo. I’ve really enjoyed reading all of the interviews and learning a bit about each artist too. You can find those interviews at the links provided on this page here: Illustration West 61

This year’s Illustration West poster is illustrated by Antonio Javier Caparo

There is still time to submit to this year’s competition! The deadline is Oct 31, 2022. For more info about eligibility, categories, and more, head to that link above to go to the Illustration West website where you’ll find all the information you’ll need. Or here is the link again: Illustration West 61

I hope you’ll consider submitting! Best of luck!