Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

10 Questions with Calef Brown

Name: Calef Brown
Location: Vancouver BC Canada
Website: calefbrown.com
Primary Medium: Acrylic and gouache. Sumi and india ink.

1. Tell us about yourself / What makes you tick?
I’m an illustrator, writer, and teacher, and love all three aspects of what I do. I moved from the east coast to LA in my early twenties and studied illustration and painting at Art Center in Pasadena.

I lived in Los Angeles until 2007 when my wife Anissa and I moved to Maine, and just recently we relocated to Canada.  I have taught illustration at Otis, Art Center, Maine College of Art, and now Emily Carr University here in Vancouver. It’s a wonderful and inspiring school to be a part of, as is the city. I really enjoy having a varied career and I bounce around between writing and illustrating children’s books, doing all sorts of freelance work, participating in gallery shows, and teaching.

We have two young kids and I feel lucky that I can work at home and they’re so close, although I have to sequester myself too to get work done. Two cats. A bunch of guitars and a banjo that Anissa and I have much less time to play these days. Exploring a new city, which is great for getting around on a bike. Reading lots of bedtime stories– some of the same ones I was read. Not getting enough sleep.

2. How did you get started as an illustrator?
When I graduated I was pretty focused on doing editorial work. I moved to New York for a year, then went back to LA and started getting some magazine assignments, as well doing freelance jobs for the record companies there. For some of my first gigs I was hired to do illustrated hand lettering, something I didn’t really expect, but is fun and I’ve always liked doing hand-drawn type.

I just gradually built up a mailing list and would do small edition promotional pieces whenever I had time. I got a rep after about 4 years. In 1996 I tried my hand at creating a children’s book – something I had always wanted to do, and in ’98 I had my first one published by Houghton Mifflin – Polkabats and Octopus Slacks. I have written and illustrated a bunch more since then. Most recently Boy Wonders and Pirateria: The Wonderful Plunderful Pirate Emporium for Atheneum Books, and a drawing activity book for Chronicle that I talk about later.

3. How did you find your style? Has it changed since you started?
I found my initial style from doing a lot of experimenting after I got out of school. The portfolio I had when I graduated was kind of all over the place, and i didn’t really have a way of working or a medium that clicked with me. There was some collage, pastel, ink drawings…

I think that once I found a process that suited my interests and temperament I was able to focus and make a few leaps. With acrylic paint I could revise and layer paintings and was much more comfortable with working the paintings up, making adjustments, rather than a more step-by-step process or using a less forgiving medium. There was room for improvisation, and finding color schemes as I went.

4. Can you briefly explain your creative process, mediums, etc?
Well, I try to draw and write a lot in sketchbooks. My children’s books come out of playing with language and spending as much time as i can just brainstorming and sketching.

For creating final art, whether for books or freelance jobs, I work sketches up to a place where I feel the composition and elements are worked out, then quickly transfer the sketch and dive in. I usually have a pretty good idea for a color palette in my head – and like to let it develop, but sometimes I’ll do color studies beforehand. I usually work with the flat areas, and larger shapes first, pull the basic color scheme together, and work towards linear detail last. Basically painting with large to small sizes of brushes as I go.

A while back I started doing pen, and brush and ink drawings that were about line, rather than the silhouette-shape and color qualities of most of my work. I love sumi ink.

In my third children’s book – Flamingos on the Roof, I started integrating graphic line work in, along with the full color paintings. I’ve illustrated four of Daniel Pinkwater’s great novels, and did small ink drawings for the chapters. I enjoy having assignments that involve quick direct drawing, as well as longer projects with full color art that takes more time and a different kind of concentration.

