Unknown Origins

Anita Kunz on Illustration

November 30, 2020 Attitude. Imagination. Execution. Season 1 Episode 35
Unknown Origins
Anita Kunz on Illustration
Chapters
Unknown Origins
Anita Kunz on Illustration
Nov 30, 2020 Season 1 Episode 35
Attitude. Imagination. Execution.

An illustrator is an artist who applies their imagination to enhance the written word and expound concepts by providing visual representation and meaning. 

Anita Kunz has created art that has been internationally shown and published for four decades. Famous for her covers for the New Yorker Magazine, Time Magazine, Rolling Stone, the New York Times Magazine, and many others. Her work has appeared in numerous galleries and museums and she has won many awards for her work.

Anita was named as one of the fifty most influential women in Canada by the National Post newspaper.  Received an Honorary Doctorate from the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto and a second from Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston. 

She was appointed Officer of the Order of Canada, Canada's highest civilian honour, and more recently the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal of Honour. In 2018 she was inducted into the Society of Illustrators Museum of American Illustration Hall of Fame, and in 2019 Canada Post released a stamp celebrating her career and work. In her spare time she volunteers at a sanctuary that rescues primates.

 
www.anitakunzart.com

https://www.instagram.com/anitakunz/

https://www.facebook.com/AnitaKunzArt

Photo credit Bruce Heavin

Web: www.unknownorigins.com
Twitter: UnknownOrigins9
Instagram: unknownoriginsuo77

Show Notes Transcript

An illustrator is an artist who applies their imagination to enhance the written word and expound concepts by providing visual representation and meaning. 

Anita Kunz has created art that has been internationally shown and published for four decades. Famous for her covers for the New Yorker Magazine, Time Magazine, Rolling Stone, the New York Times Magazine, and many others. Her work has appeared in numerous galleries and museums and she has won many awards for her work.

Anita was named as one of the fifty most influential women in Canada by the National Post newspaper.  Received an Honorary Doctorate from the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto and a second from Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston. 

She was appointed Officer of the Order of Canada, Canada's highest civilian honour, and more recently the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal of Honour. In 2018 she was inducted into the Society of Illustrators Museum of American Illustration Hall of Fame, and in 2019 Canada Post released a stamp celebrating her career and work. In her spare time she volunteers at a sanctuary that rescues primates.

 
www.anitakunzart.com

https://www.instagram.com/anitakunz/

https://www.facebook.com/AnitaKunzArt

Photo credit Bruce Heavin

Web: www.unknownorigins.com
Twitter: UnknownOrigins9
Instagram: unknownoriginsuo77

Roy Sharples:

Hello, I'm Roy Sharples, and welcome to the unknown origins podcast. Why are you listening to this podcast? Are you an industry expert? Looking for insights? are you growing your career? Or are you a dear friend, helping despite your old pal on? I created the unknown origins podcast, to have the most inspiring conversations with creative industry personalities and experts about entrepreneurship, pop culture, art, music, film and fashion. an illustrator is an artist who applies that imagination to enhance the written word and expand concepts by providing visual representation and meaning. No one can hold a candle to my guest today, in terms of creating still drawings and images to bring to life a story, a message and an idea for use in magazines, newspapers, books and advertisements. Anita Kearns has created art that has been internationally shown and published for four decades, famous for her covers for The New Yorker magazine, Time Magazine, Rolling Stone, The New York Times Magazine, and many others. Her work has appeared in numerous galleries and museums, and she has won many awards for her work. Anita was named as one of the 50 most influential women in Canada, by the National Post newspaper, received an honorary doctorate from the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto, and a second from Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston. She was appointed Officer of the Order of Canada, Canada's highest civilian honor, and more recently, the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal of Honor. In 2018, she was inducted into the Society of illustrators Museum of American illustration Hall of Fame. And in 2019, Canada Post released a stamp celebrating her career and work. In our spare time, she volunteers at a sanctuary that rescues primates. Hello, and welcome Anita,

Anita Kunz:

thank you so much for having me.

Roy Sharples:

Oh, it is an honor. Being a big fan of you and your work.

Anita Kunz:

It's absolutely My pleasure. Thank you.

