Pen Pals Interview: Illustrator Justin Woo Shares his Eerie Take on Cartoon Style

An interview series featuring notable people whose lives intersect with the world of pens. Justin is an illustrator who is constantly exploring new mediums of art, from children’s books to mobile games.

“Billy and the Lich” by Justin Woo

Justin Woo

My name is Justin Woo and I’m an illustrator from Montreal, Canada.

I graduated from a post-secondary Illustration and Design program in 2004 and have been working full-time ever since. I worked at a children’s publishing company for many, many years before moving on and dipping my foot in the video game industry. I am currently a Senior Artist at a small mobile gaming company.

I pretty much knew I wanted to pursue a creative career at a very early age. My biggest influences growing up were comics/graphic novels and video games. As a teenager, I always imagined myself working in comics. That never really panned out. However, at the moment I do feel like I am right on the fringes of that particular community.

These past few years, I’ve been trying to get involved a bit more by contributing to zines and art shows and even co-curating a fan zine myself called Animal Crosszine.

The internet has made the artist community wonderfully accessible. It’s comforting knowing there are so many amazingly talented people out there in the same boat as I am, and the best part is that they are all super friendly and welcoming.


If I were to narrow it down to a handful of artists I currently draw a lot of inspiration from, I’d say Craig Thompson, Junji Ito and Charles Burns.

I love the bold contrast in their ink work and their striking use of black. It’s an aesthetic I try to incorporate in my own art. This style works exceptionally well when combined with the eerie content of the latter two artists. I only really found my comfort zone in the last two years or so, and I feel like I have a long way to go in developing as an artist.


My work process for creating my art has changed pretty drastically. Years ago, my aim was to get really good at drawing digitally. Most of my illustrations were produced almost entirely in Photoshop and Illustrator. Unfortunately, this process became incredibly stale for me and I was no longer enjoying myself while drawing. To switch it up, I went back to a more analog approach and adopted the brush pen. Since then, I haven’t really looked back.

Pentel Pocket Brush Pen

Pentel Pocket Brush Pen

Even though the trend seems to be gravitating towards mastering the Cintiq, I find comfort in a more traditional means of drawing. I like to think that I found a happy medium between the two. I stockpiled Pentel pocket brush pens like I was preparing for the apocalypse at first. I think they are the standard in a lot of artists’ arsenals.

Kuretake No. 13 Fountain Brush Pen
Kuretake No. 40 Fountain Brush Pen

Kuretake No. 13 Fountain Brush Pen and Kuretake No. 40 Fountain Brush Pen

Eventually I upgraded to a Kuretake No. 13 and finally the No. 40 w/ sable hair; beautiful pens that are entirely worth the investment!

Platinum Carbon Pen Ink Cartridge

Platinum Carbon Pen Ink Cartridge

I use a ton of ink. I would recommend switching up the ink to Platinum Carbon cartridges for a richer black.



You can find more of Justin’s work on his portfolio, or follow his musings and sketches over on his Tumblr.

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