A city girl with a rich imagination and deep talent, Bella Pilar moved from hometown New York to Sunny Los Angeles where she follows her passion for painting. Her whimsical, feminine artwork takes a traditional rendering style and pushes it to a pretty new place with fashionable and fanciful ladies who lunch, live life and take flight in artwork that is as fresh and fun as it is inspiring. Trained in fine art and fashion, her ties to the world of style began with a career in the fashion and beauty industry before diving into art, her true love. A prolific artist, Bella now brings her signature style to life with paint and brushes. Her artwork has wide appeal, appearing in advertising, books, magazines, and for fashion and beauty companies and retailers.
PERSONAL WORK ABOVE: Personal work
Fall 2012 saw a career-defining moment for Bella when she was tasked with creating the event artwork for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York City. With long-time client Papyrus as a proud supporter of the week-long fashion event, Bella's luxe fashionistas appeared on press passes and the cover of the show schedule. A select few of Papyrus' most fashion-forward greeting cards - many of which featured Bella's stylish designs - were on display in the foyer at Lincoln Center. Attendees were invited to share their Fashion Week experience by sending their favorites to family and friends with Papyrus providing complimentary postage to anywhere in the world. Bella was on hand for 'Meet-the-Artist' signing event, saying "I grew up in a high rise on 62nd and Broadway... and cut through Lincoln Center to and from school... So having my artwork floating around Lincoln Center during the biggest fashion event in New York has a lot of personal meaning, it's a piece of home for me." Visit Bella's blog to read more about her first Fashion Week experience as the featured illustrator.
FASHION WEEK 2012 ABOVE: Artwork and photos from Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week
This past February, Bella returned to New York to celebrate Fashion Week for the second season in a row. Her posh cover girls appeared on the show schedule and press passes again, and on the sought-after VIP tote bag. She was commissioned to illustrate a custom-designed, foil-embossed Papyrus greeting card for the Mercedes-Benz-sponsored event, and was on hand to sign cards at the Papyrus display in Lincoln Centre. When she worked in New York as a makeup artist, Bella spent many seasons doing makeup in Bryant Park (where the shows were held until recent years). "It's very cool to have my hand in it again, years later," she says, "it feels like I've come full circle." Visit her blog for sketches and some behind-the-scenes photos.
FASHION WEEK 2013 ABOVE: Artwork and photos from Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week
Bella illustrated her first greeting card for Papyrus only a few short years ago, and she has since risen to the top. Her artwork has become a signature offering at Papyrus and it was a collection of her greeting cards that was chosen for a spring end-cap display in Target stores across the US and Canada. Profiled in the 'Behind the Card' section of Papyrus' website, Bella's illustrations are described as "sophisticated and feminine," known for "exquisite, exotic and chic clothing, joie de vivre and refinement." With cards that celebrate life's momentous occasions like the birth of a child to the smaller pleasures of great friends and fabulous shoes, Papyrus has introduced Bella's artwork to millions of people across North America. In addition to the many greeting card designs she has illustrated, over the years she has created art for gift bags and boxes, notepads, limited-edition prints and figurines, and a canvas tote bag that was featured in a recent episode of the CBS sitcom, 2 Broke Girls.
PAPYRUS ABOVE: Greeting cards, stationery and gift bags for Papyrus
With ad and marketing work for Tiffany & Co., Bloomingdale's, Timex and Target, Bella has been able to appeal to luxury market and mass market consumers equally well here in the US. Overseas clients aim for high end consumers when working with her, including trendy Hong Kong department store LCX, Italian retailers La Gardenia (makeup) and La Perla (luxury lingerie), and the Middle East's first online fashion magazine, Savoir Flair. She recently illustrated for Rosato Collections based in Spain. Specializing in luxury holiday wear, the atelier featured a chic beach goddess on shopping bags and tags. Editorial clients include Elegant Bride, Glamour, Marie Claire, Connecticut Bride and VIV Magazine in the US, Vogue Mexico, Vogue Latin America and L'Uomo Vogue overseas.
ADVERTISING + MARKETING LEFT: Rosato Collections / TOP RIGHT: JAFRA Cosmetics / BOTTOM RIGHT: V.swish
Earlier this year Bella illustrated for JAFRA Cosmetics' Stronger Together 2013 National Conference and Leadership Meeting. Her illustration of fashionable sales associates from coast to coast was set against a modern skyline dotted with lankmarks. It appeared on the conference website and an exclusive tote bag for conference attendees. This was her second time illustrating for the direct sales company, having created artwork for their 2011 'Sparkle with Success' incentive promotion.
Over the past few years Bella has licensed her art on an impressive array of products. Andrews and Blaine has produced magnetic bookmarks and several puzzles featuring some of her best-loved artwork, including seasonal releases for Halloween and the Winter Holidays, a trendy series of four fabulous fashionistas, and a 1000-piece, glitter-embellished World Traveler panoramic puzzle with more debuting in months to come. Santa Barbara Design Studio released keychains, wood art-blocks, velveteen ipad and zipper cases, and wineglasses. Other products include quilting fabrics, device skins, children's apparel, stationery and toys including a magnetic doll set for Mudpuppy. The European stationery company, The Art Group, has licensed Bella's art for a series of square-format, embellished greeting cards in the Netherlands, and she will soon have new products and licensees in the Australian market in addition to greeting cards with publisher John Sands.
