Sara Corbett: Always Evolving

Brooklyn-based illustrator's favorite project is the next one...


If this goes down as the warmest winter on record, ADC’s Illustration Month may have something to do with it. We’ve been featuring a sizzling display of creativity from our Members, whether they’re professionals, students or amateurs. It’s really heartwarming to see so much talent from the illustrators in our community.

Next up in the Illustration Month spotlight: a Brooklyn-based ADC Member who balances freelance illustration with full-time designing and art direction.


Brooklyn, 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 dad is a photographer and my mom manages his studio. They really pushed my brother, my sister and I to be creative.

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

I don’t think I ever visualized myself in a career that wasn’t creative. That said, I’m a freelance illustrator, and I also have a job as an art director/designer. There are things I like about this arrangement; I love designing, and I like that at my job, I’m building skills that contribute to my abilities as an illustrator. On the other hand, it can be tricky to balance both jobs.

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

I’m always a little uncomfortable describing myself, but I love to create texture with line, I love to use bright colors, I love to draw animals, and I love to do lettering. I also love to experiment, so my style is always evolving as I try new things.

For me, brands are articulations of personality. One of the qualities I enjoy most in my favorite artists is a sense of irrepressibility, so I think the way to establish your style is to take your best crack at doing what seems natural to you. (This is hard to do!!)

“…I think the way to establish your style is to take your best crack at doing what seems natural to you.”


Walk us through your usual creative process.

It depends a little on the project, but usually I do pencil sketches very quickly, then move on to ink. Sometimes I rethink a bit and start over. Once I scan in my drawing, I usually develop a couple of different options—maybe changing colors, cropping, moving things around a little bit… Where applicable, I like to add my own lettering, I really think it makes a project feel more holistic and special.

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

I like to mix traditional materials with digital. For the traditional part, I like to use a cute mechanical pencil, and then pen and different colored inks. I have a huge number of nibs, but usually I settle into using one or two for a while. My favorite ink is the Winsor & Newton with the spider on the bottle—it’s shellac-based so it’s very waterproof, it’s a very rich black, and if you don’t water it down it has a bit of a shimmer to it. I like to feel very glamorous when I work!

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

Aside from the money part (which is not a small consideration), I think that in any creative field, there are times when you can feel very isolated or discouraged. Organizations like ADC are a really great way to connect with other artists and be part of a community.

“…there are times when you can feel very isolated or discouraged. Organizations like ADC are a really great way to connect with other artists and be part of a community.”

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

Usually I am most excited about the next project, because I love to develop ideas and solve problems, and I love to feel that I’m trying something new. I forget all about what I’ve already done, and I feel surprised when I put together a portfolio and see patterns emerge.

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?

People usually think my job sounds cool. I’m always curious about other people’s jobs, too.

Where do you most often seek out creative inspiration?

I love to go to book shops and museums, and I love to follow other designers and illustrators on Instagram. I go to a lot of events at ADC and AIGA. But if I have a creative dilemma, I take a walk and go shopping!

Which professional illustrators do you look up to and why? 

Seymour ChwastJohn Vernon LordPatrick SmithMalika Favre, Lynda Barry, Chris Ware, Dan Clowes, Edward Gorey, Jon McNaughtSophie Blackall, Lisk Feng, Tom Gauld, Roman Muradov, Joanna Neborsky and Bjorn Rune Lie

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

I love to solve problems visually, I love to draw, and I love to feel that I’ve helped to make a project special.

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