Maria Sweeney is a Moldova-born, New Jersey based freelance illustrator. Recent graduate of Moore College of Art and Design, Maria Sweeney has worked extensively in digital, oils, and other traditional mediums which are showcased in her commission works and sketches. Aside from illustrating her current project, In A Rut Comics, recreational time is generally used in some sort of artistic outlet ranging from working on self-published zines to sketching a possible unhealthy amount of portraits.
Tell us a little bit about your hustle and your happiness journey.
I wasn’t always outwardly artistic growing up. I wasn’t a child that drew the moment she could hold a pencil or was entertained in arts and crafts class. But with the start of high school, so came drawing to occupy some of my class time. By junior year, I was teaching myself daily how to draw, using online resources, the library, and anything I could get my hands on to improve. Getting accepted into art school continued much of the discipline I was already applying, but with tenfold the amount of responsibility and workload. Art school is notoriously difficult and as a recent graduate, the need to hustle in order to progress in my field is just as much as it was when I was hustling to get into art school.
What do you do to de-stress after or during a long, stressful day?
Like most artists, and as ironic as it is, to de-stress myself I usually end up churning out a few sketches in my moleskine or painting a quick piece digitally. Sometimes I don’t need a break from art-making, just from the specific piece of art itself. Drawing something that isn’t for my comic project or for a commission can provide the energy I need to continue these projects. Reading, listening to music, snuggling with my bunny are also great alternatives for me to do if doodling isn’t cutting it!
Where do you go for inspiration?
I take a lot of inspiration from classical painters, particularly those from the Pre-Raphelite Brotherhood period. Some of my favorite painters come from this group: Waterhouse, Rossetti, Millias — the list goes on. Classical and Neo-Classical work will always be a source of inspiration for me.
Other sources of inspiration for me are alternative manga (such as Taiyo Matsumoto and Kyoko Okazaki) and indie comics (the Tamaki cousins, Glyn Dillion — to name a few.)
Often times, I am most inspired after reading work by some of my favorite creators.
What are you currently reading or listening to (podcasts, books, blogs, etc.)?
The last book I read was really great, it’s a comic called My Friend Dahmer by John “Derf" Backderf. It tells the story of the notorious serial killer, Jeffery Dahmer but from a very unique perspective. The creator of the comic actually grew up with Dahmer and the combination of thorough research and first-hand experiences interacting with him was really surreal to read about. The art is great and the storytelling feels much like the pacing of a movie — which is cool because it’s actually being made into one now!
As for blogs and anything else, I read MuddyColors blog regularly. The blog has rotating writers, all different artists and art directors in the illustration and fine arts field. Many of the artists that contribute are ones I look up to and it’s very insightful about how the business of illustration functions.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone just starting their happy hustle journey?
My advice is to establish if hustling is something you actually want to do for your career. While often fulfilling and inspiring, hustling isn’t always happy and by definition, it isn’t easy. I wish creating art, getting paid for illustrating, and having consistent commission work wasn’t always a hustle, but it makes me happy in the long run and a sense of accomplishment. Art functions as both an outlet and a source of income, but both are work and require quite a lot of hustling! I would advise others to find what makes them want to hustle and to keep in mind that hustling is hard, but can be very rewarding.
What are some of your favorite quotes or words to live by?
As cliché as it may be, the painter and teacher Bob Ross often says it best, “You do your best work if you do a job that makes you happy.” And while art isn’t always easy, it ultimately makes me happy and happy enough to want to continue to illustrate.
In one word, sum up your life as a Happy Hustler.
What are the three core values of your hustle and how do those values relate to your happiness?
Discipline is essential — without discipline, art wouldn’t be made. When I’m disciplined, I can see the rewards through work being done on time, or improvement in a particular area of drawing that I lack in. Another core value would be to remain opened to criticism. Like most, this isn’t always easy for me, but it’s imperative to anyone wanting to improve in anything they do. Thankfully, I am blessed with supportive friends, often artistic ones themselves, that are able to give me constructive input and help me improve. Learning to rest is a final core value that I think is important. I don’t always do it and it seems contradictory to being disciplined, but they actually work together. Just as important as it is to be focused in illustrating, it’s also important to be disciplined in being healthy, getting enough rest, learning to take breaks when you are drawing, and allowing yourself time to go out of the studio and enjoy time with others. Often times, experiences outside of my work end up being reflected in it.