Roy Sharples:

What inspired and attracted you to being an illustrator in the first place? Well,

Anita Kunz:

I, I wanted to become an illustrator. I mean, I've been drawing and painting since since I was a child. And I think you know, a lot of people do, I just kind of didn't stop when I reached the age of 12, or 13. I just kept going. And I think my biggest influence was my uncle who was in fact an illustrator. So I knew that it was possible profession from the very from a very young age. And my uncle was, he was an illustrator, but he was a fine artist, he made stained glass, he wove rugs. I mean, he was the quintessential artist. And his motto for his illustration work was art for education. So and he made filmstrips in the illustrated high school textbooks. And from him, I got the idea that art could serve as a function in society. And then it could, it could, you know, play a role, it could be useful. And I didn't go into the art for education area, but rather, I went into the magazine area, because I love the idea that art can play a role in the culture, whether it's in the form of inspiring dialogue or, you know, just illustrating social and political themes. So so my uncle really was my biggest influence. And I just want to say to the The other thing that I realized later was that he had this beautiful studio overlooking a lake. And he was the first environmentalist that I ever knew he knew all the names of all the birds, and he, you know, so so the he was a big influence, you know, on my world perspective as well,

Roy Sharples:

what does being an illustrator mean to you

Unknown:

being an illustrator?

Anita Kunz:

To me, I guess, I guess the I, you know, that, for me, I was drawn to illustration, because it has more to do with ideas than art as a commodity. I mean, I was never particularly interested in making art that matched someone's sofa. I thought I wanted to be I'm interested in ideas, and I wanted to make pictures that had to do with ideas. And you know, and I was inspired by politics. And, you know, so to me illustration, it's, I mean, they say that fine art is a mirror to society, but I think illustration, can actually be a more direct mirror to society. Because when you're illustrating something, when you're making a piece of art for print, you actually have a vast audience. So that's, you know, I just find that attract really attractive and really interesting, that adds another dimension to it.

Roy Sharples:

Anita, you have a very distinct style, and identity. Was that something that you did by design? Or was it purely instinctive,

Anita Kunz:

my style is completely instinctive. And I think a lot I mean, if you really look at a lot of my work, it's actually drawn incorrectly. And, you know, my style actually came about because I didn't have much of an art education, I didn't learn any art history at all. So I just started, you know, I mean, I was kind of wide open as far as influences went, because I knew nothing about anything. So, so much play style kind of, has to do more with drawing from my head than using photographic reference. And, and the style is just something that, you know, just by years of drawing, I mean, it just, it's just something that happened. And, and I think when people you know, when students in particular try to manufacture a style, it's never successful. I mean, I think it's something that that has to be allowed to develop.

Roy Sharples:

Creativity is the belief in yourself and good ideas, always moving forward and never giving up. You must be comfortable taking a stand against oppressive forces, and articulating your opinions and ideas without fear of retaliation, censorship, or legal sanctions, dream up what doesn't exist, turn your imagination into art, by manifesting what is inside and arrange you, as you see it. This is similar to outsider art, there is an innocent quality in people who have not been trained as artists, or worked within the conventional art production structures, because they do not follow a conventional path structure or formula leading to develop their own unique style and identity.

Anita Kunz:

I was so close to the work that I never really saw my my work as having a particular style. I really didn't. I mean, I realized if I, if I took a step back, step back Yeah, I guess that looks like my work. I mean, there's certain things that I use as devices all the time. I mean, I use hands a lot and I you know, the way I i distort the figure, I guess, becomes part of the style but but I really never consciously set up set out to, you know, make a specific style.

Roy Sharples:

Many influential artists, designers, musicians, filmmakers, actors, writers, poets, industrialists, and technologists started off as imitators of their crafts current greats. Still, once they found their voice and own style, they became unstoppable in their own right. They are innovators who broke the bonds of their era to create high art, on their own original experience cultivated a movement for change. Take the Beatles, for example. When they started off as imitating American gospel, r&b, rockabilly and early rock and roll, the music dealt with love songs and teen relation relationships, which was the standard run of the day's play. Then they started to muster the technical expertise as musicians and songwriting experts, and then about halfway through the duration of their career. They found their authentic voice and style, and produced lyrics and music about everyday life and their unique observations in their native Liverpudlian accents, ultimately becoming artists where they revolutionized how music was made and acted as a catalyst and soundtrack. for social justice movements, such as Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band provided one of the most potent musical cornerstones to the know legendary, somewhat of love. And the Beatles have endured a canonized status, unprecedented for musicians to date. The point being is expertise is not enough to change the world, in any field in any discipline, innovation, and artistry require the ability to transcend time and create a culture and movement manifested through your own unique identity. And the statics and the world around you, which you have done brilliantly through your craft and work. What is your creative process in terms of how do you make the invisible visible by dreaming up ideas, developing those ideas into concepts, and then bringing them to actualization?

