Abbey Lossing on what it's like to be a staff illustrator at Buzzfeed and Vice News

Abbey explains dealing with tight deadlines, first learning to create humorous and relatable gifs, and gives advice to those looking for a staff illustration role.

You may have spotted illustrator Abbey Lossing's bright, patterned work in Vice News or BuzzFeed. The Brooklyn-based freelancer worked as an in-house illustrator at both news publications, but she's also created digital work for The New York Times, Facebook, Google and more. With a focus on stylish characters and relatable hints of humour, Abbey's illustrations and gifs are enjoyed by a wide audience.

Recently signed to agency Handsome Frank, we asked Abbey to provide insight into how she acquired an impressive list of clients, and what it’s really like to be a staff illustrator at a digital news brand.

Abbey created her own clothes at high school, expecting to major in fashion design before switching to illustration after realising her love of drawing. After graduating she landed a job as an illustrator at BuzzFeed. Abbey says sharing work on different social media platforms is a great marketing tool, and most of her new clients discovered her work on the likes of Instagram and Behance.

Her style includes a range of intricate and interesting patterns.

"I’m inspired by textile design," she says. "I love collecting samples of interesting patterns and prints, anything from fabric to vintage wallpaper.

"I always try to integrate an interesting pattern into my illustrations, whether it be on the subjects clothes, the wallpaper, or drapes in the background."

But beyond illustration, Abbey is also widely recognised for her gifs, which often visualise the more humble moments in our lives, such as attempting exercise on a living room floor or cleaning the house with the company of a cat. She says it’s important that her characters are relatable.

"I love illustrating simple moments of everyday life, and I think that type of subject matter needs to be relatable in order successfully engage with its viewers," she says. "I try to only make things that feel authentic and relatable to me, and just hope that I’m not alone in thinking something is quirky or comical."

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As a staff illustrator for BuzzFeed and Vice, Abbey was able to focus on improving her skills. After graduation, it provided her with steady work which she wouldn’t have had if she’d gone straight to freelance.

"I was able to spend all day drawing and making gifs, and I also became very comfortable working under tight deadlines," she says.

Working efficiently was an important skill to learn during her time as a staff illustrator. Learning to create gifs and simple animations while working at BuzzFeed has also massively contributed to her personal and professional career.

To create a gif, Abbey will begin with a few rough sketches in Photoshop. Photoshop is also where she carries out most of her animation as well.

"I start with a rough animated wireframe, and build up to the full-colour animation. I use Adobe After Effects if I need to add camera movement, but I always start in Photoshop," she says.

Similarly for her illustrations, she’ll start with a digital sketch and finish the final colour version all within the same Photoshop file, because "it’s easy to move things around and scale specific sections in order to really lock in a composition that I’m happy with".

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"You need to be able to work quickly and efficiently," Abbey advises to other illustrators looking to land a staff illustration role.

"I think it’s also important to feel comfortable working digitally, whether it be in Photoshop or Illustrator. Other than that, I think it's important to focus on companies that would be a good visual fit with your own personal style.

"And don’t just wait around for the perfect job to come along. Keep drawing and making things to build your portfolio."

Abbey’s recently finished a few extended projects for The New York Times, which unusually provided her with more time to create several illustrations and animations surrounding one topic.

"I also had the opportunity to illustrate a few New York City-themed patterns for Target along with four other NYC-based artists," she says. "In terms of personal projects, I’ve been screen printing different illustrations on T-shirts and tote bags, which has been a nice change of pace after working digitally for years."

She hopes to print limited edition illustrations as well.

See more of her illustrations and gifs in this feature. 

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