Steering away from your immigrant parents’ ideas of success and stability is risky, but Andrea Campos’ courage to choose her own path catapulted her to become a New York Times Bestselling illustrator.
Andrea Campos is currently living a dream after leaving a nightmare job: she is a New York Times bestselling children’s book illustrator. The book that garnered her that title is “Con Pollo,” which happens to be written by Jennifer Lopez and Jimmy Fallon.
But Andrea’s journey to becoming an NYT bestselling children’s book illustrator was not a linear one. Despite her desire to study art in college, she went on to study marketing and advertising because those fields were still creative in her mind – plus, they fit the mold of a “real job,” which her parents prioritized, but she soon realized that she was not feeling fulfilled.
“This is not how I want to spend the rest of my life. But I was so fixated on maintaining that ‘real job’ and going through life in a very linearly, I stayed with that career for much longer than I probably should have.”
It was after an incredibly toxic job that Andrea decided to pursue her artistic dreams. After doing lots of research and saving money for a year and a half, she decided to be a freelance photographer.
“I finally mustered up the courage to put in my notice in early 2020 weeks before San Francisco went into lockdown. I felt like I had finally taken this leap of faith, and instead of being able to fly, I just hit a wall and immediately fell to the ground.”
Her freelance photography prospects dried up overnight.
“I decided I can try to get another marketing job, or I can do things to build my creative confidence so that when this pandemic is over— and in my mind, it would be over in like two months — I can hit the ground running.
“I chose door number two. I created an artist residency for myself in my apartment in San Francisco using whatever I had around me just to give my days meaning and purpose. Some days I would paint, others I’d bake and decorate a cake. In others, I would go on socially distanced walks, pick flowers, and make art out of them. I started drawing again. Drawing was something that I had done so much as a kid and high school, but as I got older, I started putting it to the side. The pandemic gave me the opportunity to draw, and that’s ultimately how @dreasdoodles started out — out of this desire to feel connected during a point of extreme isolation.”
@dreasdoodles is the Instagram account that showcases Andrea’s illustrations. Her first post was on March 26, 2020, and featured the image of a curly-haired person and a pet looking out a window. The caption reads: “I wanna be where the people are…”
She created the account to have fun and connect with friends, but her drawings and thoughts resonated with a much larger audience, and one thing led to another.
“People started reaching out to me. A woman DM’d me: ‘You’re such a wonderful artist.’ For me, that was such a defining moment, because it was the first time someone had called me an artist and I believed it.”
After the fitness company Athleta reached out asking her to design some postcards for a store opening that they later used as a giant window display, she took it as a sign from the universe that she was on the right track. She set up a business website and continued to educate herself on the business side of a career in illustration.
Since illustrating “Con Pollo,” the children’s book written by Jennifer Lopez and Jimmy Fallon, Andrea has taken to the spotlight like a pro, having been on The Tonight Show and MSNBC. She seems so comfortable on camera or stage that it’s hard to believe there was a time in her life when she did all she could to hide because of a rare degenerative disorder called Parry-Romberg Syndrome that eats away at the left side of your face and can even result in blindness and seizures.
It’s a condition that she’s been dealing with for the last decade. At one point, the left side of her face deteriorated so much that the skin on her eyelid got tugged to the point that she couldn’t see out of her left eye. She ended up having to undergo a fat transfer and reconstructive surgery.
“That was really the beginning of making myself smaller and wanting to disappear into the background. As a young woman, when so much of your value is defined by your appearance, I started to question why my body had betrayed me. I went into a depression, and it took a lot of soul-searching, therapy, and taking time off of work to come back from that and say, ‘you know what, no, I’m not going to let this disease define me.’
“Drawing has been a way of reclaiming my voice and owning my identity. Now, as I’m more camera facing and in interviews, a little voice in the back of my head is like, ‘don’t let them see you,’ but it’s something I’ve tried to get more comfortable with.’”
We asked Andrea if she had any advice for others in creative fields, and her answer did not disappoint!
“Getting out of your own way is the best thing you could do. Don’t worry if it’s not perfect, share what you have, share what makes you happy, and other people will feel that joy. Other people will see that and be drawn to it.
“I’ve noticed that there are so many talented artists who are afraid to talk about their work. I get it, it’s really uncomfortable. But there are a lot of people who want to help artists, who want to purchase your work. Figure out a way to talk about it. Maybe it’s TikTok, maybe it’s Instagram, maybe you have a newsletter. Get your voice out there. Get your art seen.”
And finally, a tip that works for all of us, no matter if we’re on a creative path or no.:
“We are all on different paths, and we all emerge at different times. There’s not a right time to do something. However old you are, go after whatever that thing is, you owe it to yourself.”
About the Author
Claudya Martinez is a writer and content creator with a sense of humor. She loves collaborating with #WeAllGrow. You can follow her at @byclaudya on IG. You can read more of her pieces here.