Jackie Ferrentino: An Unconventional Career

ADC Member shares her story for Illustration Month


ADC’s Illustration Month has been cruising along  at a great pace, but that really shouldn’t be a surprise; our community is filled with creatives with a passion for drawing, whether they’re professionals, students, or just really keen amateurs. It’s our job here at ADC to shine a spotlight on these very talented ADC Members!

Our next featured Member is a New York based illustrator who brings “a combination of cartooning and textural painting” to bring editorials to life.


New York, NY



Just about every kid can draw, but not every kid is particularly gifted at it. Where did your childhood artistic inclinations come from?

My earliest artistic memory goes back to kindergarten–during freetime, I drew a picture of McDonalds French fries in Crayola markers and my best friend said, “hey, that’s really good”. I liked the respect so I’ve been drawing since then.

I was really lucky that I had great art programs throughout my primary and secondary education. During my adolescence, I had a lot of wonderful teachers that provided immense guidance and encouragement. At my high school I had two teachers, one of whom was a RISD grad, who helped me develop my technical and conceptual skills. I also had a teacher outside of school that gave me a really strong foundation in drawing and oil painting.

When did you discover that “Hey, this could actually be a career”?

I always knew I wanted to be an artist, but I never considered the monetary side of it. It sounds silly, but I don’t think it really sunk in that making a living from illustration was truly possible until I was a sophomore at RISD. As I learned more about contemporary illustration, it clicked that that there were real people alive now drawing and painting for a living.

How would you best describe your style? Do you fight against having a particular style, or do you embrace your style as your “brand”?

My illustrations are a combination of cartooning and textural painting. Instead of fixating on a particular style, I generally focus on what I really want to draw and what the work needs. The concept behind each piece dictates how much painting or cartooning I employ within a single illustration.

” Instead of fixating on a particular style, I generally focus on what I really want to draw and what the work needs.”

Walk us through your usual creative process.

My process is largely intuitive and improvisational, but it generally follows this flow: Everything starts out traditionally. First, there’s a lot of sketching, either on tracing paper or in tiny thumbnails. After I make a full scale sketch, I transfer the sketch to Bristol paper and start inking. If I think traditional painting will be a part of the image, I proceed to painting in gouache on a different sheet of paper. Once I have all the elements of the illustration prepared, I scan everything in and remix it in Photoshop.

Tools of the trade: do you have any specific pens, pencils or other instruments that you swear by?

I couldn’t live without my black Pilot pens and Acryla gouache. I prefer Pilot pens simply because I’ve used them for so long that every other pen feels slightly alien to me. And Acryla is the only gouache that allows me to achieve the opacity and textural feel that I want from my paintings.

What is the most challenging thing about a career in illustration?

Figuring out your own path. Because it’s an unconventional career, it requires a lot more thinking and planning on every level in order to make it work for yourself.

“Because it’s an unconventional career, it requires a lot more thinking and planning on every level in order to make it work for yourself.”

Is there a particular project of yours of which you’re especially proud?

I’m particularly proud of this interactive holiday card I coded, illustrated and animated for Nautilus Magazine. The sheer amount of elements involved easily made it one of the most intimidating projects I’ve ever taken on.

Cocktail party talk: how do you describe what you do to someone who isn’t in a creative field, and what’s the typical response you get from them?

Haha it generally goes over pretty well. I try to keep it straightforward: I say I’m an illustrator, and that I specialize in making work for articles in magazines, newspapers, etc.

Where do you most often seek out creative inspiration?

I look at a mix of contemporary illustration and the old masters a lot. But recently I’m trying to look at other fields like fashion, sculpture and photography.

Which professional illustrators do you look up to and why? 

Ah, I admire so many people! In particular though, I look up to my former professor Chris Buzelli a lot and other RISD grads like JooHee Yoon and Sophia Foster-Dimino.

I also really appreciate illustrators and artists that have radically different styles from mine like Sam Weber, EBoy and Anton Vill.

At the end of the day, what do you love most about being an illustrator?

Making the artwork of course!

Illustration Month continues throughout January, and is open exclusively to ADC Members. Not yet a Member? Join today!