Illustrator Laura Guzzo talks Shakespeare, Princeless, and Dream Jobs
Thursday evening at Chicago Comic-Con, I got to meet freelance illustrator Laura Guzzo, who has drawn covers for Action Lab Comics’ Princeless and full-page illustrations for Red Stylo Media’s anthology Shakespeare Shaken. She spoke enthusiastically about both past projects and ideas for future illustrations, all while rocking awesome pink boots. We started out talking about why she always makes time to travel to Chicago.
Laura Guzzo: It’s delicious. I always make friends here for some reason. Like, more so than any other town I’ve been in.
Graphic Policy: I hit record at exactly the right second, because I caught that. So, you work on Princeless.
LG: Yes, I got to contribute to that. And that one is my fangirl dream come true, because I was a fan of theirs before I got to do a piece for them.
GP: So how did you get to do a piece for them?
LG: It was absolutely being in the right place at the right time. I had been going around at a convention with my portfolio, and I usually have one day that’s my professional day, when I do that. And I took a break from visiting publishers to run over to the Princeless booth and be like, “I just read the PDF of the first issue, I’m in love with this, how do I get the rest of them?” And … as I was flipping through their stuff I was like, “Oh, yeah, by the way, I’m holding my portfolio, take a look! You want to see it?” And the person who was running the booth let me know that they were actually currently holding an open call for pin-ups, so I was like, “Oh, yes, I definitely want to be in on that.” And so I showed them my portfolio while I was there, and they were already looking, so I think that I reached out once I got home to remind them, and then I ended up working with Jeremy Whitley for that. And all of the people at Action Labs are so nice.
GP: Are you likely to do more work for that or is that kind of a one-shot deal?
LG: I would love to, but I think it was just a one-shot. I’m pretty sure.
GP: The other thing I have written down, which is the thing that’s most exciting for me as a total Shakespeare nerd, is Shakespeare Shaken.
GP: And I was wondering if you could tell me – so I know it’s an anthology, right? So tell me a little about which section you worked on and about that experience.
LG: So Shakespeare Shaken, for people who don’t know, it is an anthology of reimaginings of Shakespeare’s works. So everybody took a piece and took it in an entirely new direction. Some of them are genre shifts, and some of them are what-if stories. And most of the book is traditional narrative comic layout, but every once in a while there’s a full-page illustration that’s at the end. So I did several pieces for that, because my all-time dream job is cover artist, for comics or novels, I don’t care. I just love that kind of illustration, and so I did several pieces for them, I think four in total, including the one that went on the cover, and they were all twists on my favorite stories. So there’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream that’s a trashy romance novel cover, like with Fabio and his hair blowing in the wind, but it’s Bottom. And I did the last scene of Hamlet as a film noir sort of thing. I’d been playing a lot of L.A. Noire at the time and I was super into that aesthetic.
GP: I had actually had a thing in college with doing a film noir Hamlet that never happened. So that’s awesome.
LG: So when you’re reading Hamlet – I read it, I’d seen it in the theaters. But I hadn’t ever really understood it until recently when I got to see a version of Hamlet that was set in the 1920s and ’30s that was done by a theater located in Philadelphia, I think it was the Lantern. And it opened my eyes in a way that I’d never understood it on that level before. I don’t know what it was that was different about the way the actors were intoning it, but it really, it made a huge difference in my understanding.
GP: So what are you working on now?
LG: Well, right now, I’ve got a bunch of life shifts happening, so I’ve had to slow my roll and to take a bit of a break. I’ve been still taking on individual commissions, but I don’t have any big projects because I’m trying to get my feet under me.
GP: If there was any character or any series that you could do cover art for, what would it be?
LG: Oh, man, that’s such a huge question! My immediate answer is, I am so into the Dresden Files right now. I love that series! And the covers that they have now suit it very well, but if I could do Dresden art, it would be amazing.
GP: Yeah, I always want people to give me the knee-jerk answer, because those are always the most left-field and passionate.
LG: One of these days, I have this image in my head, I don’t know if you’ve ever read the books?
GP: Yes, not all of them, but I’ve read some.
LG: So Lea, his fairy godmother, I want to do a classic portrait of her with her hounds surrounding her. Oh my God, I think that would be so awesome! I can’t wait. Eventually that will be reality. I will make that happen.
GP: From your lips to God’s ears. You know, we’re putting it on the internet.
LG: So now I must do it.
GP: One last question that I’m asking everyone. Pirates, aliens, ninjas, or cowboys?
LG: I feel like this isn’t objectively the best answer, but my answer is absolutely pirates. I can’t help myself. You terrible plundering bastards, there’s just something terribly awesome about the aesthetic of the high seas. And I find it really fascinating that as awful and brutal as the life of a pirate was, people became pirates because it was preferable to being in the Navy. That was somehow worse than being pirates. Can you imagine how terrible the conditions of the British Navy must have been, for that to be liberating and progressive?