Los Angeles-based artist and illustrator Juliette Toma’s style combines a pictorial approach with a stylized aesthetic. While she has a keen eye for detail, she also tries to avoid things that seem “too perfect”, using color choices, character characteristics, and environments to bring strangeness to her works.
âMy work is a bit quirky, brilliant and can be humorous at times. I’m inspired by vintage fashion magazines, old cookbooks, old family photos and kitsch knickknacks, âshe tells CR. âI sometimes use photos I picked up from flea markets as painting references and as a starting point for an illustration. I’m also going to mix up my fashion interest and give the characters a pair of sunglasses or sneakers that I wanted. ”
Growing up around art – her father is a painter – Toma had a lot of freedom in her childhood to express herself creatively and she knew early on that a career related to drawing was for her. Since graduating from the Art Center College of Design with a BFA in Illustration, Toma has worked on personal and editorial projects for a range of clients including Adult Swim, The New York Times, MTV, Nike and Playboy.
Toma’s favorite subjects are people and food and they feature in bold, zesty artwork that fills the frame. âI like to draw things that I find funny. I have always considered myself to be a shy person. Things that I found embarrassing once I chose to celebrate in my artwork, âshe says. “The characters I paint have bad makeup, braces, and acne, but they embrace them with the confidence I’ve always wanted.”
Most of the illustrations are created by putting together and taking a handful of reference photos which Toma then puts together to create her own image. Then she begins to paint. âThe only difference in my process between a personal piece and an order is that for orders, I do sketches first to make sure the customer is satisfied before I start the final,â she explains.
Toma currently uses ProCreate on his iPad to create his illustrations and this is what helps give his work a surreal sparkle. âI really enjoy painting digitally now because of the freedom to be able to play with colors and easily rearrange my compositions,â she says. “I will also be painting textures and digitizing them to help make my work look more painterly.”
Working on editorial projects gives Toma a much needed variety not only in the topics she covers, but also in the clients and curators she works with. âI love that each job is fresh and that you can meet new clients and work with different art directors. Anyone who brings something new to the table, âshe said.
One of the most difficult parts of editorial work is the competitive nature and the need to showcase your work. âI consider myself to be a shy person so it can sometimes be difficult for me to really show myself off,â she says. “Also trying to figure out what the client is planning for the project can be a challenge, but it’s usually a fun challenge to explore together.”
Despite these hurdles, Toma believes the illustration scene in LA is broadly favorable, with an art exhibit or creative event always close by. “I am also very inspired by LA. It’s a very diverse place with so many different things to draw inspiration from, âToma says. âI can drive in traffic and see a really cool hand painted sign or someone walking a pink poodle. These are the things that inspire me to work.
Ultimately, for Toma, his illustration work gives him a way to express himself in a way that would be difficult to do verbally. For her, it’s a matter of connection. “I hope that other people can resonate with my paintings, laugh a little and feel less alone, âshe recalls.