Q&A interview with illustrator and graphic designer Sara Jabbari


Hello Sara,

Thank you very much for taking the time out of your day to speak with us! We’re looking forward to learning more about your creative practice, motivations and future plans.

Could you tell us about how your relationship with art began?

I was one of those kids that was always doing… well a bit of everything: karate, piano, soccer, ballet--you name it, I probably did it. My Mom was amazing and I am so thankful to this day that she let me and my brother explore and experiment. She wanted us to find our ~ thang ~ if you will.

While some things stuck and others did not (*ahem* ballet was the first to go), art classes piqued my interest. One of my earliest memories of me doing anything art-related was being around 10 years old and deciding I was going to draw all 150 Pokemon. I did not complete this task, but I loved trying. Before you know it I was carrying around sketchbooks, constantly drawing on my body with Sharpies (a.k.a. my gateway drug into tattoos) and drawing a horribly lame, mohawked, centaur dude existentially peering over the edge of a cliff. (True story, it’s so middle school and I sort of want to frame it.)

© Sara Jabbari - Hell Yes

© Sara Jabbari - Hell Yes

You graduated from from the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. Looking back on your college experience, what was the most important lesson you learned?

Damn, that is a good but hard question! How can I even narrow it down?

Something that’s always stuck with me is a simple phrase from one of my teachers, “You always start by starting.” Which really just means there is no reason to be stuck, you can always move forward in some way. I am sure we’ve all been there. The “creative-block”. The staring into space unable to get those gears turning. This is sort of like a mantra to me. It helps me shake it off and loosely sketch, or research inspiration, or listen to Beyonce (because duh) or anything to get me moving.

You live and work in New York City. Coincidentally two other artists we have interviewed for our artist Q&A also live there! I’m curious to find out why you moved to NYC from LA, and what about the city inspires you?

I moved back to LA right after graduating from MICA in 2013 and just found myself--for lack of a better word--stuck. There was a lot going on in my post-student-real-world mind that I don’t think you fully prepared for in school. No one really tells you how the real world might not go as planned. I love LA and it was really hard to think about leaving, but I had some good college friends who moved to NYC after graduating and I loved the creative agencies, artists and artwork I was constantly obsessing over so that was that. I felt that it was going to be a strong career move and would challenge me as an artist and person in the right ways.

Let me tell you there is no city that will light your ass on fire like NYC. I think if I had stayed in LA, I would’ve also found my way, but I am so thankful I moved. Both cities have strongly influenced my art and I am happy with where it’s going.

We’re really interested to learn about your side brand ‘Glitch Bitch’, a project that you created in 2017 to produce creative patches and pins. (We love your Vampizza!) Can you tell us about how the brand was born, and share any tips for anyone looking to launch their own product line?

Why thank you :D It means A LOT to hear people are enjoying it!

Glitch Bitch is this sort of rebellious, derpy child created by me and my good friend/ex-coworker, Stephan Chorlton (a.k.a. Jam). He was visiting NYC from London and the idea was born during a Bushwick Open Studios visit. If you haven’t been, it’s this awesome event where a bunch of studios in Bushwick open their doors to the public as sort of like a big art walk!

We wanted to make something that didn’t take itself too seriously, was fun, and spoke true to our design and illustration aesthetics. His style had a huge influence on what I wanted to do for the brand and a lot of what I still do to this day. Now I run GB independently and it’s like my design diary in a way. “Dear Glitch Bitch, the world is a dumpster fire for women, but we are lovers and fighters and will continue breaking the shit out of that glass ceiling.” = My Nasty Bites Back pin.

I guess the tip I would share is don’t overthink it! I constantly overthink things and when I can catch myself, I realize that it’s just wasting my time and stopping me from starting and as we learned earlier, “You start by starting”. If you have something you love and you’re proud of it, share it! It’s never about the money or being well-known in my mind; it’s just about making enough to keep doing it and exploring how far it can go. The more people who enjoy Glitch Bitch and support it, the more I can give to the brand and back to the people who get it! It’s an ongoing portfolio project with no harsh expectations except to be wild, cheeky and maybe a little thought provoking at times.

© Sara Jabbari - Glitch Bitch

© Sara Jabbari - Glitch Bitch

In addition to being a visual artist, you’re also a DJ. We’re keen to find out how music and art complement each other in your creative practice. Does music have an influence on the art you create?

My entire life has really been music and art. I don’t think there was ever a moment where I was doing one and not the other. I mentioned piano lessons earlier, that’s really where that started. I ended up taking it a step further and taught myself guitar and drums. Then I did some fun, chill band shit with friends back in LA throughout the years (who are killing the game now might I add--check out The Paranoyds) and now here I am. I love spinning for a group of people who just want to dance, forget all their stresses and live in the moment.

But I digress. To circle back, I think my music and art will always inspire and influence each other, sometimes in obvious ways and other times I just love listening to music while I work--simple as that!

Whether I crank up the volume to get me out of a “creative-block” and boogie down while working, or I am visually inspired by album artwork, sounds, style and/or music videos, there is something about music that always centers me and makes me think differently.

© Sara Jabbari

© Sara Jabbari

What message would you like your viewers to take away from your artwork?

I’ve always been really into details, every inch of my work was thought out and planned right down to the negative space (if there is any, lets be real). I just always hope people pause and really digest it.