Recently I’ve been experimenting with gouache and watercolor, and am interested in mixed media approaches. This year I had a drawing activity book for kids published by Chronicle. It’s called Dragon, Robot, Gatorbunny, and it’s one of the most satisfying and enjoyable things I’ve done. This is because I was able to take the fun process of creative messing around in a sketchbook and transfer it over to a book for kids that’s about the same thing: drawing freely, creating new characters (or versions of my characters), letting the mind and pen or pencil wander, playing with words to go with the images. Along with the print version, it’s just been published in an electronic edition for for the iPad. The viewer can draw with their fingers or a stylus. I’ve been noodling around with it the past couple of days– a lot of fun.

5. How do you come up with new ideas? Do you have a process?
I can’t say that I have a set process. For writing I do a lot of free association exercises, then try to extract ideas that seem to want to be explored further, and work on those.

I seem to get some ideas from overheard conversations, or phrases, song lyrics. I’m a fan of making lists, and a lot of the stories and poems in my books have started with writing all the phrases and words associated with a subject that I can think of, then following connections – like putting together a puzzle that’s forming as you solve it.

For art and illustration, I like to look to lots of sources for inspiration – painting, sculpture, architecture, music, design, photography… I think it’s good to be aware of what’s happening in the realm of illustration and the wider art world, but you have to be able to come back to your own ideas and interests and be rooted there. Sometimes that’s difficult.

6. Do you ever have creative slumps? What do you do then?
I do. Usually due to being tired, and by extension, feeling less inspired. I just do my best to relax and not be too self-judgmental about it. Try to recharge. It helps to shift gears too, if I’m feeling stuck with drawing, I move to writing, or try a new medium.

7. Best / most fun part of your job:
I guess just being able, daily, to be creative in one way or another.

8. Worst / most difficult part of your job:
The business side of it, along with promoting myself and all that.

9. Do you have side projects you work on?
I do have some side/pet projects including  a few books that may be too odd for the picture book market that I would like to publish myself in one way or another. One is a sleepy time/anti-sleepy time book for kids called Snoozefest!

10. What’s on your horizon? Any current/future projects and plans/dreams you can share with us?
I have a book coming out in January that’s inspired by the theme of love and friendship. It’s called We Go Together! The concept of the book was suggested by my editor Margaret Raymo at Houghton Mifflin. It was a challenge to try to write and illustrate some verses in that mode that were not too cute or corny. I wanted it to be heartfelt and genuine — but also funny, offbeat. As with all of my books I tried to make it have appeal for both kids and grownups.

I’ve also just finished 2 manuscripts for picture books that my agent is sending out. I am creating some pieces for the yearly Post-It juggernaut show at Giant Robot in LA. And on the freelance side, I’m doing drawings for a series of animated commercials.

* * * * *

5 things inspiring you/your work right now:
Ben Shahn, Art Tatum, Mervyn Peake, Comics, Landscape painting

3 constants in your day:
Green tea, My kids, Music

Your #1 art tip or words of wisdom:
Be serious about enjoying making art.

* * * * *

Sketchbooks:

Life:

Many, many thanks for doing this interview, Calef! Your work is so fun and whimsical. We are all inspired!

Posted by penelope on 11/20/12 under Interviews
11 Comments

Artist :: Maria Carluccio’s Process

We recently featured artist Maria Carluccio’s lovely, lovely work here on the IF Blog. Well, there’s more inspiration where that came from! Maria was kind enough to share a video with us where she shows how she works and where those textures come from! I think you’ll love it:

http://youtu.be/jo6Z19EdTC0

Also to inspire you: a quick interview done with Maria by a student:

How did you establish as an illustrator?
I think my career as an illustrator really started to emerge when I began working at Hallmark cards. I started to build my confidence by working there and then after that I worked with a rep for many years to establish my freelance work

How did you put together your portfolio? Did you select your work based on the markets, subject matter, or style?
I select my favorite pieces first, then I always include other things that I think represent the market I get most of my work in. Since I do many different things I try to pick the top 4 categories  and focus on those. For me it’s books, stationary/gift, children’s decor, and adult decor.

