Beeline Interview: Illustrator Jillian Tamaki

Jillian Tamaki is an amazing illustrator whose work you have likely already seen, but didn’t realize you did. (Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, The Washington Post, The Guardian, etc.) Her blog is one I keep tabs on, her pencil sketches and watercolors some of my favorite pieces.

She is also into comics. If you haven’t checked out Skim yet, the fantastic graphic novel Jillian illustrated and her cousin Mariko wrote, you really are missing out.

Name: Jillian Tamaki
Occupation: Illustrator
Borough/Neighborhood: Greenpoint, Brooklyn


You were recently on a Women in Comics panel at New York Comicon along with your cousin Mariko, how did the panel go? Well, I’m not sure the world needs another Women In Comics panel. I’d like to think the industry is complex and broad enough to warrant a more textured and specific conversation at this point. It’s like doing surgery with a meat cleaver.

Have you always been interested in comics? I read a ton of Archie comics when I was a kid. I actually didn’t remember that fact until recently… I thought, “Wow, I guess I read a lot of comics as a kid!” I used to tell people that I never read comics as a child. I started getting interested in alternative and independent comics when I was in art school in my early 20s.

Could you talk a little about the process collaborating with Mariko on Skim? It was very straightforward but organic. We did not meddle in each others’ work. She wrote the script as dialogue, almost as one would a play. Then she gave it to me and I drew it. I say it was organic because we did not put restrictions on each others’ work. Mariko was open to me interpreting and extrapolating the story and characters.

Should we look forward to more collaborations in the future? I’m trying to muster up enough creativity to write my own book.

What are you currently reading? People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks. It’s okay. I have a lot of respect who write historical fiction because all the background research is so apparent. I bought it at Word on Franklin Avenue.

What are you currently listening to? This very second? “Remain in Light” by Talking Heads. Generally I don’t listen to much music though. I listen to public radio.

Favorite place to eat in the neighborhood: Greenpoint is sorta hurting for restaurants in my opinion. But I do hit up Cafe Grumpy on Meserole on a regular basis. The back room is like a library. I also welcome the addition of Five Leaves, which shall perpetually be known as “Heath Ledger Bar“.

Little known fact about your neighborhood: There are lots of Greenpoint secrets. But we refrain from talking about them as not to risk property values.

Favorite watering hole: The Pencil Factory on Franklin. It’s kitty-corner from my husband’s studio.

Best pizza in your hood: I had pizza from Triangolo the other night. Actually, we ate it in The Pencil Factory! [Ed.: Triangolo looks like a local fave!]

If there was a movie of your life, what neighborhood would grace the opening scene? Oh, nowhere in New York. It’d have to be the suburbs of a medium-sized city on the Canadian prairies.

What is your all time favorite monster and/or horror movie? I’m not big on the horror movies, but my current kick is horror manga (comics) from Japan. The monsters are so foreign to our aesthetic sensibility and the sex is violence is truly depraved.

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You can listen to a more in-depth interview with Jillian and Mariko on CBC’s The Next Chapter. Or, read reviews and additional interviews in the New York Times, Drawn! or Illustration Friday. You should also check out Jillian’s beautiful contribution to the the Totoro Forest Project.


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