Cover Artist Gallery: Jillian Tamaki

An interview with the creator of The Walrus’s July/August 2011 cover
July/August 2011

SubjectSummer Reading
Artist ’s portfolioThe Online Portfolio of Illustrator and Comics Artist Jillian Tamaki

Every year at summer time, The Walrus publishes a fiction issue. This is the moment when the conceptual limitations on the cover loosen. There are no representational minefields to navigate; no subtle ideas that need to be brought to our readers intact. Our summer covers just say “summer” and “reading.” As a result, our illustrators and photographers have a lot of creative license.

This year we got to work with the iconic and amazing Jillian Tamaki. In the perverse type of tribute that the field of illustration is known for, Jillian’s early style is much imitated, but, because of her brilliance, it is never bettered. Jillian’s work of late has become even more virtuosic, but also broader in scope and conception. Her recent embroidered book jackets for Penguin are consistent with her use of line and form, but they’re also utterly, insanely cool. For us she experimented with washes on toothed acetate, a type of plastic paper that used to be a staple of drafting. The medium gave the piece gorgeous, rich colours and an ethereal, painterly quality. Jillian also hand-lettered our nameplate and the “Summer Reading” headline. And the subject? A sexy lady literally immersed in a book. Who wouldn’t want to be like this woman this summer?

Brian Morgan: After we spoke what were your initial thoughts about the story?

Jillian Tamaki: When I do covers for magazines or books, I just try to think what would catch my own eye if it was on a newsstand or in a store.

Brian Morgan: How did you first approach this? And what is your typical process for generating ideas?

Jillian Tamaki: In this instance, the concept was pretty simple: summer reading has a certain light air, and I know a lot of people look forward to the issue. There’s nothing in this world better than reading on the beach, so that’s what I drew. Also, as I told you, every other magazine gets to have sexy ladies on the cover, why not The Walrus once in a while?

Brian Morgan: In general terms, how do you create your work? Do you do a lot of sketches, for example? Do you tend to stay in ink the entire time?

Jillian Tamaki: I draw to conceive an open-ended sketch that communicates the idea, but leaves room for me to improvise as I do the final. This image was created by doing the line work and the colour on two separate layers, then overlaying them together in Photoshop.

Brian Morgan: What was your inspiration for this final image?

Jillian Tamaki: Reading on the beach in Sarasota, Florida. I am not a beach person, but the white sand there is heaven.

Brian Morgan: Whose work has influenced you the most? And who or what has shaped your style?

Jillian Tamaki: Too many people and things have shaped my process to be able to pinpoint just one influence! These days I’m trying to focus on the limitations of whatever media I’m using at that moment and try to let that guide my second-to-second choices.

Brian Morgan is the art director of The Walrus.

Canada & its place in the world. Published by
the non-profit charitable Walrus Foundation
The Walrus SoapBox
The Walrus Laughs
Walrus TV