Who are some of your biggest influences?
I love children’s book illustrators like: Robert Roth, Catia Chien, Jon Klassen. Plus artist like Paul Klee, Sonia Delaunay, Rex Ray and Nick Wilton. Just to name a few, there are tons more.

What were the most difficult aspects of illustration in school, after graduation, at the start of your career, and now?
Finding paid work that is creative. Just know when you get out of school that you have to show you know the technical stuff, that will help get opportunities to show off your creativity. 

What do you think of the current trends in illustration, and where do you think this field is heading?
I have felt for years that design and illustration are merging together more and more. Since I’m part illustrator part designer I love that. I think that technology is great but it’s a tool, we can’t forget that it’s ideas that make a real difference. It seems that to be well rounded, embrace technology but always challenge yourself creatively whatever way you are personally drawn to.

Please describe your process from getting contracted by a client to finishing the project.
That’s hard to pin point. I’ve been doing it for so long I think people see my work on a card or product and then they find me from there. I try to put my name is on everything I do.

How do you come up with ideas?
Sometimes I sit down and sketch but most of the time I just keep my eyes open all the time. I see what products I like and ask myself why I love it so much. Ideas always reflect the life your living I think. It’s where your at, what you keeps coming into your consciousness.  Certain themes resonate, I follow those themes weather I have a client to buy it  or not. I try to have faith if I love it others will too.

What do you think is the best way to promote yourself as an illustrator? Are book portfolios still in demand?
I guess promotion is an intuitive thing. I’ve tried many different things over the years (sourcebook ads, postcards, email blast, facebook etc.). I honestly can’t tell what has worked the best. I wish I could.  Right now, I am redoing my website, updating the art and all the overall functions. I think making your site as beautiful and easy as possible is the best promotion. After I finish the new site I plan to try to promote it a bit. I may advertise on line or do an email blast.

What is the most difficult part of being an illustrator, and what is most rewarding?
Most difficult- balancing the money. I make ends meet but most freelance illustrators really have to hustle a lot to keep the money coming in.
Rewarding- The freedom to execute a great idea you love. To see your images come to life. I love when I do something and I think “damn, I pulled it off, how did I do that?”

What advice would you give to an illustration student?
I just kept working year after year, doing things I thought could translate into products. I would do little calendars, cards and posters in my free time. Even when I worked jobs that were not super creative I always had the stuff I loved on the side. Always keep what you are inspired by alive, somewhere.

* * *

View more of Maria’s work: Portfolio Site | Blog

Posted by penelope on 11/07/12 under artists,digital,Interviews,video
4 Comments

IF Interview :: 10 Questions with Mar Hernández

Name: Mar Hernández
Location:  Spain
Website: malotaprojects.com

1. Tell us about yourself. What makes you tick?
My name is Mar Hernández. I consider myself a professional and vocational illustrator. I also work as a teacher and researcher at the Polytechnic University of Valencia in the Drawing Department of the Faculty of Fine Arts of San Carlos, Valencia, Spain.

My passion is drawing. I’m happiest when I hold a pencil in my hand and combine this activity with the teaching profession. I also give lectures, speaking about my work as illustrator, and I like to say “yes!” when I am invited to teach an illustration workshop in any city.

It’s been more than 6 years developing my work as a professional illustrator, leading my own studio: Malotaprojects. Thanks to my perseverance, all the hours spent drawing (and having fun doing it!), my restlessness and desire to do better each day — plus efforts to promote myself in media such as Internet or promotional books — I have worked for clients such as Private through the Argentine agency DonBue, and agencies such as Mccann Erickson Istambul, and Satchi & Satchi or SCPF, to name a few.

I am a responsible person. I place high demands on myself at work, but I know how to adapt to the requirements of each project. I consider myself a versatile illustrator. I have worked in many illustration areas — audiovisual, advertising, packaging, publishing — and I understand and know the requirements and peculiarities of each field.

