We had the good fortune of connecting with Dana SanMar and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Dana, we’d love to hear what makes you happy.
One of my primary sources of happiness is working on what I love, working as an illustrator. Even though it comes with challenges and some days are stressful; It is very fulfilling to know that I reached my goal to work as an artist and know that my art will potentially impact children’s lives. Of course, another huge source of happiness is my family and friends; I’m very grateful for their unconditional love and support, and It also makes me happy to be a support for them. Finally, there are small things during my day that make me very happy, like brewing a fresh cup of coffee, watering my plants, and hugging my cats.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I am a professional illustrator; it has been a long journey to come to this point. I started as a graphic designer in my country Colombia. After working for two years in a marketing agency, I realized that I wanted to pursue a career as an illustrator. The illustration market at the time in Colombia was small and underpaid, and there wasn’t many options for postgraduate studies in illustration. I knew I had better chances of exposing my work and better job opportunities if I studied abroad. At the moment I didn’t know any English. So my first step was to enroll in a cultural exchange to come to the U.S. as an Au Pair and learn English. My goal was to learn English well enough to apply to an art school and work on my illustration portfolio. The family I lived with as an Au Pair is very creative. I learn a lot from them, and they encouraged me and helped me to reach my goals. After two years of being back in Colombia working as a freelance graphic designer and some small works on illustration, I was accepted with a scholarship to the Savannah College of Arts and Design for their M.F.A. in illustration. Being accepted to SCAD was very challenging in a lot of ways. Even tho I was awarded a scholarship, I still couldn’t afford to come to the U.S. and study here for three years without working and not having any income. There were a couple of moments in which I thought that even achieving the things I wanted like learn English, be accepted to an excellent art school, have a scholarship, I still would have to let go of this opportunity due to lack of resources. I was fortunate to have family living here in Atlanta, and thanks to them and my parents’ support, I was able to come to study at SCAD. Finally, In the fall of 2019, I graduated, and in January 2020, I started working as a freelance illustrator. Right now, I’m being represented by The Bright Agency and work illustrating children’s and young adult’s books. Pursuing the goal of becoming an illustrator was a long journey full of challenges and moments where giving up seemed the only option. Still, I’m proud of myself for overcoming those moments, and I’m immensely grateful for all the people that helped me along the way.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
One of my favorite parts of living in Atlanta is having access to fantastic hiking places just one hour away. Some of my favorites are Panther creek, Cloudland Canyon, and Raven Cliff. My favorite tea place is Dr. Bombay’s Underwater Tea Party, and I love the variety of restaurants and places you find on Buford highway.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
This one is hard to answer cause a lot of people have helped me throughout my story, but the most important is my family. My parents have always encouraged me to be true to myself and follow my goals. Their love for knowledge and art was a huge influence growing up and shaped who I am today. My sisters and close friends have been a source of encouragement, and my family living here in the U.S, my Aunts and uncle, were a significant support once I moved from my home country. I’m also very grateful to the SCAD Atlanta Illustration department; the professors are incredible, and I owe them a big part of who I am as a professional.