Angela Rizza, Illustration ’11, has long been obsessed by detail. “I started with ballpoint pen drawings in high school. I’d render each illustration with pens using them like graphite.” During her early studies at FIT, “I’d zoom in at 200 percent on the computer and go to town on some animal scales.”
Rizza’s early work was influenced by the realistic style of her grandfather, John Leone, an oil painter of American West scenery.
Rizza’s fast rise as an independent artist and Illustration instructor, holds some important lessons.
“I’ve been told ‘less is more’ and to only render focal points. But there’s something about capturing each line in a row of feathers or creating embroidery patterns in a dress. I find a calm that I love,” says Rizza.
Throughout college Rizza experimented with traditional mediums, mostly in black and white. While she had an eye for color, she says she had trouble applying it while protecting her drawings. She experimented with gouache, watercolor, acrylic, pigmented inks, and oils.
By senior year, she honed a technique for creating tightly rendered graphic drawings, to which she applied layers of oil paint glazes:
“It created an old-school storybook effect, but is was less practical when it came to real life jobs; I didn’t have a month to let the oils dry, and they were difficult to scan and photograph.”
“Angela’s development, what empowers her to create great work, emanates from both traditional skills and problem-solving abilities. What is outstanding is how she is able to apply her imagination. She has a unique vision of what might be.” – Ed Soyka, Chair, Illustration
Her first year after graduating was spent experimenting. In order to color a piece and not smudge or undermine the meticulous line work, she transitioned to Photoshop to create graphite-like drawings that were colored digitally. She also started using ink for a crisper look to her work.
“The end result was a finished, print-ready illustration in two or three days, and I could get really elaborate with coloring my drawing,” she says.
To illustrate children’s books, she began creating illustrations based on favorite stories like Tolkien’s work and Game of Thrones. She also created fan art to build a larger audience on social media.
“Draw what you love and the work you want will find you,” was the advice from other artists that she took to heart. It worked. By her second year out, Rizza’s Tolkien art was featured in a book about his stories. She was invited by HBO to attend the Game of Thrones season premiere in New York City. She stood on the red carpet and got to watch the first episode of the season.
Her next turn was creating geometric, carefree work with a folk art twist. She reinterpreted animals and plants as clusters of patterns within a shape.
“I’d begin with a basic silhouette of, say, a chicken. Then I’d draw the shape of the wings, then shapes within the shape and shapes within those. I would had a colorful pieces with details I love, that were less serious and more lighthearted.”
“I got to draw dinosaurs!…It was a dream job to create something that my childhood self would have begged for!” Angela Rizza
Her love of line and detail was ideal for activity books. In 2016 her first coloring book was published. “The Book of Beasts” is filled with monsters of myth and fantasy.
Her sequel, “The Book of Prehistoric Beasts,” came out last year. “I got to draw dinosaurs. I was obsessed with them in elementary school. It was a dream job to create something that my childhood self would have begged for!” Two Scratch Pad activity books on nature and mythology followed.
Her work has appeared in shows hosted by Light Grey Art Lab run by young illustrators. One themed-exhibit, “Skate or Die,” featured skate decks for Halloween. Her work was part of a tarot deck for another such collaborative show.
“Angela’s work and craftsmanship has soared since she graduated. Her composition has grown more complex. The maturity of her work is phenomenal.
“She has added new ways of working…She is always creating! – Illustration Prof. Kam Mak
Once she had “a decent portfolio,” Rizza started indulging in her love of birds and nature.
Her first pieces were in simple settings, Audubon-style. She began finding parallels between flora and fauna, such as a flower sharing the same accent color as a specific type of bird, or the patterns on an owl looking similar to a piece of bark. Or the eyes of an owl with the markings of a moth.
Rizza’s work now alternates between pen and ink (for books) and folk style (for greeting cards and merchandise). Since graduating she has created work for Sterling Publishing, Blizzard Publishing, Papyrus, Boom! Studios, Bioware video game developer, Buster Books, and Capstone. She is represented by the agency Astound.
To see more of the artist’s work go to: AngelaRizzaIllustrations.
To learn more about the School of Art and Design Illustration major go to: Illustration at FIT.
All images used with permission.