2. How did you get started as an illustrator?
After several years working in advertising agencies as a designer I realized that the most enjoyable projects were those which had illustrations, so I decided to work on my own, looking for projects that have illustrations involved.

3. How did you find your style? Has it changed since you started?
In my opinion, the style of each person (and not just illustrators — also cooks, writers or anyone who simply selects his/her clothing) comes from the way we live. The style is influenced by each thing that happens in our lives, the books we read, the travels we make, the things that take time, the people we surround ourselves with, the things we eat. Our style is part of what we are, not something we cultivate in isolation. All these things influence my work and shapes my style.

My style has changed over the years, just as it has made my life. But despite these changes, there is an essence that remains and that is somehow also a reflection of who I am in essence.

4. Can you briefly explain your creative process, mediums, etc?
My creative process is to give more importance to the ideas above technique. The image is a language that helps me to convey certain messages or feelings.

The technique that I choose to develop each project is always conditioned by the idea that I want to transmit. Once I have it clear what I want or I have to tell, the choice of one technique or another is in the background and I always try to choose the tool or technique that allows me to tell what I have to tell in the best way possible.

Each technique has different graphics results, so in my opinion it is good to know as many techniques as possible. Know what graphics capabilities provide us and at the moment to choose one or another. Choose the one that visually enhances the idea that we want to transmit in a conceptual level.

I feel more comfortable or safe with those techniques that have worked before, but I love to discover and learn new techniques. These uncertain times where I use the fear of being wrong and randomness and errors, take great importance are indispensable in order to learn and grow as an illustrator.

5. How do you come up with new ideas? Do you have a process?
To find new ideas, I start a process in which I am not looking for answers. On the contrary, I ask many questions. Some are closely related to the topic to illustrate and others further away. The possible answers — and especially the mental exercise in which questions lead to others — is what sometimes makes innovative solutions emerge.

6. Do you ever have creative slumps? What do you do then?
Yes, of course. I’m very picky about my work. I am not happy with anything and sometimes what you want it doesn’t turn out, so you get frustrated. What I usually do is try to relax, think about other things, a walk, and then get back work.

7. Best / most fun part of your job:
When you feel proud of your work and feel you’ve learned a lot from it.

8. Worst / most difficult part of your job:
Creative slumps.

9. Do you have side projects you work on?
Yes, always. With personal work I allow myself to make mistakes without fear of not meeting a date. These are projects that allow me to learn more and investigate new ways of illustrating.

10. What’s on your horizon? Any current/future projects and plans/dreams you can share with us?
Being happy doing one of the things I love — illustrating.

* * * * *

5 things inspiring you/your work right now:
My friends
Talented and creative people
Music
Walks
Travels

3 constants in your day:
Drawings
Music
Long walks with my dog

Your #1 art tip or words of wisdom:
Have fun doing your work.

* * * * *

Sketchbook:

* * * * *

Mar:

* * * * *

Thank you so much for this interview, Mar! Your work is just stunning!

Posted by penelope on 10/31/12 under Interviews
6 Comments

IF Interview :: 10 Questions with Susie Ghahremani

Name: Susie Ghahremani
Location:  San Diego, CA
Website: boygirlparty.com
Blog: boygirlparty.livejournal.com
Primary Medium: paint (gouache)

1. Tell us about yourself. What makes you tick?
My name is Susie Ghahremani and I am addicted to mail, paper, stationery, and sending things around the world. Everything I make is probably a hybridization of the love of the written letter, my experience with music, and my reverence for animals. Also: I have a cat and five pet finches.

2. How did you get started as an illustrator?
I went to the Rhode Island School of Design to study illustration, and while in school, played in bands and made merch for those bands. And I’ve always made my own stationery.

3. How did you find your style? Has it changed since you started?
It emerged pretty naturally through the process of working; I didn’t consciously try to find or imitate a style. It hasn’t really changed since I started though it has refined over the past 10 years of freelance life.

