Story: Liz Ohanesian
Photos: Shannon Cottrell
Take a minute to think back to the late 1990s. SHAG’s paintings of mid-20th century scenes were all the rage and a new hit cartoon called The Powerpuff Girls brought an unusual retro-modern style to the small screen. Sanrio was now popular with more than just little girls and Paul Frank’s character, Julius the Monkey, was popping up on wallets across the country. Clean designs and cute characters were everywhere from CD covers to make-up packaging.
It was Paul Frank, in particular, whose work influenced a teenager in the Southern California city of Temecula. Michelle Romo wanted to do what he did, create adorable characters that could mark all sorts of products. “But,” she points out in the living room of her Eagle Rock home, “I didn’t know anything about anything because I was 18.”
Romo had an advantage in that her mom, a graphic designer, was making the transition from working by hand to working with a computer. As her mom learned programs like Illustrator, so did teenage Romo.