Alumni Profile: Rosemary Valero-O’Connell, MCAD

What do you do for a living?

I’m currently a full-time freelancer! Right now, my bread and butter is a graphic novel I’m working on with Mariko Tamaki (Skim, This One Summer) for First Second, as well as an upcoming independent project that I can’t say much about yet. Those two things make up about 75 percent of my work week, and the rest gets filled up with whatever smaller projects come along. I’ve done work for BOOM! Studios and DC Comics, as well as editorial illustration, cover work for comics and newspapers, custom screenprints, etc.

What is your favorite thing about your work?

I’m not being at all disingenuous when I say there is next to nothing about my job that I’m not absolutely in love with. I draw comics for a living, which is a fantastic privilege in itself. But the fact that they’re comics I believe in and stories I’m proud to be telling is more than I ever could have asked for. I’ve gotten to collaborate with people whose work means the world to me, that I’ve admired since I was a child, and I feel astonishingly lucky to get to call them colleagues.

Why did you choose MCAD and your major?

I chose MCAD because I had decided very early on that I wanted to do everything I could to try to make this whole comics thing work out, and the school’s location, programs and facilities seemed like they’d be perfectly in line with what I needed. The biggest gift my major classes gave me was the ability to take my work apart and look at its anatomy to figure out how it works, how it doesn’t work and how it can be the best version of itself. There’s a degree of fluency in the language of comics that you can only really get from fastidious inspection, and comic courses absolutely allow for that.

What advice do you have for art and design students?

Make the work that you eventually want to be paid to make. If comics are your goal, start and finish a short, self-contained mini that shows off your strengths and interests, and get it in front of as many folks as you can. Apply for every convention, keep an updated website, have accounts for yourself and your work across as many social media platforms as you can and use them frequently and with care. Be kind and polite, and focus on making friends rather than networking. Don’t judge your journey based on anyone else’s. They aren’t comparable things and, as long as you’re drawing, you’re moving forward.

Name your one biggest takeaway from MCAD.

Can I pick two? I’m picking two. My work ethic and the community of folks I’m lucky enough to get to call my friends and peers.

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