The Artfuls
Open menu

An interview with...

We asked these great illustrators some questions about their work and creative process.
The work of Sara Tyson
About Sara Tyson

I have worked for more than 25 years as both illustrator and graphic designer. I moved north, from Toronto, a decade ago to enjoy working and living on a small lake in the Parry Sound area. I set about my endeavours with great diligence… painting, designing, swimming, canoeing, cooking, watching foreign film and listening to music.

Connect with artist:
Official site
Email Sara Tyson

Sara Tyson

How did you first get into illustration?

My high school art teacher encouraged me to prepare a portfolio for the Ontario College of Art (now OCAD U) in Toronto, Ontario. Illustration was my main focus, with some design, photography and fine art courses thrown into the mix. All I really knew, was that I loved to draw. I have had a tumultuous relationship with my illustration career. I worked as a freelance paste-up artist in the 1980s while I was still finding my way with illustration. In the 1990s, I worked full-time as a magazine designer, all the while taking on illustration commissions. This dual role as a professional has increased my understanding of the function of illustration in communication arts.

How would you best describe your style of illustration?

My drawing is stylized, very angular. My figures occupy a highly organized space. I am always looking at my illustrations as if they were an abstract piece of art, always balancing colour, tone, contrast, weight and shape. I am inspired by early Christian and Byzantine art. The figures possess very rigid facial expressions, which evoke a sense of tension. There is great power and immediacy. To me, every gesture speaks loudly. Compositions are flat and hieratic with no systematic use of perspective, which creates odd scales and frames of reference. I find that this environment lends itself well to story telling.

Please take us through your design process, where do you start?

My initial take on concept is very analytical. I absorb the story and look for the most obvious metaphors. The concept continues to evolve in a more visceral sense throughout the various sketching stages. Once I know what elements I am dealing with, I begin to doodle in abstract forms. I abstract, simplify shapes and relate direction of lines as much as possible. It is important to me that my drawing is fully resolved before I begin to paint. The juxtaposition of shapes and imagery is essential. Proportions (e.g. size of a face compared to body or other elements) help to weave a story. My approach to colour is also very intuitive. I usually start with a monochromatic base and then layer in the colour, ending with an opaque build-up of texture.

What tools do you use for your work?

I paint using acrylic on illustration board. I would love to take the time to find a digital solution to my work in the near future. However I am fully digital in all other aspects of my work…. scanning of final paintings, photoshop work, research, graphic design and self-promotion.

When illustrating, do you sometimes get blocked for ideas? If so, how do you overcome that?

Sometimes I need to keep on sketching to solve the problem and sometimes I need to walk away. If I have the luxury of time, I like to put aside the project for a day and let it brew in my sleep. A good walk… or browse my favourite illustrators’ work for inspiration.

What would be your ultimate goal as an illustrator?

A children’s book. Full of characters. Full of costume. Or an opera.

What style music do you mostly listen to when you work?

I listen to Q with Jian Ghomeshi on CBC in the morning… jazz, classical, alternative rock or silence.

Do you have any advice for aspiring illustrators?

Find self-discipline. Perseverance, doggedness, indefatigability, meticulousness, etc… Deadlines are a way of life. Create your own definition of success. Always look at your illustration in the mirror before you let it go. It will tell you what is wrong.

What web sites would you recommend viewing?

The work of Sara Tyson:

Click an image to enlarge. Use your mouse wheel or arrow keys to navigate.

All work is copyrighted by Sara Tyson. You may NOT copy or redistribute any of images within this page without the written permission from Sara Tyson.
The work of Sara Tyson
The work of Sara Tyson
The work of Sara Tyson
The work of Sara Tyson
The work of Sara Tyson
The work of Sara Tyson
The work of Sara Tyson
The work of Sara Tyson
The work of Sara Tyson
The work of Sara Tyson
Care to comment on this interview?

If you would like to comment on this interview, then do so here!