Amsterdam-based artist and commercial illustrator Asia Orlando specialises in creating vibrant, playful images that pull viewers in with intricate details. We caught up with her to learn more about her work, how she switched from interior architecture design, and why storytelling is so important to her.

It’s easy to get lost in the illustrations of Asia Orlando, but that’s no bad thing. With her incredible use of colour and a canny eye for details, characters and stories, her artwork effortlessly draws you into a world you won’t want to leave. Don’t just take our word for it, though; with clients including Penguin and Dorling Kindersley, plus representation by Closer & Closer, Asia’s art is a proven hit, which is only set to get bigger.

Like many creatives, Asia’s journey started in childhood when her parents noticed and nurtured her passion for art. During high school, she delved into art history and took classes that were rigorous but incredibly rewarding. Here, she started learning foundational drawing and painting skills, as well as getting a grasp of composition, colour and shadow. “It was hard work, but it’s where I learned the essentials that still influence my art today,” she tells Creative Boom.

The balance between making art and making a living is difficult, so initially, Asia chose a middle path where she pursued interior architecture and design. However, it didn’t quite satisfy her creativity. “During my university years, I found myself more drawn to
artistic subjects like painting and poster design, rather than the technical aspects,” she explains. “After completing my master’s degree in fine arts and gaining experience in architecture studios, I realised my heart wasn’t in it.”

This led Asia to take a bold leap towards the world of illustration. “I started from scratch, building my portfolio and engaging with the online community, and gradually, my work began attracting clients more and more,” she reveals. “In parallel with that, I started creating content on social media, talking about everything related to the illustration career, sharing and teaching as much as possible, and slowly built a personal brand that I’m proud of.”

It’s a move that paid off, but that doesn’t mean the move from design to illustration wasn’t a scary one. Asia admits it was intimidating, but the lure of creative tasks like 3D modelling, painting and poster design was more powerful than her technical studies.

“This blend of passion, challenges, and fulfilment made switching to illustration not just a career move but a personal journey towards doing what I love most,” she adds. “A big shout out to all who believed in me and supported me in many moments of doubt!”

Of course, that doesn’t mean Asia’s design background was for nothing. On the contrary, it still plays a huge role in her work today. “While I shifted gears from architecture to illustration, the skills and principles I picked up haven’t been forgotten,” she says. “My background in design sneaks into my illustrations in subtle yet impactful ways. The technical skills, the understanding of layout, composition, and even a bit of theory all come in handy.

“It’s like having a toolbox; even though I’m building something different now, the tools I gathered along the way are still valuable. And here’s a fun twist: all that knowledge about architecture? It’s helped create spaces that spark creativity for both work and living. As a creative soul and someone who is quite sensitive to their environment, the ambience around me plays a big part in how I feel, my mood, and ultimately, the art I create.”

Outside of her design background, Asia’s biggest influences include the world around here, whether that’s everyday life or nature. “I’ve always had this special bond with nature, especially animals, and I think that’s pretty evident in my work,” she adds. “It’s a source of inspiration that has stayed constant over the years, and I don’t see it changing anytime soon.

Lately, though, folklore-inspired characters have been weaved into her work: “This new exploration of folklore and fantasy has added a fun dimension to my work, reconnecting me with the fascination I’ve always had for folklore, even back in my history and literature classes.”

Elsewhere, Asia’s art history education means that the greats such as Paul Gauguin and Henri Rousseau have a special place in her heart. “What I adore about Gauguin is his daring approach to colour – the bold, contrasting, vibrant hues he used,” she enthuses. “He wasn’t afraid to colour the world as he saw fit – there’s a dreamlike, almost poetic quality to his work that resonates with
me.

“Then there’s Rousseau, with his paintings filled with oversized plants, vivid flowers, and quirky animals peeking through the foliage. These elements mirror the details I love including in my work.”

These colourful, playful qualities are unmissable in Asia’s illustrations; they’re how she defines her style. “What I think sets my style apart is how I blend vibrant, eye-catching colours with intricate details,” she elaborates. “Because what I want you to do is to stop and take a closer look – to find the story behind every piece.

“Whether it’s a tiny texture or a subtle pattern, these little intricacies add depth and intrigue to each piece. This love for details makes my art suitable for many sorts of projects, from the pages of a magazine or a gallery to the front of a cool product package.

“I love tossing in fun, imaginative elements and characters – going deeper into this whimsical world, each illustration becomes a story in itself and a quirky narrative.”

Indeed, storytelling is a foundational element of Asia’s illustrations. Surprisingly, it is something she only began focusing on more recently in her career. “The ability to create worlds and characters from scratch and tell a story that is universally understood and evokes certain emotions, regardless of the language spoken, is truly beautiful, powerful, and universal,” she adds.

“Personally, certain ways of storytelling are very healing for me, as I allow myself to play with my characters while deciding on their appearances, adventures, or struggles. Whether it’s through the whimsical characters I create or the intricate scenes I paint, each illustration is a narrative waiting to be explored.”

Asia’s enthusiasm for her work is infectious, yet it’s also a motivator that keeps her going even through tough times. In her opinion, the ability to create new worlds, characters and narratives from scratch is more than just an artistic pursuit; it’s a deeply fulfilling process. “The constant exploration of new themes, techniques, and ideas keeps me going and excited about my work.

“Experimenting and learning are crucial for me, as well as looking for new ways of transforming ideas into new pieces and projects. I think it’s very important to create space for yourself to break habits and how you’re used to doing certain things. It’s the best way to obtain new and unexpected results that will make you discover new things in your work. That’s why I’m very excited about finishing my first self-published book and my latest pursuits in the animation field.”

Despite her excitement for art, though, Asia doesn’t lose sight of the importance of downtime. In fact, the concept of productive rest is one of the most useful pieces of advice she wants to transfer to other illustrators.

“How many of us freelancers fall into the mindset that if we’re not working, we’re not earning or worse, we’re being lazy and feel guilty? It’s a common trap! When you’re deeply passionate about what you do, and there’s no clear boundary like a 9-to-5 schedule or a boss to define your working hours, the relationship with work can become a bit complex. That’s why it’s very important to take care of yourself by allowing time to rest and enjoy things outside of work.”

Rest and relaxation allow you to return to work with even more energy and enthusiasm, which is more than useful in the ever-changing world of illustration. “This job is anything but monotonous or boring; it’s filled with new challenges, new stories to tell, and growth opportunities all the time,” says Asia.

“Each project brings its own learning experiences, and overcoming these, evolving with every new task makes my work so fulfilling. And I get excited every time I get to see the completed work. It’s a great feeling.

“I often find that I’m most proud of my most recent project, where I’ve had the chance to really push myself. It is incredibly satisfying to achieve what I set out to do visually, especially when it aligns perfectly with my initial vision.”

As for what the future holds, Asia’s goal is to keep learning and evolving. “One of the most exhilarating aspects of this profession is its dynamic nature, coupled with my evolving interests in various techniques, visual art skills, and tools,” she concludes.

“I aim to keep pushing the boundaries of my creative universe, introducing more original characters, and exploring deeper into magical and whimsical narratives. Additionally, I’m working on my own illustrated book and plan to continue creating more of my YouTube videos, where I share what I’ve learned about the illustration path and offer behind-the-scenes looks at different projects and tutorials.

“It’s incredibly rewarding to engage in conversations and connect with fellow creatives and share all I know.”

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