Interview with Ryan Inzana

Posted by Nate Williams


Ryan Inzana is an illustrator and comic artist whose work has appeared in numerous magazines, ad campaigns, books and various other media all over the world. The Society of Illustrators and American Illustration have recognized his illustrations; Ryan’s comics have been inducted into the Library of Congress’s permanent collection of art.

Booklist and numerous other publications named Ryan’s first graphic novel, Johnny Jihad, one of the top 10 books of 2003. He has contributed to numerous anthologies, notably in 2010, Ryan teamed up with the late Harvey Pekar and Studs Terkel for an adaptation of Terkel’s book Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day And How They Feel About What They Do. His most recent book is entitled Ichiro, the story of how a young boy comes to grips with war through the fantastical world of Japanese mythology. Ichiro was the honor selection for the Asian American/Pacific Islander Award For Literature in 2013, A Junior Library Guild selection and was also nominated for an Eisner.

How did you get into illustration?

It was either illustration or a life of crime and we all know crime doesn’t pay. I suppose neither does illustration in the beginning, but it was already too late when I figured that out… The only 2 things I’ve ever had any aptitude for was writing and drawing. When I was young, I had a lot less confidence in my writing than my drawing ability. For me, that was a much more difficult form to master. I was really into comics, that put me on the road to illustration.

What other types of jobs have you had?

A bunch of menial jobs: stock boy, receptionist at a church, bagger, busboy, I worked animal control for a while…a bunch of others that my brain has intentionally blocked out due to the scars they have left on my psyche.

Describe your creative process?

If it is an assignment, I try to make some sort of visual connection to the words/concept that I’m illustrating. If there is a particular line that sticks out in the article, a metaphor or a feeling that comes across, I start with that as a jumping off point. A lot of times I’ll do some additional research into whatever it is I’m illustrating, understanding something a little better always helps. After that, my process is pretty straight forward, thumbnails>sketch>formal drawing>coloring>finished piece.
I usually light-box my sketch when I ink. Depending on the nature of the piece, I might uses acrylic, ink, watercolor/gouache. Sometimes charcoal. I might paint elements of the piece and put it together in photoshop. The endgame is always the computer.

What is your favorite type of commercial project and why?

They are all good in different ways. The best is when you get to run wild and do whatever it is you want. This is typically not the case. I try to run wild with my ideas as much as I can, but the chain of command has a way of reining it in. Admittedly, sometimes for the better.

Is your work more conceptual or decorative?


Do you have an art rep? Why or why not?

I had one for a while. Meh… I know a lot of people do well by it—personally, I think it’s better to captain your own boat. If you run up on the rocks, it’s your own fault.

Please describe a typical day?

It depends on how many jobs are in the hopper and what the deadlines are like. My time is divided between the drawing board (sketching/inking/painting) and the computer (coloring/emailing clients/research). I start around 7. I end when I’m done. More often than not, I work on weekends.

What is your working environment like?

Drawing table, computer, assorted ephemera and artifacts to draw inspiration from. There’s a lot of taxidermy around. My studio is decently organized to the point I can find what I’m looking for. There is a flowering dogwood out the window and it looks like a giant pink cloud is about to envelop my studio come spring.

Do you meet up with other illustrators in person? Who?

Not really. I used to on occasion when I lived in the city. To be honest, I don’t like talking “shop.”

Who are some of your favorite illustrators and why?

There’s so many, here’s a few off the top of my head, in no particular order:

NC Wyeth: From his obvious love of history and attention to detail in its visual retelling to the whimsy of his more fantastical pieces… you feel like you can walk right into the scene. Wyeth has the equation of tightness and looseness that I particularly enjoy. His painting of Washington hangs to this day in the bank across from the Trenton capital building near where I grew up. Maybe one of the first illustrators I was aware of.

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi: One of the latter-day ukiyo-e artists, what attracted me to his work was once again his love of history, the weird craziness of his yokai series and lastly, Yoshi Toshi used to illustrate bizarre or particularly gruesome crimes for the Asahi Shimbun. These pieces are really great. There is a lot of Expressionism and European influence in his work, and it is a balance of the traditional Japanese and western art that make his work stand out stylistically for me.

