How do I pronounce your name?
Munn-oo-ja Vul-di-ya , or invent your own like they once did at a Milwaukee Starbucks ("Here's your quadruple espresso with a venti water, Mznudo.")
How did you get to work on a once-in-a-lifetime dreamy project like the Pelican Shakespeare?
I scheduled a student portfolio review with Jessica Hische, which she still does, details on her website. She gave me honest feedback, and also gave me contact info of some of the best art directors of all times, no joke. Students should definitely consider doing her portfolio review, as she's incredible about empowering people just starting out. She typed out an email template for me and gave me guidelines- "Be concise, respectful, personal and always link to your portfolio website." Thank-you Jessica for being the youngest fairy godmother to so many, we love you!
I emailed Paul Buckley a link to my (terribly amateur) student portfolio after. He kindly took the time to look at it and replied he'd like to explore the idea of doing Shakespeare covers in the style of my Daily Icon project. Not any other Shakespeare edition, but PENGUIN Classics! WHAT! I cannot be more thankful or thrilled, and try to do my very best with each title.
In conclusion, doing personal projects always pays off and leads to the most interesting commercial work. Does a stand-up comedian only perform exclusively at SNL? No, they work on their material constantly, practice their delivery, and relentlessly train. We have to create work, for people to know we can do it [insert running/athletics analogy here for further impact.]
And the other thing is having positive, and empowering people around you, to cheer you on, and more importantly push you when needed.
What's your process for creating the Shakespeare books covers?
I start by reading and researching the material. It's a combination of reading the text, scholarly analysis, podcasts, watching movie/plays/adaptations, etc. The editorial team provides me with some initial ideas of their own, which are helpful insights as to which directions would work better over others.
I explore those along with a few ideas of my own as wordlists, or quick pencil thumbnails. Thumbnails help me explore compositions/elements for the same idea, quickly.
Final Pencil Sketches
From these thumbnails (12-16) I blow out 6-8 enlarged pencil sketches, the art team selects two, one for the front and another for the verso.
I digitize them on Adobe Illustrator along with drawing out a couple of icons for the spine. Next comes final thoughts from the Penguin team, selecting a spine icon, polishing up artwork, and DONE!
You seem to have two distinct illustration styles, one is the linear style and the other is more painterly. Isn't that unusual for illustrators?
I work in the two styles, as they are perfect foils of each other. When I get burned out with one, I work in the other, which makes for the most constructive productive change. Even though they are aesthetically different, there are parallels between the narrative and composition.
It's easier to have one unique style for your 'brand recall' (ew) as art directors mostly hire illustrators for a particular style they are seeking. However, I feel I can achieve that 'brand recall' (ew) by keeping my 'voice' consistent across my diverse-in-mediums work.
This might be difficult to achieve if I only did commercial work, as then I don't have much control over the narrative. That's where personal projects come into play. They let me create content, and say what I want to say, how I want to say it. And I don't worry too much about the medium. Having a unique illustration style doesn't necessarily only mean aesthetic execution.
What was the hardest part about coming up with a unified “look” for the series?
We set a template at the start of the project— we’re using three distinct background colors for the three categories— tragedies (black,) comedies (light blue) and histories (aubergine.) Keeping the line weight consistent for all illustrations brings further consistency.
Why do you share so much of your work on social media?
I am terrible about updating my portfolio often, so sharing it on social media feels like a quickly accessible way of showing it to the world. That and also my sense of self worth is completely wrapped around how many likes I get on something.