Digital illustrator Molly Fabiano

When Molly Fabiano was a freshman in college, she dropped out of a graphic design class. 

The subject matter initially appealed to her, but she ultimately decided the class wasn’t for her. Over the next four years, it remained the only undergraduate class she ever dropped.

Fifteen years later, Fabiano is a fulltime graphic and web designer in Massachusetts and has launched her own digital illustration side business bringing to life the whimsical, childlike images that define her as an artist. The irony of her life’s path is not lost on the Braintree mother of two, but she says she now can’t imagine a world without illustration.

“It’s my happy place. I just want to sit here and create for hours, and sometimes I do,” she said. “It’s just my passion.” 

Fabiano always loved to draw, she remembers it being a passion as far back as elementary school, but she didn’t tip her toe into the digital art world until almost a decade ago. She started creating vector files for other graphic designers and then selling custom event invitations on Etsy.

“I find that the phase of life I’m in is really where my creativity comes from,” she said. “When I was getting married, I was interested in wedding invitations and when I was having a baby, it was birth announcement. When I had the Etsy shop and Instagram and started to see what other artists were doing, I really got into creating my own artwork.”

It didn’t come to her all at once, Fabiano said, and she spent years experimenting with different programs, finding her process and taking classes online and at Bridgewater State. These days, however, she’s hit her creative groove. 

Fabiano’s process starts on physical paper — a rarity for a digital artist. She likes to use pencil to sketch rough outlines of an item or character on computer paper, then scans it onto her tablet and uses ProCreate to add color, smooth edges and define details. 

She goes through phases with her subjects, she said, and her portfolio includes animals, inspirational posters and completely original concepts, like a series she did on flamingos in space, an illustration of Peter Piper shopping at the fictional Pepper Emporium and a scene at a yoga studio for gnomes called “Gnomeaste.” 

Fabiano currently works with two brands that license some of her images to sell on products like posters and wall art — her work has been for sale online at Target, Amazon, Wayfair and other websites.

Her ultimate goal, she said, would be to illustrate a children’s book. With two kids ages 4 and 7, Fabiano says she’s constantly knee-deep in the world of children’s reading and illustration, and even her kids have started to point out works by her favorite illustrators Zachariah OHora, Denise Holmes and Tom Froese. 

“It’s kind of ruined me for just sitting down and reading a book with my kids,” she said with a laugh. “I analyze the flow of the book, the positions of the characters, how someone can make dot eyes and a line mouth express 100 different emotions. It’s hard not to.” 

Fabiano’s work is quirky and showcases her humor and childlike sense of wonder, something she says the world could use a little more of. 

“(When people see my work) I hope they remember that young, fun childhood. The world is anything but light right now, and I struggle with sharing my lighthearted, punny artwork in this atmosphere, but if we all stopped doing that, the world would be darker,” Fabiano said. “It’s a release for me, but I hope it also brings five seconds of joy to someone else.” 

Photos in this post were taken by the wonderfully talented Greg Derr. They were originally published in The Patriot Ledger.

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