It looks a little different when I use different materials. My pen sketches are a little more stippled.

4. Can you briefly explain your creative process, mediums, etc?
I’ll create a sketch, then transfer the basic composition of that new sketch to a freehand painted final and layer the details. Everything I make is painted, often with a tiny 10/0 liner brush.

5. How do you come up with new ideas? Do you have a process?
I get off the internet. I read, visit museums, go for a hike, talk with friends, make diagrams, listen to music, look at old photos, and maybe most effectively, pay attention to dreams.

6. Do you ever have creative slumps? What do you do then?
Yes! Everyone does! (If they say they don’t, they’re lying.) During slumps, I feel despair, get antsy, maybe focus on accounting or administrative stuff, and then re-emerge unscathed and motivated to keep working. It always works itself out in time.

7. Best / most fun part of your job:
Getting to draw every day; hearing people say they’ve seen my work in cities I dream of visiting; having such inspiring, supportive and often hilarious clients.

8. Worst / most difficult part of your job:
Having to defend copyright of my artwork and chronic wrist pain.

9. Do you have side projects you work on?
I create and craft a collection of products with my art on them. I’m also in a band – I play synths and sing in it (and play lots of other instruments.)  I co-organize a meet up for full time artists here in San Diego. I’m also trying to read 50 books and see 50 movies in 2012 which is more of a challenge than it seems.

10. What’s on your horizon? Any current/future projects and plans/dreams you can share with us?
I have a solo show in Los Angeles at Giant Robot on November 17th.

My first picture book What Will Hatch? written by Jennifer Ward will be out in February, published by Walker Bloomsbury.

I have illustrations in the latest issues of BUST, Isthmus and the Boston Globe; there will be a new journal and notepad set I created published by Chronicle Books in the spring, and I designed a new collection of jewelry with Chocolate and Steel that includes bats.

Also, I’m on the board for ICON8 the Illustration Conference in 2014.

* * * * *

5 things inspiring you/your work right now:
1. My mom – she puts love and energy into everything she makes & it is contagious.

2. finches – they’re pretty tiny and quiet but they work their way into so much of what I make!

3. a few records I can’t get out of my head. Tilbury “Exorcise”; Jherek Bischoff “Composed”; Wolf Parade “Expo 86″; Tears Run Rings “Distance”; Colleen Green “Cujo”; X “Wild Gift”; The Cleaners From Venus “On Any Normal Monday”

4. wanderlust. My husband and I try to steal a night out of town every month.

5. I twitter a lot (@boygirlparty) and I actually find the twitter community incredibly inspiring. I love seeing snippets of other people’s days in that context.

3 constants in your day:
1. the chirping of finches in the background as i work

2. music all day

3. taking to my sister! she’s my bff, we work together + chit-chat pretty much every day.

Your #1 art tip or words of wisdom:
Art tip: Make a brush or pen grip and save your wrists.

Words of Wisdom: Trust your gut.

* * * * *

Sketchbook:

* * * * *

Susie:


(photo credit: Pat Castaldo)

* * * * *

Thank you so very much, Susie!

Posted by penelope on 10/17/12 under apparel / products,artists,Interviews,painterly,pen/brush and ink
14 Comments

Interview with Children’s Illustrator Stephanie Graegin — And a Giveaway!

* * * *Hi artists! The comments for the giveaway are now closed. And the lucky winner of the Hansel & Gretel book is brook gideon! Congrats, Brook! I’ll be emailing you soon to confirm your prize.* * * *

Name: Stephanie Graegin
Website: www.graegin.com

1. Tell us about yourself / What makes you tick? (Or you can share your brief bio.)
I was born in Chicago, IL, and lived in Fort Wayne, IN and Houston, TX as a child. I always loved to draw and make things and wanted to be an artist from an early age. I went to the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore for undergrad. There I studied Fine Art, and mostly focused on printmaking. I later went to Pratt Institute for a Masters in Printmaking. Now I live in Brooklyn and illustrate mainly children’s books. I also illustrate products for the toy company eeBoo.

