Artist Interview- Isabella K. Cancino-Landeros

Artist Interview- Isabella K. Cancino-Landeros

 Isabella K. Cancino-Landeros


January 3-February 2nd | 2020

Interview conducted by Katherine Whitlock


Isabella Cancino’s intricately stylized graphite, colored pencil, and ink illustrations touch on themes of interiors, fashion, childhood, and the artist’s own veiled emotions. I had a chance to ask her a few questions for her forthcoming group exhibition at La Luz de Jesus Gallery titled, I Say You Post About That.

Katherine Whitlock– You are a self-taught artist- when do you remember first creating something knowing that it’s what you wanted to do for the rest of your life?

Isabella Cancino– I was around 10 years old when I started taking drawing seriously. I created a small body of work on pieces of the back of homework pages and really fell in love with them and the process. My uncle would bring me Juxtapoz & Hi-Fructose magazines, and that’s when I realized there was an actual community of artists and people that loved what I loved. Ever since it’s been a constant chase and goal of mine to make art my full-time job-which wouldn’t even feel like a job because it’s something I love so much.

KW- What is your favorite medium to work in? Ballpoint pen? Graphite? Pastel?

IC- My absolute favorite medium to work with is graphite pencils. I love the pencil on paper feel, and I can take them anywhere with me which makes them very convenient for on the go sketching & drawing.

KW- What illustrators/children’s book illustrators are you inspired by?

IC- There’s so many of them that I love, but those that inspire me would be: Ludwig Bemelmans, Hilary Knight, Maurice Sendak, Ronald Searle, Dr.Seuss, William Stieg, and Tove Jansson. I love Dr.Seuss’ nonchildren’s book illustrations and short stories, those are really good. I tend to fall in love with illustrators that create worlds of their own within their drawings. All of these illustrators have such unique styles. There’s many more that I can’t name off of the top of my head, but these were a few that inspire me.


KW- It looks as though you’ve developed a recurring woman character in your drawings. Does she have a story/background? Is it based on you or someone you know? 

IC- I actually have multiple female characters parading around in my work right now! They all look quite similar, but each one carries a different personality and has her own unique look to her. There’s Indigo Bleu, Violet Bleu, Poppy Rouge, Mojave Piper and one more that I haven’t named yet. I still have to get a feel for her in order to figure out what her name is. Everyone wonders if the characters are based on me. It was never my intention to create a character based on myself, but subconsciously I think it happened. They’re based on different moods and emotions. Also, my daughter’s personality and silliness get worked into the girls. My daughter is around while I’m working, and she gives me ideas or will say something cheeky that instantly inspires me. So I would say the characters aren’t exactly based off of me, but my daughter and I are definitely in them. They also embody their own personalities.

KW- You seem to also have a recurring elongated snake theme with the figures you illustrate- the limbs of the figure, or an actual snake is sometimes in the illustration. Is there a reason behind it?

IC- I love the flexibility of the elongated bodies. It’s just what came out of the continuation of my illustrations. The snake does pop in here and there, although there is no meaning behind the snake. It’s almost just like a recurring character itself.

KW- I saw you post about the illustrations you’ve made with the woman figure in the museum setting (I’m particularly interested in the drawing of the woman in front of the Phillip Guston painting). What’s the story behind it? And what made you choose to put the figure in a museum environment?

IC- Yes! That’s Poppy Rouge. She’s one of the naughtier girls. The collection of her in a museum setting is an idea that I’ve been working on here and there. The idea is of Poppy Rouge in museums destroying works of art from various periods of time/era’s of art in art history. I want Poppy Rouge to go through a timeline of significant periods of art-doing her destructive thing and also providing information on that art history period/artist/work of art. So kind of like an art history book for children. Of course, I would have to add a disclaimer to children to not destroy or deface historical art!! But it’s something that I’m working on and hope to publish one day. 

KW- It also looks like you’re interested in the supernatural and ghosts. The human figures/women always seem to look a little frightened because they seem to be out of place. Is that the intention? 

IC- No, I’m not interested in supernatural stuff at all. But yes, I have noticed that the girls are always looking distraught and frightened or even worried. I think that’s just their faces. They always seem to be caught in mischievous situations or settings. Things are a little tense with them I suppose.

KW- How does having a daughter affect your work? 

IC- Having my daughter works so well with my work. She’s constantly inspiring me..from her movements and silly things that she does to the silly things that she says or the six-year-old, curious questions that she asks. I love it all, she keeps me so inspired. Being around a six-year-old all the time makes you remember what that age was like. I’m always more interested in children’s interpretations of my work or their opinions of my work. They’re so honest and brutal.


KW- What three children’s books can you (or your daughter!) not live without?

IC- I talked to my daughter about this and instantly her answer was, The Lonesome Puppy by Yoshitomo Nara, Eloise at the Plaza Hotel by Kay Thompson & Hilary Knight and Dr. De Soto by William Stieg. We love it when a book can make us laugh. As for me, I absolutely love The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. It’s my favorite children’s book. Then it would be Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs by Judi and Ron Barrett and Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Florence and Richard Atwater. Those were my favorite books as a child. I studied the illustrations in Where the Wild Things Are and Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs endlessly as a kid.


KW– What’s your dream illustration commission/job?

IC- My dream illustration job would be illustrating my own children’s book and being published by one of my favorite publishing houses. As well as just working alongside some of my favorite current artists in gallery shows.   

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