Meet the Back to School Collection Artist: Monica Acedo

Artwork by Monica Acedo.

As you dive into our Back to School collection, you’ll see original artwork created by Mexico-based artist Monica Acedo. Monica’s youthful mash-ups of photos and illustrations look like school notebook doodles with a keen artistic eye, gracefully captured in a way that only a digital native could create. Her pieces are the perfect example of the intersection of physical and digital art.

Monica is part of our Project 1324 community, and she won the Tony Hawk Foundation’s #boards4better challenge earlier this year, which supports community-driven skateboard parks worldwide as a catalyst for social change. I talked with Monica about her artistic process, her thoughts on being a student in today’s digital-first world, and what it was like to meet Tony Hawk.

How did you get into art?

I’ve always loved art — it’s a way of sharing your own view of the world with others. I also really like philosophy. Since I was really little, I admired different artists — Van Gogh, Picasso, Monet, Lautrec, and Munch. I really like impressionists because they portray reality in a different and magical way, and that has always amused me, so that’s what I try to do too. I like to recreate things in a fun, cartoony way, and to show things through a different lens. That’s a really important part of who I am and what I like about art.

Tell us about your process and the tools you use.

I normally start sketching my work in paper and pencil, and afterward I take a picture of it with my iPad or cell phone to digitize it. Then, I work with Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Draw to do color blocking and make sure I like how it’s looking, and then I’ll design and fill it out. But I think that the sketching part is the most important piece to get it right.

As a young artist and student, do you think there’s a need to reinvent the ways we teach and learn?

Yes, there is definitely a gap and a difference between students and teachers. Sometimes when you’re in class and the teacher is speaking and you missed something, you need to ask the teacher to repeat it and everyone else has to sit through the teacher explaining it again too. This happens a lot and can be annoying for other students in the class.

But when I’m watching a YouTube video, I can play it on repeat 10 times if I want and no one cares. Recently, my 3D modeling teacher made little video tutorials for the class, and we all watched them on our own. When we had questions, we raised our hand and our teacher came over to help us. This was more effective because we were able to learn on our own at our own pace. I think we need more of this type of learning.

What gave you inspiration as you created artwork for this collection?

I get inspiration from my daily life and the things around me. I take a concept and turn it into something I can relate to and by doing that, I hope to make it something that sparks interest in viewers. I hope readers are affected by these illustrations — my goal is to make people see things differently.

What is your favorite piece in the collection, and why?

I have two — I like the piece with this interview because it’s my own self-expression of who I am. I also really like the cornerstone piece — the one with the iPad and the books in it — and I even put some of my favorite books in the illustrations. I’m really proud of it because it was easy for me to create since I related to it. My parents were teachers themselves, and they see things very differently from me. The access to the quantity of information we have today is amazing. My parents would spend hours in a library on research for something, but I can now get that same information from a quick Google search on my cell phone.

Let’s talk about Project 1324. What was the submission process like for #boardsforbetter, and what was it like meeting Tony Hawk?

I saw the project on Twitter and thought it was cool because I used to skate a long time ago. I knew I wanted to participate, but I wasn’t really hoping or expecting to win — I just did it for the fun of it. One day I got this email telling me I won, and I was shocked and excited because I had sketched it fast and made my drawing in two hours. I never thought it would be enough. It was the first time I realized my art actually means something more than my mom telling me I did a good job. It was a huge accomplishment.

I got to travel with my dad to San Diego, where I had never been, because of a drawing. It was truly amazing and heart-warming. I felt so special, and saw that my work actually meant something to someone. When I met Tony, he said he really liked my drawing, and I was just speechless. I think that experience really meant a lot to me and my path as an artist. It pushed me and made me believe I can do more and work even harder to be better.

What advice would you give to other aspiring illustrators and designers?

I think that you just need two simple things to be successful and happy: you have to really want it, and you have to work hard. Look for any opportunity to put your work out there, no matter how big or small. Don’t be afraid of criticism because it’s always going to be there. You have to be sure of what you want, and be prepared to work really hard to get there.

Read more articles about creativity in education in our Back to School collection.