July 7, 2016

Spotlight: Amelia Giller

Amelia Giller's crash course on falling in love with your flaws.

Amelia Giller has been busy. Since the Los Angeles artist opened her Etsy shop just over a year ago, selling super adorable body-positive pins and prints, she has received her MFA from USC’s prestigious Animation and Digital Arts program and worked with names like Botanica Workshop, Teen Vogue and Need Supply. The It-Girl Internet is basically obsessed with her GIFs and she’s working on a TV show about a sisters who operate a wild cat sanctuary in rural Texas. She’s a Libra and she lives up to to her sign’s famous, superhuman balancing capabilities.

But the coolest thing about Amelia Giller is the way her work feels. In each of her illustrations, Giller delivers gracious sympathies and smile-inducing observations about the imperfections of being human. Her work is sweet and never in the pejorative sense. Giller’s characters, lumpy and proud, dance, manage their finances, eat watermelon, play with tigers and touch each others’ butts. Her bold colors and outlines are softened by tender trueness and her work feels like a hug every time. I caught up with Giller to ask her about her inspirations, her proudest moments, and her younger self.

The Le Sigh: How did you become interested in illustration, specifically animation? What were some of your earliest favorites?

Amelia Giller: I’ve always drawn. Always. When I was about nine years old, I went to an art day camp where we watched Wallace and Gromit. My jaw dropped to the floor. I think that was the first time I realized that animation wasn’t just something that I loved, but that I had to do myself. I was also very much obsessed with Madeline, Roald Dahl, and Rugrats.

TLS: Your work features a lot of female bodies. We love that your figures are always movin' and shakin' and that you represent all shapes and sizes. What is it about the human body, and body image, that interests you?

AG: I love characters. I would much rather be drawing characters than anything else. And, honestly, drawing women of all sizes is not really a conscious thing that I do. I don’t sit down and think “Today I’m going to draw a woman that is a size 8!” I just draw a new character. And, let’s be real, drawing women is way more fun than drawing men. There is so much variation in women’s hairstyles, clothing, boobs, butts, etc. I love to experiment with all different combinations. Of course, I’m so glad that all types of people can identify with my work. Having people (mostly women) tell me that they identify with certain characters drives me to create more and more.

TLS: Tell us a little bit about what it’s like working with Teen Vogue. Did you read the magazine when you were younger? How did you get involved?

AG: I was obsessed with Teen Vogue when I was younger. Like, stacks of magazines, dogeared with specific outfits marked. I have a very specific memory of a popular girl in middle school telling me I dressed like I was in Teen Vogue. And so when my editor emailed me asking if I’d like to do illustrations for them, it was a big no brainer. Plus, it’s amazing to be part of their “Not Your Fault” campaign. It has made me have such respect and love for today’s teens.

TLS: What project are you most proud of?

AG: I’m very proud of two projects. One is my graduation film, “Tigress” that I just finished while getting my MFA in animation at USC. It is a black and white, visual music piece that is about a woman who meets a tiger in the jungle. They swap places and the woman ends up finding herself naked in the wild while the tiger is helpless in the city. I am hoping that it plays some animation festivals and then I will post it online.

The other project that I’m so excited about is a webseries that I am making with my two friends Mary Dauterman and Sarah Lloyd. It is called “Big Cat Ranch” and is a surreal, hilarious show about two sisters who own a wild cat sanctuary in the middle of Texas. It’s sort of King of the Hill meets Broad City – and of course, is animated. We are releasing the first episode later this summer online!

TLS: That sounds awesome! When you’re in a creative rut, where do you look for inspiration?

AG: I look a lot of different places. I compile a lot of secret boards on – one per project, then lots of board categories like “characters,” “ideas,” “motion.” I also like to find animated films on Vimeo. There are such amazing animators all over the world and they’re all sharing and connecting on Vimeo.

TLS: Where do you feel like you do your best work?

AG: At home in my pajamas! Freelance life.

TLS: How does working in GIF format, and the easily digestible and shareable nature of the medium, influence your work?

AG: GIFs are such a double-edged sword. They have pushed my career in the direction that I wanted it to go, and have also allowed me to get short, animated content out to a lot of people. However, I don’t want to be known for my GIFs for forever. I am a director and I want my animated films to have as much impact as my GIFs. But since films take so long to make and often need to find a home in festivals first, the virality of films is slow and fickle.

TLS: Who are some female-identified and non-binary artists/designers/musicians you’re really into right now?

AG: I'm obsessed with my coworker Xoana Herrera. She is a designer and makes the most luscious, full-bodied, beautiful designs. I also cannot get enough of DYAN. They did the music for my graduation film “Tigress” and I listen to their album on repeat. And, Liana Finck makes the funniest comics. My friends and I are obsessed with her Instagram. I’m just in awe of how many jokes she tells in a day, and her ability to scrawl a scraggly shape and give it so much meaning.

TLS: How do you balance your professional career with your creative interests?

AG: Oh, yes, balance! It’s hard. I work a lot, probably more than I should. I like to work and I like to make things. I feel a little crazy if I don’t have my hands in a million projects. I am lucky in that I have found a way to make my professional career my creative interests. It is very fun, and I hope that it continues to be.

TLS: What are some words of advice you would give the younger version of you?

AG: I think about this a lot – it’s a good therapeutic technique. I like to imagine being kind to my younger self, way kinder than I probably was to myself at the time. But my advice to my younger self, and really, any artist of any age, is to follow your heart. It sounds so cheesy, but staying true to your own ideas and your own direction is so important. If you have a vision for what you want to make, then you have to follow it. I think a lot of young artists can get swept up in the pursuit of fame or money, but really if you stay true to yourself (and work your ass off) then success will come.

Check out Amelia Giller on her website.

Jane Condon would love to pet your dog and thinks Stacy’s Mom is one of the greatest songs of all time. Follow her on Twitter @PBandJane.