Anita Kunz:

I've done different things throughout my career. And and I mean, it always starts with an idea. And even when I'm doing work, that's commercial. I mean, even when I'm doing something for a magazine, there's always you know, for a magazine, there's a kernel of an idea that is given to me, whether it's in the form of, you know, a manuscript that I read and then visually interpret or you know, somebody telling telling me what a story is about. Or if it's a book jacket, you know how to, you know, reading the book. So when it's commercial illustration, it always begins with something, and it and then I, and then it's something that I interpret and with illustration work, I try to interpret something as clearly as I possibly can, because I want to make an image that works in conjunction with the text, whether it agrees with the text or disagrees with the text. So that's in the illustration work, but in my personal work in my fine art, it has the ideas come much more from my experience in the world, and the things that I want to say, whether that has to do with honoring certain people, or, you know, whether it's something that's politically critical, so, so again, it's all about the idea for me, it just starts with the idea. And then I and then typically, when I work for a client, they, they want to see sketches, you know, so they want to know what I'm thinking, and I tried to make the sketches as detailed as possible, I don't want to surprise them at all, because, you know, I tried to be a professional. And so I sent the sketches and then they might pick, you know, one, or they might have some, you know, corrections or whatever. And then I just take the take the idea, and I take it to finish and I and I work with, I make actual paintings, I don't do much in the form of computer work, I do a little bit but, but they're, they're physical paintings. It's all old school, I'm a, I'm a painter. And I just, and I, and I make acrylic and watercolor paintings. And that's, that's really the process. I mean, everything is different depending on what the project is. But you know, the idea of idea generation first, and then sketches, and then the final painting. And then of course, if it's something that has to go to a client I, you know, I scan it properly and, and do color correction and transmit it fire the internet.

Roy Sharples:

Every single object we see on touch was once an idea inside someone's head, everything starts with an idea. Then through our creative process, you iteratively turn an idea into its final form, and bring it to life through a progression of thoughts and actions. By applying critical and creative thinking, and problem solving skills to originate and bring your ideas to fruition. To achieve excellence means being deeply committed to and focused on continuously honing one's craft, through the quality and completeness of the entire artistic lifecycle, by being empathetic towards your audience, and resourceful to creating relevant and innovative outputs treat failure as a process for learning and growth. Some people let themselves get flushed by failure, than seeing obstacles as opportunities to reach new heights of achievement by learning quickly from failure, being resilient and positive, when faced with setbacks, and open minded by redefining these situations to learn and grow. Anita, what are the essential skills to be an illustrator?

Anita Kunz:

I think the key skills to being an illustrator, I mean, you have to know how to draw, I think that's the most important thing. I mean, it's like, if you want to be a writer, you have to have a basic knowledge of grammar and sentence structure. So so I think you really have to be able to draw, and I think you have to be able to draw the old fashioned way with a pencil. You know, a lot of my students are doing things on the computer, and I just know, like, draw with a draw with the pencil, like, really develop your hand eye coordination, because that's your language, and the better you are at, at constructing your visuals, the better you'll be able to communicate. So I think that, you know, just being able to draw, also, I think, I mean, you have to, you have to be smart, and you have to be an intelligent citizen of the world, and you have to know what's going on. It's really not just about creating shallow imagery, I mean, you want to know as much as you can about the subject matter that you're asked to illustrate. And you have to be able to know how to do proper research, find reference. So it's, it's an interesting skill set, you know, and but ultimately, you have to also be, you know, have enough humility to understand it. But when you're doing illustration work, you're working for a client. It's not all about you. It's not about you. So it's an interesting skill set. So I think that's the, you know, those are the things but I mean, I think it's really mostly about ideas.

Roy Sharples:

So you run a time machine, and he and it's going backward. What would you say to a younger Anita, in terms of the lessons learned that you've learned to date, based on the pitfalls to avoid and the keys to success? Oh,

Anita Kunz:

what would I say to a younger me, I would say don't worry so much, and don't be so stressed out. All the time, because, you know, the, the older I become, the more I realized that, you know, any mistakes that you make are, it's not a tragedy, you know, it's just, you know, it's just art, it's it's not gonna, it's not the end of the world and that often, you know, the mistakes that you make and being incredible learning, you know, learning facilitators, you know what I mean? Oh, so yeah, I would, I would just tell my younger self to take it easy. You're nuts. There's so much. I've actually written 10 rules for creative success for young students. And it does have to do with, you know, with things that people didn't tell me and a lot of it has to do with just experimenting more and playing more, and enjoying the process.