Koji Morimoto: His colors and and the fast/loose combined with areas of tightness. I really stumbled upon a book of his in Japan many years ago and was totally hooked. I like the movement in his work—his concept drawings are mixes of Syd Mead/Katsuhiro Otomo/Taiyo Matsumoto, all of whom I love. I learned a lot from the way he uses the computer in his work.

Ralph Steadman: His work looks like it just exploded on the paper.

Henri de Toulouse-Latrec: His posters in particular. I like Latrec for the same reason I like Yoshitoshi, the east-west merging of styles. Also his simplified color schemes, the typography, his line quality…

What is something new you have noticed or learned recently?

I’m learning everyday to simplify my colors and be more purposeful in choosing them. This has been a long evolution, it has been only in the past few years I’ve come to start understanding this. It’s so easy to run wild in photoshop with color balance and hue saturation and the like. I try not to use those things anymore. Come up with a core palate with a few variations and stick to it.

What was the best advice given to you as an illustrator?

It’s a cliche, but hang in there and don’t get discouraged. It sounds easy, it most assuredly is not. That and don’t be so concerned with what other people are doing, trends and styles. It’s all a bunch of nonsense. Have some faith in what you do and don’t be so concerned how the hipster-committee weighs in.

Top 5 favorite things in life

I’m pretty fond of my wife, friends and family—partial to my cat as well. The beach in the fall, striped bass, the woods, the Delaware River…wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings, these are a few of my fav-o-rite things.

Top 5 bands/singers

This is tough…Sam Cooke, The Stones, Louie Prima, Howlin Wolf, Biggie

Can you suggest 3 artists or illustrators we should check out?

I love Walton Ford, go look, discuss.
If you want to know the most stylistically influential comic artist of all time, his name is Alex Toth.
John Sloan: read his book on painting. I wish I could time travel back to the art students league and have taken his class.

More about RYAN INZANA at: Profile / Spotlight / Website

Interview with illustrator Assaf Benharroch

Posted by Nate Williams


Assaf is a 35 year old illustrator and animation designer.

He lives with his wife and three sons in a small Kibbutz in the mid south of Israel.

After graduating in 2008 from “Minshar For Arts” College, he started working as an animation designer in several TV animation series and commercials.  

At the moment he is the art director in a small animation studio in Tel Aviv, a freelance illustrator and he teaches Photoshop to Illustrators in “Shenkar college of engineering and design”.

How did you get into illustration?

My primary education is animation.  I became an illustrator.  I don’t know if I should thank my laziness or a love of still images that manage to depict motion…


Should you “Know The Rules Before You Break Them”?

I never studied the “rules” very well… I definitely feel the absence of this proper knowledge,  for instance  my anatomic drawing is mediocre. Knowing the rules, or techniques, gives you more freedom to express yourself as an illustrator. It makes it easier to make an image out of your thoughts and emotions.


Please describe a typical day?

My day is quite boring… I wake at around 6:00 AM.  After waking my children and preparing them for kindergarten, I drive to the train station and take a one hour train to Tel-Aviv.


At 8:15 AM I get to the studio I work in. I usually start where I left off the day before. I design characters, environments and props for short animation movies that help our customers sell their products.  At 17:00 I take the train back home.  Spend some time with the family until they go to sleep at around 20:30, then I finally have the time to do my freelance illustration work, personal projects if there are any or just watching TV with my wife.

What is your working environment like?

I wish I were more tidy.
My work area at home the computer takes up most of the space on my work table and it doesn’t leave much for all the handy art material.


I often wonder if the computer would still be my main tool for illustration if I had more space (and time).  My paints and bits of wood wait patiently for what precious little time I have for personal projects.


Please tell us a little bit about your animation work?

I did most of my animating in school - “Tender Waters” was featured in several animation festivals in Israel, Europe, South America and Japan.  ”Every Day”, a music video for an Israeli recording artist was a collaboration of mine with two school friends.  It was featured in many venues including the festival in Annecy, France.

