Career & Jobs

Drawing Artistic Inspiration With Illustrator Megan Rose Ruiz

Megan Rose Ruiz is a traditional painter and illustrator who runs an independent business in Los Angeles. Originally, Ruiz moved to LA in order to join the animation industry. Most notably, she worked as a Visual Development Artist on The Super Mario Bros. movie.

“I’ll forever be amazed at how she can dive headfirst into a design with a black sharpie and nine times out of ten end up with something worthy enough to frame on a wall.” offers Travis Ruiz, Art Director.

Her clients include Illumination Entertainment, Sony Pictures Animation, DreamWorks TV and Feature Animation, Sesame Workshop, Guru Studios, Spin Master, The Animation Guild, and Character Design Quarterly. Currently, Ruiz spends most of her time building up her small business by painting traditionally, packing shop orders, and making videos for social media. Megan Rose Ruiz joins Forbes to discuss her broad career path in illustration and art.

Goldie Chan: Hello Megan, thanks for joining us. What has your greater career path been?

Megan Rose Ruiz: I became interested in art at a young age while playing video games like Kingdom Hearts, Final Fantasy, and Atelier Iris. I paused games to draw characters, or copy character art from the game booklets. I studied illustration at Ringling College of Art and Design. Immediately after graduating in 2019, I moved out to Los Angeles and started working as Visual Development Artist and Character Designer.

I really prefer working on shows when they’re still in development. I like pitching what a show could look like, rather than changing my style to fit a franchise. I want my personal voice to be included in the projects I work on, and that’s really only possible in the development stages. The only downside is that it could take 3-5 years for these projects to come out! Often, the projects never come out at all.

In late 2021, I had to transition away from full time work in animation, due to severe mental health struggles. While working for a studio, I had a mental breakdown which manifested in almost daily meltdowns and flashbacks. In my experience, deadlines are deadlines. It didn’t matter how nightmarish my daily life was, the work was still there for me to finish, and quickly.

After a long stay in the hospital, I pivoted to being an independent artist and entrepreneur. I took a giant leap of faith, because I had no idea if it was going to work out. If the lovely people who follow me on social media hadn’t been interested in my personal work, I have no idea where I would be today. I’ve owned my business for a little more than a year now, and I’m beyond satisfied. I love that my silly doodles bring so much joy to other peoples’ homes. I have the incredible gift of making someone smile or laugh, and I do not take that for granted.

Chan: What has been your favorite project that you’ve worked on?

Ruiz: Definitely my art book! Bloom is a collection of my paintings and sketches, and was only possible due to Kickstarter backers. I spent most of 2022 working on the artwork for the project.

While looking through my sketchbooks, I found hundreds of doodles, experiments, paintings, and illustrations that I never posted online. I never stop drawing. I realized how much context was missing when I just posted a final illustration. The amazing little creatures in my sketches deserved more care and time than a social media post. I wanted to create a beautiful book filled with my artwork, paired with all of the doodles that preceded it.

Something that’s really special to me about Bloom is that I own all of the work in it. I designed all of the images independently. Everything in the book is something I wanted to include, rather than something a publisher or agent wanted.

Chan: How would you describe your artistic brand?

Ruiz: First and foremost, I’m very honest. My brand isn’t faceless whatsoever, because I don’t understand the point of professionalism or manners. My authenticity comes through in my videos, and that’s what people like about me. Art creation is an incredibly personal, messy, and sometimes stressful process. In order to share my art, I had to really let my guard down, and learn to be okay with hundreds of people knowing very intimate and vulnerable things about me. So I’m very genuine, even when I’m acting as a business or “brand.”

All of my work has a bit of humor. I like drawing weird little guys with funny faces. But I think most people would describe my art as cute, whimsical, and feminine. Nature, animals, and pretty ladies are common symbols for me!

Chan: What interesting projects are you currently working on?

Ruiz: Right now, I’m developing new products for my shop! I love selling original drawings and art prints, but sometimes I feel like I’m a colorful paper saleslady. Plushies, figures, and apparel feel more substantial! Physical products that people can include in their daily lives is what I’m hoping to make more of this year.

Chan: Who would you love to partner with?

Ruiz: I just adore universally likable characters like Hello Kitty, Pusheen, Line Friends, and Gudetama. My goal is to develop a character that’s popular enough to create an entire brand around.

As a traditional artist, there are a few products from brands that I use every single day. Sharpies, POSCA markers, and Copic markers are all materials that help me make all of my designs. It would be really fun for me to team up with those brands. Oh! And Procreate is another company I would love to collaborate with.

Chan: What changes would you like to see in your industry?

Ruiz: I really adore the art community. Artists are the most outspoken, generous, and supportive people on the planet. I love meeting other artists and entrepreneurs at conventions. So, there isn’t much I would change about them!

Animation studios, on the other hand, have a lot to improve on. First, supporting and accommodating marginalized employees. Animated movies really could do with their casts looking more like the people who actually make the films. There is a noticeable lack of diversity in animated movies. That should definitely change!

Chan: What trends are you excited for in 2023?

Ruiz: I’m not sure what’s going to be popular in the new year! Something I’ve really enjoyed consuming is Artist Studio Vlogs on YouTube and TikTok. I love hearing about the thought process behind the art, products, or business.

Chan: Any branding or career advice for this new year?

Ruiz: I really suggest that artists focus on, and indulge in their own interests. Don’t worry about making “good art” and just make exactly what you would enjoy looking at. I promise you aren’t the only person who will enjoy it. Be cringe. Make that hyper-specific fanart. My favorite artists are the ones who make insanely specific images. Every artist has such a unique story, life, and interests, and I love seeing that distinct personality in artwork.

For artists looking to sell online, my biggest suggestion would be to make sure it’s immediately clear on your social media or website that you’re an artist with stuff to sell. It’s totally fine to start off small with one or two products! That’s exactly how I started!

I highly suggest artists get on and utilize social media consistently. Quick doodles, photos of a workspace, or a work in progress are all more valuable to an audience than it is to the artist itself. So I suggest sharing it! Another tip I like to give to artists starting off is: if a social media post gets a bit more attention than expected, and people want to buy, just put up a preorder. Social media is REALLY quick and people will forget about wanting a product if they have to wait a few weeks to even put in an order.

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