Illustrator Highlight: Anna Hurley
If you don’t like having fun then you’ll hate Anna Hurley’s work. Her illustrations are bursting with energy. Her characters are full of life. We want to live in the environments she dreams up for her characters. On top of being incredibly kind, energetic and a delight to work with we just couldn’t get her work out of our head. Anna is a San Francisco based illustrator. When she’s not creating magic for Asana she is busy working for clients such as Olio, Chen Design, and Letterboxd. We recently took some time to ask her a few questions about her work, her process and what she likes doing when she’s not illustrating. Enjoy!
Tell us a little about yourself and your work.
My obsession with illustration began when I started watching as many Merrie Melodies cartoons as I could at a young age. I remember noticing how they were illustrated and which ones I liked the most. I watched many other cartoons, like most kids did, and some of my favorites included: Looney Tunes, Ren & Stimpy, The Fairly Odd Parents, Samurai Jack, X-Men, and Batman. I was also very obsessed with all things Disney, namely Alice in Wonderland, Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin. I grew up in California, so my family and I went to Disneyland quite often, basically every year. That kind of exposure to whimsical worlds and exaggerated illustrations heavily influenced me. I've also long had a great admiration for vintage and mid-century illustration and artists, and that's reflected in the shapes behind my drawings as well.
Describe a typical work day for you.
I start out every project by doing as much research as I have time for in order to feel inspired and get in the zone. I'll then start brainstorming and sketching out ideas for concepts as well as color combinations, and after I've sketched out what I think the composition should be, I get to work on drawing. The sketch phase is always the most difficult for me but the most rewarding when I feel confident in the composition or concept. This whole process could take an entire day of me sitting and not taking any breaks. I tend to snap immediately out of the zone if I'm interrupted, so working nonstop during the day gets me into the creative flow, but I also value breaks and my mental health, so I'm working on improving that aspect of my typical work day.
Which part of the creative process do you enjoy most?
I really enjoy doing research and trying to come up with concepts because it makes me feel super inspired to start drawing. Even just looking at some work from my favorite artists and designers for just a few moments at the beginning of my day can make me feel very excited and ready to work. Actually, I also really enjoy the last parts of the creative process: the editing and refining, even if it's super subtle or small or maybe only I would notice. It's that little extra touch, that last hour or so of nitpicking where the piece can truly improve.
Was there a striking moment in your life where you knew you had to become an Illustrator?
I went to a liberal arts college because I wasn't sure if I could actually make a career out of design and illustration, and it was after I met many of my closest friends that inspired me and encouraged me and pushed me to be better and try harder that I realized illustration and design was what I wanted to do all day everyday.
What mediums do you enjoy working with most?
I've worked in the digital illustration space for most of my career, but I do enjoy printmaking, such as letterpress, RISO printing, and silk-screening.
If you had unlimited resources, what would your dream project look like?
I would make a board game or a video game, I think the possibilities there are so unique and unlike anything I've ever tried before, it would be such a fun adventure!
Outside of your work, what other hobbies do you enjoy?
I play a lot of video games (currently: Undertale and Shovel Knight) and board games (recently played Pandemic and that was so fun!!). I read a lot of books (currently: Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn series). I watch a lot of movies (recently saw: If Beale Street Could Talk and it was such a beautiful and heartbreaking story). Because my work requires me to be motionless for most of the day, I love getting outside and cycling as well.
What is your favorite show you’re watching right now?
I'm really obsessed with The Good Place, it's a truly unique and hilarious show. Recently, I rewatched Party Down which I think still holds up.
What was the last book you read that you really enjoyed?
Scott Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora is such a fun caper. I also read Bryan Lee O'Malley's Seconds which was such a short, sweet, lovely tale.
What is a common creative block for you and how do you get unstuck?
I have a hard time simply starting a project sometimes. If I'm not feeling very inspired, I can procrastinate badly. It's especially bad because I'm actually pretty quick once I get started and I know this about myself, so I'll freely procrastinate until I get too stressed and have to start the project. I'm working on improving this aspect of my creative process.
Outside of design, what do you do that inspires your creative pursuit?
There are few things better than live music to truly make you feel like humans were meant to always be creating and experiencing beautiful things.
Are you an early bird or a night owl?
Early bird for sure, I love coffee.