Duration: Four years.
Education: BFA in illustration from Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), 2011.
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Career path: At RISD, Chris Buzelli’s editorial illustration course introduced me to illustrating for newspapers and magazines. At the time, I was good at emulating many different styles, but I struggled to find my own voice. Although Buzelli’s class equipped me with tools to begin pursuing editorial illustration assignments, I was unsure whether this type of work was the right fit for me. One of my illustrator friends gave me a few e-mail addresses for art directors at the New York Times. I was in Philadelphia, drawing a lot and feeling like I was beginning to shape a distinct voice in my work. So I gave this editorial thing a shot. After getting positive feedback from one art director, I got my first assignment a few months later. I’ve been hooked ever since.
Favorite projects: I really enjoyed working with Bloomberg Businessweek’s creative team to develop Flying Cars for its global technology issue and with Lucky Peach magazine to create a fully illustrated dictionary of thirty iconic dishes in fine dining. Another memorable assignment is Eggplant Chandelier, which I developed for a New York Times article on genetically modified organisms. I struggled to come up with a good concept for the article, which can be anxiety inducing when there is only two days to complete the artwork, but the art director Aviva Michaelov helped me see the potential of a more abstract composition. This project taught me the importance of thinking more abstractly during the development stages of an assignment and of utilizing illustration as a tool to show more than a literal interpretation of a text.
Work environment: I work in a small space located in a former window factory next to my apartment. Ironically, the only window in my studio is a skylight located above my table. I have recently expanded into a second room, where I store finished drawings in flat files. I’ve been in this space for almost four years.
Technique: My favorite medium is graphite; with it, I can articulate ideas in absurdly specific ways. Graphite also has an incredible textural range. I can make something appear metallic, gooey and furry all at once. The illustration becomes a catalyst for all these separate sensations in viewers.
Aspirations: I’m interested in continuing editorial illustrations. I love the process: the collaborative nature with both text and art director, the content’s unpredictability, the fast deadlines, and the amazing capability of printed media to reach a large, diverse audience so quickly. But I hope to also explore other avenues of illustration—particularly picture books. Children’s book illustration was my gateway into this field. I’m inspired by artists like Lane Smith and his The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, Chris Van Allsburg, and David Macaulay. It would be a lot of fun to take on a fully illustrated book.
My personal work is also very important to me. My ongoing studio projects, which tend to be more experimental, definitely fuel my commercial work. I would like to exhibit these drawings in the future.
Philosophy: It’s important to take things seriously, but not too seriously. Humor is important to me and drives a lot of my decision-making. If a drawing makes me smile or laugh out loud, it usually means I’m heading in the right direction.