Roy Sharples:

Oh, that sounds interesting. Please tell me more.

Anita Kunz:

Some of them are really, really obvious. I mean, the first one is to work hard. And it seems pretty self evident, but it actually is the most important one. And Thomas Edison says genius is 1% inspiration and 97 99% perspiration. And that really is it. I mean, I see too many students who are wondering where is their my time cover commission, and they're six months out of school. And the second one is embrace self doubt. Which is, I think, really critical. I think we all have these little inner voices that tell us that we're terrible and we're no good. But Milton Glaser, the great designer Milton Glaser, said that doubt is actually better than certainty, because it propels you forward. Number three, remove toxic influences. Surround yourself with what you love. We are a mash up of what we let into our lives and just just surround yourself with good things. Number four, nurture your uniqueness, speak from the heart and be authentically you. I think that one is really important, too. I, I don't think we need any more copies of other artists, I think we need more authentic people. And people from all artists from all walks of life, too, I think that's really important. Number five, not working can be just as important to creativity as working. And that has to do with sometimes focusing on a on a project and becoming frustrated with it. And then realizing that if you disengage, sometimes the idea will come as you're running or taking a shower or something. I mean, it's it's a really interesting idea. Number six, be kind and stay humble. That is, that's directly from the mouth of Kurt Vonnegut, he famously wrote, there is only one rule, I know, you've got to be kind. Number seven, contribute where you can, illustration is commercial art. It's not just about money, and I'm a big supporter of artists rights. I mean, I've done all this work, you know, making sure that artists get paid properly. But it's really not just about the money, you know, and behaving in an ethical manner. Number eight, take care, take care of yourself. When I was younger, I worked with all kinds of terrible toxic materials. And now, I just really tried to be green. I mean, you you know, you can't be using this, you know, and it's harmful to your health. Number nine, and I think this one is so important. And that is remain a student for life and stay curious, and continually refine yourself with education, and don't stay stuck in the past. And then number 10 is kind of what I was saying before, stop trying to be perfect. It's the journey, not the outcome, and experiment. And it's really don't take it too seriously, because it doesn't have to be it has doesn't have to be dark,

Roy Sharples:

as poignant, and so correct. Our outputs are the next generations inputs. And that comes with accountability and responsibility to pass on the baton, leaving the world a better place. aspire to be as influential as the things that are influencing you, not to be like them, but to be as influential. And so don't let the world or anyone within it define you define your own purpose and mission and having personal constraints, barriers, principles and standards are critical to defining yourself by what you are and what you are not. And appreciate the differences. That time machine is no going forward. What's your vision for the future of illustration?

Unknown:

You know,

Anita Kunz:

what I see young artists doing now is something that I that I never did, and I think it's amazing. I mean, so many graduates from the art schools, they're into all kinds of things. I mean, you know, they're doing fine art. They're there they're making, making things and selling them on Etsy. They're teaching. I mean, they're full artists. And this kind of goes back to what I was saying about my uncle, you know, just trying to do different things and doing them successfully. When I, when I was young, I was focusing on only one thing. And I focused on magazine illustration for many years. But I think it's just so great that young people now are just, you know, just doing all kinds of different things. And it's, it's, it's exciting. I find it really exciting. So I think that's the future of illustration, I think the boundaries will become more fluid. I don't think I are, I hope, that illustration and fine art won't have such a big wall between the two disciplines, because it doesn't make any sense. It's not helpful. So yeah, I just I hope that it opens up to more and and also opens up to more people. I mean, one of the, you know, my biggest issues with art schools is that, you know, you have to pay what 3040 $50,000 for tuition for art school, so that that, you know, ignores so many young, critical visual voices that we really need. So hopefully, at some point, I don't know, we'll see. I mean, they're talking, the new administration is talking about, you know, about forgiving student debt and and, you know, like, possibly having free education and on the college level, that would be great because we can't just have, you know, people with money making all the art, it has to be all kinds of people we need all kinds of voices.

Roy Sharples:

Yes, leveling the playing field by reinventing education systems by eradicating student debt, because it selects people out of the system. Creativity exists with every single person, not the only few, embracing diversity and difference because diversity helps us understand each other ourselves, recognizing and respecting our individual differences. The children of this revolutionary new canvas on which the actual values will be imposed and materialized. And this comes with accountability and responsibility to pass on the baton, leaving the world in a better place. You have been listening to the unknown origins podcast, please follow us, subscribe, rate and review us. For more information go to unknown origins.com Thank you for listening.