2. How did you get your start in illustrating for children?
It was a long, long road of developing a strong portfolio while working a lot of non-art related day jobs to pay rent. I started out with small illustration
assignments, mainly for children’s magazines. It took me awhile to get to the style I use now. The first breakthrough came once I threw away all my pens, which I used for years, and used pencil and computer. Something clicked for me, and the work drastically improved.

At this point, I had gained more confidence in my work, and I put forward a huge effort in getting myself out in the world. I spent about a year putting together portfolio pieces that represented the type of assignments I wanted to get, I built a better website, and made a promotional mailer. I spent months making the promotion mailer; I knew I wanted to make something more memorable than the typical postcard.

I ended up making a mini handbound booklet that fit in a 4 x 6 envelope. I sent out around 200 of these booklets to editors and art directors. My approach worked, and almost immediately I started receiving calls for work.

I was incredibly fortunate to be featured on the illustrationmundo blog a couple months later (thank you Nate Williams!). Steven Malk, a literary agent for Writers House saw my work there and took me on as a client. Everything started to fall into place and since that time I’ve had a continuous projects flow of projects — It’s been almost 2 years now since I sent out that promo.

3. You illustrated Sterling Publishing’s Silver Penny Stories: Hansel and Gretel. This is a well-known tale that’s been told many times. Did you start with a vision (perhaps from childhood) of what your illustrations would look like? Or did you begin fresh?
I knew the story of Hansel and Gretel well, but no particular images from books I saw as a child remained with me. I knew I wanted the palette to feel German - forest like and very autumn. The children ended up looking much like my brother and I as kids, which seems to happen often when I draw.


Reprinted with permission from Hansel & Gretel, © 2012 by Stephanie Graegin, Sterling Children’s Books.)

4. Can you tell us about your creative process, mediums, etc?
I execute drawings in pencil, which are then scanned into the computer — becoming the armature for the final artwork. I make swatches of patterns and textures with ink washes, and these are scanned in too. Sometimes I scan in papers and fabrics to get textures. This is then all brought together in Adobe Photoshop.

5. Do you ever get stuck on how to illustrate a particular scene or character? How do you move past that?
Sure. I’m not sure there’s a surefire solution for getting back on track. Sometimes it takes stubbornly working trough the problem and it seems when you’re ready to step away a solution avails itself… Other times it’s best to put the pencil down and step way.

6. What were your favorite children’s books when you were little? Why?
Frog & Toad, the Ramona Quimby books, everything by Roald Dahl. They still have weight in my consciousness because they all had memorable characters that I identified with, along with superb storytelling. As for picture books, I loved the Richard Scarry books, I could spend hours looking at those detailed scenes.

7. What is a typical work day for you?
Day job at an office (9-5).
A run if I’m not too tired.
Dinner.
Illustrate from 7:30pm to 2 am.

8. Best / most fun part of illustrating for children’s books:
The best part is drawing children’s books! It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was a child, so I feel very fortunate to be actually be doing this.

9. Worst / most difficult part:
The schedule can be grueling at times. When there are tight deadlines, there never seems to be enough hours in the day to get everything done.

10. Are you working on any new books?
I have several books coming out in the upcoming year in addition to Hansel & Gretel.

Don’t Feed the Boy by Irene Lantham (Roaring Brook/Macmillan): October 16, 2012.
Happy Birthday, Bunny! By Liz Garton Scanlon (Beach Lane/Simon &Schuster) Jan 15 2013.
Goldilocks & the Three Bears (Sterling) April 2nd.
The Water in the Park by Emily Jenkins (Schwartz & Wade) May 14, 2013.

I’m currently finishing up a picture book now that’s still too early to talk about. And I’ll be a starting on a new picture book very soon that I’m very excited to be working on.

