The illustrator behind the hyper-colour artworks of Flavours of Sydney Edition 2 is Sydney-born, New York-based, Irene Feleo. Although living in the Big Apple, she will always have a soft spot for her hometown. We asked Irene about her creative life and her favourite spots to hang out when she’s home.

Tell us a bit about your background, how did you end up in illustration?

I studied digital media at university because I was interested in getting into animation and concept art. I always loved drawing and did it on the side while working at my day job in motion graphics for advertising. I got a bit tired of full time work and decided to freelance while figuring my life out – it was during this time that I started to really get interested in my personal illustration work and I started to think that I could turn it into my career rather than just a hobby.

What has been one of the biggest lessons you’ve learned from your illustration career?

Never stop making work. I am constantly learning and growing as an artist and I think that a large part of that is due to my constant creative anxiety to push myself and make work that I am happy with. Often times this doesn’t even involve the work that I do at my full time job as I always have personal projects in one form or another going. It has only been until recently that my full time job has started to feel like my personal style and creative vision can be utilised, which is a nice feeling.

Can you describe your style and how it’s evolved over time?

I am a bit all over the place style-wise. I feel like I am constantly experimenting with styles and subject matter that I am inspired by, but there are basic recurring elements in my work I suppose. I love playing with bright colour palettes, pattern, line and lately, strong shapes. I think over time my style has become a little more refined and minimal than when I originally started doing illustration. Before I would go nuts with detailed lines and complex subject matter but nowadays I really appreciate simple shapes and a focus on composition and colour.

What mediums do you use to create your work?

I mainly work on my computer using programs like Photoshop and Illustrator, but I also do some painting when I feel like a break from the screen. I like painting with gouache and watercolours and also just doing some illustration work in black ink pen as well.

What does a typical day at work involve for you?

I currently work at a studio in midtown NY called Spontaneous. A typical day involves morning coffee, catching up on emails and working through either a large project or juggling a couple of small ones. I work as part of the design/animation team so we do anything from explainer videos, branded art installations, content for social media and broadcast ads. Every day is different, which is a nice way to work.

How do you spend your Saturday mornings?

I usually sleep in (I am the number one fan of Saturday sleep-ins!) and then go and have a delicious brunch of some sort with coffee. After that I usually sit and draw a bit and usually have some sort of show running in the background.

Are you a morning person or night owl?

Definitely more of a night owl but lately I have been trying to change my ways! I get up early in the morning to go to the gym before work, and once out of bed, I can totally appreciate the quiet stillness of the morning. It’s a great way to start the day – I just need to get over the absolute battle it is to get out of bed first!

What other creatives are you inspired by?

I find that I am really inspired by people who are passionate about their work and have a strong drive. I just finished watching the Abstract documentary series on Netflix and the episode about Paula Scher was insanely inspiring. She is this incredible powerhouse of a woman that has been behind iconic logos and designs all over New York City since the ’80s and the sheer volume of her work and visual influence is insane.

The friends within the art/design/animation community I have made along the way have also been super inspiring and have been a reason I am excited to be doing this as a job.

What has been your proudest moment as an illustrator to date?

Exhibiting as part of Pictoplasma Berlin in 2015 was a huge illustrator highlight for me. Another one has definitely been this Flavours of Sydney Project! Combining my love of illustration and food has been a dream job to work on.

What’s next (tomorrow or 10 years from now)?

I am loving living and working in New York at the moment so am happy to do that for the next couple of years. Career wise I would like to work towards being a director; take the lead in art direction at my studio job and make an animation as a personal project to hone storytelling skills along with my own visual aesthetic.


Locals Know Best Questions

Do you have a favourite neighbourhood in Sydney – where is it and why?
I love my old neighbourhood Chippendale because it is super close to the city but a little bit more quiet and chilled out. It has a lot of super nice bars/cafes and restaurants sprouting up and the creative presence in the community is amazing with weekly exhibitions, events and murals everywhere.

We want to show our out-of-towner friends the best of Melbourne. Where should we take them for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and late night drinks?
Breakfast: Cuckoo Callay in Newtown
Lunch: Day BBQ at the Oxford Tavern in Petersham.
Dinner: Ippudo Ramen in Central Park.
Late Night Drinks: Frankies near Wynyard.

Where in Sydney could you spend an entire months salary in one hit?
Kinokuniya the book store, in The Galleries Victoria in the CBD. They have one of the nicest collections of design, illustration, animation and comic books ever and I could spend hours in there and definitely more than a month’s salary if I could afford to!


Rapid Fire 10

What is your favourite solitary food? What do you most enjoy eating on your own?
I love a good bowl of ramen. It literally feels like a hug in a bowl so I think it can be enjoyed equally on your own as it would be with a bunch of friends.

What’s your signature dish?
Fried rice or any form of noodle dish.

What food trend can’t you stand?
I am a bit wary of food mash-ups that seem to be more a novelty than tasty. Ramen burger and sushi burritos are interesting concepts but I would rather not ruin a beautiful thing haha. I also wasn’t feeling it when people started making ridiculously large milkshakes or burgers that looked pretty rather than being structurally sound.

Coffee with milk or straight up black?
Milk.

Sweet or savoury?
Savoury.

What turns you on?
Positive vibes, natural sunlight, lunch or dinner chat and lots of plants everywhere.

What turns you off?
Negative or rude people.

What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?
Tattooing.

Which three people, alive or dead, would you invite to your dinner party?
Lin Manuel Miranda, Frida Kahlo and Paula Scher. Lin Manuel Miranda is an insane musical genius, Frida is my artist idol and Paula Scher is an incredible veteran of graphic design in New York. Would be quite the party!

Are you a cat or dog person?
Dog person. I love cats but I am super allergic.


Irene is an illustrator, animator and designer from Sydney, currently based in Brooklyn, New York. Her work is inspired by travel, adventure, symbolism and personal stories. She employs strong and bold hyper colour palettes along with fine lines, dotted patterns and geometric shapes. Working across various mediums from digital and painting to animation – Irene loves approaching a brief with a fresh perspective and enjoys the challenge to communicate stories visually. Her favourite food is Ramen.  You can see more of her work at irenefeleo.com | Instagram @irenefeleo

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Flavours of Sydney Edition 2 is due for release May 2017.


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