LICENSING TOP: Andrews & Blaine / BOTTOM LEFT: Andrews & Blaine / BOTTOM RIGHT: Santa Barbara Design Studio
The influence of her two young daughters has motivated Bella in the last year to dedicate a portion of her work to a younger demographic. "I hope to inspire my little girls," she says, "since they inspire me." Last month (March 2013) saw the launch of Bella's BP Girl™ art brand which joins her Bella Pilar™ art brand. First licensed under the Toys R Us label Totally Me!, the debut collection consists of two lines - 'Sweet Tooth' and 'LOL' - perfect for the text savvy tween with a sweet tooth. Each line features neoprene and tin lunch boxes and a range of back-to-school stationery items that include spiral notebooks, writing pads, diaries and magnetic bookmarks. The products are available online and in Toys R Us stores. Visit Bella's blog for more product photos.
BP GIRL ABOVE: BP Girl™ for Totally Me!
Bella has been illustrating book covers for both a middle reader and young adult series. The Wishcraft Mysteries series (Penguin), written by Heather Blake, follow Darcy Merriweather, a young witch with a knack for solving murders. The series currently includes three titles, It Takes A Witch, A Witch Before Dying, and The Good, the Bad, and the Witchy. The Petal Pushers series (Scholastic), written by Catherine Daly, follows four sisters - Delphinium, Rose, Aster and Poppy - on a string of adventures after their grandparents leave them and their scatterbrained parents in charge of the family flower shop. The series includes four titles, Too Many Blooms, Flower Feud, Best Buds and Coming Up Roses.
PUBLISHING LEFT: The Wishcraft Mystery series for Penguin / RIGHT: Petal Pushers for Scholastic
While she has a busy painting schedule and a very full family life, we're proud of Bella for finding so much time to help out worthy causes. She provided her glittery 'Cocktail Girls' to Japanese shadow box artists for a Spring 2012 exhibition and auction benefiting the Ashinaga Charity, which helps children orphaned by the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. In honour of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, she partnered with a shopping centre in Temecula, CA to create a tote bag with 100 percent of proceeds going to a local children's home. Bella has helped the Junior League of New York by illustrating invitations for their annual spring and fall house tours, which provide a glimpse inside some of Manhattan's most stylish homes while raising money for local New York charities. And of course Breast Cancer Awareness Month, for which she has teamed up with Papyrus on an annual basis to illustrate cards and other products (last year, the Chic Warrior Princess card), with funds from the sale of each card donated to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
CHARITY WORK FROM LEFT: Chic Warrior Princess for Papyrus / Junior League of New York / Temecula Shopping Center
To see more of Bella's work, along with behind-the-scenes images of her illustration process, visit her blog at junipervalentine.blogspot.com.
Q&A with BELLA PILAR
How has your work changed since you first started illustrating? How do you see your work progressing in the future? I have never tried to change my work intentionally. However when I look back on it over the years, I realize it has changed on it's own, organically, unplanned. And I am guessing that with out trying, again, it will continue to slowly change and evolve in the years to come. Lines get stronger or lighter. Girls proportions get more, or less, exaggerated. Hemlines rise and fall. Color palettes change with the moon. It's all ever changing.
A genie grants you three wishes. What do you wish for? 1.To not need sleep. I hate the part of the night where I have to stop working, and go to sleep. Very frustrating. 2. To be able to sketch and paint quicker so that I can get out all of the ideas that fill my head just waiting to be painted. Never enough time. 3. For my artwork and ambition to inspire my two daughters to go after their own dreams and think big.
What is your ideal studio like? Lots of light. Lots of space. And a large lounge area - which would include cozy seating with lots of pillows, stacks of art books and magazines, bowls of candy and chocolates all about and an espresso machine (with a barista please!) for midday lattes.
What is a typical work day like for you? If it's a sketching day - I go right to the coffee shop and camp out a few hours, sketching to good music and the casual chit chat with friends that pop in for their daily fuel. If it's a painting day, I'm in my studio with public radio chatting away at me. My work day comes to an end once I go pick up the kids at school but once they are asleep, it's back to work for the night time shift. I tend to paint and sketch by day and then computer and office work by night (photoshopping or emailing, planning blog updates, web research, etc).
What's the best way to get over a creative block? Sit at my coffee shop, people watch, and flip through magazines. This always does it for me.
What is your biggest challenge as an illustrator? Painting men. Which is why you don't see them much in my work. When I am asked to paint men for an assignment, I usually find myself in a great state of anxiety. But it's a challenge, like any other, and I usually overcome... best I can.
Do you have a favorite movie? I can watch Cabaret over and over and over again and again.
You can only take three things to a deserted island. What do you take? Sketchbook. iPad. Chocolate. Can I take four things? Add an ice latte.
What's your guilty pleasure? Late night online Etsy jewelry shopping (love!) when everyone in the house is asleep.
Who are three artists you admire? My husband and our two daughters are most admirable and inspiring to me. It's non stop creativity here. Our home is like an arts (and crafts) factory. I admire their relaxed and unexpected way of creating. I try to let their free flow form inspire me. I wish I could pick up the paints and just paint something loose and unplanned and not on top of a planned out sketch as I always do. I admire them for being so open to creating without a structured plan in place. My final illustrations have a soft free flow look but the steps I take to create them are quite structured and mapped out.