Art + Design

13 Questions with Artist + Author Brian Rea

Welcome to Lucky Thirteen, an ongoing series of 13 quick questions (some bookish, some not) for our magnificent authors and illustrators.

Meet Brian Rea! Brian illustrated The Wing Reader, and you’ve probably seen his work in the New York Times “Modern Love” column. Now Brian has written and illustrated a charming and funny new book, Death Wins a Goldfish, all about what happens when HR makes the Grim Reaper used his accrued vacation time.

Death Wins a Goldfish

1. What are you currently reading?

Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey (again).

2. Introvert or extrovert?

Introvert, but I’m working on it.

I’m like a hermit crab — disappearing into my shell (studio) is my move, but I’m a big admirer of those happy dolphins. Damn… dolphins are the best.


3. You have a newspaper. What section do you turn to first?

Obituaries, then funny pages.

4. What’s your bookmark of choice?

Not sure if this is by choice, but in my house it’s probably a piece of pasta or a corner of uneaten toast. My two-year-old loves to read with me. I found a half-eaten banana in a photo album this morning.

5. Favorite day of the week and why?

Thursday afternoon. I love anticipating the weekend.


6. Tell us about a piece of art or writing that has inspired you.

Far too many to answer in such a short space. What I can say is this — I only have two pieces of art hanging in my studio. I stare at them every day. One is a print of two film stills from a movie by Grant Rohloff. It shows Miki Dora surfing at Malibu (1963). It’s just two frames, but it’s all there — the quickness of his feet, the sparkling light on the blue water, the pinstripe shorts. Feels like summer, travel, freedom… it’s magic.

The other is something I found on the ground in the East Village years ago. A love note written on a torn piece of cardboard. It says, “I’ve got nothing to do except snuggle with a cute girl if she’s home.”

7. What were you almost named?



8. Your pen (or pencil) of choice is:

Tombow 3B pencils. I have a bucket full of 1″ leftover nubs. If anyone has extremely small hands and draws A LOT, call me.

9. Indoors or outdoors?



10. A friend is coming over for dinner at your place. What would you cook?

Ginger cookies.

11. What is one of the first books you remember?

There were many. My mom volunteered in a library so growing up there were always children’s books— I recall The Snowy Day, Flat Stanley, The Travels of Babar, and Cars and Trucks and Things That Go.


12. Your favorite spot in your home is:

The front porch staring at the mountains and my plants.

13. What advice would your 80-year-old self give you?

Don’t be such an introvert (and shave the beard— you look younger without it).


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Brian Rea lives in Los Angeles with his wife, his son, and his plants. He is an internationally exhibited artist and the official illustrator of the New York Times column “Modern Love.” Follow him on Instagram, and follow Death on sabbatical, too!

You can find Death Wins a Goldfish here, and read our other Lucky Thirteen posts here.

Chronicle Books

Chronicle Books

Chronicle Books is an independent publisher based in San Francisco that has been making things since the Summer of Love. We are inspired by the enduring magic of books, and by sparking the passions of others.
Chronicle Books


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