A Cafe Chat with Executive Art Director, Designer, and Illustrator Giuseppe Castellano, by Lindsay Bandy

Cafe Chat Cup

IDA Design

It’s Pocono Retreat Interview Season! Today we have our first faculty interview of 2017 with Giuseppe Castellano – an award-winning Designer, Illustrator, and Executive Art Director at Penguin Random House. Giuseppe also offers personal guidance for illustrators through classes and critiques via The Illustration Department. You can catch his many helpful #ArtTips by following him on Twitter @PinoCastellano. And here he is!


LB: Hi there Giuseppe, and welcome to the Eastern Penn Points Cafe! We’re so excited to have you as part of the faculty for our upcoming Pocono Retreat. As we settle into our comfy booth, can we offer you a drink?

GC: Bourbon. Neat. Wait, what time is it? Ok, I’ll have a black coffee in a white mug. Coffee always tastes better in white mugs.


LB: Black coffee in a white mug coming right up….and if you want it Kentucky-style, we can stir that bourbon right in.  It’s five o’clock somewhere.


So, can you tell us the last book you read that made you:

british poetryLaugh out loud?

GC: Well, that’s a tough one. I write my own children’s books in rhyme. So, I read classic British poetry for research: Keats, Tennyson, Brontë. None of these folks were known for their humor.

interaction of colorGo all warm and fuzzy?

True story: I’m reading Josef Albers Interaction of Color. It’s a must-have for illustrators. The reverent way in which he discusses color reminds us of its beauty and mystery.

Cry (or at least sniffle)?

It’s just allergies . . .

LB: As an art director, I’m sure you see tons of gorgeous portfolios. So, imagine for a minute you are waltzing (literally or figuratively – your choice) through a portfolio display when suddenly, a beam of light rests upon one. Ooh, is that harp music? A choir of adorable children is singing! What makes this portfolio stand out above the rest?


GC: It’s not quite an epiphanic experience. And, I don’t really see them as “standing out”. Portfolios keep my attention when the art is well-executed and the decisions made with concept, color, composition and character design are good ones. When I get a sense that you are creating art that is important to you—as opposed to art that feels uninformed or highly derivative—my interest is piqued.

LB: What’s one thing picture book authors can do to make their illustrator’s job easier?

GC: Give them room. Room to experiment. Room to provide subtext. Room to interpret your world, and enjoy the necessary act of discovery when illustrating your text.

LB: Through The Illustration Department, you offer various classes and portfolio critique opportunities for illustrators. I was really impressed by the online portfolio showcase and the glowing testimonials of your students. For example:

Giuseppe gave the most thoughtful and useful critique I’ve ever received. I came away with a crystal clear sense of what was working for me and what wasn’t, how to move forward to create work that is true to my voice and point of view, and where I can go from here. —SF

What’s your favorite part of educating aspiring illustrators?

GC: The Showcase is a point of pride for us at the Illustration Department. For agents, editors, art directors, and other art buyers, it’s a one-stop shop of talent. For me, it’s a reminder of the hard work and growth we’ve seen with our alumni. Many of them have gone on to sign with agents, get book deals, and perhaps most importantly: see a less arduous, more creatively fulfilling, path on their journey as illustrators. Favorite part? Hearing them say, “This really helped.”

LB: What are you seeing too much of right now, and what would you like to see MORE of in the future?

file000459925508.jpgGC: I see too much of this, all the time: Illustrators create art they think art directors will like. They create work for the market, instead of for themselves. First, the “market” isn’t a thing with ideas or interests. The market is too big, and too diverse, and far too fickle for anyone to truly know what to create for it. So what are we to do, as illustrators? Well, there are constants that have always and will always navigate the turbulent sea that is the market: honesty and excellence. I want to see more illustrators create excellent work that comes from a place of honesty.

LB: Okay, Giuseppe, it is now time for rapid-fire favorites. Take one last sip of that coffee and tell us your favorite…

Color combination

Gray and Gray (they differ in value and temperature)

 TV Show

I watch TV, but I don’t have a favorite show.


Whichever one helps people.

Place to read

The R Train

 Books growing up

As a kid, I didn’t read books for fun. I read video game booklets for my original Nintendo. I read Nintendo Power. I read some Garfield comics. I had to become an adult before I started reading children’s books

.  Garfield  Vacation spot

My sister-in-law’s lake house in the Catskills—not too far from Highlights!

LB: Thanks so much for taking the time to join us today, Giuseppe! We look forward to learning more from you at our 2017 Pocono Retreat!

GC: Thank you for inviting me. This was good coffee. I’m looking forward to the Retreat!

So are we! And if you didn’t register yet, just hop on over to the registration page!


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1 Response to A Cafe Chat with Executive Art Director, Designer, and Illustrator Giuseppe Castellano, by Lindsay Bandy

  1. adillustration says:

    Thanks for the great insight and advice. I’m looking forward to the workshops and presentation!

Comments are closed.