Extrordinary Editorial and Artistic Illustrator Mario Zucca
Mario Zucca is a well-established editorial and artistic illustrator and graphic designer. His works have been included in several major publications both print and online. His bold use of color and sharp lines gives his work an appeal to help tell a story and clearly spread ideas through images. Both thought-provoking and humorous (often at the same time) his work is definitely among some of my personal favorite.
Bio: Mario is a freelance Illustrator/Artist/Graphic Designer currently living in Pittsburgh, PA. He is a 2003 graduate of Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia, PA, with a BFA in Graphic Design/Illustration. Mario is a multi-disciplined Illustrator whose work is suited to a variety of genres, from Editorial Illustration, Book Illustration, Packaging, and Advertising. His clients include ESPN: The Magazine, Crayola, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Jose Cuervo, The American Medical News, Klutz Books, Running Press, and Quirk Books. Mario has had work chosen for the American Illustration website for four years running (vols. 23–26), and he is also the recipient of a 2005 Association of Alternative Newsweeklies Award. In addition, Mario has shown work in a number of group gallery shows, most recently Small Talk in Orlando, FL.
1. What is your inspiration? What keeps you making art?
What keeps me making art is the desire to always be telling a story with a picture. From the time I was a kid, writing and drawing my own comic books, to the work I do today as a freelance illustrator, there’s always some sort of narrative to my artwork. Although I don’t make comics anymore, I’ve always been a big fan of comic books and graphic novels, and I consider R. Crumb to be one of my biggest influences. More recently, I’ve gotten into the work of guys like Edward Gorey, Daniel Clowes, Jeffrey Brown, and a local comic artist, Jim Rugg.
2. What is your process?
Whether it’s a commissioned work or a personal project, it always starts with a concept. I always brainstorm exactly what it is I’m trying to communicate and how I can creatively express that idea. It doesn’t always come easily though. Sometimes editorial work doesn’t lend itself to a great concept, or the Art Directors I’m working with have their own concepts and are fairly rigid about new ideas. However, I find I work best when I’m able to collaborate with an Art Director and we can toss ideas back and forth. For example, the American Medical News is one of my favorite clients to work for because the Art Directors always present their own concept but leave the door open to new ideas. It’s not until I have a concept hammered out that I start thinking about the piece visually.
3. What made you decide to be a designer?
Like a lot of kids who decide on design school, I did it partially out of practicality. I saw Graphic Design as a way for me to have a stable profession while still being able to creatively and artistically express myself…a nice balance between the two. I actually almost pursued Architecture for similar reasons…
4. Humor seems to be an important part of your art. What makes you laugh? What role does humor serve for you?
Humor is extremely important to me. There’s no bigger travesty than when someone takes themselves too seriously. I think it was Mark Rothko who said something to the effect of, and I’m totally paraphrasing here, “If you don’t break down and cry in front of one of my paintings, then you’re missing the point.” It’s statements like that that make me want to barf. As for what I find funny…I’m usually drawn toward subtle, dry humor. A simple, well-placed joke can go a lot further than someone beating you over the head with their comedy.
5. What programs and tools do you use to make your illustrations?
I almost always start with a pen & ink drawing on Bristol board. Then I usually scan in the black & white artwork and add all my color/patterns/textures digitally. I’d say almost half of my time working is spent on the computer, and about 90% of that time is spent using Photoshop.
6. What have been your favorite editorial subjects? Do you take on editorials you don’t believe in?
I very rarely have to illustrate ideas I don’t believe in. I tend to work for publications where the viewpoint being expressed is similar to mine. One of my favorite recent pieces was for the Pittsburgh City Paper for a feature about how awful the Pittsburgh Pirates are. The Art Director’s idea was to depict the funeral of the Pirate Parrot (their mascot)…
7. Who is your target audience? What do you do to market to them specifically?
Concerning my illustration work, I mostly market myself to editorial clients, although I’ve illustrated a few books now and am interested in further pursuing that genre. Concerning my personal work, I honestly don’t consider a target audience. I simply draw the things/people that interest me, and if I happen to share common interests with someone, great. If not…oh well!
8. How do you market yourself?
I try to do a few promotional mailings per year that usually consist of 1000 or so postcards that are sent to editorial art directors, design firms, book publishers, etc. I also try to utilize any free form of self-promotion, particularly online. Sites like Flickr, Myspace, and Facebook can be valuable tools to help you network with other designers and illustrators. I also make sure to always keep my website updated, and occasionally I’ll send out bulk emails. Although, I try to limit emailing to only important occasions…like if I finished work on a book or something.
Also, I made many valuable contacts through my art school. A lot of my former classmates and professors are working as designers or art directors, and I’ve been lucky enough to work with several of them.
9. Do you participate in Galleries and Shows?
I’m actually participating in a group show later this year that explores the idea of communicating in the 21st century, and how advancements like texting and online social networking have affected the way we talk to one another. It should be a lot of fun. Nevertheless, aside from the occasional group show, I don’t show work too often. My work has so many digital elements, and I usually draw on quite a small scale; therefore, my original pen & ink work doesn’t often look great hanging on a gallery wall. That’s why I find that showing high-quality digital prints is probably the best way for me to get my work out there.
10. What do you do when you are not making art?
I have a number of hobbies/activities. I’m a pretty big movie freak, so I’m constantly watching whatever obscure indie or foreign film I can get my hands on. I also love finding new music and making mix CD’s for my friends. I like playing my guitar, albeit poorly, and bowling, also poorly. I also try to stay active by running or riding my bicycle every day. Now that summer’s upon us, I find myself camping and hiking a lot more as well.
11. Do you belong to any artist networks?
Admittedly, I could stand to network a bit more than I do. I’ve never joined the Society of Illustrators or the Graphic Artists Guild, and I’ve had mixed feelings about them for quite some time (i.e. whether the benefits of membership are actually worth the dues). I am however, trying to get more involved in the local art scene here in Pittsburgh. Even if it’s as simple as attending more gallery openings, I think it’s really important to be in touch with what kind of artwork is being created around you.
12. What are your favorite pieces/artists on Imagekind?
I’ve always been a big fan of Christoph Niemann‘s. His concepts are always so simple yet so damn clever and funny!
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