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July 2019 - Mirelle Ortega

Mirelle Ortega
Visual Development

Mirelle Ortega is based in LA but originally from the southeast of Mexico, and has a passion for storytelling, sci-fi, film, tv, color and culture. Mirelle has a BFA from the Tecnológico de Monterrey (Monterrey, Mexico) in digital art and 3D animation, and a MFA from Academy of Art University in San Francisco. She is fluent in Spanish and English.

Hello Mirelle, and thank you for doing this interview for LXiA’s Member Spotlight. We are super excited to learn more about you and your journey as an artist. Mirelle, tell us about yourself!

Well, in short, I’m a Mexican artist! I’m also an illustrator represented by the Bright Agency and do a lot of work for publishing. In 2018, I graduated from the Visual Development program at Academy of Art in San Francisco, so I’m starting to work more in visual development for animation, but I’m also really interested in TV development and am currently working as an artist on a couple of pitch bibles for animated TV shows.

Mirelle Ortega - Visual Development Artist

Your journey is truly an incredible one. Can you tell us more about how you have developed into the artist that you are today?

I’ve always known that I wanted to tell stories and have been drawing and writing for as long as I can remember. I would always say that I wanted to work in cartoons (even when I didn’t understand what that meant). I’m very fortunate to have parents that whole-heartedly supported my artistic inclinations from a young age. I grew up in a very small town in Veracruz, Mexico. There weren’t a lot of opportunities to nurture an artistic career, so my mom would seek out people who could draw and offer them payment to teach me. That was definitely one of the most defining moments in my development as an artist, not just because of what I learned about the craft, but also because my mom taught me a great life lesson; sometimes opportunities are not readily available to you, but with some initiative and quick thinking you can create those opportunities for yourself.

Mirelle Ortega - Visual Development Artist

Growing-up, what were your artistic influences and how would you best describe your artistic style? Are there any fond memories from your childhood that you could say influence your work?

Most of my artistic influences came from tv and film. I grew up watching all of those amazing Disney classics, and a lot of reruns of older shows like Scooby-Doo and The Jetsons. I also watched lots of old Mexican films (especially horror, of which my grandma was a fan). I actively read, played , and spent most of my childhood outdoors making up stories with my friends. I think most of my work is very influenced by childhood memories. One of the things I loved about growing up in a really small town is that you get to know people really well and make good friends with people you don’t necessarily have shared interests with, but are united by shared experiences. There’s something very powerful about being able to understand other people’s perspectives.

We know you are passionate about storytelling, so in your process what comes first for you: the story or the art?

Usually the story and, more often than not, the theme. There are themes like: family, home and finding a sense of belonging, that fascinate me and I’m always trying to create the perfect story to say everything I want to say with those themes. Once I’ve decided on an idea (even if vague) for the story, then I do art. There’s always a bit of going back and forth, in which the artwork I create also ends up inspiring the story.

I have also pulled stories from my own illustrations, but that’s not the norm. For example, I created the IP (intelectual property) for “Witchlike”, and had the chance to pitch it at Pixelatl’s “Pitch Me the Future” in 2018.

Mirelle Ortega - Visual Development Artist

Congratulations on becoming a finalist for Pixelatl 2019. You must be super excited. Can you tell us more about Pixelatl and how you came across this opportunity?

Thank you! And Yes! Pixelatl is an an animation event hosted in Mexico every September. They have panels and an artist alley, but most notable, they have a small market and a wonderful program called “Ideatoon” that aims to help create original content (tv shows, shorts, movies) by latin creators.

“Ideatoon” is a contest where you submit your original tv show idea to be judged by a panel of experts. Only 20 projects are selected to participate in a workshop (dubbed “the bootcamp”) in which you get feedback on how to improve on your idea and make it more marketable. After the bootcamp, the judges then pick 10 finalists. Those 10 selected projects then return in September for the main event to pitch their shows in front of development executives.

I first heard of the contest back in 2014. Some friends and I actually put a pitch bible together and participated, I mean it was our first time ever hearing the term “pitch bible”! Although we didn’t get selected, it was still an amazing learning experience.

I participated again in 2018, where my project ,“Witchlike”, was selected for “Pitch Me The Future”, which is very similar to Ideatoon, except instead of a panel of multiple judges “Pitch Me the Future” is judged by Cartoon Network in Los Angeles. I’m very excited to be a part of it this year too! I attended the bootcamp back in May and met the mentors and the other creators. They’re all an amazing bunch, and I can’t wait to see them again in September!

In addition to Pixelatl, you were a finalist of the International Art Contest and Exhibition for Children by Hispanic Artists and recipient of the National Fund of Culture and Arts Grant in Mexico. Not to mention you have also done multiple art shows in the United States and in Europe. Can you talk to us more about the hustle that comes with accomplishing your career goals? What have been some things you have learned in your process of breaking in as an artist in animation and illustration?

One of the most important things I’ve learned so far is: do things! Participate!

Many of the opportunities that I’ve been a part of happened because I just asked people if I could be part of them. There’s definitely an element of timing and luck in an artist’s career, but there are also a great deal of things that you can do and be a part of like art contests, open calls for gallery shows, zines, etc! Things like this have a huge role in helping me understand how the industry works and to become a working professional.

The push for diversity and representation is something we are hearing more and more about. When you think about who you are as an artist and a Latina, what is the story you hope to tell future generations?

I think everyone benefits from having diverse voices in media and people to tell their own stories. There’s still a long way to go, we have yet to stop putting “Latinidad” in a box and to start representing a wider range of points of view within the Latin community. I think right now latin creators are still – for the most part – seen as creators of content exclusively for the latin community, and there are certain expectations to what latin content should be (in themes, visuals, sounds, etc), but we’re a diverse community that have experienced various degrees of “latinidad”. I don’t think we’re aiming to tell stories that only resonate with people who’ve had a similar upbringing. We’re all people at the end of the day, the themes in our stories are universal and no different from the themes being explored in “mainstream media”. I’d love to see a future in which latin creators never have to hear: “your story is not latin enough”.

We are excited to see your continuous blossoming career. So, what is next for Mirelle Ortega and where can we see your work?

Mirelle Ortega artwork

In animation, I’m currently doing some work for a start-up and creating a pitch bible for an unannounced Project. I’m also looking for other opportunities to work as a Visual Development artist.

In illustration, some of the projects I worked on last year are coming out soon, which is exciting! I’m particularly proud of a picture book I illustrated celebrating hispanic heritage by Tracey Kyle called “Pepe and the Parade”.

Thank you for interviewing with us, Mirelle!!

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