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Zina Saunders (born August 30, 1953) is a Manhattan-based artist, writer, animator and educator. In 2010, for Mother Jones, she began creating regular weekly animations (which feature Saunders doing the voices of all characters). Her book Overlooked New York (2009) is a collection of interviews, profiles and portraits of diverse New York subcultures and hobbyists.
A native New Yorker, Saunders attended High School of Music and Art and Cooper Union but also learned much about painting and commercial art from her father, illustrator Norman Saunders. She has illustrated for a variety of publishers (Simon & Schuster, Random House, Scholastic Books, Oxford University Press), while contributing to magazines, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times Sunday Book Review, Time Out New York and Outré.
Her Overlooked New York subjects include amateur astronomers, bike messengers, carnival costume designers, cricket players, keepers of rooftop pigeon coops, kite flyers, scuba divers, street performers, subway musicians and urban gardeners. The project began in the fall of 2004 with her observation of colorful, decorative bicycles, as she explained:
- Ever since I was a kid I’ve seen older Puerto Rican men riding crazy, tricked-out bicycles, loaded with mirrors and flags and chrome and fuzzy dice and raccoon tails. I’ve always wanted to paint their pictures and find out why they decorate their bicycles, and how they got started, and what this bicycle display is all about. I tracked them down to where they hang out, drinking beer and showing off their bikes. I painted their pictures and asked them questions about who they are and how they got started with customizing their bicycles. These guys are members of an insular community with their own aesthetic, one that the mainstream culture knows nothing about. They are sincere and passionate and delighted with their one-man parades. Their bicycles are their personal vision of beauty and art that they are always tinkering with, perfecting and adjusting and planning and applying, and then riding down the street for everyone to see. That began my mission to discover the seemingly endless variety of enthusiasms pursued by New Yorkers, whether they were carried from immigrants' cultures from overseas or indigenous to the city landscape. These are real New Yorkers who have found fascinating ways to unleash their joy on the roofs and rivers and parks and streets of New York.
In November 2009, Overlooked New York was published as a book, collecting more than 60 of the profiles and portraits.
Saunders' updated design of the Pink Panther character for United Artists brought her an award from Print, and her Native Americans trading card set of 106 illustrations was chosen Most Creative Trading Card Set by the trade magazine Non-Sport Update. She has contributed to numerous trading card sets, including Wacky Packages, Magic: The Gathering and Goosebumps.
Excerpts from "Art Talks," her series of portraits and interviews with illustrators and art directors, are featured in Illo magazine. Portraits from that series are in American Illustration 26 Annual and American Illustration 27 Annual. Five of her portraits were selected for the Communication Arts Illustration Annual 2008. Four pages in Graphic: Inside the Sketchbooks of the World's Great Graphic Designers by Steven Heller and Lita Talarico (Monacelli Press, 2010) demonstrate how her sketches evolve into digital paintings.
Saunders has taught illustration at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.
- Overlooked New York: Street Performers, Princess
- Mother Jones: Zina Saunders Archive
- Overlooked New York: Street Performers, Therisa
- Overlooked New York: Puerto Rican Schwinn Club
- Overlooked New York: Impassioned New Yorkers from an Artist's Perspective
- Time Out New York: "Painting the Town" (August 11, 2005)
- "Time Capsule": Non-Sport Update (December 1996-January 1997)