Off the Page is an exclusive new series produced by the NMAF that reaches out to former National Magazine Award winners to find out what their awards have meant to them and what they’re up to now. Off the Page will appear regularly on the NMA blog during the winter and spring of 2012. This week we catch up with National Magazine Award-winning illustrator Roxanna Bikadoroff.
NMAF: You won your first National Magazine Award for illustration back in 1991 for Saturday Night, and your most recent in 2009 for Vancouver Review. How did it feel to win that first award, and was it any different 18 years later?
Roxanna: Has it only been 18 years? Seems like lifetimes ago… In 1991, my career was just starting to take off. There were relatively few female illustrators working in edgy styles then, so I was also kind of ‘hot’ in that respect. Plus we were in a golden age when publications had money and were willing to let illustrators be more conceptual. So it was a very exciting time for me to receive this attention, accolades and whatnot. These days, it feels like an award is more something earned from years of experience and craft-honing. There is perhaps a level of respect that comes with having been around a while. It still means a lot, but in a different way.
NMAF: We’ve seen a lot of your artwork on the covers of books and in newspapers, as well as in magazines such as The New Yorker, The Walrus, Cottage Life, Maclean’s and others. What is unique or special for you about working as an illustrator with magazines?
Roxanna: It depends on the magazine and the article. Illustrating for magazines is like being in a partnership; sometimes, the illustration is like a dutiful wife who has to make her less exuberant husband look good, other times it’s a challenge to rise to the excellence of the prose or at least do it justice. It’s always a relationship of some sort between the two.
With book covers, the primary function of the image is to sell books. Still, I’ve always tried to be faithful to the writing, which is why, in some cases, my work has been associated with certain writers (Flannery O’Connor and Angela Carter).
NMAF: Where will we see your work next? Are you hoping to continue working in Canadian magazines?
Roxanna: I’ve really only worked for a handful of magazines over the last several years, due to changes in both the publishing industry and my own art practice. Illustration is still my first love and I’ll probably never stop doing it entirely, but it’s been taking new forms and I’m just letting it. I currently have several, longer-term projects in the works, which involve painting, mixed media, writing… maybe teaching. It’s nice to feel things are new again, even if it’s not the most art-friendly climate in our country right now.