How L.A. Illustrator Abby McMillen Incorporated Her Pandemic Isolation Into an ‘I Voted' Sticker

Abby McMillen created her version of an “I Voted” sticker with the pandemic in mind. Incorporating her sense of isolation during the quarantine, she wanted to create an image that evoked the spirit of reconnecting with society through the power of voting.

This year, NBCLX decided to scrap the classic "I Voted" sticker that you get at the polls every election and try something new. So we’ve worked with artists from across the country to reimagine the “I Voted” sticker for 2020.

The latest artist to take us up on our challenge is Abby McMillen, an illustrator and tattoo artist from Los Angeles, California.

McMillen created her version of an “I Voted” sticker with the pandemic in mind. Incorporating her sense of isolation during the quarantine, she wanted to create an image that evoked the spirit of reconnecting with society through the power of voting. She explained to NBCLX’s Janine Doyon why she was inspired to participate in the project.

You can find more of McMillen's work on Instagram at @fat_noodle_ and on her website here. To find a digital version of her sticker – and our entire collection of artist-created "I Voted" stickers – search "LXtion2020" on Giphy. Share them on your social platforms to tell the world you voted!

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.  

Doyon: How would you describe your aesthetic or the subject matter that you typically portray?

McMillen: So if I were to describe my art style, I would say that it is heavily illustrative. But there is always a storytelling component. I lean a lot on whimsical elements. I love to use gestural lines. And I want someone who's looking at something, even if there's no context, to have an evocative feeling from it.

Doyon: What drew you to working in this style? What is it about the whimsical storytelling nature of illustrations that drew you to that type of art?

McMillen: One thing that drew me is that everyone can come to whatever piece of art they're looking at and pull something different away from it. And if I'm able to communicate an overarching feeling to whoever is looking at it, then I've accomplished my goal.

Doyon: How did you create this piece for the 'I Voted' project?

McMillen: The piece that I created for that 'I Voted' campaign is heavily influenced by our time here in quarantine and just the fact that we've all kind of been in our own little worlds. And now we're in a time where we have to engage the outside world again. And that it's going to take effort and a little bit more engagement than the last six months of our lives have required. But it's super important and we can all do it from the comfort of our own couches.

Doyon: When you first sat down and started to think about what it was you wanted to put together, what was your thought process like? Was it your personal experience being home that drove this?

McMillen: The idea came from the experience of being alone for a long period of time. I think a lot of us are experiencing that for the first time, maybe ever. I lived alone for the first time in my life and really needed to rethink the priorities of how I'm going to be able to engage socially and how I'm going to be able to contribute to our ongoing democracy. And just being able to do that and remain safe and remain smart and remain respectful.

Doyon: Tell me a little bit about the woman in the window? Is she a mail delivery woman? Is she a voting or elections official? Tell me a little bit about who she represents?

McMillen: The woman in the window is meant to represent USPS workers because they have been and will continue to be so vital in this entire process and and are far from being an obsolete service.

Doyon: Once you landed on your concept, can you walk me through your process. How you actually created your piece and what were some of the steps?

McMillen: When I did go about creating a piece, I usually think about world building. So I start with my subject, who I want them to be, and then create a little little environment around them. So it's like this person is going to represent me, but also a lot of other people. How do I feel like I exist most in my environment right now? I'm trying to stay cozy. I'm trying to stay in the least amount of stress that I can be in. She's going to be wearing sweats. You've got to have her hair up. She's going to be, like, cuddled up on the couch. And beyond that... start nest building for her. How is she going to decorate her apartment? She obviously needs a friend. She's been alone for a long time. She's going to need a dog. She's going to need some plants to take care of and then build out from there. Give her accessories. Give her an environment. Give her a little home that she can exist inside of.

Doyon: What message or emotion do you hope people take away from seeing your illustration?

McMillen: Regardless of how you're feeling about this election, whether or not you identify as a political person, that it is imperative to to vote. It is beyond personality. It's not going to be fixed by a single politician or a single president. And more than ever before, there is a need for us to act in solidarity and protection of those more vulnerable than ourselves. A lot of us come from a place of privilege, myself included, that have the ability and the time and have the financial standing in this space right now and can go out and vote. And I think that it's just really important for us to remember that movements happen from a group of people coming together and doing something that they all believe in. Not from individual acts, from higher up, not from a single president, not from a single politician.

Doyon: What does voting mean to you? Are you someone that gets really excited to vote? And if so, why? Or have your thoughts about voting changed over the years?

McMillen: I am 28 years old and had the opportunity to vote several times before and fallen into the trap of feeling like what I do doesn't really make an impact or doesn't really matter. But for the first time ever, I really believe that each one of our votes is a vote to help continue sustaining our democracy. And that's why it's so imperative that we all make sure that we go through it.

Doyon: Are there any issues that are being talked about this election cycle that you feel most passionately about?

McMillen: I think mostly about my younger brother. He has Downs Syndrome and autism and is incredibly affected by the health care jargon that's thrown around. And he can't legally vote. So every time I go into the polls, I think about what is in his best interest in this scenario. He's also much younger than me. What's going to make the world a better place for him in 10, 20 years environmentally? What's going to create a happier, healthier, better quality of life for people like him, for people who are more marginalized and more on the fringes? My vote is not just for myself. I have to think about more vulnerable people in process.