Robert Risko: The World’s Greatest Celebrity Illustrator Opens Up As Never Before

October 17, 2014 - Finding Carter

It’s no tiny attainment that a strong luminary manifesto, Vanity Fair — initial underneath a shining re-awakening by editor Tina Brown and after underneath Graydon Carter’s decidedly if-it’s-not-broken-don’t-fix-it stewardship — for a past 3 decades has had underneath agreement a dual comprehensive best distinguished interpreters of a famous, Annie Liebovitz (photography) and Robert Risko (illustrator).

Though both artists couldn’t be some-more opposite in approach, middle or temperament, a finish outcome VF publishes month in, month out does bond their work in definite ways: Familiar, nonetheless surprising; colorful, yet mostly dark; uncomplicated, though complex. And as an zealous reader of VF given Brown’s re-launch in 1984 — and an editor-in-chief advantageous adequate to have worked with Risko for decades myself — we can safely contend that there are no improved distinguished artists dissecting what it means to be a luminary than Liebovitz and Risko. I’m usually propitious adequate to be means to call one of them a friend.

The initial time we spoke with Robert Risko, we had spent an lavish volume of time perplexing to find him. In 1993, we was set to launch a repository we was modifying and we suspicion Risko’s worldly dexterity was indispensable for a sold underline we was prepping. After a few rounds of phone tab — we do remember withdrawal messages “after a beep,” yes? — we connected and what was ostensible to be a discerning “are we giveaway to do an painting for so-and-so celeb?” finished adult being a hilarious, energetic two-hour review that served as a initial indicator of how many Risko and we had in common, saw a universe likewise and positively desired a distilled outspoken stylings of powerhouse divas (Patti LaBelle and Donna Summer come to mind many prominently).

Over a years, I’ve consecrated Risko to emanate some of a many severe celebrities and he consistently delivered present classical depictions for a series of a design-forward magazines I’ve edited — Garth Brooks on a cover as King Kong atop a Empire State Building, Celine Dion for a less-than-flattering cover story, Joan Rivers as daring AIDS activist, a late ABC News anchor Peter Jennings in his final days — distinguished visuals all and masterfully, clearly effortlessly, executed.
When we announced that we was withdrawal Time Inc. and New York City to start a new section in my life producing radio and films in Hollywood, my courteous group contacted Risko though my believe and consecrated an strange work formed on an tangible blueprint of mine. Risko’s signature talent is clear on that oversized framed illustration, punctuated with a iconic Hollywood pointer portion as a backdrop finish with Klieg lights and a director’s chair. That artistic try not usually serves as my unaccepted portrait, it proudly hangs in my home watchful for visitors to scrutinise how that came to be. It’s a story we never tire of telling.

I held adult with Risko in his Hamptons shelter on Long Island as we reminisced about what has transpired in a some-more than dual decades given we became proficient to a state of a universe — both for celebrities and civilians — and asked him a questions we unequivocally wanted to know a answers to. As always, Risko delivered.

Finding Risko all those years ago became an critical miracle in my career; what we didn’t comprehend afterwards was it also served as a pen that we had finished a genuine friend.

Robert, speak to me about your routine — there’s an assignment, a vacant house and afterwards what happens?

Well, we do a lot of meditative and harmonise a visible picture in my conduct formed on all we know about a theme by media images. we Google and YouTube a theme and inundate myself with information and concentration on their best and misfortune moments in a limelight. Then we pull divided on vacant paper and indicate my blueprint into a computer. Back in a ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, we would airbrush a painting by hand, though in 1998 we started airbrushing in Photoshop. we had inhaled adequate paint after 30 years so it was time to start going blind from staring during a mechanism screen. Right? Ha! It’s always something isn’t it? [Laughs]


Do we remember a square of art we came adult with that we executed perfectly?

Only one? [Laughs] I’m a perfectionist. The doubt should unequivocally be “Do we remember a square of art that was reduction than perfect?” and, yes, there are some where a deadline came and we had to spin in something that we didn’t feel was finished. There were some-more than one, though we won’t name names.


OK, a good stuff: Reveal some of your all-time favorite celebrities you’ve done.

Diana Ross, Jack Nicholson, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, J. Edgar Hoover and Gloria Swanson.


Have any celebrities reached out to we after they’ve seen an painting of them published?

Oh, yeah. Julia Roberts bought several of my pieces. Others who reached out to possess their drawings embody Gloria Swanson, Meryl Streep, Fran Drescher, Dionne Warwick and all a Labelle members (Patti, Sarah, Nona), Tom Hanks, Andy Cohen, Giorgio Moroder, Dustin Hoffman and Howard Stern. Richard, that’s usually off of a tip of my head. I’d have to demeanour in my books to remember everybody. [Laughs]


Do we have a anticipation luminary encounter?

Seriously, we don’t have a anticipation luminary that we would like to pull or meet. we did when was young, though I’ve detected that celebrities can be so opposite in chairman that we usually take it as it comes. I’ve met celebrities that we had dignified and was unhappy when we met them in chairman and I’ve also met celebrities who weren’t on my radar that we positively loved.


Your character is so certainly “Risko,” is there anyone left to do?

Oh my! [Laughs] It seems like there are some-more people to pull now than ever. There’s an unconstrained tide of people who wish to explain idol standing currently and that’s some-more formidable now since there are so many forums to be deliberate famous in.


What’s a best thing about being so identified with Vanity Fair?

I cruise Vanity Fair my home since editorially we’re on a same page. We suffer a universe of glamour, though we don’t let anyone get divided with B.S. There’s a lot of “uncovering” that goes on behind a facades of a famous in Vanity Fair and we like that. we try to uncover both sides of glorious in my work.


Tell me, if not luminary art, what would we have desired to pursue as a full-time career endeavor?

I adore to sing and perform and always suspicion we would’ve favourite to have been on a other side of my sketch pen; however, as we see a fee it can take on a physique physically with performers that we know I’ve resolved that I’m excellent where we am and we will spasmodic step out from behind a sketch house to take a crawl and maybe even sing a strain — if we wasn’t going to be an artist or singer, afterwards I’d substantially an anthropologist . [Laughs]


Here’s a doubt I’ve always to know a answer to. How critical is amusement and affability in your work?

Unlike some of my contemporaries we don’t always give any theme a same treatment. If we wish to be humorous or kind it’s since we feel that approach about a person. In a finish I’m a seeker of law and we consider that’s a pivotal to my success some-more than anything else. we try to pull people a approach they’re viewed in a open eye. The open isn’t stupid. If we do agree someone whom is reduction than estimable people will know. Ha! We can’t get divided with anything in this world. Everyone is a [television song talent judge] Simon Cowell. [Laughs]


Robert, let’s finish this on a whimisical note, shall we?
If we could do positively anything right now, what do we consider that would be?

You know what, that’s a unequivocally engaging question. Maybe we would take a vacation, though I’m not sure. I’m enjoying my life so we never “vacate” from it. However, it competence be good to undo from all my responsibilities for a while… maybe. [Laughs]

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