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Illustrator Spotlight with Maddie Fischer

Process, style, color and influences: Get to know the talent behind the illustrations we love

Tell us a bit about yourself and how you found your way to a creative career.

My illustration journey began a bit unintentionally — with a full conviction that I was destined to be a comedian. Through doing stand up and improv in New York, I met so many performers who needed posters for their shows, and that’s how I realized my compulsion to draw, which I used to think was just a silly hobby, was in fact more lucrative and enjoyable (not to mention much less embarrassing!!!!) than doing comedy.

How did you find your medium and style, and who and what influenced you?

Something shifted for me when I started to ask: how do I like to draw things, and what is it about the process of drawing that I deeply enjoy? And maybe that sounds simple, but there’s so many things — pressures to make money, to get a career going, the deflation of feeling like illustration is not “real art”— that can hold you back from just being yourself on the page. The only thing that brings out any semblance of a “style” in my work is the practice of continuous drawing. Drawing as much as I can, through the noise of those nasty voices of doubt and uncertainty that inevitably enter the room. And I’m still figuring out how to bring my work closer to me and myself closer to my work. It’s all about drawing through the self-conscious voices that are trying to tell you how you “should” render an image or that “you’re terrible”,  and allowing something more instinctual to surface. I’m always reminding myself, even when it's hard or I’m bored or filled with self doubt — don't put that dang pen down! 

My drawings these days are inspired by medieval illuminations– especially hand-lettering and decorative alphabets. There’s also a lot of childhood influences that I’m only now starting to see— the work of P.D. Eastman, Richard Scarry, Dr. Seuss, and even the early Disney animations have all borrowed their way into my subconscious. All of those being men I realize! But I’m also obsessed with the work of so many contemporary women:  the freedom and humor of Linda Barry and Roz Chast, the composition, color and  sheer skill of Julia Sarda, and the boundless sense of play and personality that Cari Vanderyacht manages to get through in every sketch. Other illustrators continue teaching me new things about what's possible in the act of drawing.

What subjects are you most fascinated with?

I love an anthropomorphized animal. I can't stop drawing them. Right now it’s all about non-human beings caught in a very human moment. I love asking: who is this creature and what the heck are they up to? I love making myself laugh at the faces of frogs trying to string together a friendship bracelet, or a young turtle concentrating on sewing a dress.

What illustration trend are you either loving or hating at the moment?

There seems to be a traditional media trend happening right now, which I think is awesome. While I love digital drawing and embracing it has been super important for my work, I will always need to go back to paper, pencils, and ink. I think a lot of people are experiencing low-key fatigue with the ubiquity of digital images, so it’s refreshing to see the hand on the page, the eraser marks, the smudges and imperfections. 

How do you create characters, what inspires them, how do you use color?

I love to fill up a sketchbook page with random shapes and then go back and figure out what characters could fit in the confines of those lines. I’ll bring some of them into Procreate and expand their story– what are they eating, where are they going? Why are they holding an oversized snail or a tiny bouquet of roses?? These questions really delight and inspire me to continue discovering new things as I go. And then color is all about balance for me. That's why I was always a bad painter! I think good paintings tend to have unexpected imbalances in colors and values across the canvas–they confront you with color choices–but my illustrator brain is kind of obsessed with leveling out the hue/value/saturation scales. 

If you had to pick a favorite project, which one are you most proud of and why?

Making a 2024 calendar at the end of last year ended up being a huge, overwhelming and incredibly rewarding project that I’m still super proud of. It was my first time printing a calendar myself, and definitely my largest Risograph project to date! I printed 300 copies (each month being a 4-color spread) and then spiral-bound them all by hand and shipped them out myself. Somehow I completely sold out of every copy. It was so intense! But I’m so proud! Already thinking about my calendar for 2025…. :-) 

Describe your dream project.

I would love to illustrate a book for kids or a book for young readers! Either written by myself (vaguely working on/thinking about some stories) or I’d love to illuminate someone else’s words. That’s definitely a big career goal.  

What’s next for you?

I’m working on a few fun collaborations right now! Some apparel, some stationary. A lot of Risograph printing in the works. And I’ve also been focusing on the simple project of just drawing in my sketchbook every day. Less concrete outcomes, but it's the most rewarding, exciting and fulfilling aspect of this work. 

Rapid Fire Round!

Morning person or night owl?

Morning all the way

Favorite word


Lunch or dinner?

Thinking about dinner constantly

A celebrity you’d like to have a drink with

Vivienne Westwood

If you could time travel, would you go to the past or the future?

Take me to the middle ages!

Sweet or savory?

Both!!!! I’m a peanut-butter-chocolate-chip-pretzel-fudge-potato-chip-crunch type of guy

Are you a thinker or doer?

Not enough thinking I’m all GO I should honestly take a second sometimes

Go-to karaoke song

You're So Vain Carly Simon!!!

City break or beach holiday?

City WITH a beach?? Let’s go to Lisbon

What superpower would you like to have?

I long for the power of infinite eating

Thank you Maddie!



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