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Meet Anna O’Connell of Anna O’Connell in Lincoln Square

Today we’d like to introduce you to Anna O’Connell.

Anna, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
While I was an undergraduate student at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), I worked as a Resident Advisor. At the time, SAIC didn’t have a meal plan, so my fellow students and I were responsible for feeding ourselves, and as a result, a lot of food knowledge and recipe sharing occurred. I was focusing on making comics and illustrations in my classes, so I decided to make recipe cards for the students living in my residence hall.

These were simple recipes for meals I cooked regularly, but also for things my friends and family had cooked for me, that made me feel loved. This turned out to be a very formative facet of my college experience. Not only did I like that I could combine text and images to relay an idea efficiently (which is so well suited to recipes), but I liked how sharing recipes felt like such a personal gesture.

As an art student, I was consistently compelled to make work that incited a quiet, intimate experience for the viewer, and making handheld cards with drawings and hand-lettered text with recipes that were important to me, was a wonderful way for me to explore that. It wasn’t until well until after I graduated, that I had the idea to make recipe comics.

I realized that everyone has a food story, and I became really dedicated to melding my interest in cooking with my interest in making comics as a way to share these stories and connect with people. I loved the idea of giving a platform to food stories and dishes that people held dear, so I started a blog called Drawn & Eaten to serve as a forum for my food illustrations and comics.

Around that time, a friend suggested that I submit my work to a food-focused publication. I was chosen to be included, so I continued to seek out similar opportunities. During the day I was working a non-creative, full-time job, and was maintaining my freelance illustration practice during nights and weekends.

A year ago I accepted a full-time position as a Graphic Artist for a baby shoe, hosiery and apparel company, so my day job consists of mostly making graphics and prints. My current personal practice (still maintained on nights and weekends) mostly consists of commissions and editorial illustrations.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Before I started designing full time, I felt so impatient. Even though I was consistently working on art projects, I felt ashamed that I wasn’t doing what I loved to make my living. In hindsight, however, I’m so grateful for each project and each day, because I’ve learned a tremendous amount, and I needed all of that cumulative experience to feel confident in where I am now.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
I am an artist and designer specializing in melding hand-drawn and digital approaches to create a clean look that still feels warm and inviting. I love doing editorial illustration and personal commissions for everything from wedding stationery suites to logos, to turning your grandma’s meatloaf recipe into a comic. What sets me apart are my adaptable drawing capabilities.

What were you like growing up?
I was lucky to grow up in a family where creativity was encouraged and nurtured. I was always working on art projects, making home videos with my siblings and cousins, singing in choirs and performing in school plays. I was drawn to other creative kids and loved learning from them.

My parents took us to the library constantly and filled our house with books, music and movies, which really encouraged my imagination and desire to make things.

Contact Info:

Image credit:

Travis Tiblier (personal photo)

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