Victoria Borges grew up with a pencil in her hand, but until she began her first year as a student in VCU’s School of the Arts, where she majored in communications arts, she had never considered illustration as a viable career path.
“I thought of people as artists, but I didn’t think of being an artist as a modern day profession,” says Borges.
Borges is the first of four illustrators the Visual Arts Center of Richmond has commissioned to illustrate its 2016-17 course catalogs. Borges illustrated the Summer 2016 catalog, which appeared in Style Weekly this Tuesday. The catalog is also available for pick-up at VisArts’ 1812 West Main Street location.
Borges’ work will be followed by that of illustrators Jared Boggess (Fall 2016), Holly Camp (Winter 2017) and Maria Fabrizio (Spring 2017). Each artist will serve as an illustrator-in-residence, offering a workshop or lecture in conjunction with the release of his or her catalog.
“We love that our catalogs are getting a new look,” says Stefanie Fedor, executive director of the Visual Arts Center of Richmond. “But what we love more is that we’re discovering and elevating great talent. Our students will learn from artists who are changing the landscape of digital art.”
Borges draws sketches in pencil, which she refines before scanning them and importing the digital images into Adobe Photoshop. In Photoshop, she uses watercolor washes to create layers of color that allow her to retain the physical textures of the original drawing.
“I never want my work to appear computerized. For me, I like the look of paint—and what you can do with it—way more,” says Borges. “My favorite thing is looking at the work of an illustrator who I know works digitally, then trying to figure out how they did it. It’s fascinating to see how much you can get out of pixels.”
After graduation, Borges went to live in Vienna, Austria—her mother’s Austrian—and she loved that illustration was a career she could take with her. In Vienna, she designed T-shirts for a screenprinting studio out of Budapest and an illustrated map of Vienna for a travel guide. All the while, she maintained her U.S. contacts.
Today, Borges lives in Richmond’s Museum District and is a regular illustrator for Richmond Magazine. She has worked for clients such as Richmond Bridge, The Chicago Reader, Printa and Viction:ary and says she’s still learning how to balance her freelance work with her personal projects.
“It’s so important to work on personal projects in between client work. You have to have your own voice, and personal projects are how you find your style,” says Borges.
She advises people who want to pursue a career in illustration to practice working under deadlines and to put together a portfolio—even if they’re afraid the work’s not good enough.
“A lot of people say you have to have one consistent style and that that’s how people will find you,” says Borges. “What I say is if you like to use graphical solutions to attack some problems and painterly solutions for others, then do that. It showcases the breadth of your work.”
Borges will lead a workshop, “Illustration and Digital Media,” at VisArts on Saturday, June 11 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.