'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Thursday 28 January 2021

Meet The Illustrator: Zeno Sworder

: Zeno Sworder

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less.
Warm, expressive, vibrant and really, really fun (I hope!).

What items are an essential part of your creative space?
A high stack of scrap paper, preferably already used on one side, is the most important part of my space. When I am drawing, there are many dead ends, mistakes and restarts, so scrap paper is ideal for working through ideas. The other essential parts of my space are my small army of pencils and, of course, quiet and solitude.

Do you have a favourite artistic medium?
Yes, I love using graphite pencils and kneaded erasers. I love the calm and steady process of filling in a page with pencil, safe in the knowledge that mistakes can be pulled back with an eraser. When I paint with watercolour, it always feels like a tightrope-walk by comparison... where any mistake could completely ruin things. 

Name three artists whose work inspires you.
Windsor McKay was an early 20th century cartoonist who created Little Nemo. I think his technical mastery in comics has still not been matched. Shinsuke Yoshitake is a Japanese childrens’ book maker. His books are full of offbeat charm and humour. Aron Wiesenfeld is a contemporary painter whose work is beautifully atmospheric and mysterious.

Which artistic period would you most like to visit and why?
The Edo period of Japanese art in the early 18th century would have been fascinating. I would have taken the pilgrimage with Hokusai as he painted the different views of Mount Fuji.

Who or what inspired you to become an illustrator?
During my younger years, we didn’t have a TV at home, so I would spend a lot of time at the library with books and comic books. The power that books have to take you out of the real world and into someone else’s imagination never lost its grip on me. It has always been magical. Its a real pleasure to now be making books that others can step into.

Can you share a photo of your creative work space or part of the area where you work most often? Talk us through it.
Sure, my workspace is normally a bit messier than this – I like to be surrounded by towers of books. My work desk is on the left covered with drawing pencils and paper. On the right is a drawer unit for completed work, with my A3 printer sitting proudly on top. There is a poster of Astro Boy in the centre, which I drew. Over the years, this has become water-damaged, which I think gives it a bit of extra charm.

What is your favourite part of the illustration process?
I work late at night when everyone else is asleep and if I am lucky, I get at least an hour each night where I am completely absorbed in the drawing and time and the world slips away.

What advice would you give to an aspiring illustrator?
Don’t let bad drawings discourage you. Making mistakes and starting over are a big part of the process. So make big mistakes and make new mistakes because that will mean you are challenging yourself and making new and interesting work. I wish you the best. 

Zeno Sworder has worked as a window-washer, a journalist, a consular officer, a telephone crises supporter, a tribunal advocate for migrants and refugees, and a jewellery designer. But he has always felt most himself sitting at a desk drawing pictures and making up stories.

For more information, please visit Zeno's website or follow him on Instagram.