Marsha Riti's illustrations glow with playful energy. She is currently working on a Halloween book for Pelican Publishing and I'm bummed that I'll have to wait another full year to get a copy! You can see more of her work at marshariti.com.
How did you get started in illustration?
I have always loved to draw, but until recently, I was unsure about what I wanted to do with it. What got me hooked was a class I took through the Austin Museum of Art. The class was all about children's book illustration and Mark Mitchell taught it. The class really helped me visualize what it takes to get into the market.
What is your favorite medium?
I use a lot of watercolor, but I wouldn't say that it's my favorite. I would like to get back into painting with acrylics.
Can you describe your usual work process for us?
I am always experimenting. Currently I am doing my original finished drawing on Bristol board. I then scan the drawing and transfer it into Photoshop. There I use Photo Merge to put it back together, clean it up and use levels to adjust the contrast. The cleaned-up digital image is then printed out full size with room to spare onto 90 lb. hot press watercolor paper. This whole process allows me the freedom to create a detailed image without the worries associated with tracing. I also feel freer to experiment while painting, if I make a crucial mistake all I have to do is print out another "drawing".
Do you write as well as illustrate your own stories?
I have done some writing. Pursuing illustration and writing is really difficult. You have to hone both crafts at the same time. Currently I am taking a class at ACC (Austin Community College) with Liz Garton Scanlon. She is really great and the class is super informative.
Do you illustrate full time or do you also have a day job? How do you balance the different aspects of your life?
I have a day job checking at Natural Grocers. I really enjoy working there because my co-workers and customers are awesome, and most importantly it's a low key position with very few responsibilities. I only work part-time so the rest of my time is spent on different aspects of the business of illustration and bettering my craft. I still need to write out an illustration schedule but my day job's schedule is still not quite set, making the former difficult.
Where in the country do you live? Could you describe your studio and include some photos?
I live in Austin, Texas, and yes, it is awesome here. I have a shared studio with my boyfriend. In it sits my wooden desk, completely surrounded by reference materials and inspiration. Also in the room is a computer equipped with Photoshop, a scanner, and a large format printer. During this time of year, I like to work with the widows open listening to the local classical station KMFA streaming off the internet. When I am not tethered to my desk or computer I make Flight Path coffee house my studio. This is a great way to keep myself from cleaning house instead of creating.
Tell us about your education and training. Did you learn more through school or your own experiences?
I have a BFA in studio art and I have continued my education though local resources. I also do a lot of self-education though reading, observing, and doing research on the internet. Here are some good websites: Zero 2 Illo, How To Be A Children's Book Illustrator, and Illustration Mundo. I also feel very strongly the act of doing is one of the best forms of education. If you want to be an illustrator then illustrate. I think that all learning builds upon itself; my formal education and self-education are reliant on each other, neither better than the other.
What is your website?
My website is marshariti.com
Tell us about your current project.
I am currently working on a Halloween themed book for Pelican Publishing. I am really excited about it and I hope all of you see it next Halloween! I'll keep you informed. I am also in the middle of revamping my website, which will have a brand new portfolio and other fun amenities. Lastly, I am constantly working on my own book tentatively titled "The Pottery Lesson". I can't help but keep fussing with it, rewriting and redrawing the entire thing every couple months. It just gets better every time I revisit it.
Who are your favorite children’s illustrators or authors?
I am a big fan of William Steig for writing. As for illustrators (these may not necessarily be for children): Katrina Kopeloff, Lucy Knisley, Israel Sanchez, Adam Quest, Luc Melanson, Andrew Bannecker, Dan McCarthy, Jay Ryan, Tracy Bishop, Gary Taxali, Jim Bradshaw, Matthew Scott, Laura Perez, Steve Purcell, Hank Ketchem, George Herriman, Walt Kelly, Winsor McCay, and I could keep on going...
What inspires you?
What do you like to do when you aren’t working?
I love eating bagels! I could eat bagels all day long. I also enjoy gardening, sewing, doing ceramics, cooking, cleaning, riding my bike, taking walks, watching Hitchcock movies, playing video games, and hanging out with friends.
What job would you like to have if you weren’t an artist?
If I were more proficient with math, I would love to be a mechanical engineer. I am very methodical, and problem solving is one of my favorite things to do. I also love figuring out how things work.
Any advice you’d pass along to illustrators just getting started?
"Learn to make 'memory sketches.' That is of wonderful advantage to any artist [...] Why? Simply because I have studied these things with my eyes; I have put them up here in my cranium, and they'll stay there till I need them."
--Winsor McCay from a newspaper interview, Atlanta Constitution, June 11, 1911. Reprinted in Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend by Ulrich Merkl, page 135.
Another piece of advice: Satisfaction will be your downfall. Everything can always be improved upon!