Pilar Basa: A Land Down Under

ADC Member and Aussie expat finds inspiration in things that "challenge the banality."

We’ve come to the end of January, but fortunately not to the end of ADC’s Illustration Month. This showcase of the many gifted artists in the ADC community has been such a hit that we’ve decided to expand it into February. With more ADC Members being featured, and more artwork and talent for you to peruse, it’s a win-win for everybody!

The next ADC Member being featured in Illustration Month is a Brooklyn-based Australian expat who doesn’t take herself or her work too seriously.


Brooklyn, NY
347 972 1825



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

Between the school newsletters, certificates, shopping lists and lunch orders generated by five school aged kids, there was definitely no room for any artwork on our family fridge. Though even with this lack of juvenile exhibition space, growing up I was always aware of the creativity within the family. Quirky illustrations were my favorite part of greeting cards from my grandfather, I would fall asleep to the clicking sounds of my mother crocheting and always sought my dad’s drawing abilities for school projects. It was only recently I became consciously aware of the fact that my family never pressured us into anything. Though being artistic was never something outrageously encouraged, it was definitely something that was understood and nurtured.

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

This is a notion that I am still coming to understand and trust. It was complete disbelief in this idea that led me to abandoning all creative endeavors after high school, to pursue a Bachelor of Psychology, Psychology! I hated science. Obviously I didn’t last too long in this degree. It was then that I decided to start living from creativity.

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

I try not to take myself or things in general too seriously. There is so much negativity and seriousness in day-to-day life already that I don’t see a point in adding to it. With everything I do I try to include fun and laughter. Even if it’s a terrible joke I include and I have a little chuckle to myself whilst drawing it. If what you are doing doesn’t make you smile, it’s time to question wether that thing is worth doing.

“If what you are doing doesn’t make you smile, it’s time to question wether that thing is worth doing.”

Walk us through your usual creative process.

I know I have one, but I’d be lying if I said that I was always consciously aware of it. I do know however, that it absolutely involves a lot of sketching, lots of varying ideas, critical thinking until the cows come home and then the lengthy process of narrowing down. Lots of coffee, it definitely involves lots of coffee. . .and laughs, you have to laugh or at least smile, and some whiskey.

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

Hands down: Papermate’s Kilometric black ballpoint pens. It’s not so easy to find them here in the USA but they are as common as houseflies back home in Australia (and we are known to have an inconceivable abundance of flies). They are cheap, readily available (I buy a few packets every time I visit) and they are so great for shading. They are capable of such soft tones and also very dark ones. They are prone to occasional ink splodges, but I think this just adds to the honesty of the drawing and the material.

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

Illustration, or any form of creativity, is such a subjective and personal experience. Every piece we create is like giving birth to some metaphorical offspring. This is why sometimes the hardest thing is distancing yourself from a project. Being able to accept that your vision for a piece is not always shared and that you have to relinquish the reins sometimes, maybe just a little. . . and only sometimes.

“Illustration, or any form of creativity, is such a subjective and personal experience. Every piece we create is like giving birth to some metaphorical offspring. “

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

‘We are your friends’ has to be one of these projects for me. Born of an early university typography assignment (an assignment whose marks left a lot to be desired, like A LOT) this project was never destined to go far. To see it now, with the illustrations spanning such time, the proudest part is to see the progress and growth within the sketches. Needless to say, some of the early versions of the letters have been relegated to my illustrative ‘let’s call these practice sketches’ pile.


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?

*Old Fashioned in hand*
‘Designer’ is my usual go to, most commonly met by “Oh, so you’re in fashion”. Though just recently I had an interesting notion presented to me by a friend who has started describing his occupation (Art Director) as a Mermaid Therapist. Essentially the role is anything you make it, it is only limited by our own imaginations and boundaries, so I try to explain it differently every time.

Where do you most often seek out creative inspiration?

Things that make me smile or laugh, things that challenge the banality that we often experience in 9-5 working life. Other creatives or any other person whose world views differ to my own. Conversations are always a great source of conceptual inspiration, especially the uncomfortable or unexpected ones. But closest to my heart are books. I love books. They are tangible, the quiet sages on your shelves or laying under your pillow, and when you read them, their content is completely and solely yours to appropriate, interrupt or do what you will with.

Which professional illustrators do you look up to and why? 

This group is constantly evolving and I imagine will continue to do so. At the present moment my go-tos are: Graeme Base, Gemma O’Brien, Sindy Sinn, the guy that is responsible for Sketchy Tank (http://www.sketchytank.com/); We Buy Your Kids; Two Arms Inc.

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

The freedom. It is one of those arenas in life where you be completely you, where you can find that part of you, that child who drew wildly on the walls and didn’t care what anyone thought nor battered an eyelid at the possible repercussions. Somewhere along our paths we tend to become burdened with inhibitions, and illustration is direct path back to that domestic graffiti artist kid. In the wise words of Billy Madison “I made the duck blue because I’d never seen a blue duck before and I wanted to see one”

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