The creative journey is not always straightforward. For many, like Genie Espinosa, it can be a winding road full of endless hurdles and confusion. But once you find your voice, everything comes together, and your creativity is unstoppable. Espinosa has been drawing for as long as she can remember. With influences ranging from Disney to manga, her bright colour work and bold characters make both the page and screen feel alive.
Today, we talk to Espinosa about her creative journey so far, how she overcame challenges and developed her own unique visual language.
Where did you grow up, and how did it inform your creativity?
I grew up in a small city near Barcelona. Comic books were a big part of my life from a young age, as were Disney movies. I used to pause the screen and draw them because I was so mesmerised. As a teenager, I fell totally in love with manga and anime, and that had a significant impact on how I draw today.
How did you find your way to illustration?
My journey was a bit disconnected, and it took me a while to understand that it was a viable job. I didn’t have any friends interested in the same things and had no creative professionals in my network. I started an illustration degree but switched to graphic design. After several years of working on my skills, I decided to leave everything and move to the UK. I was in contact with an illustration agency in London, and a future in drawing started to seem tangible. It took many long nights and a considerable investment of time and energy to find my voice and create work I was genuinely proud of.
What was your aspiration when you first started out?
I was focused on children’s books, as many illustrators do. We grew surrounded with them, so it feels like a dream to put your art into one of the classics. After seven years of working professionally, my world has changed so much. I’m glad I stuck to this path. I’m currently developing a new style, working across different parts of the industry and it’s really rewarding.
You draw from so many influences to create your vision, what informs your work?
It’s a combination of many bits and pieces. Influences I have picked up throughout my life. It can be as diverse as a song, a friend or a memory. Sometimes I’m expressing my frustrations and thoughts, or I’m channelling something I’m currently obsessed with. If I were to make a recipe, I would say Disney + manga + music +sci-fi + overthinking + anxiety. Haha!
Character is such a key component of your storytelling. Who are the powerful women you draw? Do you have real or imaginary figures in mind?
Sometimes in the media, things are just too beautiful and perfect, and I felt these didn’t represent me at all! I have big thighs and a bum; I have rolls here and there and acne. So I guess I just started drawing the “real” humans in my particular way. As for the women, I just think I try to create the references I wish I had seen when I was younger. Everything changed when I finished reading Women and Power by Mary Beard. I recognised the need for acceptance and the importance of not staying quiet due to a fear of being wrong or making mistakes. It’s so important to be open.
How has illustration been a tool to help you better understand yourself?
It has been an incredible tool. It took me a while to stop and listen to my voice and instincts. I spent a lot of time working for people following the client’s instructions that I got lost and couldn’t identify myself or my visual language. Once I broke that wall down, the real me started to show.
Your work is operating on many levels, beyond the bold and vibrant colours, disarming characters and slogans, there is real edgy darkness. Why is this tension so crucial for you?
Oh wow, this question makes me so happy! I just think I live on tension and I need to put it out there and talk about it. Sometimes that honesty helps you instantly connect with the viewer. I recognise myself as a super anxious human. I’m always thinking about everything, so if something hits me for a reason, I just grab it and start circling it. Putting it into the world in an illustration allows me to release it and move forward.
Do you have mentors? Is there anyone who has helped guide your work?
I had the incredible luck to share a week in the studio of the mighty Leo Espinosa (we are not related, even though we have the same surname). It was a fantastic week of learning. I still have the notes and sketches we did together. But to be honest, one thing I love is connecting with other artists. Every time I travel, I try to meet someone I have been talking with on social media which is always enriching!
What keeps you sane when you’re not working?
I have a super adorable dog that forces me to get dressed and walk every day. I also joined boxing a year ago, and I am hooked. It keeps my head away from the overthinking for a while. Also, friends, coffee, cinema, food, and music are my salvation for sanity.