OFFF 2013: Sara Blake, aka Zso

The talented New York-based illustrator talks to us about risks, rock stars and tricky left eyes

Computer Arts: Can you give us a taster of what you'll be talking about at OFFF later today? We're looking forward to it...
Sara Blake:
Well thank ya! I never knew that being an illustrator was a job when I was young. Basically, everyone who I've ever looked up to creatively (writers, rock stars, artists, scientists) more or less made up their own job just by pursuing what the loved to do, plain and simple. I think at our core, we're all just who we were as kids. I'll be talking a little bit about how I figured out how to be an illustrator, all the other jobs I had to get there, and then I'll be walking through some of my favourite projects.

I'll show a lot of process images and video. I'll also talk about technique and exactly why working the way I work feels so gratifying to me. Tools aren't really the important part as I see it. There are infinite ways of doing things and I want people to walk away feeling like they already have all the tools and knowledge to do what they love, if they're not already doing it.

Sara Blake B

This letter 'B' is part of a personal project focusing on an alphabet series

CA: What's the biggest creative risk you've ever taken?
SB:
This is a tough one. I never learned a ‘right way’ of doing anything, so I generally just don't know any better when I take on new projects. I think the biggest risk was going freelance three years ago because you always doubt yourself. But not only did I survive, it turned out to be the best thing I've ever done for myself. I couldn't imagine it any other way.

CA: What cool projects are you working on at the moment?
SB:
Well I just finished a typographic project that I can't say too much about, but it's based in Barcelona. I'm also in the process of prototyping my new line of silk scarves, which are all very wild prints of my illustrations. I'm working on a photography collaboration with James Macari and Dippin' Sauce, and a couple of big murals, one in NYC and one in Miami.

CA: How do you stay motivated – what inspires you?
SB:
Just always having my sights set on the next thing. I just like to make ‘stuff’, and at all times I have about a dozen item long list of things I want to make. As soon as I make something, another idea fills its place. Whenever I meet people or places with amazing energy, that becomes contagious and I just want to be better and work harder. Whenever I get back from a trip like this one in Barcelona, I usually have to take a week to recharge my battery, and then I get completely manic staying up til all hours of the night working on new things.

Sara Blake

A personal project, Alfred the Imaginary Bird

CA: Who did you most want to see at OFFF this year?
SB:
Jessica Walsh and Sougwen Chung because I've never heard either of them speak, and Sougwen is even a personal friend of mine. I don't see a lot of girls at these things so I'm pretty excited to hear some smart ladies up on stage.

CA: How important is it to be involved at events like OFFF?
SB:
For me it's very important. It's so incredible to be involved – it's amazing to me that anyone would want to listen to me talk for an hour, and it just pushes me to want to work harder and harder. When I started, I just quietly put stuff out into the world and on my site and assumed no one was paying attention but just maybe someone would see my work and like it. But with events like this you have a built-in audience. There are eyes on you – you know people are watching. That's terrifying as well as motivating. Aside from that though, I truly feel inspired by the other speakers, which is especially cool because many of us come from different disciplines.

CA: Tell us something we don't know...
SB:
I'm almost blind in my left eye and had several surgeries on it when I was a kid.

www.hellozso.com

"The Grasshopper is for OFFF's new mag POOOL ," says Sara Blake

"The Grasshopper is for OFFF's new mag POOOL ," says Sara Blake

Sara Blake showing her work for Nike during her talk

Sara Blake showing her work for Nike during her talk