Long Island artist Stephanie Buscema may as well have ink running through her veins. Born of what many refer to as “comic book royalty”—her grandfather John Buscema was a pioneering artist at Marvel Comics—Buscema has had a paintbrush in her hand since she was a child.
“My family’s a pretty creative family,” Buscema said. “My mom is an artist, as well. It was always encouraged, so it seemed like a very natural thing. And I always felt like this was just my path.”
That path has taken Buscema from a small desk in her grandfather’s Port Jefferson studio, where she was trained by the Marvel master himself, to the School of Visual Arts and an impressive, varied career. Buscema’s portfolio includes illustrations for magazines and children’s books, textile design, as well as collaborations with famous brands like Marvel Entertainment, DC Comics, Disney, Sanrio and Archie Comics.
Her most recent commissioned project has been a partnership with writer Eric Powell and Dark Horse Comics. Chimichanga, an all-ages comic series released in October 2016, tells the sideshow tales of a bearded little girl and her monster. Unlike many comic book illustrators who use digital tools, Buscema prefers to work traditionally: first penciling her drawings and then hand painting them with watercolor and gouache. It can be time consuming, but the results are well worth the wait.
“[It’s] more important for me to make the work strong and look exactly how I [want] it to look, as opposed to rushing through it,” Buscema said. “A book is going to be on the shelves for a long time.”
As far as stylistic influences, vintage Halloween and retro fashion are mainstays for Buscema. Her original prints, adored by fans, feature 50s-pinup-style space girls with atomic-era accessories and cute pumpkin-headed characters in Halloween wonderlands.
“I take all of the things I love, filter them through myself, and try to give a new voice to it,” she said.
Buscema succeeds in this endeavor. While her beloved inspirations may be decades old, her work has a delightfully new feel to it. This sentiment applies not only to her whimsical illustrations, but also to her fabric designs and her Kitschy Witch jewelry line.
Textile prints for Pinup Girl Clothing—a modern fashion brand with vintage flair—showcase Buscema’s interpretations of fairytale characters like Snow White and Alice in Wonderland, fortune tellers, skulls, and, of course, Halloween themes on dresses and skirts. Pinup Girl, like other companies with which Buscema has teamed up, is a woman-owned small business.
“That’s something that’s super important to me,” Buscema said, “to support other women artists and makers.”
For 2017, the multitalented artist aims to focus on growing her own woman-run business in addition to freelancing. Kitschy Witch Designs, currently carrying a collection of vintage-style plastic jewelry, will expand this year to include other fashion accessories, art objects and tarot cards. And she’ll continue to hunt for early plastics like Bakelite, which she said evoke a folk-art feel.
“There’s just something tactile about finding vintage jewelry pieces and reworking them,” Buscema explained. “It’s really important to me to reuse and recycle. I’m always looking for broken pieces, things that need a little extra love, and trying to turn them into something more.”