Christine Villanueva is a graphic novelist who illustrates for Reddit—an American social news aggregation, web content rating and discussion website. She is currently completing a residency in France, working to develop her full-length unpublished manuscript about love and self-reflection titled “Monday Brunch.” Villanueva started taking art classes at the Community College of San Francisco in 2010 and her underlying passion in the visual arts later took her to UC Berkeley where she majored in art history. As dazzling as her career may seem, life swept her in many different directions, leading her to moments of tumult and adversity. But at the pinnacle of trouble and heartache, these moments guided her to her most poignant realization: learning the importance of art as a vehicle for self-discovery and philosophy.
In the tech-driven arena of San Francisco, it’s unorthodox for artists to live in such a fast-moving and busy city, for the apartment prices averaging nearly $3,000/mo., according to Abodo Reports, far outweigh the income of such a profession. Yet, as Villanueva says, “I did not want a job when I first moved to San Francisco at 18, I wanted a community. You cannot build yourself from yourself; you need people to build you and give you guidance. Everyone loves to work here and credit themselves, but the thing is, there’s always someone who helped you along the way to get you where you are.” Thus, building community is what sustained Villanueva on her road to becoming an illustrator.
Yet, it was not an easy amble to becoming the independent artist she is today. The high rent and exacerbated prices here take a toll on anyone who is not involved directly in a profession worthy of comfortable living in the Bay Area. Working to pay bills and live independently kept her away from illustrating, “I realized that what I dreamed of wasn’t what I wanted when I became a gallerist. Along with that, there were many jobs that I took in order to live here in the Bay Area and pay rent. One time I was so stressed that I had to go to the ER; I felt so sick, and nothing that I was doing was helping my body.” But what sustained her, again, was people and reaching out for help: “If you feel sad, talk to someone. And if that person’s like, ‘whatever, just try harder’ then they’re a little bitch. You should never conceal your feelings. It’s going to be hard because you’re going have to fight for your own well-being, which means actively ignoring those that put you down.” For help, Villanueva went to her peers in her artist community, friends as well as asking help from counselors and professionals. Work is important to Villanueva but when it came to doing something she did not envision for herself, it ended up weighing her down.
Now in France, on a residency, she reveals that she learned more in the last couple months than in the past two years of her life. How her artist residency works is that she’s funded for a whole year to work on her project in a different city that possesses a more serene and calm atmosphere, allowing her creativity to expand. Whether it be a couple months or a full year, she has time to complete her graphic novel as well as reflect about herself.
“If you want to figure out life, you have to change your reality,” says Villanueva. “It’s not gonna change for you. This truth also goes along themes that I’m working on in my book, which involve working yourself through the heartache, understanding yourself in the midst of love for others, and pushing through the B.S.”
Link to her work:
She also contributed for the BCC Voice a few years back!