Meet Keara McGraw 

Keara is a Chicago-based illustrator whose passion for storytelling just barely eclipses that for peanut butter. Beyond the world’s most perfect nut-based condiment, Keara is passionate about printmaking, embroidery and the intersection of food and visual art. Keara recently completed her BFA in Illustration from Columbia College Chicago. Clients include Nautilus, American Express, Cherry Bombe Magazine, VICE Media, Chickpea Magazine and South Side Weekly, among others. Currently, she works as a freelance illustrator and printmaking instructor. If it’s lavender scented, Keara loves burning the candle at both ends, proudly working at one of Chicago’s tastiest restaurants in Logan Square. Find her and her pursuits here.

What is your hidden talent?

Beyond drawing (I hope????) I am a talentless human blob. While in conversation with a former professor last week though, I think I uncovered a quasi-talent. We were talking about numbers and I mentioned associating all numbers with a color, which I guess is something not everyone does. It’s a little synesthesia-esque. For instance, if I picture a number in my head, any number in the twenties has a mint green color. If the number seven is in it, it also has a twinge of peach, since that’s the color I associate with sevens. Perhaps it’s more of a brain quirk than a talent. Mildly interesting at best?

Who helped get you here?

So many wildly serendipitous encounters have contributed to my success and community as an illustrator. It’s insane to think about how much comes down to serendipity. There is one relationship however that both parties were forced into since the womb, and that’s the one with my twin sister, Aileen. She’s a brilliant freelance writer and Product Marketing Manager at Microsoft. We talk everyday on the phone, she’s such a huge part of my support system. It’s a little funny to me because up until her move to Seattle we fought incessantly and I would literally not respond to her texts for days at a time. I’m so fucking lucky to have her as a sister, confidant and collaborator and am most often undeserving of her kindness (re: ignoring texts for days at a time). 

What is your first (or best) memory?

Two stand out to me. The first is what I would consider a *first* memory––I’m crawling across the floor as a baby in the house I grew up in. My grandpa picks me up, sits in his rocking chair, and I fall asleep on his big belly. 

The second is 600% a fallacy and just makes me laugh. Upon a trip to Washington, D.C. when I was in second-ish grade, my family and I walked past The White House. I remember turning to my mom and saying, “Oh, I’ve been there! The hallway is very pretty, there are a lot of old paintings.” My mom was probably like girl, check yourself, you have not been inside The White House. I was so frustrated that no one believed me, so convinced I had been there. Must have been a very vivid dream, I wouldn’t give up the fight that I was right that entire trip!

What inspires you?

Agh, this entire world! People! The flora and fauna of this planet. I’m overwhelmed by the contrast (and simultaneous existence) of beauty and horror. Living in Chicago, I can look around and there is beauty teeming from every corner. At the same time, I absorb a lot of what I see in people, of their experience in this city. And that is not always an easy thing. 

Lately, I’m especially inspired by clouds. Sometimes I look at the sky and think, “that’s a Miyazaki cloud formation. Hayao Miyazaki would paint something like that.” 

What is your favorite song?

I’ve been losing myself in a lot of Loretta Lynn lately. After completing a project that covered Loretta Lynn, I full-on drowned myself in her music and re-watched Coal Miner’s Daughter at least three times. 

I’m especially fond of Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ On Your Mind). It’s a song that is what it is. 

Want more? Check out her portfolio and follow her on instagram and twitter.


Photo Credit: Jamie Kelter Davis Photography