When it comes to evoking fantastical worlds, artist Angela Rizza is nothing if not a natural. Since graduating from the Fashion Institute of Technology in 2011, she has quickly made a name for herself as a children’s-book illustrator, her lush and imaginative drawings having graced such bound menageries as The Book of Beasts and An Anthology of Intriguing Animals. Inspired by real-life flora and fauna, as well as the elaborate storytelling of such fantasy authors as J. R. R. Tolkien and J. K. Rowling, Rizza renders even the most magical creatures and kingdoms with an earthiness and level of detail that brings them to vivid life on the page. So when it came time to commission the illustrations for our release of Rob Reiner’s The Princess Bride—which we planned to package as a storybook, our own tribute to the bedtime story at the heart of the film—Criterion knew just who to call.
For the latest installment of our Studio Visits series, we dropped in on the charming, low-key Rizza at her home and studio in Mahopac, a lakeside town about fifty miles north of Manhattan. There, she immerses herself in the aesthetics she loves, which are reflected in everything from the way she has decorated her space to the rich patterns of her clothing. During our visit, she allowed us to watch her sketching away and gave us a sense of some of her most formative influences, from the ink-and-watercolor drawings of English illustrator Arthur Rackham to the work of her own grandmother and grandfather, professional painters of very different stripes. She also described the “dream job” of working with us on The Princess Bride, one of her favorite films. Rizza was particularly excited to depict two scenes: the poison challenge—during which the criminal mastermind Vizzini yells, at the top of his lungs, the immortal words “Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line!”—and the fire swamp, where the star-crossed lovers Westley and Buttercup stumble upon some Rodents of Unusual Size. Keep watching the video above to see how Rizza went about putting together these delightful illustrations, carefully adding digital color to her pen-and-ink drawings.