Although I started as an animator, I don’t do much animation at this point.  My latest animation project was a lot of fun, an app for a startup company that created an application called “POPS” , which uses short animation notifications when you get emails or sms.  

(view more animations here)

I had full freedom to do whatever I wanted in a 5 second animation piece.

I designed it using Adobe Photoshop and animated it Using Adobe After Effects. I even did the sound mixing.

Please tell us a little bit about your Children’s Interactive Storybook?

Well… I illustrated these children’s E-Books for BFTV, LLC.  They provided the story and the main character designs, I created the environments as well as some of the animation. They gave me a lot of creative freedom and it was a great fun!  The creation of this book involved different Adobe softwares such as Photoshop, Flash and After-Effects.  It was very complicated because creating a mobile interactive book was a first for almost everyone involved.

Has fatherhood had an effect on your work? How?

Yes, very very much.

On the one hand it made me more devoted to the financial side of this business, also it gave me an urge to focus on developing my style. I felt that I needed to be more recognizable if I wanted to get into the international market because the Israeli illustration market is very small. (I’m still working towards integration in the International market).



On the other hand, I can spend less time and fewer resources towards learning new techniques.  There is less freedom to experiment and to set projects in motion that aren’t profitable in the short term… in this sense having young children is very difficult and frustrating.


Has something in your background influenced your work?

Yes, I think that growing up in an isolated Kibbutz in the Negev desert of Israel influenced me in many aspects - my tendency to create environments was probably influenced by the wide open spaces and the silence that surrounded me.  In addition, the colors I use are influenced by the Israeli light which is like a sandy filter.


What is something new you have noticed or learned recently?

I’ve realized that the quality of Illustration worldwide has never been higher. There are so many illustrators that I refer to as my “favorite illustrators ever!!”… It is crazy.  So many original, mature and exciting illustrators.  On the other hand, it is much harder to make a living from this profession.  Working in tandem with such great talent is both wonderful and terrifying.  


Is studying illustration in college worth the cost or do you recommend an alternative?

Like any profession, I believe there is no serious alternative to proper studies, though, I believe college is only part of the process of being an illustration artist, it begins earlier in life where the love for drawing begins.  


Education opens your mind to different directions and give you the formal professional approval of being an illustrator that can charge money for his work. 

Do you have tips on developing an illustration style?

  1. Be productive and playful and discover what is authentic in your work, what you really love doing.

  2. Limit your technique as much as you can. For example 2-3 color drawings, one size brush etc… This is even more true when we are dealing with digital illustration, an area that suffers from too many possibilities.

  3. Practicing doing a series if illustrations with a common issue is very helpful in maintaining a style.  I think it’s best if it is a personal project too, so you aren’t limited by a client’s wishes.

When are images better than words?

I think that images are stronger in the field of atmosphere and conceptual illustration, you can summarize a lot of complicated information in one image, as evident  in editorial illustrations.


What is success to you?

Tough question!  On the materialistic level I think it is to make an honorable living from what you love and are good at.

However, I think success is actually only a feeling of satisfaction. It’s a personal thing.


What do you think hinders creativity?

Low self esteem, fear of any kind, creating in an unpleasant environment.

Top 5 favorite things in life

  1. Creating.
  2. Good times with my family.
  3. Curiosity.
  4. Friends.
  5. Louis C.K.

Top 5 bands/singers

  1. Bon Iver
  2. Laura Veirs
  3. Neil Young
  4. Robert Wyatt
  5. Joanna Newsom

Can you suggest 3 artists or illustrators we should check out?

First of all, my favorite Illustrator is definitely  Jon McNaught. Though I’m quite sure you might be familiar with him… He is like a combination of a great Impressionist, a cartoonist and a poet, he inspires me deeply.

The second one is Henry McCausland.  I love the unique way in which he combines manual and digital illustration, I love the scenery he creates and the way he draws plants and character movement.

The third one is Pilipo Giordano.  I came across his works through Facebook. I love his graphic style and color palettes.

More about ASSAF BENHARROCH at: Profile / Spotlight / Website / Facebook