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Q&A with Neil Swaab

New York based illustrator and designer

I'm am illustrator, designer, and author. I work primarily in the publishing world—mostly for young adult books and middle grade books—but my work spreads out into other venues as well like film, TV, and theater.

How did you get started in illustration? What is your background?

I majored in Illustration in college. When I graduated, I got work in the publishing industry as a designer. In my spare time, I did freelance illustration and comics for a variety of clients until, eventually, I built up enough of a name for myself that I could quit my job and work solely for myself.

What are you working on now?

So many different things. I'm currently writing and illustrating my own middle grade book series for Abrams Amulet. The first one comes out this September! I'm also illustrating/designing several book covers and interiors for various publishers. And I'm developing some ideas I've had for TV.

What tools and materials do you use for your work?

For art and design I use mechanical pencils; those long, clicky erasers; Micron pens; various brush pens; bristol board; Photoshop; Illustrator; and InDesign. For writing I use Scrivener; Byword; and Final Draft.

What is your ideal work environment?

For art and design, I have a studio in the Pencil Factory in Greenpoint, Brooklyn that I share with 3 other illustrators. It's a great space and I like to have some company around on a day-to-day basis with music and/or podcasts pumping the entire time. For writing, I like to write at home, alone, in complete silence.

Where are your favorite places for art?

The internet is great. I see so many great artists just through my friends' feeds and what they're posting about and artists they're excited about. You can really fall into a great hole just looking through Twitter or Behance or any number of places. For art in the flesh, I go to the standard museums and galleries as everyone else. The MoMA, the Guggenheim, etc.

Who are the illustrators, artists you admire most?

I'm a big fan of all the other artists who work in the Pencil Factory or are associated with it somehow. They inspire me daily with how amazing their work is and how down-to-earth they are too. It's a great collection of people and I'm proud to get to hang with them.