It’s a beautiful day out there today! Sun, cool breeze, cicadas buzzing…and this morning I saw a bunny in our front yard. As much as I tried to be non-intimidating and welcoming, the bunny wouldn’t have it! He (or she) just looked at me out of the corner of one of his (or her) eyes and was probably thinking: “Hey lady…stay away from me…no! Not one step closer! You’re making me very uncomfortable. And I’m trapped in here in your yard…I’m not just hanging out here ‘cause I like it. Your grass is not all that yummy after all…hey! I said, not one step closer!” It made for a very awkward exchange…since I just kept creeping closer and closer saying (in my happiest voice): “Bunny!!” Oh well, so it goes…there’ll be other bunnies! “Bunny!”
I’m so happy to write today’s “why people draw” post and introduce to you illustrator and designer Isabel Roxas. If I remember correctly, I first learned of Studio Roxas, which is based in Astoria, Queens, and of Isabel when I worked with Wendy Ann Gardner while still at The Aldrich Museum (remember Wendy was featured in a “why people draw” interview back in May?). I loved Isabel’s work from the start, signed up for email updates, and visited her site repeatedly as Thom and I were working with Matt on the wacky shorts creations website. Isabel’s work has a spirit that resonates with my interest in children’s books, stories, children playing and discovering, and her color sense is a trait of her work that I admire.
Earlier this summer, Thom and I went to Bust Magazine’s Craftacular and Food Fair because I had received a Studio Roxas email saying that Isabel would be there. I thought that would be a great opportunity to meet Isabel, and even though brief (it’s not always my strong suit to walk up to someone I don’t know and say “hi!”), the exchange made it evident how nice and happy Isabel is—in many ways, it’s just like the work I’d seen from her!
It has been more recently, through the research I did to prepare for this interview, that I also discovered how professional Isabel is as an artist and a business person. Really admirable. As someone who is trying to start a business involving illustration, I sure can learn a great deal from her. Thank you Isabel for your time…learning more about what you’ve done as an artist has been extremely fun. And for those of you who are interested, go to ChopsticksNY.com before July 31 and vote for Isabel’s cover illustration entry titled “Oshogatsu” (Japanese New Year)!
ISABEL ROXAS (tah-dah!)
So as to not keep you waiting for Isabel’s interview any longer, here she is (drum, drum, drum) Isabel Roxas in her own words and images. Thanks again Isabel!
HW: What is your earliest memory of drawing (or of being able to draw)?
IR: I can’t recall a precise moment—I feel like that was all I did when I was a kid…draw and color. I DO remember having filled my mother’s beautiful green walls with pencil drawings of dinosaurs with my cousin Marlo as my sidekick/scapegoat. We got into a lot of trouble for that…but I still quite enjoy painting murals.
HW: What does being able to draw mean to you?
IR: It means being able to bring an idea into the world and communicating. I speak with my hands too—drawing shapes in the air. Drawing helps me think.
HW: Your illustrations take the form of posters, prints, book covers, toys, sculptures, children’s books, etc. What form is the one you prefer, if any? Why?
IR: I’m eager for my illustrations to take ANY form, though I particularly like making books because I love stories. I love imagined worlds and creating spaces to be lost in.
HW: Who are two current illustrators/artists/designers whose work you enjoy, and why?
IR: Maira Kalman is delightfully optimistic. I love her writing, sense of humor and loose illustration style. Jon Klassen I like because his work is dark, moody and rich. He makes excellent tableaus and backdrops—they are stylized and imagined, but they feel so real at the same time.
HW: If you could a write a recipe for your artwork, what would the ingredient list read like?
IR: I think it’s one part whimsy, one part melancholy with a dash of anarchy on the side. Lately, though, I’ve been drawn to dark, moody Victoriana. A smidge of malevolence might be part of the mix in the future.
HW: From looking at your body of work, most of your characters are children. Can you tell us more about this affinity to capture childhood experiences in your drawings and illustrations?
IR: I enjoy watching kids go about their activities with reckless abandon. They generally aren’t self-conscious and I really admire that freedom.
HW: What role has having grown up in the Philippines played in your life as an artist? How much has living in New York City also played a part?
IR: Living in the Philippines helped me define myself and my interests. Since the Illustration Industry there is still rather small it was easier to make a name for myself, and was able to work with a lot of really, intelligent, interesting people. I also had a lot of freedom to play with different styles on a variety of projects, which really helped me find my own voice.
Working in NY has taught me to make the work leaner, smarter and more polished. It has also taught me that I will forever be trying to figure things out.
HW: What gets your Hamster Wheel running (what gets you itching to draw or create)?
IR: Traveling and new textures (i.e. fabric, or washi paper or any other interesting object that can be cut and pasted).
I hope you enjoyed Isabel’s interview. Below you’ll see a pretty comprehensive list of all things Roxas…so please take a look through so you can see more of Isabel’s work. Thanks you Isabel for the inspiration!
Studio Roxas Shop at Big Cartel
DPI Magazine Studio Roxas feature
Studio Roxas on Facebook
AIGA Member Gallery
Studio Roxas at Studio6
lmnop Blog—bookplates by Isabel Roxas
ChopsticksNY—Vote for Isabel Roxas’ cover before July 31!
Araw sa Palengke (A Day at the Market), written by May Tobias-Papa, illustrated by Isabel Roxas
Can We Drink the Ocean?, written by Gidget Jimenez, illustrated by Isabel Roxas
Si Segunda, Noong Panahon ng mga Espanyol, written by Augie Rivera, illustrated by Isabel Roxas
100 Questions Filipino Kids Ask
Ang Ambisyosong Istetoskop (The Ambitious Stethoscope), written by Luis P. Gatmaitan, illustrated by Isabel Roxas
Squirt Magert The Fraidy Frog, written by Gidget Jimenez, illustrated by Isabel Roxas
Tubble Wubble The Clumsy Little Turtle, written by Gidget Jimenez, illustrated by Isabel Roxas
Maya Maya Jumbolaya The Big Bad Bully Bird, written by Gidget Jimenez, illustrated by Isabel Roxas
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