Mariam Quraishi: Warmth and Vibrancy

ADC Member comes from a very artistic family

Can you believe that we are already halfway through February? And yet ADC’s Illustration Month is still going strong! We are amazed at the number of artists within the ADC community who pride themselves on being illustrators, whether they’re making posters, bringing magazine editorials to life or crafting beautiful books for children. And we are doubly glad to be bringing this showcase of talent to you!

Our next illustrator is a relatively new ADC Member from the Big Apple who loves how illustration can help shape the way people perceive the world.


68557_10152372798379460_516364742_nMARIAM QURAISHI
New York, NY



Just about every kid can draw, but not every kid is particularly gifted at it. Where did your childhood artistic inclinations come from?

I grew up in a very artistic household. When I was younger my mother had a block printing studio adjoining our home, and she would paint as well. Her aunt was a brilliant oil painter whose art is in practically every room in my parents’ home. I grew up admiring her work and wanting to be like her.

My siblings are also in similar fields; my brother is an architect and my sister is an art historian. While my father is not an artist, he’s always encouraged all of us to be interested in and curious about the world around us. I think that’s a very crucial part of being an artist. In this respect I got a lot of encouragement.

Getting my work critiqued by everyone at home wasn’t always fun, but in hindsight I’m incredibly grateful for it.

When did you discover that “Hey, this could actually be a career”?

There was never anything that I thought I would rather do than make art, so I never really gave myself the option of not making a living from it. I was (and am) convinced that anything else would make me royally unhappy.

“There was never anything that I thought I would rather do than make art… anything else would make me royally unhappy.”

How would you describe your illustrative style? Do you fight against having a particular style, or do you embrace your style as your “brand”?

Its always hard for me to pinpoint what my style is, since every piece I’m making is slightly different than the one before it. A unifying characteristic would definitely be the warm and vibrant colors I use; I love yellow and orange paint.

Walk us through your usual creative process.

I usually thumbnail and sketch a lot. Research plays a huge role in my process; I read everything I can about what I’m drawing or thinking about at the time, I find a ton of images to draw inspiration from, but when I actually begin work I just shove them all aside and try not to look at them while making my own compositions.

Tools of the trade: do you have any specific pens, pencils or other instruments that you swear by?

A good cup of tea is always necessary. Other than that I’ve been using Winsor & Newton watercolors for the past eight years. Last year I added gouache into the mix. I enjoy being able to use both mediums for different effects and the fact that I can use them well together.

I always carry a pencil case with a few Prismacolor pencils, a clutch pencil and a Pigma brush pen. I like having the option to either make very spontaneous work with a brush pen, or being able to be more precious about things with my pencils.

What is the most challenging thing about a career in illustration?

Understanding how to be an illustrator is a huge challenge. Everyone does it differently, there’s no one way of going about it and it takes a lot of planning. All of this can be really unnerving, especially if you fall into spells of self-doubt. You have to have faith that it’ll happen and keep chipping away at it. That, and disciplining yourself into a good work routine, there always seems to be something that else HAS to be done before you sit down to draw!

Is there a particular project of yours of which you’re especially proud?

Last year I made my first picture book dummy, It’s by no means perfect, but it was something I’ve been wanting to do for a very long time. The entire process was an amazing learning curve and it taught me a great deal about the different ways in which people look at, and experience picture books. This ultimately informed my approach to writing and illustrating.

Cocktail party talk: how do you describe what you do to someone who isn’t in a creative field, and what’s the typical response you get from them?

I tell people that I design and illustrate books for children. Most of the time its pretty straightforward and people get it. However, it does get confusing when I get into the nitty gritty of one being full-time and the other freelance. No one seems to get that publishers don’t have in-house illustrators!

“No one seems to get that publishers don’t have in-house illustrators!”

Where do you seek out creative inspiration?

Walking around seems to do the trick for me, I walk up and down a hallway or a flight of stairs with my earbuds in. Sometimes I get ideas right as I’m about to fall asleep, so I’ll type them out on my phone. Then I’m not able to fall asleep for ages after!

Which professional illustrators do you look up to?

There are so many! Miroslav Sasek, Roger Duvoisin, Lisbeth Zwerger and Alice and Martin Provensen are illustrators whose work I’ll always look at for inspiration. I enjoy studying the ways in which they use shape and texture.

My more contemporary favorites are Roman Muradov, JooHee Yoon, Sanjay Patel and Julia Sardà.

At the end of the day, what do you love most about being an illustrator?

I‘m always amazed at how illustration has the capacity to alter and improve perceptions, and how it plays such an integral part in shaping the way in which people see the world. This, for the large part, is why I became an illustrator. That and having a free pass to draw any, and every, silly idea that comes to mind!

Illustration Month continues throughout January and February, and is open exclusively to ADC Members. Not yet a Member? Join today!