Anita Kunz

November 16, 2009

Hillary Clinton

Date of Birth:
Born-1956, Toronto, Canada

Kunz says she is first and foremost and artist; however, like most artist they have a tendency to get cooped up in their studio for many hours, so Anita gets “outside of herself” by teaching. She teaches workshops and lectures at places such as the Smithsonian and the Corcoran College of Art and Design in Washington DC. She also has taught summer workshops at the Illustration Academy in Sarasota, Florida and the Masters of Art Degree at Syracuse University. She says she loves the energy students have and this really enriches her life as an illustrator.

As a child Anita was influenced by the work of her late uncle, Robert Kunz. He was an illustrator whose motto was “Art for Education”. Kunz loves to read; from The New Yorker, Vanity Fair and various science magazines, she finds inspiration for her work.6 Stories about Darwinism and ideological warfare, really interest her.

Every year Anita attends the “Ted, Technological Entertainment Design” conference in California. She says, “It is mind expanding, shows you a bigger picture and is incredibly eye opening.”6 These lectures can be viewed free of charge on their website, The slogan for this website it “Ideas worth spreading” and “Riveting talks by remarkable people”, and it is true. The TED website has lectures on subjects varying from technology, to entertainment, design, business, science, global issues and more. This is perfect for Anita; her mind travels places most are scared to face. She has a distinct Canadian point of view; however, she creates beautiful and intriguing images of the American culture and politics, themes that are not easy. In the article The Curious Mirror, that can be found on her website, Anita says “I incorporate metaphors or symbols to visually articulate late my ideas. Clear communication is important to me in my work. I have no desire to create work that is either elitist or didactic.”4

When asked about influential people who have left a mark on her career and life as an artist, Kunz talked about Fred Woodward, the creator of Rolling Stone’s visual sensibility. Fred was the art director at Rolling Stone’s when Anita was first getting a lot of work for the magazine.6 She said he taught her so much and was one of the best art directors she has ever had the pleasure to work with. In The Curious Mirror, Anita said, “My work is not only influenced by my gender, but by my background, experiences, and environmental and cultural influences.” Another memorable person was Francoise Mouly, a French artist and designer who worked as the art editor for The New Yorker. If you read The New Yorker, or have even seen the magazine on shelves, you have definitely seen an Anita Kunz illustration. She has done dozens of cover illustrations of expressive and whimsical portraits. Anita has grown as an artist through her cover illustrations.

Kunz graduated from Ontario College of Art in 1978; her work then was benign and less controversial.2 Before she left school, she had brought her portfolio around to small magazine and design companies locally while making appointments to meet with editors and art directors for a chance to get some work. With hard effort, she was doing small illustrations while still enrolled in Ontario College, which transformed into a full-time lifestyle after graduation.6 When asked about advice to give to students who are still in school and looking toward the future, Anita said, “Take full advantage of your time in school: experiment, try everything, be a sponge. By exploring you learn more about yourself and then when graduation time rolls around, tighten up your style. Learn from what you’ve seen and physically experienced.”

Works of Note:

Illustrator Miscellany:
The illustrator Anita Kunz is best known for her humorous play on political and social issues and her celebrity portraits. On a television show titled Arts and Minds, Anita was featured as the artist of the week. It was said that, “Running her own business, she has created over two thousand illustrations over the past twenty-five years.” Tim Brown, the director of the Society of illustrators, has been noted to say that Illustrators, like Anita, hold such a powerful position because of the way that imagery can affect people’s opinions.4

After college Anita moved to England with a friend in hopes of getting more challenging work. Kunz landed illustrations in London for their Sunday paper, various science magazines as well as local magazines.  After London, Kunz lived in New York and is currently in Toronto, Canada. Since her time in London, she has been known for her work with international magazines, book publishers and advertising agencies such as The New York Times, Random House, Time Magazine, Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, Sports Illustration and illustrating over fifty book jackets. Work like this is what gave her the recognition to have pieces of work in permanent collections at the Library of Congress in Washington DC, the Mussee Militarire de France in France, the Museume of Contemporary art in Rome and the National Portrait Gallery. Not only did she leave a mark in such profound locations, but in 2003 Anita was the first woman and Canadian to have a solo show at the Library of Congress in Washington DC.

The October 13th, 2003 cover illustration for The New Yorker was a quirky portrait of George W. Bush, done by Kunz. The earth-tone pallet of this piece has the former president riding a horse through what is painted to be his hometown of Texas with blinders on. By adding props, like these blinders and the horse, not just the figure itself, Anita is conveying a setting, having you questions a specific issue. During the time of this issue, America was dealing with issues post 9/11, concerning the president and the state of the country. Many Americans believed Bush was looking away from the real issues of the people and not just the military issues, hence the blinders. The shocked and worried expression on the horse is representing the people who were worried about where he was going with his decisions. Anita is great with themes like this, making the viewer question his or her standpoint on major issues by showing the reality with a lighthearted twist.

