Pretty Profiles: Samantha Curcio

Currently Listening To: The brand new Yo La Tengo and new Young Fathers album.
Favorite Music Videos: Classic favourite: Fell In Love with a Girl – The White Stripes, New Favourite: Subways – The Avalanches.


tell us about yourself and the kind of work you create.

Well, I’m Sam, I go by a lot of nicknames. Seriously, you name it, I’ve probably had it. Hamdog is my most common though, so hello. I live in Melbourne, Australia. Born and bred here actually! I studied graphic design, but my true love is illustration. I don’t know exactly how my love affair began, but it’s slowly crept up on me over time.

I like to create illustrations to make people laugh or at least smile. I’m a dad-joke kind of gal, so I appreciate puns and like to be corny where I can – that sort of thing. If I can get a reaction from someone with my work, then I’m happy. I am also really influenced by pop culture – specifically TV shows and movies that I’m into. My big love affair is with the Back to the Future trilogy (particularly 1 and 2, I mean c’mon… we all know 3 isn’t the best one). I love working with a lot of colour. Creating colour palettes is one of my favourite parts of the drawing process – which is funny because in real life I mostly wear black and white.


what is your typical day like? are there any challenges that you face on a consistent basis?

My worst enemy and biggest challenge is old father time. I work full time as a graphic designer, so I do all my illustration work after hours or on the weekends. It can be hard sometimes after a full day of work to come home to another computer screen and start all over again, especially when it’s been summer here and the nights have been so warm and everyone is out being social (let’s also not forget all the goodness on Netflix too). But once I’m in the groove I can get lost in my work for hours. I often use this drawing time to find new music and artists on Spotify that I can then play at work during the day, so I enjoy that aspect too. If I’m working on the weekends things are a lot more relaxed. I usually only have one or two jobs on at a time, so I can pace myself and dedicate Saturday to one job, and Sunday to the other. Then if I finish them early, I can treat myself to a nice dinner, or to leaving the house. Oh boy!


your work combines illustration and design together so nicely! can you tell us a bit about your background in both realms and how you juggle the two?

As I mentioned, I studied graphic design so I’ve always had full time work in that area. The good thing about graphic design is that is that in a typical day you’re not always working on the same singular job. So some of my day could be wayfinding, some could be branding, some could be creating iconography…etc. I remember I initially found myself drawn to (pun intended) creating icons, and the challenge of saying so much with so little detail. I think the structure from my graphic design background has definitely helped inform my personal illustration work. I rarely work freehand, and am not the greatest sketcher. If you looked at my initial sketch for an idea, and the finished product, it can be challenging to find a connection between the two! I know in my head what I can do, but it’s hard for me to translate that to a rough sketch.

Quite a few years ago I was working at an awful design job and it was bringing me down. No creativity, micro-managing, toxic atmosphere – just terrible. A friend and I who were both unsatisfied with how our creative lives were going at the time decided to start up an illustration blog (Every-Second). We both wanted a space where we could grow as illustrators and challenge ourselves. Initially we were doing an illustration on a theme every second day which is crazy! It was a lot of work, but I know that I 100% grew and became more confident in my illustration work and techniques through this exercise. In recent years some other friends and I were working on another similar idea where we create more editorial style illustrations from podcasts (Once More with Feels) which has been fun as well. Now I’m loving being a part of Pretty Picture Club where I work amongst such a great collective of talent and I’m challenged monthly. I feel very lucky! I’ve definitely gotten into a routine of doing illustration outside of my day job through these side projects over the years. It’s part of a normal day for me now.


do you have any tips for fellow designers who are better at making preliminaries digitally vs traditional freehand?

I would actually recommend practicing your sketches if you can, so you can build that skill of being able to show a client a sketch first. I actually wish I could sketch better! I feel like I show people these crummy pencil illustrations with the vision in my head, but all they see is an average sketch and they won’t be confident in the final product. It’s something I want to do more of. Sketching sketching sketching!


you’ve collaborated with a lot of fellow illustrators and designers. what part does collaboration play in your creative practice and growth as an artist?

Thank you! When I’m going to animate I usually create something with the intention of animating. I am just in very early stages of teaching myself the ins and outs of After Effects (AE), so I create the illustrations knowing what I can and can’t do with them once I pop them into AE. Depending on the job, let’s say if I want to get a little character to dance, my process is as follows. First I’ll create the character in illustrator, get it right and play around with colours (backgrounds and such). Then I’ll bring the character into AE and redraw elements in AE that I want to animate. So if I want the character to change its mouth and wink or something, I’ll draw those in as elements in AE so I can animate them. At the moment for all my legs and arms I use the RubberHose plugin for AE which is really fun to learn and play with. It has gotten simpler and more efficient too with it’s newest version, so that’s even better for me. I have been dreaming about doing this Rigging Academy online course so I can take my animations to the next level, but I haven’t had time to get onto it yet. Animation is still very much out of my league, but I love that extra step of bringing an illustration to life with a little movement. It’s very rewarding!


you have some nice animations in your portfolio. do you illustrate with the intent of animating things, or do you decide to animate things after they’re done? what does your animation process look like?

I love learning new techniques and tricks from other friends and illustrators doing wonderful things. It can be mind blowing when someone you’re working with shows you a small thing you hadn’t learnt before in Illustrator of AE and it just completely changes the way you work. Game changer! I really enjoy feeling like every new piece I do is an evolution of my style and skillset and working with other people is another way to evolve that process. I find it’s much more productive as an illustrator and designer to be open to sharing your work with other people and asking for feedback. If you’re not open, then I feel like you can’t grow.


what is the prettiest picture you’ve made recently?

I have recently completed my first piece for a gallery show ever, which is really exciting for me! I usually draw a lot for myself, so to be drawing with the intention of other people viewing it in a gallery is both really exciting and scary! The piece for the show hasn’t been released yet so here’s a International Women’s Day piece I did recently. It was fun playing with the colour palette on this one and thinking of different characteristics I could add to the shapes.