*****

5 things inspiring you/your work right now:
Autumn
Apple cider
Sufjan Stevens
Adrienne Adams
Parks and Recreation (the show)

3 constants in your day:
Green tea
drawing
a little orange cat sitting beside me (he’s also my art director and therapist).

Your #1 art tip or words of wisdom:
Draw—a lot! They say the average artist make about 10,000 bad drawings in his/her life…so it’s best to get those out of the way early.

* * * * *

And now for the Giveaway!

Sterling Publishing has offered to give away a copy of their Silver Penny Series title “Hansel and Gretel” to one lucky reader!

To Enter:
- Leave a comment by 7am EST, Friday, October 12th.
- Make a comment ON THIS POST to enter.
- This is a random drawing.
- One entry per person, please.

US and Canada residents only.

Good luck! :)

Posted by penelope on 10/09/12 under children's art,giveaway,Interviews
169 Comments

IF Interview :: 10 Questions with Robert Neubecker

Name: Robert Neubecker
Location: Park City, Utah
Website: neubecker.com, neubeckerbooks.com
Blog: drawger.com/neubecker/
Primary Medium: ink & digital

1. Tell us about yourself. What makes you tick?
Coffee. Here’s a bio: I grew up in Wisconsin where the winters are long and cold. I was skinny, uncoordinated and blind in my right eye from a playground accident. Forbidden to play sports, I spent my time reading and drawing. I moved to New York City when I was nineteen and enrolled in Parson’s School of Design. In my senior year, I landed my first freelance job from The New York Times.

I spent nearly ten years there. I loved the newspaper. It felt like the cutting edge of history. We were all a big family, the illustrators, art directors and editors. We got free Yankees tickets in the era when Reggie Jackson anchored the line up and Lou Piniella played third… I freelance for the Times to this day, 38 years later.

In those days I had an unfinished loft on Fifth Avenue. It had seventeen windows with great views of lower Manhattan. In the eighties, I moved to a loft in Tribecca and began to work for the magazines: Newsweek, Business Week, Time Magazine. Over the years, I’ve worked for nearly every magazine in print.

In 1996, Bill Gates founded Slate.com, an Internet news website. I was hired to establish the look with illustration. I work there still.

I moved to Park City, Utah in 1995 for the fresh air and the skiing. My first book for children, Wow! City! came out in 2004, and won an ALA Notable Book Award. I’ve written and illustrated over twenty books since then. I live on the side of Iron Mountain, am married to a lovely woman everyone likes better than me, have 2.5 kids, nineteen pets, and have a ten point buck living out back with the mooses.

2. How did you get started as an illustrator?
Steve Heller. In addition to writing over 100 books on graphic design, he gave nearly every illustrator from two generations their first job with the New York Times book Review.

3. How did you find your style? Has it changed since you started?
I don’t have a style. When I did the movie poster for “Sideways“, we ran a sketch.

4. Can you briefly explain your creative process, mediums, etc?
I work in line, pen or brush, then scan it into photoshop and scribble on it with color.

 

5. How do you come up with new ideas? Do you have a process?
That’s the hard part. Illustration is by definition visual storytelling. Finding the language is the job. I have a big library and dig through it. I look at Steinberg, the Euros of the last century, Glaser, everybody. I’ll see an image that will trigger an idea. Never the image that inspired the new idea, but a mental jump from there. The best images open your imagination and make you think.

6. Do you ever have creative slumps? What do you do then?
Take a walk. Get the hell out of the studio.

7. Best / most fun part of your job:
Drawing every day.

8. Worst / most difficult part of your job:
It’s isolated – I worked with a studio assistant for many years and that was always fun. Now I have agents that know what a telephone is and we talk a lot. We once had three lines in the studio – now everything is e-mail and mostly chat free… I love summers because my studio is full of kids, all day long. We have five Macs (and three dogs) in here, not counting laptops & tablets…

9. Do you have side projects you work on?
I’m Vice Chair of the Board of a public Charter School with 600 students. It’s a lot of work, but tremendously satisfying.

