The Q&A: Zach Meyer

By Peggy Roalf   Monday February 26, 2018

Q: Originally from [where?] what are some of your favorite things about living and working in [your current locale]?

A: I’m originally from the suburbs of Chicago, moved to New York in 2010 to study illustration at Pratt Institute, and haven’t left. Now I work out of a studio in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn.

My favorite thing about New York is the people. I have a great support system here of people that believe in my work and push me to get better. New York for me is at the center of the editorial and publishing world, and it’s a place where people still really value printed things.

Q: Do you keep a sketchbook? What is the balance between art you create on paper [or other analog medium] versus in the computer? 

A: Sketchbooks are where the most important part of my process begins—with  an idea. They aren’t pristine, but this is where I can allow myself to mess up and experiment. My overall balance with working in Photoshop is to keep the principle of art making off the screen and on the desk as much as possible. I do all my linework and tone layers by hand, using ink and charcoal. From there, I am dropping in color and texture layers in Photoshop like you would arrange a silkscreen print. Working traditionally with brush and ink on paper allows for happy accidents that the computer can’t create.

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

A: Definitely my flat file, which holds years of originals and all of my published work. 

Q: How do you know when the art is finished—or when to stop working on it?

A: This is something that I struggle with as someone who works realistically. Linework involves finding a balance of using a lot of detail and then letting things breathe with white space.  To counter that, I scan my drawings in at different points, so if I go too far I can go back to earlier stages. Luckily I work with great art directors who understand what a piece needs to be finished. So for me it's done when the client says it's done—if left alone I would work on it forever. 

Q: What was your favorite book as a child And what is the best book you’ve recently read?

A: The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter, my first introduction into ink and watercolor illustration. I fell in love with her use of line and storytelling. Currently I've been reading a lot of graphic novels by Adrian Tomine.  My favorite would have to be Sleepwalk—his narrative and brushwork are captivating.

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

A: It would be brush and ink on paper, it’s crucial to my work and style.

Q: What elements of daily life exert the most influence on your work practice?

A: As someone who is hired for my ideas, I’m always looking for that moment in every day where an idea becomes clear enough in my head to form a concept. That comes by doing things that aren't art related, like skateboarding around Brooklyn  and going to vintage bookstores keeps me inspired. Life in general has more of an influence on my work than looking at art.

Q: What was the [Thunderbolt] painting or drawing or film or otherwise that most affected your approach to art? 

A: Mary Cassatt's etching The Fitting, I saw it a couple of years ago at a New York Public Library show, and it completely changed the way I thought about drawing. At the time I was struggling with accuracy and trying to achieve perfection in my own work. Looking at this piece I realized that there is beauty in mistakes. Her mark making was not perfect but that imperfection made it beautiful. 


Q: What was the strangest/most interesting assignment you've taken that has an important impact on your practice, and what changed through the process

A: In the summer of 2015 I was asked by Quentin Tarantino to work on a comics-style preview of his latest film The Hateful Eight. I worked directly with him and an art director from Playboy Magazine on a fully fleshed out storyline of his movie, all of which was drawn with ink on paper over the course of four months.  That was used as a preview for the movie and gave inspiration to the film itself. After that project was released people really started to take me seriously. Before that time I was getting published, but at that point I felt like I had proved myself and earned the respect of my heroes. 

Q: What would be your last supper?

A: A banh mi sandwich with a bubble tea

Zach Meyer is a Brooklyn-based illustrator, who holds a BFA from Pratt Institute, and an MFA from the School of Visual Arts. Known for his detailed portraits and narrative works, he is most notably published in Playboy, The New York Times, Harper Collins, Adweek, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian, and internationally in PopShot Magazine. Zach has completed numerous projects in fashion, film, editorial, advertising, gallery and print publishing industries, and continues to work in these industries.
Represented By Richard Solomon:
Personal Website:


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