Last week we were in Israel, but now we mosey along the Mediterranean coast and travel way down the continent of Africa to its tip. Today’s illustrator, and wonderful uTales collaborator, Rico, lives in South Africa. He posts snippets of his work everyday on FB, which always give me a chuckle. He seems to be able to add a humorous illustrative twist to even the serious subjects.
Illustrator or author/illustrator?
Rico: I am primarily an illustrator, but sometimes also do some writing. I especially love working on story ideas and to design characters.
What’s your nationality and where have you lived?
Rico: Born in 1966 in Linz, Austria, but have lived in South Africa most of my life.
How have these cultures/languages influenced your art?
Rico: German was my mother tongue and my upbringing was a mix of Austrian and South African culture (which in itself incredibly varied … there being for example 11 official languages in South Africa). My mother encouraged me to become a voracious reader and this helped shape me as an artist – but I confess that most of the early influences were European and American comics and children’s books. I had a large collection of Richard Scarry, Tintin, Asterix and classic Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse adventures.
Tell us a little of your beginnings as an artist.
Rico: It goes right back to my youth … I covered every piece of scrap paper with drawings and got into lots of trouble at school for constantly drawing in exercise books and even on school desks.
After finishing high school in 1984, I began studies in first graphic design and then architecture … but especially the former allowed no room for my first love, which was cartooning. After less than a happy experience with tertiary education, I decided to pursue cartooning and illustration and was lucky to get hired by a newly formed satirical magazine as first a freelancer and then a staff artist for the publisher … working on a wide variety of things including children’s material, magazine illustration and even greeting cards.
When this publisher closed down, I formed a partnership in 1992 with writer Stephen Francis and we created the comic strip Madam & Eve, which we have kept going to this day.
What is your favorite medium for your artwork?
Rico: My favourite medium is by far pen and ink drawings and watercolours.
I know you are not only a book illustrator. What other expressions does your art take?
Rico: I see myself primarily as a graphic storyteller … and try and even tell a story or develop as much character as possible in even a single frame image.
I also work as a comic strip artist, cartoonist and editorial illustrator. I’ve had lots of varied opportunities in my career … which include animation design work, advertising, educational cartoon graphics and comics and work for corporate communications.
I also paint.
What art or artists have influenced you most?
Children’s art: Maurice Sendak, Oliver Jeffers, Scarry, Sempe
Comics: Herge (Tintin), Uderzo (Asterix), Carl Barks, Moebius … and too many to mention.
Comic strips & cartoons: Bill Watterson (Calvin & Hobbes), Berk Breathed
What are the deciding factors for you in accepting a project ?
Rico: Fun and intergrity and will it challenge me creatively?
What does your workspace look like?
Rico: I have sunny studio at home with doors that open to a stoep, … it currently looks relatively neat after a recent tidy up … give it a few months and it’ll fill up with comfortable clutter.
(in the attached photo you can see my cat, Charlie, on the window sill and the foliage of the magnolia tree through the window)
Five Fun Ones to Finish?
What word best sums you up?
Dogs or cats?
What do you do for non-art related relaxation?
Rico: Playing boules, reading, military history and computer wargaming, movies
What’s your drink of preference while you are working?
Rico: Coffee (some say way too much) and water
If you could spend a day with one children’s book character, with whom would that be?
Rico: Not strictly children’s book character … but love to spend a day with Calvin & Hobbes… for a no-holds game of Calvinball.
Rico, this is far too tidy a studio for an artist, but we appreciate you tidying it just for this blog post! A boulle-player AND Calvin and Hobbes fan….. that’s why our collaboration worked! Seriously, the artists and comics/books you have mentioned here, all played an integral part also in my childhood reading. I think you have a tremendous gift of imparting so much character just from one image. Thank you so much for sharing with us today, Rico. To your continued success!
If you want to discover more of Rico’s talent, and I know you do! Check out these websites: