Illustrator Gianna Meola is our guest artist for the April issue. Her effortlessly succinct images capture poignant moments in sixteen of our texts in the Fiction, Nonfiction, and Drama sections, as well as the works of our Close Approximations Contest winners. I interview her about her experience contributing to Asymptote, and delve into her processes as an illustrator.
Berny Tan: I really appreciate how you were able to distill every text into one distinct image. Could you take us through your process of conceiving and executing each piece?
Gianna Meola: I’m pretty straightforward—I read the text and thumbnail any ideas that come to me as I go, and then add notes and corrections before moving on to cleaner sketches. I also like to do some research into what I’m drawing if I’m not familiar with it; for instance, I ended up learning some truly useless information about constellations while researching ‘Anathema.’ It was great.
I loved your illustrations for ‘Speculations about the Queen of the Night’ Which text did you most enjoy reading, and which image did you most enjoy creating?
This is a bit of a cop-out, but I enjoyed pretty much all of the texts I read. The stories are so diverse that it’s hard to compare them, but I think ‘Paulo’ and ‘India’ were the ones I thought about the most afterward. As for my favorite one to draw, it was definitely ‘Speculations about the Queen of the Night.’ There was so much great imagery to work with in both the story itself and The Magic Flute, which is mentioned in the text. I had a fun time inking and coloring it.
I personally find your line work very unique—it manages to simultaneously convey confidence and fragility, such that even your most vibrant illustrations still feel very delicate. Are there any artists that have influenced your style?
I’ve never quite gotten the hang of the difference between being influenced by something and just really liking it, but I’ve been interested in printmaking since college. The etching technique especially helped me work on line quality. The printmakers that influenced me the most are probably Mary Cassatt and Francisco Goya. I also take a lot of inspiration from the comic artist Mœbius, and the drawings of Vania Zouravliov.
We first met on a school trip to Istanbul a few years ago, and one of my best memories is of us drawing in a quiet cafe near our hotel. Could you talk about the importance of sketching in your process and as part of your everyday life?
I still have no idea how we found that place, but drawing there was one of my favorite memories too! I basically still do that—I’ll go to parks or cafes and draw, or sometimes, I’ll pause movies and sketch out the actor’s expressions.
For me, sketching is mostly about trying and failing and trying again, then getting annoyed and drawing a plant. I would say 65% of my sketchbooks are just illegible notes and weird-terrible doodles. And I do think it helps; even though my style isn’t exactly realism, drawing from a reference is probably the fastest way to get better. I start pretty much everyday with some quick figure drawings.
You recently published a mini comic entitled Soot. What draws you to the medium and what kind of stories do you enjoy telling?
I’ve loved reading comics since I was a kid, and have been drawing them on and off for a while. I think what draws me to comics is the same reason I enjoy illustration—the storytelling aspect. Soot is the first one that I’ve published in print. It’s aimed at younger readers, who are honestly the best audience anyone could ask for. I also like to draw autobiographical or humorous comics.
Finally, what other projects do you have lined up?
Right now I’m working on more comics, as well as an animation project. I’ll also be showing a few works at the Apama Mackey gallery in Houston, Texas at the end of July, and at a pop-up art market in Brooklyn in early August.
Gianna Meola is a freelance illustrator and cartoonist currently living in New York. She has worked in advertising and animation, and her clients range from Warby Parker to independent novels. She graduated from the School of Visual Arts in 2014. Her website can be found here.
Berny Tan is Asymptote’s Guest Artist Liaison. An artist, curator, and writer, she graduated from the School of Visual Arts in New York with a BFA(Hons) in Visual & Critical Studies. Berny was born and raised in Singapore, and currently works as Assistant Curator for OH! Open House, a non-profit that explores Singapore’s cultural geography through art. Her website can be found here.
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