Artists have long dreamed up different worlds, but today’s hottest visual creators want to show you something else: a different view of your own world.
With bold aesthetics and a keen cultural awareness, the visual artists featured in Adweek’s Creative 100 for 2019 often have as much to say as they do to show. Check out the 10 artists, photographers, animators and more included in this year’s list:
The evolution of Brooklyn-based photographer Dana Scruggs has truly been a sight to behold. From taking photos with a mere point-and-shoot for her Etsy shop to landing three major magazine covers within the span of a month—including photographing Diddy and his family for Essence magazine—Scruggs has elevated her personal brand in a way that many could only dream of.
“This past year has been the most affirming of my life, not just as person, but also as artist,” Scruggs tells Adweek. “It took over six years of struggle and constantly feeling anonymous in this industry before I got to this point.”
Throughout her upward journey in the industry, Scruggs has maintained a vision that centers on the versatile beauty of blackness without succumbing to the pressures that come with entering the commercial market. For Scruggs, that resoluteness has been the key to her success and has earned her credits along the vein of Town & Country, Rolling Stone, and New York Magazine.
“I hope people learn that there doesn’t have to be a difference between personal work and commercial work. My commercial jobs are fun because I’m being hired for my vision and aesthetic. For me, there’s no separation. All of my work is personal.”
Cartoonist and animation producer
When DreamWorks reached out to Stevenson to pitch a new She-Ra adaptation, “It felt like one of those moments where you’re in the right place at the right time,” she tells Adweek.
For someone whose previous work explored “subversion of classic fantasy and sci-fi tropes, especially as they relate to female characters,” it was a natural fit.
Adapting such an iconic character was a daunting task she took seriously, but Stevenson also “didn’t want myself and my crew to feel constrained by that.” Instead, she wanted the show to evolve in a new direction, apparent in the show’s title—She-Ra and the Princesses of Power—reflecting its increased focus on She-Ra’s relationships to all the other characters.”
“This show is about friendship, but I also wanted to show that sometimes friendship can be hard, sometimes relationships can be messy and difficult and you can rise above that.”
The show moves beyond stereotypical portrayals of women in animation, with a diverse array of character ethnicities, body shapes, sexual orientations and gender identities. That diversity is reflective of a diverse and collaborative cast and crew, including an all-female writers room that is a welcome change from experiences “being one of the only women in a room” full of male writers.
“I was really excited to explore as many different ways of showing female characters as possible,” Stevenson said. “I think it’s really important to have certain shows where different points of view are centered in a way where they don’t often get to be and that creates new stories that we might not have necessarily seen before.”
Comic artist and illustrator
Artist and comics creator Jen Bartel’s career began with a love of creating fan art. As she paid homage to some of her favorite characters, she used that time to fine-tune her distinctive style and locate her voice as an artist.
A large part of her journey has included centering marginalized women in her inclusive work, which has led to projects like Marvel Comics’ World of Wakanda. Now, she’s the co-creator of Blackbird, a neo-noir fantasy comic book written by Sam Humphries that is currently on its sixth issue.
“Doing creator-owned storytelling is still quite rare in most industries, but especially within comics,” Bartel tells Adweek. “[As] a woman, to be visible within a very much male-dominated industry is probably the thing that has been the biggest accomplishment for me this past year.”
While Blackbird may be her crowning accomplishment to date, it is certainly not her only victory this year: Bartel recently partnered with Adidas to design a line of Marvel-themed sneakers (inspired by Captain Marvel and Thanos) exclusively for Foot Locker, just in time for the cinematic releases of Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame.
Nicholas “NickyChulo” Fulcher
Art director, Atlantic Records
With a crisp, black-and-white checkered outfit against a vibrant turquoise backdrop, mod-like shades, shocking yellow finger waves, and a determined lick of her lips, Cardi B.’s Invasion of Privacy album cover looks like modern-day pop art. It’s a look that is so emblematic of who she is as an artist—daring, fearless, self-assured—that it has the potential to transcend her own era. It takes a bold, thoughtful creative mind to understand their subject and fashion something that is fitting, eye-catching and enduring.
Meet NickyChulo, the designer who has lent his talents to a number of Cardi B.’s now iconic album covers—including Invasion of Privacy—as well as artists Wiz Khalifa and Kodak Black. Inspired by the album art of Linkin Park, Lupe Fiasco, and Jay-Z, NickyChulo’s work reflects a polished DIY element that tends to draw the New-York based art director’s own attention in other projects. And while you would think the industry’s migration to digital would paint designers into a corner, it has only evolved his talent.
“When working on an album or single, a handful of digital content must be built around said project,” he says. “You can’t just have a static cover anymore if you’re looking to stand out. It must be animated to promote on socials and catch attention. It’s beautiful to stretch and mold concepts these days.”
Graphic novelist, Scholastic
Raina Telgemeier has been drawing comics since age 9 but didn’t know she wanted to make graphic novels until she hit her 20s.
“I read Bone by Jeff Smith. It was all the elements I love in a long-form story. Shortly thereafter, I teamed up with Scholastic. I have been drawing comics my whole life. Most of my work was short form. I didn’t know if I could do it.”
Telgemeier’s work adapting and illustrating four beloved Baby-Sitters Club books into graphic novels gave her the confidence to write the fiction graphic novels Drama and Ghosts and pen memoirs Smile and Sisters, based on real-life events from Telgemeier’s childhood.
“When I wrote Smile, I thought telling my own story was odd, but people relate to it. It’s opened me up to a world of conversation. Parents can relate as much as kids can.”
She recently published Share Your Smile, an interactive journal that helps kids organize and achieve their goals of writing and drawing comics; Guts, a follow-up memoir to Sisters that tackles anxiety, comes out in September.