Andrea Campos doesn’t just want you to dream big: she wants you to do whatever it takes to bring your big ideas to life.
“I want my legacy to be that of someone who went out on their own and carved their own path out of the unknown,” says the illustrator, who recently brought Jennifer Lopez and Jimmy Fallon’s children’s book Con Pollo: A Bilingual Playtime Adventure to life.
Campos knew the corporate grind wasn’t for her the moment she entered it. And yet, as a child of immigrants, she felt compelled to pursue a traditional path: go to college, get a degree, get a job, and work until retirement. Campos put in her time, but after a decade of working in the marketing sector, she began to see that she needed to make a change.
Still, she didn’t strike out on her own right away. “It was about a year and a half, two years before I actually pulled the trigger and I decided I was going to make that change,” Campos explains. “At that point, I got into a money hoarder mindset, like a little squirrel.”
Campos remembers turning down drinks with friends, happy hours, and dinners—forgoing short-term satisfaction for the longer-term payoff of being able to quit her job and focus on making art.
“I was really intentional with how I spent money [before quitting my job] so that when I went freelance, I would have the ability to think and produce creatively,” Campos recalls. “It’s really hard to get into that creative mindset when you’re worried about things like rent, food, and water.”
But eventually, Campos felt like she’d saved enough. She quit her job in March 2020 (an opportune time to have built up a savings reserve) and started a business of her own.
Her initial plan was to become a photographer. But as a result of COVID-19, events were being canceled, budgets were frozen, and people that might otherwise have been interested in photoshoots were stuck at home.
So, Campos turned to illustration. The shutdown gave her the opportunity to spend long hours on her craft, the results of which she began sharing on her Instagram account. Little by little, her grid began to fill with colorful and whimsical drawings. In the process, her followers grew by the thousands.
And yet, Campos says it took her time to embrace what was happening to her—and embrace her full potential.
“There was something interesting happening with my work and how people were responding to it, but I kept saying, ‘It’s just for fun. It’s a little hobby,’” Campos says. “Whereas someone who is a bit more business-savvy and bullish would have said, ‘Oh, I have something here! Boom, I’m gonna run with it and build.’ Looking back, I wish I would have gotten out of my own way sooner.”
As a teenager, Campos used self-deprecating humor to express herself. Then, when she was fifteen years old, a teacher gave her a key piece of feedback: words have the ability to influence the mind. Campos’s teacher urged her to stop belittling herself. Campos dismissed the advice and continued on.
“But over the last couple years, I really realized, yeah, words do have power,” Campos says. “If I don’t believe I can do it, then I’m right. But if I believe I can do it, then I am capable. I think that was a mistake I made early on—not being kinder to myself earlier on.”
Still, to say Campos has regrets is inaccurate. Striking out on her own has meant that she can focus her time and energy on work that brings her a sense of fun and excitement, rather than dedicating herself to a job to which she merely feels duty-bound. The difference has been freeing—and valuable from a professional perspective.
In fact, following her joy—indulging in art that expresses a sense of “honesty and silliness”—is what led to Campos receiving a cold-call email from an art director in 2021: that director was looking for an illustrator on a new project and felt that Campos’s playful style would be a good fit. After a few conversations, the director finally divulged their clients’ names: Jennifer Lopez and Jimmy Fallon.
Despite such successes, Campos doesn’t consider herself a professional illustrator. But her fans (and clients) know better. It’s been a year since Campos received that initial email, and Con Pollo is now hitting the bookstands. Not a bad start for someone who decided to rebuild their career two and half years ago.