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Jillian Tamaki

We recently had the opportunity to speak with the wonderfully talented New York-based illustrator Jillian Tamaki and asked her about her artistic background? ‘I graduated from the Alberta College of Art and Design’s Visual Communication programme in 2003. I have a Bachelor of Design. After graduating, I worked at Bioware, a videogame company, painting backgrounds and making in-game characters. I did that for about two years and really enjoyed it. However, I always knew I wanted to do illustration. So I started moonlighting and building up freelance clients. Eventually I jumped into it full-time in 2005’.

How long have you been working as an illustrator? How would you describe the arc of your professional career?
‘I’ve been at it for about five years now. It’s been great. I wouldn’t say I’ve been in the industry long enough to have an “arc” yet, but it’s definitely strange to be teaching now (I joined the Illustration Department at Parsons in NYC last year). I still consider myself a relative “upstart” who has a lot to learn! My main goal is to sustain a career over a lifetime. That seems a bit more difficult than “breaking in” because the industry is very faddish’.

How would you describe your artistic process?
‘That’s a very broad question. And perhaps not very applicable to a commercial illustrator. My artistic process is dictated by the client and the job. I will say that my artistic fervor is stoked by consuming books, art, movies, comics, etc., and working in my sketchbook. Those influences then blend into my finished illustration work. It’s what makes your work evolve’.

What do you enjoy most about your work?
‘I love drawing in its purest form’.

You maintain a particularly successful blog for your work, what would you say the effect of that has been?
‘Well, it has had a positive effect on my attitude towards sketchbooking and encouraged me to do more personal work, if you can call it that (mostly I just post doodles). Some people have really responded to it, and it’s given me confidence to think about moving my paid work in that direction, like drawings and simple watercolours. People seem to like following along on a daily basis and seeing into my process. It’s surprising and flattering’.

jillian tamaki