Ortega’s imagination and drive led her to study abroad as a sophomore in high school in Perugia, Italy. In 2004, Ortega took a leap of faith, moving to Seattle to pursue an education at The Art Institute of Seattle. An internship at Tully’s Coffee Company led to collaborations with nonprofits like the Seattle Symphony Orchestra and later a position with Theo Chocolate. There, Ortega would venture deeper into illustration before becoming a senior designer for Starbucks.
“Yeah, I was working full time at Theo Chocolate when a recruiter for Starbucks called me to see if I was available to interview for a contract position for 3 months,” said Ortega. “I mulled over it for days until I pulled the trigger and interviewed and then later was offered the contract position in the studio. At the time it was a huge risk for me because I had a 1-year-old and the only one working at the time. I knew I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to work at Starbucks but definitely made a pros/cons list and I figured worst-case scenario I would look for another full-time job while contracting. Super thankful to have worked with so many talented people at Starbucks, I’m glad I took on that risk early in my career. Starbucks opened a lot of doors for me, and I still maintain a great working relationship with the art program there.”
Art is a medium that can’t be restricted to one style or preference, and Ortega isn’t confining her life to one place or type of work.
“I draw a lot of inspiration from the nature around me,” said Ortega. “I started a flower garden since the pandemic, and it has been super therapeutic for me. I take a lot of photos of my flowers and I draw and paint them all the time.”
While residing in Seattle with her husband for nearly two decades, Ortega allowed her talents to take her all over – namely the Midwest. When she’s not creating with her daughter Ellie, you might find Ortega in Kansas City. But she’s known to go where her networking efforts on social media take her.
“I’ve learned over time that collaboration is important and makes a greater impact than anything you can do on your own,” said Ortega. “Even in jobs where I was the only designer I was still collaborating with other departments. The collaborations I currently do as part of my freelance jobs is on another level. I have met and befriended the lovely designers/type designers of Lost Type and we collaborate on a variety of projects. They are some of my most rewarding projects I’ve had the honor to take part in because we are all on the same page and work really well together, and it all happens via the internet!”
Always working with her hands, Ortega has taken up embroidery over the last few years.
“It really makes me feel connected to my culture,” said Ortega. “My grandmother used to do it and it has become a way of connecting with her in both my professional and personal work.”
This Hispanic Heritage Month, Ortega continues to be honored for her work. Nationwide tech-based company Slalom Build highlighted Ortega’s illustrative genius last week