Artist alumna continues to find support in UT community after graduation

Katya Bandouil

When she was little, UT alumna Alex Guillen recreated the designs from Disney movie posters, which her mom would later copy and send to friends. Years later in college, she would be asked to design movie and theater production posters for fellow students.

Three years after graduating, Guillen continues to pursue her independent art career in New York running an Etsy shop, participating in pop-up art exhibits and promoting her work on Instagram. Her art portfolio ranges from digital illustrations to vibrant stickers and earrings.

While studying at UT, Guillen said she learned the most from having a tight-knit community of artists, which continues to be her support system long after she’s left the Forty Acres. This support system was her original customer base on campus.

“I was friends with a lot of theatre (and dance) majors and my friends would write plays and put on shows,” Guillen said. “They would need posters for the shows, and I did my very first one. From there, it was through the grapevine people were asking me to do their posters. Then it went from theater posters to posters for short films in the (radio-television-film) department.”

Being a part of the UT arts community didn’t stop when Guillen graduated. Classmates and coworkers from UT continue to support and reach out to Guillen, even when they are 1,700 miles away. 

“I follow her on every social media possible and share her posts all the time,” UT alumna Jordan Joyce said. “My collection of Alex’s art grows all the time too. I have a couple prints hanging on my walls, some stickers on my laptop and water bottle and even two pairs of earrings that she made.”

When UT alumnus Erik Martinez was looking to commission an illustration as a gift for his friend, Guillen was his first choice. 

“Artists in the (post-graduation) world undergo a weird phase of being lost because they have no set path to follow, so I think just cheering them on and giving them some funding can go a long way,” Martinez said.  

Joyce hired Guillen as a graphics designer for her website.

“Her illustrations are whimsical and nostalgic while being super relatable,” Joyce said.

Although pursuing an art career in New York has come with uncertainty and financial challenges, Guillen said she is certain it is worth it for her.

“It feels like the dream option is to just work for yourself,” Guillen said. “I didn’t want to pick a major based on job security. I wanted to pick a major I was passionate (about) and knew I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”

Guillen encourages other recent art graduates to be spontaneous in their career, as she believes she has been.

“Force yourself out of your comfort zone because you could continue to go back and forth forever,” Guillen said. “If I had not moved to New York, I would have been full of regret. Once I decided to do it, that was really all it took.”