Sophie Roach Draws the Line

Austin-based ADC Member brings "doodling" to a whole new level

January is drawing to a close, but ADC’s Illustration Month is still going strong! Thanks out the amazing response we’ve received from ADC Members who are also illustrators (whether it’s their bread and butter or something they do alongside other skills) we will be extending this feature into February. That way we can continue to showcase the incredible talent in our community.

Next up: a self-taught Austin-based illustrator who has made a splash and built a huge following with her ‘doodling’ artwork.



Austin, TX



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

I doubt my parents had any idea that I’d grow up to be an artist. I spent every spare minute practicing basketball from age eight to 18. I was a total jock, far from the token art kid at school. A career in art wasn’t on my radar until I had an encouraging printmaking teacher while fulfilling an art requirement during my senior year of high school. I went into college with a growing interest in graphic design and an obsession with street art, though I didn’t start drawing until my junior year of college.

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

I hit upon a drawing style that felt like my own in January of 2012, after six months of post-college floundering. I became totally addicted and knew that I had to make it work as a full-time artist. Seeing illustrators like Will Bryant, Steven Harrington and Mike Perry have so much success made me feel like it was possible for me to make a living with a non-traditional drawing style.

Speaking of which, how would you best describe your style? Did you fight against having a particular style, or do you embrace your style as your “brand”?

I have a sophisticated doodle-y illustration style. I tell stories more like a composer than a traditional illustrator in that I focus more on rhythm than legibility. The stories are hidden in the shapes, patterns, and color choices that make up my vocabulary. I use drawing to reflect on my environment in an abstract way, but I try to keep the work down to earth just enough for people to try to find their own stories. I envy illustrators that have a wide range of styles, but (for now) I’m only interested in having breadth within the universe (or ”brand”) that I’ve developed over the years. I challenge myself constantly in application and scale but I’m happy to let my signature style grow and change organically over time.

“I tell stories more like a composer than a traditional illustrator in that I focus more on rhythm than legibility. The stories are hidden in the shapes, patterns, and color choices that make up my vocabulary.”

Walk us through your usual creative process.

I start out by making up a list of rules (either on paper or in my head) that determine the organization of the piece. Next, I’ll make some loose pencil marks to show where I want certain things to go. Then I start inking, sometimes totally ignoring the pencil marks and guidelines from part one and two. Once the linework is finished, I’ll either go straight to coloring with markers or scan the drawing into Photoshop for coloring and editing.

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

I love my Rotring rapidograph pens. The lines are a consistent weight, the ink cartridges are a true black, and the tip doesn’t get worn down like disposable technical pens do.

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

Pricing is hard at this early stage in my career. Even with the abundance of resources online, there isn’t any way for me to know for sure that I’m doing it right. I’m getting in a groove, but my brain still hurts every time I finish up a proposal.

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

The more challenging the process, the more proud I am of the result. Last year Converse commissioned me to make three animations to hype up the release of the Chuck II sneaker on various social media outlets. The project was particularly daunting because I didn’t have much animation experience under my belt at the time and they needed the final clips very quickly. It was an exhausting two weeks of trial and error in various Adobe programs, but I wound up with a finished product that I’m really proud of. The client was stoked on the result and as a bonus I now have a valuable set of skills for future projects.



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?

I usually explain that I have a doodle-y style that I apply to a lot of different types of projects. Sometimes I’ll pull out my Instagram to clarify, but most the time I’m okay with the person walking away without really getting it. The most common response is, “I wish I was creative.” To this day, I have not figured out the appropriate response to this statement.

Where do you most often seek out creative inspiration?

Inspiration doesn’t usually show up for me when I seek it out, though I do try to make room for inspiration by throwing myself into new (occasionally uncomfortable) situations. Sometime that means traveling the world, sometimes it just means reading a new book. All I know for sure is that my best ideas never strike when I’m sitting in my studio waiting for them.

“All I know for sure is that my best ideas never strike when I’m sitting in my studio waiting for them.”

Which professional illustrators do you look up to and why? 

I admire artists that blur the line between a professional art practice and professional illustration practice. Examples include Geoff McFetridgeJim HouserStacey RozichBrendan MonroeMilton Glaser, and Keith Haring

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

Drawing brings a lot of balance and joy to my life! I feel very fortunate to have a good excuse to doodle all day long.

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