Local NewsThe Art of Isabel Ricaurte: Lessons from SVA's Illustration...

The Art of Isabel Ricaurte: Lessons from SVA’s Illustration Program


In 2020, Isabel Ricaurte embarked on a journey. The Ecuadorian-born artist had just graduated from the School for Visual Arts (SVA) in New York during the height of the pandemic. Isabel didn’t set off on this journey completely unequipped. She had lessons from the SVA’s Illustration program.

Most artists discover their passion and talent for art at a young age. This is evidenced by blobs on paper, stick figures, and then increasingly skilled art creations as they age. By the time the artist is ready to pursue art as a career, they’re pretty settled on their signature style. If they attend art school, they’ll quickly find that style challenged. Taking on those challenges is what made Isabel Ricaurte the artist she is today. Here are the lessons she learned from her time at the SVA.


This sounds like a skill learned by science majors, but it’s the first skill any artist worth their canvas learns. SVA’s program went beyond the basics of illustration. SVA emphasized that being a successful illustrator requires more than just technical skill. It wasn’t enough to simply copy the techniques taught. Isabel had to think creatively, beyond conventional solutions, and find unique ways to express ideas and messages through her illustrations.


Under the tutelage of an instructor-turned-mentor, the award-winning artist Marcos Chin, Isabel learned that by using familiar symbols, motifs, or visual elements that are widely recognized and have established meanings or associations in a strategic way, she could enhance the conceptual depth of her illustrations. “The Girl and the Box” marked a significant shift in her conceptual thinking and artistic execution.

Thriving Under Pressure

Working under pressure is a valuable lesson for everyone to learn. SVA’s rigorous curriculum, combined with online classes her last year, gave Isabel a dose of real-world challenges. Each class would have deadlines for homework, and it was left to Isabel to find her balance amid the pressure. Projects like “The 20 Faces” demanded creativity within tight deadlines.


As an Illustration major at SVA, Isabel was able to explore beyond the fundamentals of illustration. Instructors exposed Isabel to the many specializations within illustration. She took advantage of this, coming to love comics, storyboarding, and editorial illustration. The opportunities gave her portfolio a focus, showing her distinct and versatile style. Isabel found herself leaning toward anime due to her love of Japanese animation, which she infused with Western influences, like magic, fantasy, and the occasional darkness.

Finding Passion

Not all assignments a student gets are going to thrill them. Not every theme or subject will hold interest. Isabel had to meet projects head-on with an open mind and pour effort into a subject, even if it wasn’t one she enjoyed. This skill has allowed Isabel to take on various projects with different themes and subjects than she might normally have chosen. As a jobbing artist, Isabel wouldn’t always have her first pick, especially when working on commissions or the pet projects of others.


Her last year was tough. Some classes were harder to succeed in than others, especially those that needed more hands-on study. Silkscreening was a particular challenge. Isabel could watch her instructor demonstrate the techniques, but she had to take the time and make an effort to practice those techniques in the lab at school. Isabel’s commitment to her education played a pivotal role in her development as an artist.

The skills and lessons Isabel Ricaurte takes from SVA will continue to serve her as she makes her way as an artist.

About the Author

Lakisha Austin covers STEAM stories that emphasize the importance of Art in our lives. She hails from Northborough.

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