The Q&A: Anita Kunz

By Peggy Roalf   Monday February 23, 2015

Q: Originally from Toronto, what are some of your favorite things about living and working there? 

A: I’m Canadian, born and raised in Toronto. I've lived in London and New York, but always seem to end up in Toronto! It's quieter than New York so I can get lots of work done. We also have a summer cottage up north in the wilderness, which is a great getaway for me.

Q: Do you keep a sketchbook? What is the balance between the art you create on paper versus in the computer? 

A:I don't keep a sketchbook, but I keep a sketchbox. I doodle on everything, so I put anything that might be of value into an IKEA box. And I'm old school. I still work with paint on board! I have learned Photoshop so I am able to tweak images on the computer, but I do like having something tangible at the end of the day.

Q: What do you like best about your workspace? Do you think it needs improvement, if so, what would you change? 

A:I work in the attic of our old Victorian house. It's renovated so there's lots of light. But I would actually like to get rid of everything, and just make it into an empty white painting studio. I'm working larger these days (30"x40") so I'd love more space to move around!

Left: Eustace Trippy, cover art direction by Francoise Mouly for The New Yorker (current issue). Right: John Belushi for Rolling Stone Magazine, art director Joe Hutchinson (current issue).

Q:What is the most important item in your studio? 

A:I can't really think of any item, but light is so important to me! I love being able to paint by daylight! 

Q:How do you organize an assignment before you start drawing? Do you make lists and thumbnails ?

A:It depends on the assignment, but yes I do organize, sometimes as a method of procrastination! If I'm doing a portrait for example, I tape lots of photos of that person around my desk. I also clean up from the last painting, so it feels like a fresh start. And yes I do make lists and thumbnails, but only if it's for a job. If it's a personal piece I'm a bit freer and try to be more spontaneous.

Q: What’s the best way to finish an assignment? How do you know when the art is finished?

A:That’s the big question! It's always to difficult to know when something is finished. There have been times when I should have let something be, and I ended up overworking it. I think it's something we artists learn by experience. 

Q:What was the strangest or most unusual assignment you’ve taken? What did you get out of the experience?

A:I think I need to answer this question more generally. I've always been thrilled to be an illustrator but in the past few years I've also taken time away to do my own work that I've been showing in galleries. It's been a huge challenge for me, because the only art director is me, and I find doing personal work to actually be much more difficult than commissioned work. I think as illustrators get older we have more of an impulse to create work that is autonomous. At this point in my career I feel somewhat compelled to express myself more authentically, and really make work that's a reflection of the world I see around me and my place in it.

The Marked, (personal work).

Q:What was your favorite book as a child?

A:I grew up in a German household and we read Struwwelpeter, Max und Moritz,  and other such terrifying books. So when I discovered Harold and the Purple Crayon it was a breath of fresh air!

Q: What is the best book you’ve recently read?

A:My favorite author right now is Ian McEwan. I just finished The Children Act. His work is gorgeously written, and stays with me long after I've read it.

Q:If you had to choose one medium to work in for an entire year, eliminating all others, what medium would you choose? 

A:Probably just a pencil and paper! My favorite works are conceptual and simple. I think if you can convey an idea as simply as possible you've made a successful image!

Q:What are some of your favorite places/books/blogs/websites for inspiration?

A:I have to say my biggest inspiration is nature. I love being in the wilderness more than anything. And for ideas and inspiration I've been attending the TED conference for years. It's the best school around!

A: When I was a young artist I discovered the work of Ralph Steadman. I think it was I Leonardo. I was amazed at not only the brilliant level of craftsmanship but also the idea behind the book itself. It just blew me away! I was also influenced by the work of the English illustrators Sue Coe and Russell Mills. Their work showed a level of depth and originality I hadn't seen until then. Right:Swing(personal work)

Q:If you could be anywhere but where you are now, where would that be?

A:I’d have to say up north in the woods, but maybe I'd wait until the weather got a bit milder!

Q: Where do you teach—and what do you like best about teaching?

A:I absolutely love teaching. I've taught at Syracuse and the Illustration Academy and at TAD online, but at the moment I'm teaching smaller workshops exclusively. I love the energy of the students and I love seeing young talent develop. There's so much amazing work being done by young artists these days. Right:The Swing, personal work.

Q:What advice would you give a young artist about applying to an art school or college?

A:I tell students that art is not an occupation but rather a lifestyle. Nothing in the arts is easy. I think that if students feel compelled toward the arts, it's more of an instinctive feeling than perhaps something to pursue for the money.  All artists suffer rejection and difficulties at various points, but if a student feels they must create, then they're on the right path.  And I tell them to try and pursue their own unique personal vision and to remain open minded. At this time, the only constant is change! Nobody knows where we'll be in 5 years or in 10 years, so they should always keep their options open.  

Q:What would be your last supper?


Canadian by birth,Anita Kunz'sarthas been widely published worldwide for over 3 decades.Anita has been named one of the fifty most influential women in Canada by the National Post newspaper. She has received an Honorary Doctorate from the Ontario college of Art and Design in Toronto, with a second Honorary Doctorate to be awarded to her in Boston this spring.She has also been made an Officer of the Order of Canada, Canada's highest civilian honour, and more recently the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal of Honour.She shares her Toronto studio with a dog named Sophie and a cat named Lily.Blog.Upcoming workshops, February 27-March 1.



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