Sam Island is a freelance illustrator based in Toronto, Canada whose clean-line reductive illustrations have won him the favour of the biggest names in news and editorial. A regular contributor to The New York Times, Bloomberg View and The New Yorker, Sam spends his days creating crisp, witty editorial illustrations that perfectly complement the articles they sit with. He understands only too well the necessity of communicating swiftly and effectively among endless column inches.
Having seen bits and pieces of his work around for a while, Sam finally sent through his portfolio last week. We were immediately struck by the skill with which he creates his imagery, imbuing the simplest combinations of line and colour with such weighty editorial purpose. So we decided to find out more…
Where do you work?
I work at my home studio space in Toronto. I have a dedicated room for work, but I often work on sketches throughout the house so I won’t get distracted by email and Reddit. In warm weather I sketch on the balcony.
How does your working day start?
I get up early and walk my dog at 6:30am, then I get some coffee and start drawing by 7:30. I like to work early in the day; it’s quiet, my email isn’t beeping and I do my best thinking first thing in the morning. By the afternoon I’m usually pretty burnt out. Luckily, most of the work at that point is just finishing off the illustration.
How do you work and how has that changed?
I work quickly. I use the same pen for sketches and finals and I colour in photoshop. I’m always battling myself over how tight a drawing should be… I tend to prefer to work loose but like to tighten up a bit for commercial jobs. It’s a constant back and forth for me: do I want to be sketchy or do I want to be tight?
Where would we find you when you’re not at work?
My free time is all about enjoying the company of my wife and our dog. If we’re not hanging out, you can find me with my nose in a book, browsing at a comic shop, getting a slice of pizza, or grabbing some beers with my friends.
Would you intern for yourself?
Sure I would. I’m a nice guy, I think. The day would be full of getting coffee, playing with the dog and doing comic jams… oh and some work stuff like mailing promos.