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  • Today Online

Artist values rural beauty of Valley

Updated: Jun 24, 2022

This feature first appeared as part of the cover-story package in the May edition of Today Magazine, our monthly publication

• Related Cover Story — Today Online version

Special to Today Magazine

• Following is an exclusive interview with Canton-based illustrator Zina Saunders

Where were you born and raised?

Manhattan, New York City

Where do you reside now?

My husband and I moved from Manhattan in 2015 to the lovely town of Canton —

we closed on our house on July 31st and have been happily ensconced in Canton ever since!

Is art your full-time career?

Yes, I’ve been an illustrator and fine artist all my life. My illustration clients have included The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times and The New Republic as well as Broadway theater posters and all kinds of book and advertising stuff.

At what age did you become interested in art? What sparked your interest?

My father, Norman Saunders, was an illustrator and as soon as I could hold

a pencil I began drawing at a table in his studio as he worked. My first subjects were horses and pretty ladies with long eyelashes!

What is your primary medium? Secondary mediums?

I began my illustration career painting in gouache, and then switched to painting digitally — and now I paint the old-fashioned way, with acrylic paints on wood panels.

• Editor’s Note — The term gouache refers to a method of painting with watercolors ground in water and thickened with a glue-like substance

What is the inspiration for your art?

My work is always an expression of how I feel. I try to convey the emotions roiling around inside me, lately through abstract works.

While not everyone has an evident artistic gift, do you believe anyone can create art at a certain level?

Yes, anyone can create art at a certain level.

Zina Saunders — self-portrait

Most satisfying aspect of being an artist?

Why, making pictures, of course!

Most challenging aspect of being an artist?

Ha! Same answer: making pictures, of course!

What do you appreciate most about the Farmington Valley?

Having grown up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, I’d never appreciated the beauty of nature until I moved here. Plus, I really like the people I’ve met — there’s a smart, friendly, helpful and considerate vibe in the folks around here. And I love the vibrant arts community I’ve been lucky enough to meet and join.

What constructive change would you like to see in the Valley?

To be honest, I can’t think of a thing I’d change … except maybe a shorter winter?

An anecdote that provides a glimpse of your work as an artist:

Back in the early 2000s I began a project called Overlooked New York, where I painted and interviewed people I’d seen around NYC all my life — folks like the guys who raise pigeons on their rooftops, Puerto Rican bicycle men, subway musicians and bike messengers.

I discovered that these off-the-grid communities were every bit as passionate about their fascinating obsessions as I am about painting. I created a website featuring more than 100 people I’ve painted and interviewed on the Overlooked New York website:

I also published an Overlooked New York book — "Overlooked New York: Impassioned New Yorkers from an Artist’s Perspective" — and it’s on Amazon.

Arts organizations + other organizations you’re part of:

I’m a member of the Canton Artists’ Guild and regularly exhibit with my fellow members in the frequent exhibits at the Gallery on the Green in Canton:

Family — I’m married to the greatest guy in the world, Barry Schiffman, and am lucky to be stepmom to his three wonderful daughters, Jennifer, Maryanne and Elizabeth, and Grammy to six of the best grandkids known to humanity!

Email —



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