I prefer to create all aspects from the ground up as much as I can. So all of my script is hand drawn, a lot of my title fonts have been manipulated or created from scratch, my pattern work is original, sometimes I even create my own textures and body copy, the list goes on!

These details aren’t super obvious at times. I am sure a lot of people look at something like my hand script and think ‘that’s just some typeface she used’ but if someone does notice, it makes me so jazzed. Basically anytime someone notices the tiniest detail, I know that’s the person who is truly taking the time to soak in all of the intricacies.

At the end of the day a lot of my blood, sweat and tears literally go into my work, and I don’t like cutting corners so it’s cool when people see that!

© Sara Jabbari

© Sara Jabbari

You have worked as a freelance illustrator for over eight years, working with a number of high profile fashion and cosmetics clients for several years. In your experience, what is the essential ingredient to a successful ongoing client relationship?

I am going to be very honest here, simply because I think a lot of people like to be careful about stepping on any toes and just give you fluff.

Just like any designer who’s been working as long as I have as a freelancer--which is really a tiny amount of time and I still have a lot of growing and learning to do--you come to find out that you have a wide range of client experiences. Most of them land in the middle in that they sort of know what they want, but are open to your artistic direction, and you go through a few revisions then finish it all off with some solid work. Boom, done! Awesome! Then you have both extremes: amazing clients and nightmare clients. Amazing clients know exactly what they want and they’ve hired you because they love your style and can’t wait to see you bring their vision to life. Nightmare clients have no idea what they want, pretend they know what they’re talking about, don’t listen to you, condescend you and it usually either makes the work at the end suffer or they terminate the relationship and blame you for not being able to read their mind.

All of this is my long winded way of saying the key to a successful relationship is starting your relationship and really getting to know your client because you will have no idea what sort of client you’re agreeing to work with. The hardest lesson I’ve learned is there is nothing worth sacrificing your artistic soul, even if it’s a big name client throwing a bunch of money your way. For me, most importantly, it’s about bringing their vision to life and creating beautiful work that will make everyone psyched in the end.

So that being said, ask questions! It’s okay to really pick their brain, ask them for inspiration or visual references and then decide if it makes sense for you guys to move forward.

I recently told a client I didn’t think I was the right person for their project because they were looking for something very specific and I didn’t want to waste their time. I told them I would try and sketch out a few thumbnails and see if I could maybe figure it out but I wasn’t feeling it and I know it’s not what they wanted so in the end I said ‘I am sorry but I hope you find someone awesome!’

I have been really trying to focus my time and energy on projects that fit and I am excited or passionate about. I think all artists should do the same when starting a new project or figuring out if that project is worth it. I believe it will make your relationship with your client and work successful and ongoing.  

© Sara Jabbari - Raven of the Crystal Skull

© Sara Jabbari - Raven of the Crystal Skull

You are a featured artist in Drawn Volume.2 and we are delighted to be publishing your work again in Drawn Volume.3. Could you give us a preview as to the work you will be featuring in your new portfolio?

I am so excited to be published again with the Drawn series!

You’ll see a collection of my Glitch Bitch work! HELL YES! and May Flowers feature some fun digital illustrations, for most of which I use great inker and watercolor brushes from the brilliant Kyle T. Webster (he has released a ton of his brushes with Adobe and it’s a dream come true. You have to try them ALL and check him out on Instagram).

I believe my Drawn Volume.3 online profile will feature some more of my vector, graphic style illustrations. All of it will be a pretty good range of what I do so that’s exciting! I am constantly back and forth between graphic design work and illustration work, often finding myself in a happy medium land between the two. I am super excited to be sharing a bit of it all with you!

© Sara Jabbari - May Flowers

© Sara Jabbari - May Flowers

You’ve created artwork in a range of styles with different media. Do you approach creating client work in a different way to the art you produce for your own personal projects?

Yes and no.

Yes, because every client is different therefore wants something different. It’s not just me thinking about what I want to do with the project in front of me. I have to think about what they want and how I can create something that will utilize the right aspects of my skills to bring their vision to life.

No, because it’s all still my process, I know how I prefer to start a project and what methods work best for me moving forward, depending on what is going to happen with the project.

Ultimately, when it comes to style, I like to try and approach every project in a different way, whether it’s a personal project or for a client. Sometimes I like to challenge myself with a new medium or style I’ve never approached before, or haven’t for a while, and most times I take what I know I can do well and try to do it in a new way. Even if none of that happens and I am approaching a project with the same method or style and I always feel like it’s evolving in some way, even if it’s not completely apparent at the time.

Finally, what does the rest of 2018 look like for you, and what can we look forward to seeing from you in the future?  

I am definitely going to be giving a lot of love and energy to Glitch Bitch, new designs and hopefully new products! I feel a next chapter coming on with that and I can’t wait to explore it more.

I also have been wanting to do a one-a-week style project for a month. I have seen a lot of month-long one-a-day’s that is meant to be quick and test your speed but not attention to detail. As we’ve come to learn, that is not something that comes easily to me, so I think sometime in the fall or winter I will be creating some graphic style illustrations every week that reflects something in my life that has stuck out to me. It could be an awesome new show, album, dog I saw on the street, who knows. I’ll have to hash out the details and theme a bit more but it sounds challenging, fun and freeing.

Other than that, I’ll continue freelance branding for clients in one way or another and see what fun work comes out from my full-time job as a Graphic Designer with Wanderlust!

Thank you for answering our questions today Sara, we really appreciate you sharing your insights, inspirations and words of wisdom with us!