Inside an Illustrator’s Mind

Open up an illustrators mind, and you find a flowering pictorial greenhouse. Anthony Russo, a self-described translator, is a professional illustrator and Tiverton resident who thinks in black and white, red, and simple shapes, not words. Honing a sophisticated vocabulary of pictures, Russo says he’s “a caveman in a high-tech world.” Yet, his so-called cave-man qualities of the mind are what has landed him an over 30-year career as an editorial illustrator for world-famous publications such as Rolling Stone, The Wall Street Journal, and The New Yorker. Popular book covers, magazine spreads, and news pages have all been marked with Anthony Russo’s steady hand at some point over the recent years.

Last Wednesday, Russo spoke to members of the FarmCoast community at The Meeting House in Four Corners about his career and life’s work of translating experiences. “It’s about communication with images…and how basic that is to our nature,” Russo says. Alternating between narrative and conceptual drawings, portrait and design assignments, Russo’s work is to fetch images out of the well of his mind and translate them into vivid and emotional descriptions–often to correspond with writing he has never read.”It’s my job to set up the emotion,” says Russo, and the words are someone else’s job. After receiving an assignment, Russo has days and sometimes just hours to sketch a drawing, but the results never disappoint. The artistic process is still slightly mysterious to him, but involves a large visual vocabulary and dedicated effort; “sometimes you have to be deliberate to be spontaneous,” he says.

His drawings have a strong and balanced perspective often composed in black and white shapes and sharp figurative lines. The drawings appear frequently throughout monthly and even weekly publications, and serve their purpose of attention-grabbing well.  Even the most basic illustrations capture the essence of human emotion with honesty and integrity.”I like to strip things down to the essentials,” says Russo, “I like to get to the heart of the issue.”

Anthony Russo’s background is in fine arts, and was inspired at an early age by German Expressionists. His first job was a drawing for The Real Paper for $35, and he’s gone on to win national illustration awards. He has also taught at both RISD and Parsons in New York. Russo has developed a masterful connection to imagery and continues to build on his unique vision of the world through his valuable work, available for viewing at a newspaper near you.

To see Russo’s full portfolio visit Some works are also on display at The Cottage in Four Corners.

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