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If you have a degree in what field is it? I have an BFA in illustration from Rhode Island School of Design.

Have you always been able to draw or was it a skill you learned in college? I drew like all young kids, but I loved showing off. My third grade art teacher didn't show up for class one day, so I decided to teach the class how to draw dragons. My Grandpa Buzelli was also a big influence in my art career. When I was young we would oil paint together in his television repair shop. After he retired he turned the shop into a Chris Buzelli Museum and hung all my art from childhood through college—individually wrapped in plastic wrap and scotch tape. He actually had people coming in for viewings. He hounded me for years for all my art because he said the collection would be worth more if it were “complete.”

What was your first paid assignment? After lugging around my enormous black clam-shell portfolio filled with esoteric illustrations of famous tabloid stories—including “I Married Bigfoot,” “I Buried My Wife in a Glass Coffee Table,” and “Batboy”—an art director finally took pity on me. I think it was a spot illustration for American Journal of Nursing about death.

Which illustrator (or fine artist) do you most admire? There are so many. But one of my earliest influences was collecting and trading hundreds of Wacky Packages cards. They were beautifully illustrated stickers/cards that spoofed well-known brands and packaging, such as “Crust” instead of Crest or “Blisterine” instead of Listerine. I thought they were hilarious. I was also introduced to the paintings of the Seven Deadly Sins by Paul Cadmus back in high school. Even though they were painted in the 1940s, they still look very contemporary today and blur the line between fine art and illustration. I think it was my first realization that fine art could be so cool. Actually, I just finished up a project illustrating two of the deadly sins for Discover Magazine. Amazing how that series still influences my career.

What would you be doing if you weren’t an illustrator? I’m scared to guess. I’m just really glad that I’m on this path.

From where do your best ideas originate? I wish I knew. Sometimes they come so easily and sometimes I beat my brain until I’m physically and emotionally exhausted. But I think the best ideas originate from your own life experiences. Lately, I’ve been sneaking personal stories into my assignments and paintings.

How do you overcome a creative block? Go to the doggy park. Take a nap. Yell and throw things. I think you just have to find a way to relax to get the creative juices flowing again. However, it sounds much easier than it is.

In one word describe how you feel when beginning a new assignment? Terrified!

Do you have a personal philosophy? No.

Do you have creative pursuits other than illustration? Creating art for various companies and galleries is a full-time career. It consumes my life—seven days a week and sometimes nights. But I do find a little time to go on adventures with my wife and our Min Pin.

What music are you listening to right now? Sunset Rubdown, Les Savy Fav, A Place to Bury Strangers.

What’s your favorite quote? “Freedom is born of great discipline.” I’m not sure who said it but hopefully I’ll find a little bit of that freedom one of these days.

Do you have any advice for people just entering the profession? I think the theory, from the book Outliers, that you don’t really become good at something until you've done it for at least 10,000 hours might bear some truth. It took me a long time before I could call myself a full-time illustrator/artist—almost seven years. And I’m still racking-up the hours towards success. It also helps if you find some personal satisfaction in the process. For me I still love trying to impress people, art directors, my wife and myself.

What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started your career? Draw and paint the subjects that you find interesting. For so long I drew solely for the client; now I’ve found a way to draw for myself and the client.
Illustrator Chris Buzelli was born and raised outside of Chicago and on the waters of Lake Michigan and was influenced at a young age by his grandfather Armondo Buzelli who he painted with side-by-side.

After graduating from Rhode Island School of Design, Chris moved to New York City to start his career as an illustrator in 1995. His oil paintings have appeared in many national and international publications including Rolling Stone, Playboy, The Village Voice, New York Times and the LA Times. Chris has also collaborated on numerous projects for design firms, advertising agencies and Broadway musical posters and his work has been recongnized by American Illustration, Society of Illustrators, Print and Step by Step. Chris is represented by Jen Vaughn and shows his work extensively throughout North America.
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