Comics Artist Ash Szymanik on Their Creative Process

Tell me a bit about yourself. Where are you from? How did you decide to become an artist?

Hi! I’m Ash Szymanik, and I’m a New York based illustrator, colorist, and comics artist. I’ve been drawing all my life and I’ve always had a huge love for comics and illustration, but I didn’t really consider looking into illustration as a career until a bit later than most illustrators I know.

Don't Wake Up the Cat by Ash Szymanik

I initially pursued filmmaking, and studied film my first year of college at Pratt Institute. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a great first impression of the school’s film program and was disheartened by the lack of emphasis on storytelling or technical skill, but on the upside, the foundation classes I took my freshman year helped me become more confident in my drawing skills.

Those classes helped me realize that I wanted to take a shot at a career where I got to draw regularly. I made the switch to animation for my sophomore year and that’s where I’d say my art career truly began.

I didn’t end up working in animation either, but I’m perfectly okay with that. I love being an illustrator, and I’m really happy with where I am now in my career.

Illustration by Ash Szymanik titled "Tired"

You worked on a wide range of books over the past couple years – as a cover illustrator, graphic novel colorist, and more. Could you tell us more about what you’ve worked on?

My very first major project was my webcomic Let’s Get Burgers, a slice-of-life gag comic about a cat named Knife and a dog named Cheddar who really, really like burgers. A majority of the comics were about being trans and queer, working retail, and finding happiness while surviving a late-stage capitalist world. All drawn from personal experience, of course!

Perfect! I'll update the timeline in our notes. :) Thank you so much!

Around 2020, it started getting positive attention from the indie comics corner of Twitter, and Silver Sprocket, one of my favorite indie comics publishers, reached out and asked if I wanted to make a book out of my comics.

An illustration from Let's Get Burgers, illustrated by Ash Szymanik

An illustration from Let's Get Burgers, illustrated by Ash Szymanik

An illustration from Let's Get Burgers, illustrated by Ash Szymanik

Funnily enough, the 2022 release of my decidedly adult-oriented book of comics is more or less how I landed in the kidlit industry. A member of the Silver Sprocket staff, Carina Taylor, who I’ll add is a wonderful artist and human, happened to also work at Scholastic, and she reached out asking me if I was interested in working as a colorist for Rex Ogle’s middle grade graphic novel, Four Eyes. And of course, I said yes!

Cover of Four Eyes, colored by Ash Szymanik

I had the privilege of working alongside the supremely talented illustrator Dave Valeza, who was nothing but helpful and encouraging while I found my bearings in my new job. I’m very proud of the color work I did, and I feel extremely lucky that I got to work with such a supportive team during my first job.

An illustration from Four Eyes, colored by Ash Szymanik

Another one of my jobs that year was as a cover and spot illustrator for Adi Rule’s Nell and the Netherbeast, a fantastic middle-grade fantasy-mystery novel about an animal-loving girl and the supernatural cat-shaped gremlin she befriends while she investigates her aunt’s haunted bed and breakfast over the course of her summer vacation.

Cover of Nell and the Netherbeast, illustrated by Ash Szymanik

For this project, I looked to linocuts as inspiration for the designs, and I was also very influenced by illustrations by Quentin Blake (who worked on a number of Roald Dahl novels) and Dave Mckean (who did the cover art and spot illustrations for Neil Gaiman’s Coraline) that I remembered from my childhood. Nell and the Netherbeast definitely was one of my favorite projects I’ve worked on, and I’d love to work on more cover and spot illustrations in the future.

Illustration from Nell and the Netherbeast, illustrated by Ash Szymanik

The most recent project I finished was coloring Rex Ogle’s sequel to Four Eyes, Pizza Face. My next colorist job will probably be the third book in the series!

Cover of Pizza Face, colored by Ash Szymanik

You also worked on a cool project related to a video game! Explain what you did for that project. Was it similar to working on book illustration, or different?

So in early 2023, the indie game developer Darya Noghani reached out to me to commission a series of illustrations for their indie RPG Small Saga. They were creating a PDF  “travel guide” to be included in the deluxe version of the game, as a callback to the game manuals that were often included with older games of the genre. I was already familiar with the project and I was absolutely delighted at being asked to contribute!

Illustration from Small Saga, illustrated by Ash Szymanik

I created a set of four interior illustrations depicting the cities you can visit in the game. I tried to create a busy, whimsical atmosphere, while hinting at some of the plot elements that Darya had provided me with. And I’d say that it was pretty much more or less the same as working on book illustration!

Illustration from Small Saga, illustrated by Ash Szymanik

What are you working on now?

Currently I’m working on private commissions and on updating my online store, which I’m planning to reopen sometime in mid January!

Cat illustration by Ash Szymanik

You told me recently that you cut back on social media usage and read a lot in 2023 that helped you develop a different approach to online promotion. What were the books that inspired you, and how have they changed your approach?

While social media, ESPECIALLY Twitter, has been instrumental in helping me achieve the level of professional success that I have today, most people I know would agree that the current social media landscape is a total nightmare. I’d go onto Twitter knowingly subjecting myself to a barrage of negativity just because I was so addicted to dopamine high of witnessing petty drama or checking numbers on my most recent posts.

Cat illustration by Ash Szymanik

The constant hunger for clout and the relentless negativity started to affect my mental health, but I didn’t really feel like I had the tools to free myself from this cycle until I started reading How to Do Nothing by Jenny Odell. She articulated a lot of what was so frustrating about social media and how these platforms are consciously designed to trigger anger and discord. 

Illustration of Little Cafe in the Big City by Ash Szymanik

The way she laid it all out honestly made me get really angry at how my attention was being taken advantage of, when I could be spending my time doing things that would make me happy  and self-assured, like reading books! Or birdwatching! All of that really helped me take a step back and only use Twitter and other social media “as needed”.

Halloween Party by Ash Szymanik

Do you have a favorite project that you’ve worked on so far in your career? What did you love about it?

I really, really loved working on Nell and the Netherbeast! I’m a HUGE fan of cats and of drawing cats, and I found the awkward, animal-loving protagonist Nell super relatable. Honestly, any project where I get to draw cats is extremely fun for me and I am very much looking forward to working on more cat-themed projects in the future.

Cat illustration by Ash Szymanik

Do you have a dream project in the future? If so, what is it?

I don’t currently have any concrete dream project in mind, but I would love to illustrate a picture book or graphic novel. Preferably one involving cats in some shape of form, of course. But any project where I got to draw animals would be great too!

Pillow Cat by Ash Szymanik

Where can people connect with you and find out more about your work?

My portfolio site is! As for social media, I’m @housegoblin on Tumblr, Twitter, and BlueSky, and I’m @house.goblin on Instagram. The url to my online store is and it should reopen in late January!

Star Cats by Ash Szymanik