Five Illustrators Share Their Treasured Finds Favorites

Five Illustrators Share Their Treasured Finds

Anita Kunz, Marco Goran Romano, Alice Meichi Li, Rovina Cai and Dewey Saunders share their favorite illustration tools and inspiration.

Anita Kunz

Inspiring read: One of my favorite authors is Ian McEwan. I’ve read every-thing he has written, and his work always stays with me for weeks. He really nails the zeitgeist with his acute social observations. I feel that one of his most timely books is Solar, a book about climate change—written with a fierce and biting tone.

Old-school tool: My cheap watercolor brushes. I never use sable-hair brushes—I can torture my cheap ones and not feel guilty! 

Mind-blowing exhibition: One of my favorite artists, Ana Juan, just had a show in Valencia, Spain, called Ana Juan. Drawing on the other side. By looking through augmented reality devices, visitors to the show could animate her wonderful characters. How that was done is completely beyond me! 

Mental exercise: I’ve been going to the TED Conference every year. It really opens my mind to new possibilities and inspires me in every way. One of my favorite talks was by artist Shea Hembrey, on staging an international art show by pretending to be 100 different artists—it was hilarious! The great thing about attending TED is that you never know who will amaze you. It’s always a surprise, and it’s a serious brain workout.

Marco Goran Romano

License to feel: I loved the picture book Tough Guys Have Feelings Too, by Keith Negley. As the title indicates, the children’s book deals with male feelings. For a man, it can be hard to admit that he can be hurt by something. And the illustrations are lovely on every page. 

High-tech to-do list: Recently, I started using Asana and Harvest—both the app and the browser versions—and I like them a lot. I organize my workflow and can track all my projects from briefs to invoicing. 

Emerging artist: I admire the work of Matteo Berton, particularly his illustrations for Dante’s La Divina Commedia. Berton is Italian, very young and very talented. He was recently awarded a gold medal from the Society of Illustrators in New York City. 

Spellbinding read: Harry Potter. I know, I’m 30, and the time for reading teen fantasy best sellers has passed—but the series still grips me! My wife gave me the entire book collection as a present, and I’m rereading all of them.  

Alice Meichi Li

Must-read comic: Every page of Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda’s Monstress features an impossibly detailed art deco atmosphere and brocaded decadence. Yet Takeda’s gorgeously lush artwork complements—rather than distracts from—the writing, which, typical of Liu, is incredible. Hands down the best ongoing comic book I’ve read in years. 

Guilty pleasure: I have been known to give an interesting—note: I didn’t say “good”—karaoke performance. Once I won third place in a lip-sync battle performing Aaliyah’s “Are You That Somebody?”

Illustrator’s playbook: The Muddy Colors blog is an incredible resource—it’s a place where illustrators and art directors discuss anything and everything related to fantasy illustration. It also covers a lot of ground that other types of illustrators would find useful, from promotion to career guidance to the intersection of pop culture and social justice. It’s a great general forum that examines every facet of making illustrations.

Rovina Cai

Priceless purchase: I splurge on good paper that feels special and makes me want to draw. I prefer something nice and thick with a beautiful texture and deckled edges, like printmaking or watercolor paper. My current go-to is Magnani Pescia printmaking paper. 

Visual treasury: I just found out about the New York Public Library’s Digital Collections, an archive of thousands of scans from old books and other public domain images. Services like this are fantastic for finding interesting references. It’s easy to type something into Google and look through the image results, but for me, picture archives seem to inspire more original illustrations. 

Eye-opening exhibit: I saw the Alexander McQueen exhibition Savage Beauty in London last year, and it completely blew my mind. The exhibition goes into detail about McQueen’s influences as well as his development as an artist. What especially struck me was the way he borrowed from things that inspired him, but was still able to create something true to his own voice with those influences in mind.

Dewey Saunders

Personal archive: I have a vast collection of rare books, magazines, postcards and printed ephemera. I have several “book mountains.” But I can’t seem to stop gathering printed matter. Magazines from the ’40s to the ’60s have imagery and designs that get my mind going, and the ads from that period have interesting color qualities and styles that inspire me. 

Motivational guru: I enjoyed the series David Hockney: The Biography, by Christopher Simon Sykes. It made me strive to open up to new techniques and ways of image making and to fully immerse myself in creating artwork all the time. 

Up-and-coming illustrator: There is an artist named Gangster Doodles who has defined a new direction for social media-savvy illustrators: all of his drawings are on Post-it notes, and he posts once a day on Instagram, which propelled him into Internet stardom. His prints are Risographs, and he makes and sells cool pins, shirts and books. It’s great to see an artist self-propel a career with the help of social media.

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