I came across the work of Maria Filar in June after seeing someone repost her work on Instagram. Since then, I’ve fallen in love with her bold use of color and fun illustrative style. She uses her talents for activism and to generally lift the vibration of this world to a more positive place. I’m all about supporting a light warrior like that! I’m so excited to bring this interview with Maria Filar to this corner of the internet and hope you enjoying finding out more about this talented creative voice.
p.s. Her Threadless shop is filled with adorable graphic tees and more! The shirts with slogans like Welcome to the Apocalypse, Here for the Snacks, and Progress Over Perfection are all “add to cart” favorites. Think I’ll make them a reward if I hit my September goals.
Name &/or Nickname: Maria
Zodiac Sign (bonus points if you know your moon and rising sign):
Favorite Color: Bright Coral, Yellow, Pink – can’t choose one!
Childhood Hero: A little later (like early high school) I discovered Amelie and she’s been my top inspiration/hero ever since.
How did you get your start in illustration? And what is your creative process like?
I was an “art kid” in high school and always knew I wanted to do something in art. I went to an art school in Detroit (College for Creative Studies) and studied fine arts for one semester before realizing I am NOT a fine artist. I switched to illustration and it was much more suited to my talents and interests. In school they really pushed the freelancer/editorial illustration career path and I didn’t even know much about commercial art and product design, which is where my career took me in the 11 years since graduating. I love making art that speaks to a lot of people and can be made accessible to a wide audience. My creative process is kind of all over the place. I take inspiration from a lot of different sources and it has slowly grown into my current style, but as far as process goes I’m not much of a planner. I just mess around with imagery and colors until I’m happy with the final piece.
You have some solid true-crime art that I 100% appreciate. Do you have a few true crime podcasts (episode-specific) or documentaries you could recommend?
It’s not much of a recommendation because My Favorite Murder is so popular, its unlikely anyone reading this hasn’t heard of it, haha! But I discovered MFM in 2016 and was pretty obsessed for a few years. (And it helped as a distraction after the devastation of the 2016 election) I’ve slowed down in listening to true crime in the last year or so mainly because the world is such a dark place right now, I can’t mentally endure the heaviness of the subject matter, no matter how much I love listening to Karen and Georgia. If you haven’t heard MFM though, I recommend listening to episode 18 where they discuss Mary Vincent. Her story is INCREDIBLE.
As far as documentaries – I recently watched the HBO series “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark” which centers around the case of the East Area Rapist/Golden State Killer. Michelle McNamara was writing a book surrounding the case when she passed away unexpectedly. Her husband, Patton Oswalt, worked with Michelle’s writing partner and investigative partners to get the book finished. I’m sure most people know that they finally caught the suspect literally days after Michelle’s book came out. The documentary is incredibly well done, poignant, and focuses a lot on Michelle’s life and research, and gives a voice to the survivors and victims. It was so so good.
Love your post on Imposter Syndrome. I could totally relate, as I’ve had several “imposter syndrome” induced anxiety attacks in my life. An exercise that helps me overcome my “imposter syndrome” is going through a timeline of my life and identifying moments that made me feel good about myself, like being brave enough to take a risk. What are some gold star worthy moments in your life that can help battle the imposter syndrome?
Childhood: Yikes. This is hard because I was so shy and nerdy, I don’t know if I actually had any gold star moments, hah! I was definitely very smart and always on the honor roll, which is great, but when you’re nerdy and you get picked on, being smart is a target to get bullied for some reason. Not great. I will say I have always been complimented on my art skills even as a young child, so that’s always been a bright spot.
Teen Years: Again, relates to art. I was at the top of my art class, and I knew I had talent. When I got into my first choice art school, it gave me an “aha” moment that I am good enough to do this.
Young Adult: Landing a job right after graduating college that was actually art related, in a time when none of my classmates were getting work (I graduated in 2009, right when the recession was getting really bad). That job snowballed into my next big career milestone, landing a job at Paper Source in Chicago. When I got that job, I felt like I’d made it and I was really proud of myself.
Now: In the past 2 years since leaving Paper Source and going freelance/starting my own product line, I’ve definitely felt imposter syndrome more than ever. But milestones such as getting into a major Chicago artist/maker market last year and gaining sales and positive growth on instagram has helped remind me that my art is resonating with people and I feel like I have a purpose. It definitely feels good.
What qualities do you admire in fellow creatives, artists, basically – humans?
A unique perspective, a strong voice, compassion, empathy. Big egos are not cute.
You mentioned you had a sister in your rainbow challenge. What is some of the best sisterly advice you’ve received? Also, is she the big sister or the little sister.
She’s my big sister and she’s actually the one that inspired me to participate in the challenge! The best advice I’ve gotten from her is to just stay true to myself. We’ve gone totally different ways on our life paths but the core value of staying true to ourselves and what we want is something that we both find really important.
What activities do you do away from the computer and the sketchbook to keep your energy up?
I love cooking vegan meals, brewing my own kombucha, making earrings, and most of all, THRIFTING. I love hunting for a good find and I’ve found some really awesome stuff. The pandemic has definitely made thrifting difficult and I miss it a lot, but I know it’ll always be there waiting for me!
Do you have a memorable meal you could tell us about? Whether it’s the food that was mind-blowing or the people or place that made the meal so amazing.
For me, my favorite part of traveling is the food, so I have a lot of memorable meals, haha! My most memorable meal in recent memory is a birthday brunch in Paris. When I turned 32, I went to Europe for the first time in my life. I went to Paris completely by myself, and it’s a city I’ve wanted to visit since I was probably 14. I found an awesome little vegan cafe with this giant brunch entree and I treated myself to a birthday meal. It was SO MUCH FOOD – there were like 4 courses or something ridiculous – but it was so delicious. I’ll always remember that day vividly.
Last three artists played on your preferred form of music consumption? (Spotify, iTunes, soundcloud, record player, etc.)
Juniper | Begonia
America | First Aid Kit
You Don’t Own Me | Deep Sea Diver feat. Natalie Schepman
Love a good ritual, do you have a morning or evening ritual you could share with us?
My morning ritual never wavers – at this point it’s complete muscle memory. My cats hop on my bed and wake me up around 6:15, so I get up, feed them, make my coffee. I drink my coffee curled up on the couch and check instagram for a bit before starting my workday.
My favorite evening ritual is doing my skincare – I’ve really gotten into it in the last few years and it’s a nice little end to my day to do a bit of self-care.
Who are some of your favorite artists, creatives, makers, etc. – you follow on Instagram?
@hillarywhiterabbit has the most hilarious illustrations – I own about 6 of her t-shirt designs!
@0uizi is based in Detroit and I love her floral mural work so so so so much.
My friend Alisa of @partyofonepaper makes the best cards. Her humor is so on point!
My best friend @jillian_evelyn is incredible, I’m so proud of her and how much her career has grown since meeting her at art school.
@bijoukarman does such awesome detailed portrait work – her linework and colors are so good.
@jadepurplebrown has the best colors and compositions. I love her graphic style!
@hannahhillam has the FUNNIEST comics.
Best “hole in the wall____” you’ve discovered? (it can be bar, restaurant, store, club, etc.)
There’s a bar in the first neighborhood I lived in when I moved to Chicago – It’s called Cody’s and it’s just a little dive cash only joint and it’s dog friendly both inside and on the patio. There’s nothing better than having a cheap beer and petting dogs!