We had the good fortune of connecting with Stephanie Lopez and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Stephanie, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
My work-life balance is still a work in progress. It is not an easy skill to master. Not only do we encounter this issue later in life, but working hard is encouraged in today’s society. After earning my bachelor’s, I became aware of what it meant to have balance. I started to freelance, and had no idea what it meant to have balance. I was working from morning to night. My mindset was “the more work I do, the more I improve, and the more work I have for my portfolio.” That quickly caused me to dread the work I was doing, and I became more critical and negative about my work. Eventually, I started doubting whether I was cut out for a creative career. I just did not feel motivated to work.
What really saved me, was getting a planner and sticking to a set amount of work hours. Working from home is great, but it also means it gets so easy to just continue working. I learned I had to “clock out,” even if I had no boss telling me it’s time to go home. The planner helped in having a physical place to see project timelines, and also easing my anxiety as I checked off completed jobs. I am not perfect, and sometimes my old habits peak back in. However, I no longer feel dread when I sit down to illustrate.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to have a good work-life balance. Even if I was pushing to find more work, the work I was doing was not my best. I had an abundance of work to show off, but the quality was not improving. Recognizing one’s limits, and being able to manage one’s time is invaluable. I highly recommend buying or creating a planner!
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
When I was young, I called it a hobby. “I just like to draw,” I would say. When it came time to choose a career path, I was a senior in high school, and my art teacher at the time handed me an art college catalogue. I remember flipping through the booklet, and not really reading about the colleges in it. I don’t remember what changed my mind, but I decided to look some of the schools up. Then I applied to some, got into some, and in Fall of 2014 I found myself at Otis College of Art and Design.
At Otis, I was really encouraged to pursue topics and mediums that interested me, such as existentialism and human interaction. The projects I worked on then inform my illustrative style and themes today. I mainly work digitally, and like to focus on the “temperature” of colors to evoke whatever emotion I’m aiming for. I tend to favor projects that have to do with people’s inner thoughts or perspectives that seem broad but are actually quite unique. At heart, I am a storyteller, and I hope that comes across in anything I make.
I also work in printmaking at InHouse Media Group, a printer specializing in screen-printed products. My interest in printmaking also began at Otis. I fell in love with letterpress and screen-printing as a student due to the tactality that each form offers. It might seem like a contradiction—since my work is mostly digital—but I admire the work that goes into these forms of traditional printmaking. I also draw and design with a physical printed product in mind, and so, if I ever wish, my work can be translated into print.
The hardest part about getting to where I am was recognizing my interests and putting in the effort to find a place where said interests would be present. When I first looked for work, I thought I should be doing popular things like graphic design at a well established company, focusing on branding. Disclaimer, I’m not judging those who have and enjoy these types of jobs! I did end up working in a similar environment, and I realized my passion did not lie there. And while I enjoy freelancing, I also deeply missed working in and around print! Where better to do that than a print shop? And so I left my trendy 9-5 job, and set out to find a print shop. I won’t lie, I should have gone about it in a different order. I happen to get a bit lucky, but overall things worked out.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
My absolute favorite thing to do in LA is get brunch—eating in general. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, that has been hard to do. But bless the restaurants that allow takeout. I would start planning around a particular restaurant and branch out from there. There’s Tart, located on Fairfax in front of the Grove. LACMA is just down the street, too! When in Downtown, I’d hit up Blu Jam Cafe, and then take a stroll to the Last Bookstore. I know this one is technically not in Los Angeles specifically, but there’s got to be at least one beach day and Seabirds in Long Beach is a personal favorite. In the Culver City area there is Metro Cafe, and not far away there’s a cute small paper store called Hiromi Paper that I love to take people to.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I had many great professors and mentors along the way: Kim DeMarco, Rebecca Chamlee, Tucker Neel, and Maura Condrick to name a few. Without their encouragement, guidance, and teaching I wouldn’t have confidence in my work. Not only did they listen to and encourage my ideas, but they challenged me to improve and be proud in what I accomplished. I am forever, infinitely grateful to have had the opportunity to study under them.