Tony DiTerlizzi

Wow, my first “inspiration” post. Today I’ll be talking about Mr Tony DiTerlizzi, an American illustrator and writer.


aditerlizziTony DiTerlizzi (born September 61969) is an American fantasy artistchildren’s book creator, and motion picture producer.

DiTerlizzi created The Spiderwick Chronicles series with Holly Black, and was an executive producer on the 2008 film adaptation of the series. He won a Caldecott Honor Medal for his adaptation of The Spider and the Fly. In the gaming industry, he best known for his work in the collectible card game Magic: The Gathering and on the Planescape product line for the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game.

During his childhood he was introduced to the work of Norman RockwellArthur RackhamDr. SeussRoald Dahl, and Jim Henson, all of whom he cites as major creative influences. He went to college at the Florida School of the Arts and The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale where he earned a graphic design degree in 1992.


According to Wikipedia, some of his influences are Jim Henson (Sesame Street man), Dr Seuss and Roald Dahl. For the latter two I suppose he must have been exposed to the illustrations in their books as well.




So what kinds of things does Mr DiTerlizzi paint? Most of the work I can find is rooted in the fantasy genre, though he does have several childrens’ books to his name as well.

He’s got monsters and things, done for WOTC’s Magic: The Gathering. This was pre-Spiderwick, and I guess he had to make the art consistent with the other artists WOTC had on board (I love WOTC for conveniently collecting all the good fantasy artists for me). Here are some of his card illustrations:





I’m not really sure how to describe his style, but I’ll try anyway.

Well, first of all, his humans and humanoids are quite stylized. Not cartoony (not very cartoony anyway), but they’re definitely not what people would describe as “realistic”. In his work the forms are all demarcated rather clearly with outlines, which lends them a kind of casual, sketchy feel. Yet at the same time his work is really well finished, especially his paintings:





His work can be really detailed, as you can see. I especially like the topmost picture – the texture on the face is really cool, and that eyeball is painted so realistically! If I remember correctly he uses gouache on bristol board for most of his wet media illustrations. Gouache is also called “opaque watercolor”, for obvious reasons – the color is less translucent than watercolor, but in return you get more intense color with fewer applications. Still, there is evidence of layering – for example, if you look at the folds of the girl’s dress in the image above, you can see individual brushstrokes. In fact, it almost reminds me of an oil painting. I believe he also uses colored pencils quite extensively in his work – some of the finer work on the silver crown and the green highlights on her dress look like the highlights were added by burnishing with a white colored pencil.

Right, so now we come to my favorite work: Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black. Below is a page from the French edition. Once again, the layering is apparent, especially on the creature’s boots and the milk bottle.


And another photo of a spread:

3728347875_3355fa5723by thelostprincess (flickr)


I love how he manages to make the creatures seem so realistic and yet so obviously imagined at the same time. When I say “realistic” I am mostly referring to this gorgeous plate that is also found on the front cover:

0689859414.01.LZZZZZZZLook at those wings. It’s enough to make a grown man weep.

I was inspired a lot by DiTerlizzi’s creature designs and paintings for Spiderwick. Unfortunately, I only discovered remembered that he used gouache and bristol board (instead of watercolor and watercolor paper) after starting on my coursework, which explains why my coursework paintings aren’t as tight and refined as I’d like them to be. Bristol board is a heavyweight paper that has both surfaces finished, and it’s smoother that the kind of watercolor paper I used, so it’s easier to get fine lines and smooth transitions.

Right, and that sums up my first artist inspiration post. Next time: Alan Lee and John Howe, since people seem to always mention them in the same breath nowadays. I like John Howe better though.


2 thoughts on “Tony DiTerlizzi

    • I’m glad they were of use to you. If working purely in gouache, you can actually use it in a way similar to oil paint or acrylic. A bit of gouache as a top layer over acrylic work is also nice to matte away the sheen you get with the film of plastic that comes out when acrylic dries.

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