Earlier this year, illustrator Zina Saunders interviewed Illustration Department Chair Steven Guarnaccia as part of her ongoing interview series with illustrators, which features artists talking about their work, as well as a portrait created on-the-spot by Zina herself. Here’s an excerpt from her talk with Steven:
Whenever anybody asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up, I told them I wanted to be an artist. But I never wanted to be a fine artist; I never fantasized about being a gallery painter. I wanted to do the stuff that gave me the most pleasure and the stuff that gave me the most pleasure was popular culture, comics, animation, so that’s what I figured I would end up doing. I only had a very brief crisis about the fine art/commercial art thing when I was in college at Brown University and I took classes at RISD and the kind of seriousness and dedication that the RISD students demonstrated made me think that maybe that was what being a real artist is.
But the reality of the situation was that my essential self really was not like them. I took a class as a little kid in the back of an art store, painting in oils, and I didn’t like the smell of it and I never liked getting my hands dirty. The other thing was, that my favorite fine artists in high school were Paul Klee and George Grosz and they were guys whose work looked more like my work than Monet and Picasso. Seeing Paul Klee painting in a suit, to me, seemed to make perfect sense. I was not interested in wiping painted hands on baggy blue jeans. That just wasn’t who I was.