E. A. Santoli is an illustrator and teacher. He is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. His inspirations are bridged between academic painting and Japanese manga and anime. He currently resides in Ridgewood, New Jersey.
Describe Your Desk:
For my desk, I work on a big, flat, dining room table that is over 100 years old. On the table, I have all sorts of brushes standing upright in a ceramic planter. I have an old electric pencil sharpener, my pencil case, colored pencils, a watercolor bucket, tons of sketchbooks, my diary, and my set of illustration paints. I like being one-on-one with my illustrations with no technology to distract me.
What's the Story behind your latest book?
I was introduced to M. Earl Smith through a mutual college professor that he and I had. She contacted me asking if I would be interested in illustrating a children’s book about Karl Marx. I immediately said yes and started work on Little Karl. Martin and I have become great friends and I’m really proud of what we made together. We really owe our professor a lot for connecting us.
What is the greatest Joy of ILLUSTRAting for you?
The greatest joy of illustrating for me is bringing a story to life. To make writing become visual isn’t easy, but I love the research involved with creating characters and putting them into a specific world. It’s a slow process and I love every step of it.
What are you working on next?
I’m currently working on sketches for an upcoming book also authored by M. Earl Smith.
What is your illustrating process?
After I read the manuscript, I usually have a clear picture in my head of what I want. The next step is doing the proper research and sketching out the storyboards in watercolor. If the illustration is period-specific, then I read about the time period and look at photographs. My training is in academic painting, so I always go through the full process from rough sketches to a finished product. The best illustrations are always half-real and half-ideal, which means that the worlds that I paint don’t exist precisely from any one source. I use my imagination a lot to help tell the story.
Who are your favorite illustrators?
I really love the academic painter, William-Adolphe Bouguereau and the manga and animation director Hayao Miyazaki from Studio Ghibli.
What do you read for pleasure?
I love Haruki Murakami, Edgar Allan Poe and Oscar Wilde. I’m currently reading Inferno, by Dan Brown and The Three Musketeers by Alexander Dumas. I read a lot of classical literature and art history books, but my favorite stories are anything dreamlike and poetic. I also love certain manga, such as Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your illustrations?
I was born and reared in Ridgewood, NJ. Being in Northern NJ, we’re really close to New York City and my parents always brought my brother and me to all the great New York Museums. I was raised in a house full of antiques, with lots of watercolor paintings by my great aunt and oil paintings by my great grandmother. All the art and beauty that I’ve been surrounded by has really impacted my work. Ridgewood is a beautiful place to grow up.
When did you first start illustrating?
I first started illustrating by drawing little cartoon stories with a few middle school friends of mine. I’ve always loved drawing and storytelling. I used to (and still do) draw funny cartoons of our dog, Maea, for my mom to make her laugh.
Do you remember the first story you ever read and the impact it had on you?
One of the first stories that I remember really having an impact on me was the Frog and Toad series by Arnold Lobel. I have also always been a huge Winnie the Pooh fan.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
I really am just trying to find out who I am each day as an illustrator and person. Each day, I love reading about new techniques and materials or incorporating new ideas into my illustrations. Honestly, my best friend is the most motivational guy I know, so I’m also doing my absolute best to keep pace with him. Besides illustrating, I always make time for the gym, skateboarding, my motorcycle, and those closest to me.