Some wonder how someone can be so successful in the field of illustration, landing various magazine covers and still produce personal work? Anita has an internal energy that just won’t quit. She has always said “if you are in it for the long hall it is about keeping your self interested and challenged.” Kunz, who has been appointed one of the fifty most influential women in Canada by National Past Newspaper, says that her personal art is what she considers her “fine art”. She finds that her personal work is the hardest and the, as she puts it, “most me”.  After September 11th, commissioned illustration jobs were still occurring but seemed to fade in substance. Society had seen things it never thought to see. Times like that and currently with the recession and what she calls “global downturn”, Anita concentrates a lot of her personal series.6 She has produced about a dozen collections ranging from A Woman’s Work, Unexplained Mysterious Elvis Sightings, Flesh and Blood and Rock and Roll, all of which can be viewed on her website.

In 2009, she was made Officer of the Order of Canada. She was given the highest civilian honor “for her contributions as an illustrator whose insightful works have graced publications around the world.” Anita is not only an incredible artist but also a dedicated member of society, a woman with a drive for a better world and a commitment to her beliefs. In The Curious Mirror she says, “If we can understand our links to other species, I believe we can better understand the otherwise unexplainable urges and impulses humans exhibit, often to our own detriment.”4 Tim Brown the director of the society of illustrators believes that illustrators are also journalist and salesmen, constantly grasping the attention of society and Anita Kunz is a great example of this kind of artist.5

Examination of Materials:
The artist sometimes explores acrylics and when she was younger, experimented with inks and oils. However, Anita’s body of work is mainly built using watercolors and gouache with a dry brush technique on illustration board. Her paintings are relatively small, average in size from 5”x8” to 16”x20”6. In The Curious Mirror article Anita says, “The entire process can take from one day to three weeks, depending upon how frequently the magazine is published.” An incredible part of Anita’s technique is that she draws mainly from her head, without photographic reference so “my imagination has complete freedom.”4

Style Analysis


Illustration is unique art, perhaps because it is commissioned rather than self-generated; nevertheless, it is an immediate art form, addressing social and political concerns on paper that we can physically grasp. In an article, The Curious Mirror, written by Anita Kunz herself, the artist says, “I am a witness to the world around me, and my visual comments are reactions to these events.”4 Ideas like these exemplify influential illustrators, powerful enough to grasp on the world around them and visually connect with the people in it.

The series Woman’s Work, from Anita’s personal paintings is a body of work based upon the issues women face today. Cloning babies, weight, nature vs. nurture, pregnancy difficulties and sibling issues such as favoritism are topics Kunz’s touches upon in these pieces, paintings in which very much resemble the Romantic art movement. With the painting titled CLONE, the artist uses strong darks on the top and bottom to encompass the two dominant figures in the middle. With strong green tones behind them, the identical nude women are attached by an umbilical cord, setting an uncomfortable, beautiful and stern mood to a repeating issue in society. With her unique style, Anita has the viewer question a woman’s role in this serious issue, something she has mastered.

One of the keys to illustration is to know your audience and that the work is just as important as the venue in which it is published, Anita says. Viewpoints such as these are reason why Anita served on the Board of Directors of the illustration conference from 2000-2003. Although her work has been very successful, Anita says there are difficulties in the profession of illustration. “When producing a portrait I sometimes try to poke gentle fun at the subject, but never to malign the person”, Anita said in The Curious Mirror. Being misunderstood in illustration is a common problem. On the subject the artist says:

“Placing myself and my visual opinions before public scrutiny has had some interesting results. I have been, at various times, labeled anti-woman, anti-Catholic, anti-Semitic; I’ve been stalked and I’ve been sued. Despite the unfavorable reactions I sometimes generate with my work, or in some cases because of them, I continue to receive commissions to do caricatures of political figures and celebrities.”4

She stands by her work, a quality that is highly respected.

– Emily Nagle, Spring 2009



1. “Anita Kunz Art”, Copyright Anita Kunz.

2. “Anita Kunz News & Events”,  Anita Kunz.

3. “Anita Kunz: Order of Canada” Jaleen Grove, July 6th, 2009. Drawn: Illustration  & Cartoon Art.

4. Kunz, Anita. “The Curious Mirror”, NUVO Magazine. Copyright 2009 NUVO Inc.

5. Artist of The Week, Television Episode, Bravo TV, 2009.

6. Phone interview with Anita Kunz. October 15th 2009.


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