Chris, what inspired you to host a gallery showing of illustrators in New Jersey?
The idea came together as I realized a lot of artists I admired lived here. Plus I love that we're so close, but just slightly down and to the left of New York City, this epicenter of illustration. Understandably no one mentions New Jersey when they talk about illustration and yet here we are. I remember emailing Hertzberg right after New Year's Day last year and mentioning it to him, and then to Wes and Betza. I remembered you telling me at the NYTimes one night that you were here, and that Lara lived in Maplewood. I heard Edel was here, and Joe, and Ana and I met at an opening and I loved that she was in Jersey City and staying there. Everyone always seems to be on their way to Brooklyn and it was cool to hear the opposite. I had no idea how to do any part of this so I just picked a gallery that I knew in Montclair and sent an email. I never expected a reply at all and when they said they were interested I realized I had to actually make this happen.
Montclair, as far as New Jersey cities go, is pretty urban. How do you like living there? is there an illustrator click that hangs out similar to "creative Mornings" In Brooklyn?
I moved out of Montclair about 10 years ago and I still miss it. It's a great city. I teach at the University so I'm there every week and it seemed like the right place for the show - close to the city, easy to get to and has a long history with artists and designers. In addition to the galleries, Montclair has its own art museum and hosts a pretty big film festival. I don't think there's a "spot" yet but a few of us have been hanging around Red Eye for coffee and illustration shop talk.
How did we get Joe and Edel to contribute original art for the show? I was initially convinced everyone was going to phone it in.
It was a very clever ruse. I had to make it seem like it would be easy and then once everyone agreed I made wild demands of their time. I emailed everyone these little NJ state silhouettes and I fully expected them to just doodle a little face on it. Instead, I started getting back all these crazy illustrations, it was pretty exciting. Me getting a drawing from Ciardiello…crazy.
You're primarily known for your illustrations in the New York Times. What is your most memorable experience with that gig?
Last year I ended a 10 year run with a weekly spot in Business Day, and 2014 is 10 years illustrating for Science Times. My first pro job ever was for Heller at the Book Review and I've since gotten to work with Nicholas, Brian Rea, Alexandra, PBS, John Hendrix, Steven Guarnaccia, and Matt Dorfman at OpEd…it's tough to pick a highlight from that lineup. Certainly one of the most memorable experiences was a live drawing video for Science/Health that was shot in a photo studio at the Times. That was one of the most exciting projects of my entire career (there's a link to it on my site).
Tell us a little bit more about the show and what patrons can expect in April.
The show is 10 illustrators living and working in New Jersey. They're from all over, and most have lived in NYC at one time or another, but they're all in NJ now - Ana Benaroya, Felix Sockwell, Lara Tomlin, Joe Ciardiello, Despina Georgiadis, Edel Rodriguez, Daniel Hertzberg, Wes Bedrosian, Greg Betza, and myself. Some of the art is published illustration, some is personal work, and some are brand new for the show. There will be a few pieces from each illustrator and possibly a pop-up gift shop with various products from the artists. The show will be up for two months but we hope to see a lot of people for the opening on Saturday April 19.