Puerto Rico, the Island of Enchantment. It’s home to so much more than just Instagramable spots and a place for your honeymoon; the Caribbean island is surrounded by natural wonders and is rich in history and culture. It’s also where Illustrator, Erick Ramos was born and calls his home.
Aged 13, Erick started toying around with computers and began making art. It was his aunt who introduced him into the world of illustration; she had Corel Paint Shop Pro on her computer, using to make little animated dolls that she would then go on to put into forums, “She would use it for pretty basic stuff like making their eyes sparkle,” he recalls. She later taught him how to use the software and gave him enough of an insight to go off and create something of his own, since then he hasn’t stopped.
“I learned to be strategic about work and money pretty early on…”
At the point of when he left college to go to University, he wanted to pursue art-related studies somewhere new and outside of Puerto Rico as he felt it wouldn’t be possible to do so where he was. “I wanted to move but I couldn’t afford it, so I made the decision to enrol on to the main public university on the island, University of Puerto Rico,” he shares.
“I started studying Publicity then in my second year, I decided to switch to Graphic Design which is the BA I graduated with. Looking back, I’m pretty glad I stayed there. It taught me to be strategic about work and money pretty early on which I feel has helped me a lot in my career.”
“It stemmed from a fear of failing and the only way I’ve figured out how to get over that is to just keep trying.”
Having graduated, he soon left Puerto Rico a couple of months after Hurricane Maria hit. He headed North and found his home in Vancouver which brought him some surprises; it was different from what he would have expected from a city. “I remember arriving and feeling very safe. I really like it here but it still feels foreign to me… Vancouver is very calm and it’s very different to what I’m used to,” he explains. “There were so many mundane things I had to re-learn; how to shop, drive and interact with people.”
Learning a new way of life was one thing, learning how to pursue a career in illustration and make a living from it was another. For Erick, the biggest challenge of his career was getting started, “It stemmed from a fear of failing and the only way I’ve figured out how to get over that is to just keep trying,” he reflects. A fear we can all relate with, particularly when making decisions on what we go on to do next.
“It feels so good to not stop myself from what I want to do, and even better when I succeed at it.”
Taking away the pressure to succeed often leaves us with space to experiment and freedom to nurture our skills, which rings true for Erick who has built up a beautifully colourful portfolio of work; much of it is made through trial and error.
The decision to go out on his own has meant he’s been able to work on projects that excite him as well as offer him the opportunity to expand on what he knows and push himself further. This alone, he feels, has been his most rewarding highlight to date, “My confidence has grown because of it. It’s helped me learn things quicker, get more things done and worry less… It feels so good to not stop myself from what I want to do, and even better when I succeed at it,” he shares.
“Last year I was featured in Twitter Moments which gave me a pretty significant boost.”
Rarely discussed yet vital for anyone wanting to get their work seen, is the topic of self-promotion. While we’re often taught to spread our work through the more visual channels, Twitter has been known to be Erick’s great companion for landing new gigs and having his work seen. Last year, he found his work featured in Twitter Moments which he notes, gave him a significant boost in visibility, “Art directors have found me on there and I was lucky enough to get a job for a New York Times piece.” he recalls.
As jobs started coming in, money and time management are two things he had to learn along the way. When I asked what advice he’d give to those considering the freelance route, it’s to be strategic. “If you want to try it out, don’t just go for the jobs you want, go for the jobs that you can do well, quickly and with little effort,” he shares. “That way you always have a little bit of a cushion if things go south.”
“I’m in a pretty good place and I want to be grateful and experience it fully.”
Though the idea of working for yourself can often sound charming, it’s not to be passed as a journey that doesn’t come with its ups and downs. For those considering it, Erick’s advice would be “to keep on trying”. He continues, “There’s a saying I heard once that I like, ‘Edison didn’t fail one thousand times trying to make a light bulb, it just took one thousand steps’.”
In a way, I felt inclined to ask him what his plans were for the future but his response reminded me that serendipity is a gift and how important it was to appreciate the present. “I want to enjoy the moment that I’m in right now,” he shares. “I’m in a pretty good place and I want to be grateful and experience it fully. Hopefully, in a couple of years, I will have a nice studio away from home, wherever that may be.”