Marly Gallardo’s Magic Beans

It’s Illustration Month at the ADC and we’re featuring some delicious work from our ADC Members. Illustration Month is our chance to highlight ADC Member illustrators, whether professionals, students or just really keen amateurs. Learning to draw before she could learn to spell, Marly Gallardo is an Ecuadorian illustrator based in New York who believes in humor and that content supersedes form. Her work has been featured in Money Magazine, Variety Magazine, MTV News, UNAIDS, Picame, Everup and more. She has been recognized by American Illustration, Scholastic Art & Writing and featured on multiple blogs, (including ours!). While she may not be drawing beans on her grandma’s grocery list any more, you might catch this illustrator in the produce section of your grocery store, getting inspiration from the colors and shapes that live there. Not a member yet? Become an ADC Member for less than a Netflix subscription.


Marly Gallardo
New York



When did you discover your own talent and later turn it into a viable working gig?

I come from a culinary family. Before our trips to the market, my grandma would dictate the grocery list. Because I did not know how to spell yet, I would draw the list. I remember coloring different cans of beans to distinguish between red kidney and black beans. This was the first taste I had of commissions and picky clients. My family was my first critic. They were not shy to point out my eye renderings were lopsided. My projects has since expanded from my family’s grocery list to editorial work.

How long have you been an illustrator?

I have been illustrating all my life. It became official my second year of college when I decided to pursue illustration.

Self taught? School?

I would say I am a product of my pursuit for perfection and the generosity of many professors who believed in my talent. Beginning in elementary school, I was approached by art teachers for extra lessons. Afterwards, I was accepted to the Jersey City Arts high school Program. Instructors there became my career guardians and exposed me to the art world. I was also there that I was made aware of young artists programs. I studied at the FIT, NYU and RISD pre-college programs. After my summer at RISD, I had to attend full time. My entire high school senior year was dedicated to being accepted. I was, and there I met my best friends and found my passion in social commentary through design.

Was a career in the arts encouraged from a young age?

From a young age, there was no arguing when my mind was made up. I wanted to be an artist. My family had no choice but to encourage me. They have always been supportive in establishing myself as a professional in any field I chose. Being that I am the only artist in the family they were quite confused about the whole thing but they trusted my judgement.

Take us through your creative process.

Idea and execution are my main focus when I start a new project, both are integral for a successful piece. My process first begins with an idea and then I flesh it out on my sketchbook or in some cases, an idea can be crystal clear and I go ahead and start vectorizing a design. I prefer to work with vectors, rather than pixels because of the diversity it has with sizing and I find shape renderings to move much quicker based on points with the pen tool. After the design is blocked in I work on the overall palette and mood. I tend to steer towards warmer vibrant colors like salmon and mustard yellow. Delicious colors.

In illustrating, what are the tools you can’t live without?

My laptop! Besides Adobe Illustrator, I use my laptop for references and entertainment. I enjoy listening to documentaries and music while I work. It helps me pace myself by keeping track of how much time I have spent on certain details. In silence, I can get lost in detailed for hours, and forget the overall design.

What is one of the most exciting projects or a favorite one you’ve worked on?

I recently has the opportunity to work with UNIAIDS, The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS and their campaign for Zero Discrimination Day. This is a topic we need to talk more about, get our generation informed and put an end to narrow minded thinking. I spent a while on the concept and am proud of the finished product, which will be up on their site next month.

Another ongoing project i have been working on is a children’s book, based on my childhood. It is an adventure story in South America with a magical realism approach. In it, I am introducing elements of pre-Columbian culture, drastic landscape and the life of ranchers. I grew up during a drastic, challenging time in my hometown. The age of ranchers and horses are coming to an end so this will be a tribute to them.

How do you describe your aesthetic?

My aesthetic includes a warm palette, minimalism and humor. I enjoy commenting on contemporary predicaments we face on a daily basis. For example, our relationship with smartphones, each other and work place. I enjoy building a relationship with my audience through familiarity and humor.

What is the biggest challenge about being an illustrator?

Personally, I would say time management. It is so easy to get wrapped up in projects that I completely disregard my social life or proper sleeping habits. On certain occasions I have gone weeks with hardly any contact except with my client and the pizza delivery guy. As a freelancer, I do not have to clock in and clock out. There is a deadline and if inspiration strikes, I am not moving out of my seat until the job is finished. I am quite the hermit these days, but I am making an effort to socialize more. It’s easy to get lost in your work.

What do you love most about it?

Sharing my stories and ideas. There is so much going on in my head that i feel it swell if I don’t get them out. The best way I can communicate these thoughts is visually. I struggle with eloquently expressing myself orally or in writing due to language barriers (I am fluent in Spanish). Illustration crosses language barriers and any anxiety I may have of not communicating myself accurately. It is my voice.

Any dream collaborations or brands you’d like to work with?

Definitely, I spend so much of my time listening to TED Talks. I would love to work with their creative department.

Where is your favorite place to go or thing to do for inspiration?

I enjoy being in locations with high people traffic like that in markets and restaurants. It’s entertaining watching people interact and handle food. The produce section is my favorite at any market. It is the idea area for vibrant colors, voluptuous, organic shapes and a maze-like environment. It also has sentimental value from my childhood.

Any contemporary artists on your radar?

I wake up every morning and reach over for my phone and scan Instagram for Jean Julien and Christop Neimann to see their latest posts. I appreciate clever humor before I start my day. Their illustrations are always on pint and really speak to everyone. I also love the editorial work of Emiliano Ponzi, Malika Favre’s elegant design, photography of Richard Mosse and many more. I like to keep myself up to date with their work through social media.

For anyone considering illustration as a career or just something to try for curiosity, do you have any advice?

Draw what you know. Everyone has their own unique story to share and I believe this is what will set you apart from others and help you to build a relationship with your audience. Don’t worry so much about style. Focus on content.