About the Cover: Rites of Passage

Two timeless themes—the life cycle of flowers, and early-’90s coming-of-age movies—are among the inspirations for Topic’s December 2018 cover artist.

Alicia Adamerovich loves coming-of-age movies, especially 1990s classics like Hook, Jack, and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. But the Brooklyn-based illustrator was moved by something even more timeless while making Topic’s “Rites of Passage” cover art: the life cycle of flowers. “Flowers act as if they are passing from one world to another,” says Adamerovich, 29. “Passing from one world to another is how you go through rites of passage—from child to teen, from teen to adult.”

Adamerovich made the cover art for this issue using graphite on paper and completed the animation in Photoshop. Her primary muses are physical objects, like the secondhand furniture she grew up with in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, a suburb about an hour away from Pittsburgh. “A lot of my inspiration is nostalgic,” she says.

Adamerovich, who has always loved drawing, studied graphic design at Penn State, then moved to California for a web design job at Apple. She realized she wanted to pursue more creative work and moved to Brooklyn, where she became an illustrator. Her images have since appeared in the New York Times and Bloomberg Businessweek, as well as on band posters around New York. She also co-curates exhibitions, including a group show titled Comfort Zone, which opens at One Eyed Studios, in Queens, on December 7.

Did any personal rites of passage come to mind while you were working on the cover art for our December issue?

For the most part, I just thought about growing up and coming-of-age stories. I feel very drawn to those kinds of tales.

What sort of elements inspire your work in general?

A lot of stuff comes from imagery I grew up with. I’m really into environments, objects, and physical things. It’s why I draw a lot of still lifes. It probably comes from the house I grew up in, in the early ’90s. My parents had a lot of hand-me-down furniture from the ’70s, and some ’80s stuff—it was a little bit funky. And I still like a lot of that.

Why did you land on the imagery of the flower for this piece?

The flower was one of my last ideas, actually, but I do tend to draw a lot of flowers and use them as metaphors. I think, at first, I started with more of a still-life type of thing, but I think that’s where my mind automatically goes. I feel like there are just so many objects and so much symbolism related to rites and rituals, and flowers are pretty universal.

An early animation test of the cover, before final color was determined.

What tools did you use to make it?

I do a lot of work just in pencil on paper, for the most part. For this one, I drew everything multiple times. The original drawing that it was based on had the five different life stages in a row. Then I usually scan everything and clean it up in Photoshop, where I do all the animating as well.

How did you get into illustration?

I used to do graphic design work for Apple, designing their website and stuff like that. I wasn’t making art when I lived in California; I was working a full-time job. I didn’t feel the hustle to get into it until I moved to New York. It’s just the energy—everyone is working on stuff and making cool things all the time, all around you. For me, it’s very inspiring.

I know you are pretty involved in the illustration community in New York, curating and organizing shows. Could you tell me a bit about that?

My studiomate, Ariel Davis, is a really good illustrator, and I’ve met a lot of people through her. We organize things and do shows in New York, mostly around Brooklyn. I think having a community is very important. Especially when you’re feeling down—like, “Oh man, I haven’t done a job in a long time. I must be failing.” Then everyone’s like, “No, no, it’s fine. You have down time.” And then you’ll get calls the next week, and you’re able to do all the projects that you have. The opportunities to freelance as an illustrator can be very rewarding.

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