• Hero
Illustration

Introducing... Canadian master of editorial illustration Sam Island

Posted by James Cartwright,

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…

  • Si-2

    Introducing… Sam Island’s desk

  • Si-3

    Introducing… Sam Island’s sketchbook

  • Si-4

    Introducing… Sam Island’s sketchbook

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.

  • Si-1

    Introducing… Sam Island

  • Si-5

    Introducing… Sam Island

  • Si-6

    Introducing… Sam Island

  • Si-7

    Introducing… Sam Island

  • Si-8

    Introducing… Sam Island

  • Si-9

    Introducing… Sam Island

  • Si-10

    Introducing… Sam Island

  • Si-11

    Introducing… Sam Island

Jc

Posted by James Cartwright

James started out as an intern in 2011 and is now one of our two editors. He oversees Printed Pages magazine and content wise has a special interest in graphic design and illustration. He also runs our online shop Company of Parrots and is a regular on our Studio Audience podcast.

Most Recent: Illustration View Archive

  1. List

    Lawrence Zeegen has never been one to mince his words. The illustrator, writer and dean of design at London College of Communication has recently launched his new book Fifty Years Of Illustration which he co-wrote with Grafik editor Caroline Roberts. It’s an impressively ambitious undertaking with the duo condensing five decades into 1,000 images by 240 illustrators from 30 countries. Lawrence admits it’s a “pretty personal selection” but one that aims to “represent the movers and shakers across each decade according to the work I believe was instrumental in shaping the discipline.”

  2. List

    Growing up in a family of doctors, Swedish illustrator and paper-cut artist Petra Börner secured her first commission (illustrating medical journals) through her surgeon mother, which might go some way to explaining why her work is so reminiscent of botanical diagrams in biology textbooks. Petra’s principle subject is the flora and fauna of the natural world, which she creates using paper cut techniques so intricate and painstakingly-detailed that they scarcely look like they could be real.

  3. List

    Alright, we admit it – Peter Judson has made a lot of work we’ve been really into this year, and he’s had the props on the site to prove it. But why should we be made to contain ourselves when he keeps producing illustration of this calibre? Why, we ask you?

  4. List

    If, like me, you spent many an hour in your teenage years gazing absentmindedly at Larry Carlson’s experimental website Medijate, you’ll no doubt be similarly transfixed by The Landfill from the very talented Santtu Mustonen. Stitching together a “collection of unused sketches, leftover drawings and rejected ideas from forgotten projects” to a mesmerising soundtrack by Tuomas Alatalo, Santtu created a hypnotic animation that’s a work of art in its own right.

  5. List

    As the man who gave form to the twisted genius of Hunter S. Thompson, British illustrator’s Ralph Steadman’s latest project seems like a perfect fit. Ralph has worked with Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan to illustrate some limited-edition Blu-Ray covers for a special boxset of the series due out early next year.

  6. List

    Having just re-read Sammy Harkham’s 2012 anthology of short stories Everything Together I was stupidly excited to find out he’s just got himself on Tumblr and uploaded a small but growing archive of work both old and new. Included in among old covers of Kramers Ergot, book jackets for Kafka anthologies, Bonnie Prince Billy album covers and bits and pieces of rejected work are original drawings from his ongoing graphic novel (and surely future masterpiece) Blood of the Virgin, which he’s also selling to fund further work on the project. I for one cannot wait to see this project massive volume finally realised. Keep at it Sammy!

  7. List

    This top image by New York-based illustrator Karan Singh caught my eye on purely aesthetic grounds; it was only when I delved a little deeper that I discovered the interesting story behind the work. Karan was one of several artists commissioned by Ogilvy New York to work on the IBM US Open Sessions, whereby LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy created a series of tracks based on data gathered at the tennis tournament.

  8. Main2

    I came across the work of Matthias Geisler over on Booooooom the other day and was reminded that we hadn’t posted something like this in a while. Matthias’ work is a swirling blend of spirits and creatures that are created with meticulous use of pencil crayons and water-colours. Is it me or are watercolours real in at the moment? All the cool kids seem to be using them.

  9. List

    If you’re feeling a bit bleary eyed this morning, grab a cup of coffee and take a look at Goncalo Viana’s beautiful illustrations to wake yourself up. Rich with colour and charming detail his work has a wonderful texture to it, as though you could reach out and actually feel the deep pigments he’s used.

  10. List

    Before I write anything about illustrator Nicolas Delort I feel like full disclosure is necessary; between the ages of 11 and 14 I spent all of my pocket money collecting and painting Warhammer models and most of my saturdays hanging out in Games Workshop, which means I’m predisposed to LOVE epic fantasy artwork, like Frank Fazetta, Julie Bell and Boris Vallejo.

  11. Main

    It’s comforting to see the resurgence in the physical aspects of music. There was a moment a few years back when gig posters and witty, well-crafted promotional material seemed to be confined solely to the world wide web, which made every poster that was actually printed on paper something of a novelty. Not any more though: we’re receiving and finding so many illustrators now whose portfolios are chock full of variations on the humble gig poster and they are brilliant. Today we thought we’d champion this theme with Dutch illustration student Douwe Dijkstra. His visual interpretations of bands such as The Growlers and Losers are taking the stylistic qualities of early 1990s gig posters and infusing them with a modern style to make some seriously nick-able printed matter. Keep up the great work, Douwe!

  12. List

    On the morning that David Cameron is giving a press conference on the UK’s future role in Afghanistan, Scott King’s latest book seems even more significant. Anish & Antony Take Afghanistan is a graphic novel that Scott sees as “a critique of the deployment of public art,” which satirises how far we’re prepared to enforce our cultural values on others. Through Scott’s writing and Will Henry’s illustrations, we follow as Anish (Kapoor) and Antony (Gormley) try and bring cultural regeneration to the war-torn country.

  13. List

    The London-based French illustrator Malika Favre has had another big year, adding even more breadth to her already impressive portfolio of work. In the summer she was invited to Tenerife by a Spanish design collective called 28ymedio to take part in its Illustrated Journey project, which aims to “help fight the economic crisis in Spain by promoting the Canary Islands and bringing a new stream of tourism.”