The Path of Most Resistance

Gina Kirlew - Illustrator for Crystallize

I have always been obsessed with art. Did I ever know exactly what I wanted to do with art? Absolutely not. But I knew that whatever I did had to include some aspect of the art world. It all started when I was just a little kid, writing short stories and drawing pictures to go along with them. They were basically comic strips, about a funny old man going about his funny little life. It seems as though I have always been drawn to this genre of art, those “slices of life” that reveal a shared truth. Perhaps it is because I believe that when people come together and connect to a common feeling, we are closing the gap between stranger and friend.   

Chapter One: Choose your friends wisely.

In high school, I had a friend who was also interested in art. She suggested that we attend a portfolio day in NYC. This was an event put on by colleges and universities to give students feedback on how they could improve their work before they applied to an art program. When we approached the School of Visual Arts table, they were so impressed by my portfolio and insisted that I would get accepted if I applied. My friend did not receive the same feedback. An annoyed glare told me that she resented my good fortune. I spent the entire day feeling guilty and minimizing my happiness, hoping that she would somehow feel better. It didn’t work. Moral of the story: never stay small to make others feel more comfortable. And surround yourself with people who lift you up, not those who bring you down.

Chapter Two: Apples don’t fall far from the tree.

What I love about my dad is how outgoing he is. As the life of the party, he is loud, is great with jokes, and is an amazing storyteller. Maybe I got a little bit of that from him. As for my mom, she too was a low-key creative, something I guess I also inherited. She was always writing poems. And apparently there is an unpublished novel floating around out there somewhere. Without the two of them, I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today. In fact, it was my dad who gave me the hard push I needed to chase my art dreams. You see, immigrating to America from Jamaica was always their dream. And once it was accomplished, they only wanted their kids to be happy. So the moral of this story? Remember to thank your parents. 

Chapter Three: Excuse me, is this the road to success?

I studied at the School of Visual Arts in NYC. My major was animation. You know, the traditional hand drawn kind of animation like you see in older Disney movies. I definitely learned a lot, but it should be said that I was developing my skills in an age just as computers were becoming the prominent way to animate. So while I loved the community I was a part of, and the creative minds of my colleagues, I was paying for a skill that was simultaneously becoming outdated. It wasn’t until the end of college that I found my true passion: comics/cartooning, illustration, and painting. But I also wanted a skill that would help me find a job. So off I went to England, to get a masters degree in graphic design. With extra help from the 2008 recession, it took me 2 degrees, 10 years, and 4 jobs to finally find where I belong. So the final moral? Don’t give up, and congratulate yourself when you fail - those are the moments in which you learn the most.


Outside of work, Gina enjoys expanding her art portfolio with painting (even though she can’t help but work with Adobe Illustrator and vector art whenever possible). Her happiness seems to grow every day alongside her European based company - a continent that has always felt like home. When it comes to passion, Gina can’t help but go crazy over cute stuff, or ‘kawaii’ - a special Japanese word for cuteness and cute things (like tiny food). Identifying as an artist, a nerd, a woman of color, and as a global citizen, Gina exemplifies what it means to not adhere to any one identity. “All I want to do is make people smile, laugh, and feel happy. That is my dream - to lighten the load of every day life.”