Illustrator Cornelia Li  has her artwork featured in the New Yorker, VICE, and even a few children’s books. We were blown away by her eye for detail and feel so lucky to have her eloquent illustrations on the menu cover of our Spring 2019 menus across the GTA. Our bill cards also easy on the eyes thanks to her. We sat down with Cornelia in our studio and got to know a little more about her journey into being a successful freelance illustrator.  Read on to learn more!

Hi Cornelia, can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I graduated from OCAD in 2014 and I’ve been doing Freelance Illustration ever since. I also do storyboarding at animation studios. With illustration I mostly work in editorial, but in recent years I’ve started working in kids books and other form of projects which has been really exciting. And I’ve been doing that ever since!

What first sparked your interest in illustration?

I always liked drawing and I always loved storytelling – I was fascinated with children’s books since I was a kid. When I went to university, I thought about fine art but that was a bit too non commercial. I liked having an audience, thinking of an audience while I draw. So for that reason I went into illustration. 

How did you come to develop the artistic style you currently have? 

I think it’s still developing – for me there are obviously influences from my colleagues, my professors, I had Paul Dallas at OCAD which he was a wonderful professor. I get influence from the golden age of illustration illustrators, and a lot kids or picture book illustrators from that Era – like Virginia Serret, Edmund Dulac, and it just kind of evolved from there.

Who would you say is your illustration idol?

There’s so many – I would say from back then, Mary Blair is one, she did all the concept art for Sleeping Beauty. There’s just so many to name! I also get inspiration from other forms of art – I love Guillermo del Torro’s movies, the atmosphere is beautiful. 

What advice do you have for aspiring freelance illustrators?

I would say the two biggest things are first, find your voice. Know what you want to communicate to the world and keep pushing it. Sometimes it’s hard to succeed in the first few years and people might give up. Just don’t. I know it sounds cliche but keep going, keep pushing. Always learn on your own, learn from your community, keep on improving and you’ll make it there.

When you graduated from OCAD, did you transition into freelance work right away?

I was lucky to have profs from OCAD that introduced us to the world of freelance while at school. When I started out there wasn’t enough jobs, so I worked other part time jobs (which is part of the reason I got into the animation industry) but I don’t regret any of that. I think that helped me learn in many other ways besides just drawing.

If you could only live with 3 art tools, what would they be?

That’s a tough question – I would say given this day and age, I would need my iMac Pro, my Wacom Cintiq, and I guess the stylus that comes with the Cintiq because I would need to draw

What would you say has been your favourite project you worked on so far?

In terms editorial, I’ve done several illustrations with scientific America which was great because I love science – I’m a science nerd. Last year I worked on a kids book on the solar system which was my first book, which was a really enjoyable experience. And actually this project with Demetres, there was so much creative freedom, it was a really great experience!

What would be your dream project?

My dream project is to collaborate with one of the big fashion brand names like Dior, to design a scarf or a pattern for one of their lines – that would be my ultimate dream! 

Thanks for chatting with us Cornelia!

Here’s our 2019 Spring Menu Cover:

Cornelia Li - Spring 2019 Menu

Cornelia Li – Spring 2019 Menu

& the Bill Cards:

Cornelia Li - Spring 2019 MenuCornelia Li - Spring 2019 Menu

Cornelia Li - Spring 2019 MenuCornelia Li - Spring 2019 Menu

See more of Cornelia’s work here:


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