We had the good fortune of connecting with Kelly Malka and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kelly, why did you pursue a creative career?
For so long, I didn’t think it was possible for me to be a full-time artist and illustrator. I always thought that art would be a big part of my life, but on the side of whatever ‘realistic’ career I was doing. So instead of studying illustration in school, I studied design so that I could still work in the creative field even it meant treating illustration as a side hustle. After 5 long years grinding away in advertising, I finally decided it was time to take my passion for illustration and art, and fully dedicate myself to the craft. I’ve been full-time freelancing for a bit over a year now, and it’s been so incredibly rewarding. It finally feels like I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to. I’m able to take on projects that align with my value system, and allow myself to explore creatively in ways I never had time to before.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
How I got to where I am today was certainly not easy, and it still isn’t easy as I move forward. There were a lot of bumps in the road, a lot of existential crises along the way. Until I was 18, I always thought I wanted to be a fashion designer. My family is in fashion and it always felt like a natural place for me to be. I would draw clothes and characters and little worlds, so when the time for applying to colleges came around I applied to my dream school, Parsons the New School for Design in New York, and pursued fashion. After one year there, however, I quickly realized that fashion was not my thing. That even though I had been drawing clothing for years, I was always more so focused on the character, not so much the clothing design. My passion was not fashion design, but illustration. Once I made that big realization, I moved back to my hometown of LA and went to USC to study design, and later to illustration. (See first answer, don’t want to be redundant!)
I’ve learned so much throughout my journey to where I’m at. I learned that it’s really important to be kind and humble. Treat every project with love and respect. That it’s ok to switch over to a new career if it is more fulfilling and makes you happier. To always find joy in creativity, because that’s when your best work will come out.
The main takeaway from my art is that I want people to feel something with every piece, to feel seen. I pour myself into every piece I create, and I hope that it shows.
The project I’m most excited about it is coming up soon! I have my first ever solo exhibition at Junior High Los Angeles, titled Late Bloomer. Opening night is January 7th 2022, and it will be up until February 6th. This exhibit will feature 26 new pieces by me, including giclée prints, paintings and pottery. These are some of the most personal works I’ve ever created, exploring what it means to be ‘on time’ and full.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I would definitely take my friend to some of my favorite museums: LACMA, The Academy Museum (especially since they have an incredibly Miyazaki exhibit right now), MOCA and The Getty. If it’s a nice day out (which it almost always is), I would pick up sandwiches at Bay Cities, and take a scenic drive to Malibu down the PCH, and stop at a small beach to eat lunch and swim. I would see if there were any concerts that night, possibly at the El Rey, The Wiltern, The Fonda, etc and see if we could grab tickets. For dinner I’d go Mazal, Pizzana, Banderas, Jon & Vinnys or Botanica.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
This is tough because there are so many people along the way that have helped me get to where I’m at. I definitely have to thank my friends, Sophie Pennes of @urbanfarmsla and of course my sister Jenn Malka @jennmalka and my mom Patricia Malka for supporting me even as a kid.
I’ve also worked with some incredible people in the ad world who taught me so much and I still use the lessons I learned with them in my illustration. Byron Del Rosario @byrondelrosario was a CD at my old company, and he really allowed me to flourish as a designer and even an art director. As well as my old boss Chris Peel @chrispeel who was there during the very beginning stages of me as a creative. Also, I had so much encouragement from my fellow designs, Jon Donagy @jjuunnddyy and Andre Cabral @cabraldesign who always pushed me to do my own thing.