Artist Happy Menocal in her NYC studio. Photo by Legacy Russell.
Happy Menocal has a fortunate name with a charming personality to match, and she’s found a way to transfer that delightfulness to paper: unique fine art illustrations. A former ad woman, Happy has been working as an artist and illustrator since 2006, and just last year, she was featured in Vogue’s Wedding Guide. We tapped Happy to illustrate our Spring Weddings Lookbook, and we stole a minute of her time to chat about her life as an illustrator.
SHOPBOP: How long have you been a professional illustrator?
HAPPY MENOCAL: About seven years now. My first job was in advertising, and I left in 2006 to do my own thing. I can’t imagine doing anything else at this point, but I do miss the action and camaraderie of an office.
SB: Could you share your first memory of drawing?
HM: I was more of a hyper outdoorsy kid than a contemplative arts and reading type, but my mom is a painter who worked in this great little studio attached to the side of our house. I used to sit on the cool cement floor with Homer, our irish setter, and draw there sometimes. I went through a phase where my best friend Philippa and I would color in graph paper in these kind of great Paul Klee quilt patterns. Very meticulous and unlike what I do now!
SB: When did you realize you could make this your profession?
HM: I was drawing storyboards for commercials when I was at the ad agency—hard work and I really wasn’t qualified! But I kind of learned to draw that way and was able to make enough money. I owe a lot to my friend Matt Aselton, a director. I still don't really have a grip on the major things, like proper perspective and anatomy.
SB: What goes into conceiving and creating an illustration for a wedding? How do you make it unique to the bride and groom?
HM: I interview the couple. People getting married are usually eager to talk, so it's an easy conversation. You really get to know people at this happy, important moment in their lives. You find a person you love so much you want to spend your life with them. You get to dress up and have a big party. People give you presents. It's heaven!
SB: Tell us about the drawings you did for our lookbook.
HM: I love clothes and I love weddings, so this was a fortunate assignment for me. I often use color as a crutch to make up for my shortcomings as an illustrator, so because the gowns are white, I found myself having to pay a lot of attention to the draping, the fabric, whether something was sheer or textured. It made me appreciate how beautiful and well-chosen the dresses are. My favorite is the J. Mendel.
The process was also a bit like playing Barbies, because I got to imagine each bride as a character: where is she getting married, what are they serving to drink, who are her friends? I found myself getting painfully specific: "She was going to serve a crab cake with micro greens, but her fiancé vetoed it, so they did an heirloom tomato tower..."
Favorite first dance songs, courtesy of Shopbop staffers: