Where did you grow up and when did you decide to become an artist?
I grew up in Naperville, Illinois, which is a little less of an hour southwest of Chicago. Not the best stereotypes are formed about where I resided, but I try to not let those define me as an individual. I’m extremely thankful for the fantastic resources I had, especially the art department at my high school, which helped encourage me to pursue illustration as a career. I always doodled and dabbled since I was in pre-school, but the thought of “Wowie! I can be an artist when I grow up!” didn’t really hit until I was about twelve or so! I finally got to hear about art schools and decided to push myself to grow since then.
Did you go to an art school or are you self taught? How did you develop your skills?
This is an interesting question and I’m going to give the non-conventional answer by saying both. Growing up and still to this day I’ve been pretty self-taught by personal problem solving and studying my ultimate art inspirations. I was that kid in middle school who ran straight home after school to start drawing on my computer for hours, trying to figure out Photoshop tools. However, I fell in love with the idea of attending an art school, so I applied away! For the first two years I attended Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids, Michigan, but transferred and am now finishing my final year currently at Savannah College of Art and Design. Although self-teaching is a fantastic way of learning art, being at two different design schools has really helped me develop my work even further. Maybe it was the fact that I’m surrounded by such a talented study body and professors that are currently working in the field as well. Maybe it’s because companies, art directors, and alumni come in to visit and plant inspiration in us all. Either way, being in a physical environment really does motivate you like no other!
What was the strongest influence you had when you were growing up ( artists, movies, cartoons, comics etc.. ) ?
Pokémon, hands down. Other than that, your typical cartoons and children’s books were a huge inspiration. Anyone remember those adorable Serendipity books by Stephen Cosgrove? If you do, two thumbs up! Robin James did the illustrations and they blew me away as a kid (and still do now!). I actually wanted to be an animator growing up, but after rediscovering my adoration for children’s books while I was putting together my portfolio for college, it sparked a completely new direction for me and knew it was right. I still love all the work that goes into animation as well, so who knows? Maybe I’ll develop a Vis Dev portfolio in the future and see where that leads!
What is your process in colouring your art and what type of tools and media do you use?
I love coloring! I do everything digital, which the occasional scanned watercolor texture. I always start coloring by doing straight up flat color. Each color/different parts of the character/background get their own layer so they’re easy to edit later on if I need to (which I do A LOT). Then I go to town on custom brushes and let the shaded textures bring the shapes to life! If the hues aren’t to what I want, I’ll play around with the color adjustments available in Photoshop. Once I’m happy with my colors and textures, I’ll go into details, which is where I add my line work. I love using blues and violets for shades and warmer tones for highlights. A lot of my pieces I try to keep a simplified color palette as well.
What part of the creation process is the most fun and easy and what part is the hardest?
Coloring is my favorite! It’s the most work to me, but it’s so much fun to see your illustration come to life as you work on it. When it comes to practicing more expressive ideas, sketching is the way to go! Hardest would have to be creating manmade structures. I’m working on it though! Practice makes perfect!
What projects have you worked on in the past and what are you working on at the moment (if you can tell us)?
As of the moment I’m still a pretty little fish in a gigantic freelancing pond, but I have some nice things under my belt so far! I’ve created work for Highlights, Cottage Door Press, ABDO Publishing, and Singapore Symphony Orchestra! I’m currently working with Capstone, Simon & Shuster, and Barrington Stoke. I’ve also been dabbling with new narrative ideas and characters between work and school too. We’ll see where they go!
What is your longterm career goal and what would your dream project be?
There are so many things I want to try! If I can get to the point of writing and illustrating my own children’s books I’d be ecstatic. I’m hoping to set up an online shop as well. Heck, I’d be totally down with exploring in-house work too. The possibilities are endless! Is being happy creating a long-term career goal? Let’s go with that!
What advise would you give to an artist who is dealing with an art-block? How do you boost your imagination and keep yourself creative?
I deal with this a ton, so hopefully my advice can help!
Go for a walk or a run
Listen to the rain (or just put on one of those rain soundtracks)
Go for a walk in the rain (ahahaha)
Travel somewhere new
Go to a museum or a zoo
Try a new artistic medium (If I’m frustrated digitally I start playing with watercolors)
A good night’s sleep!
Concept art, animation, illustration, comics, there are lots of choices. When you’re young, sometimes you know only one thing: you love to draw. What should a young artist take into consideration to make the right decision when choosing an artistic path?
Enjoy the ride and have fun! We get so wrapped up on needing to predict our futures (and I am so guilty of this too). Take your time and create what you love, but don’t forget to try new things. You never know what you’ll end up loving if you don’t try it!
Many art teachers and schools suggest to their students that a commercial artist should always work in one consistent style if they wish to have a healthy career. In your own experience, do you believe this to be true?
Style is such a weird word. It can fit under an umbrella of different definitions. What I would suggest is do whatever feels natural to you. Don’t feel constricted. I have a super textured style, a very flat color style, even a linear based style. If you presented three different pieces of your work, as long as someone can tell you create all of them, I think you’re in the clear! Art directors are going to want different things too, and it can even be as simple as how they want you to draw characters’ eyes. One will want big eyes with colored pupils, while another one will prefer just the black dots. Super simple analogy, but it’s happened to me a few times!
If you had to recommend only one art book (a comic book, graphic novel, children book, ''how to'' book) to a fellow artist, what would it be and why?
“Le Petit Loup Rouge” by Amélie Fléchais! One of my absolute favorites in my growing collection of children’s books. Amélie’s work is to die for with her charm and whimsy. I highly recommend snagging a copy if you can, even if you’re not planning on going into children’s books!
Who are the artists who inspire you the most today and what are some of your favourite designs out there?
My favorite artists that inspire me include Amélie Fléchais, Jon Klassen, Stevie Lewis, ELIOLI, Emily Hughes, Lorena Alvarez, Christian Robinson, Teagan White, Karl James Mountford, Meg Hunt, and of course, Robin James! There’s a billion and one more I could list off, but this is a good group as a starting point!
Finally, Where can we see your art online and get in touch with you? How can we buy your creations and support your work?
I’m in a good chunk of places online! You can find me at:
Zoe Persico Illustration on Facebook
Zoe Persico on Behance
@zobobafoozieart on Twitter
@zobobafoozie on Tumblr, Instagram (not as active) and Snapchat
No active online store as of yet, but hoping to open up one most likely towards the end of the year! I’m hoping by then I’ll actually have a permanent address and proper studio space :)
Thank you Zoe :)