We had the good fortune of connecting with Maria DeCerce and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Maria, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?

I got a “normal” 9 to 5 salaried job with a creative role not long after graduating art school, but it was through that I realized that working for someone else wasn’t going to work for me. Of course any creative project requires following certain guidelines and directions to be profitable for the client, but I like the freedom and excitement of working on different projects with different clients, and the magic of collaborating with people who seek out and appreciate the type of work I’m passionate about creating.

I’m a nature and animal lover. Ever since I had my first pet-sitting gig as a kid I’ve spent a lot of time working with animals, especially horses. I even attended college a second time to study animal science. I would probably be a vet if I wasn’t an artist. I’ve always been passionate about both animals and art, and I’ve found the best way to bring them together is to work for myself and create my own niche. As a result, I get to use my sense of humor and unique cartoon style to illustrate kids content that’s often related to animals, science, and nature.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My favorite thing to illustrate is the story of everyday life as it relates to the “human” characteristics of the natural world. You see this a lot in children’s books – stories with animals that help children understand the world around them – because the unique characteristics of different animals resonate with us and allow us to draw comparisons to our own lives. One reason I love horses is because when interacting with them – whether riding, training, or just being in their presence – you get to experience that connection. When riding a horse, two beings effectively become one, and the most successful pairs operate on a basis of empathetic understanding and shared consciousness. Humans and animals are more similar than different. I love portraying the metaphorical bridge between that gap and the sameness we share with each other.

Sometimes I may aim for a more lofty and serious tone, but I often wind up taking it the other direction instead and before you know it a poop joke manifests out of thin air. I have a tendency to joke around, and it shows in my art. While I love rendering detailed paintings with color and light, I think that’s why I’m always drawing silly comics and cartoons alongside my more elaborate work. Can’t take yourself too seriously.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I’ve only just recently moved to Arizona, specifically because I’ve always been enchanted with this state and always wanted to live here to be able explore this area’s wild places – by foot, horse, and kayak.

Here are some of my favorites so far:

-Kayaking down the Salt River and seeing the wild horses hanging out in the water

-West Clear Creek Wilderness – it’s so much fun hiking along and through the creek.

-Out of Africa Wildlife Park in Camp Verde. I wound up being one of the last people to leave at the end of the day and they let me feed one of the giraffes a treat!

-Overall my idea of a fun trip is to follow a few dirt roads into the middle of nowhere with our truck and set up camp. It’s always an adventure.

For a food recommendation in Phoenix – go to Lupita’s Hot Dogs for a Sonoran hot dog, which I didn’t know was a thing until my sister visited from NYC and told me she wanted to get a Sonoran hot dog. And if you’re in Tucson – the chicken and waffle bites at The Drunken Chicken are AMAZING.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Shoutout to my mom for actually encouraging me to go to art school and be an artist, my dad for paying for my horseback-riding lessons as a kid, my brother and sister for the daily meme/tiktok texts, and my boyfriend Steven for willingly choosing to be around me almost 24/7. And of course to my animals – my horse Ketchup, my dog Lana, my cat Glitch. And my other cat Desmond for being my perfect child.

Website: https://mariadecerce.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/decherchay

Twitter: https://twitter.com/decherchay

Other: Email: decercem@gmail.com

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