JetPens Interview – Greg Pizzoli

An interview series featuring notable people whose lives intersect with the world of pens. Hailing from the City of Brotherly Love, Greg Pizzoli has won numerous awards for his artwork and shares his wealth of knowledge as a teacher. He just published his first children’s book, THE WATERMELON SEED, in May of 2013.

courtesy of Colin Kerrigan

Please tell us about yourself and what you do.

My name is Greg Pizzoli and I live in Philadelphia. These days I think author/illustrator/printmaker is the job description that seems to fit best. I also teach part-time at the college level in both printmaking and illustration. I really enjoy the balance of teaching and working in my studio.

I’m getting married this summer. I’m a cat person.


THE WATERMELON SEED is my first picture book published by Disney*Hyperion Books. The story is about a crocodile who loves watermelon, and what happens when he swallows a seed.

There were plenty of misfires along the path to publication but everything finally aligned for this book. The story itself came together pretty fast, and my literary agent sold it very quickly. We had maybe four months or so of back and forth, working to tighten it up before submission. Once he submitted it to an editor we had already been talking to, we had a contract immediately. It took me about six more months of revisions and creating the final art to get it all done, and then it was another year before reaching stores.

The book just came out May 14, so much of this spring and summer is about getting the word out. Speaking of which, please check out the animated book trailer here:

What inspired you to write a book about crocodiles and watermelon?

When I was a kid, my mom left me at the zoo overnight. She said it was for her own good. I slept with the crocodiles, and they are just wild about watermelons. I like non-fiction stuff, so it made sense for my first book.

What captivates you about the art of screenprinting?

I love the physicality of putting ink on paper. I like mixing all the inks myself by hand, and I love working with transparency and overlapping layers in order to get extra colors. It’s a very immediate process. Whatever I want to make, I can pretty much make it. And I can make 100 or even 1,000 of them. The printing is the easy part once you get it all set up right. I make a lot of zines, posters, and prints. Half my studio is for drawing and half is a screenprint shop. Building it up was tough, but not terribly so. I’m thinking I should write a book about how to screenprint. I’ll go get started . . .

What are your top 3 tips to start screenprinting?

The first thing I would do is take a class, if that’s possible, where you live. I teach undergrad and continuing education classes at a university in town, and most of the other universities have similar options.

Secondly, I’d also be sure to check out the website I don’t think the message boards there are as active as they used to be, but there are still packed with information on how to build everything you need for a first rate shop with lots of troubleshooting tips.

And lastly, I’d get off the computer and do it.

Do you have any upcoming projects or events we should look out for?

If you don’t yet have a copy of THE WATERMELON SEED, get one now! I have three books coming out next year, and more in the works. I often release new prints on my Etsy shop.

What are your top favorite JetPens tools and why?

I use the soft blue Uni Color pencil lead like water. I love them because I prefer to sketch with a mechanical pencil and I can adjust my scans so those lines don’t show up after inking.

I also draw with a Pentel Pocket brush pen quite a bit, which I love for its unpredictability.

Some of Greg’s favorite JetPens tools:

Where do you find inspiration for your work?

Usually I spend hours and hours working on something that isn’t working, and then leave the studio to take a walk and get way from the problem. That’s usually when inspiration comes along and it gets figured out.

Have any final advice on how to hone your craft as an author/illustrator?

Keep making as much work as possible!