Marsha Riti grew up in Texas where everything is big, including dreams. So I assumed that she had always dreamed of becoming a children’s book illustrator. Truth is, Marsha knew she had a place in the arts, but it took her a while to discover where that place was.
Marsha currently resides in Austin but she was raised in “the sticks.” Living in a sparsely populated town forced Marsha to use her imagination for entertainment. (Good training for a children’s book illustrator, huh?)
When Marsha’s not at her desk, you might find her cleaning, cooking, gardening, creating pottery, doing math homework, and hanging out with her boyfriend and friends.
Marsha, how did you evolve from doodler to doer? What got you started in children’s book illustration?
I was always the best at drawing in high school so when I went off to college it was a no-brainer. In college I tried doing a little bit of everything. My only regret would be not taking metal working or lithography. Even though my interests were (and still are) all over the place I have always loved drawing.
After receiving my BFA fromI went to work for a string of locally owned businesses, some of which were related to the arts, others were not. These jobs were great learning experiences: I can now show great professionalism in the face of adversity and I have also found my true love, illustration.
How did you find your true love?
I took a children’s book illustration class at a local art school. My teacher Mark Mitchell did a great job inspiring me to pursue children’s book illustration. He made the idea of being an illustrator accessible. Before I took his class I had no idea about where to start, but he did a really good job outlining ways to get into the field. I also got a better understanding of watercolor form taking Mark’s class.
Can you tell us about the inspiration behind your illustrations?
Two of the sample paintings were assignments given to me by my boyfriend, artist and designer Adam Norwood. He just gave me a simple phrase like: “full moon over the treehouse” and “fun in the rain.” Then I thought of an image that would best fit the words.
The other sample painting titled “Treasure Apartments” is for a book dummy titled Treasure Hunt that I have not yet finished. Here is a description of the painting:
Each apartment has a very specific owner: the top is a fashionable twenty-something who loves the mid-century look. The next apartment houses the main character, the little girl. Her father (behind the paper) has been everywhere and has the trappings to show it. Then there is the pink apartment—she has lived a long life and loves to listen to her vintage record collection. The bottom apartment is a stay-at-home programmer who is also a bike enthusiast.
I really enjoy using my imagination to think up all kinds of interesting scenarios and characters. Then I get to think about the attire and items that would best show their persona. It is like playing with a really elaborate doll house.
How would you describe your illustration style?
I think my style is illustrative and cartoony with an emphasis on fun.
Some of my favorite children’s book illustrators are: Samuel Ribeyron, Jean-Baptise Monge, Graeme Base, and Lisbeth Zwerger. These illustrators are inspiring to me because their work is visually deep both in the sense of space but also because they have texture and substance.
I am inspired by the composition of Japanese woodblock prints by Katsushika Hokusai.
For figure study and line inspiration I like to look at drawings and etchings by the old masters: Rembrandt, Titian, and Durer.
I have a fondness for minimalist art by Donald Judd, Frank Stella, and Carl Andre. For an artist to be able to break their aesthetics about line, weight, color, composition, and form, down to its base level is very inspiring to me.
I love the color field paintings by Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman. They amaze me–the scale of their paintings envelopes you in color and can really change your mood.
I also find inspiration from installation art by James Turrell. His installations show beauty in nature in a deceptively simple way.
Other influences would be the early cartooning done by Winsor McKay and George Herriman. Their innovation, imagination, and humor are strong influences on me.
I guess I subscribe to the “less is more” school of thought that I am trying to merge with my love of lush illustration.
What are your goals for the future?
Finishing my first book dummy, getting work, and improving as an artist and storyteller.
Marsha, thank you for sharing your amazing art! Good luck to you!
Marsha Riti is a member of Austin SCBWI. To learn more about her work, visit MarshaRiti.com and follow Marsha on Twitter @MarshaRiti. (Besides her daily doodles, I enjoy Marsha’s daily vintage furniture picks from the Austin Craigslist.)