10. What’s on your horizon? Any current/future projects and plans/dreams you can share with us?
I’ve been working with a non-profit, FairHealth.org, on an extensive website and corporate identity program. I continue to do books – Time Out for Monsters by Jean Reidy and Shiver Me Timbers by Doug Florian came out this summer. I have two books that I’ve written and illustrated, Linus, the Vegetarian T-Rex (Simon & Schuster) and Winter is for Snow (Hyperion) coming out next year. Next, I’m working with Scholastic on writing history books for kids. History has always been a passion of mine.

* * * * *

5 things inspiring you/your work right now:
- I’m reading Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie. What a girl. I think I’m a bit in love with her.
- Winter is coming.
- I love the new illustration I see in my Sunday Times.
- Mo Willems
- Star Trek on Netflix- the entire franchise. Great for kids.

Only five?

3 constants in your day:
Sunrise
Lunch
Coffee at three

Your #1 art tip or words of wisdom:
Illustration is storytelling.

* * * * *

Studio:

* * * * *

Thank you so very much, Robert! Your artwork, ideas, and humor are so inspiring. They definitely make me think!

Posted by penelope on 09/19/12 under Interviews
4 Comments

IF Interview :: 10 Questions with Giselle Potter

Name: Giselle Potter
Location: Rosendale, NY
Website: www.gisellepotter.com
Blog: gisellepotter.com/blog/
Primary Medium: Gouache or watercolor

Sketchbook:

Studio:

Work:

1. Tell us about yourself.
I am mostly a children’s book illustrator. I wrote one about travelling with my parents’ theater troupe in Italy called, The Year I Didn’t Go to School. I have illustrated over 25 other children’s books, too.

I also do editorial illustration for numerous publications and some advertisement including a series of animated ads for the British laundry soap, Persil.

I live in the Hudson Valley with my two daughters and my husband who carves stumps into stools.

2. How did you get started as an illustrator?
After I graduated from RISD, I moved to New York and showed my portfolio to magazines. The day I went the New Yorker it was pouring. I was carrying a box of original paintings instead of prints and I had died my dress blue and all the dye was running down my legs. So it was a little embarrassing when the art director Own Phillips actually came out to meet me. I was so surprised that he actually bought art right then and there and then hired me to do more. Anne Schwartz, the children’s book editor I still work with now, saw a New Yorker illustration and offered me my first children’s book.

3. How did you find your style? Has it changed since you started?
I never tried to find a style. I think the look of my pictures just comes from all the things that I like to look at: folk art, Italian frescoes, Mexican retablos, my grandfather’s portraits, and vintage clothes and patterns.

My work has changed because I used to use ink more that was translucent and textured but the inks faded over time and people complained. Then I began using thick gouache on thicker paper, and then a few people asked if I would ever go back to my early “style”. Now I am somewhere in between using liquid water color what more texture but less loose and free as my old pictures. Somehow the more pictures I make the more detailed and tight they are.

I guess I have a style whether I try or not, but my intention is to be honest and personal.

4. Can you briefly explain your creative process, mediums, etc?
I do rough sketchy sketches with pencil and scan them for the art director. When the sketch is approved I hold it up in the light of the window and transfer it to nicer paper and begin to paint. If the painting isn’t working out how I want it to, sometimes I paint layers over it or glue parts over it or just start over (but that is rare).

5. How do you come up with new ideas? Do you have a process?
Usually I paint other people’s ideas or what I think other people’s ideas are because I get stories sent to me. It is usually pretty easy for me to think of the imagery when I read something, but sometimes no imagery comes to mind and I make frustrated, horrible doodles for hours before anything surfaces.

6. Do you ever have creative slumps? What do you do then?
Yes! Sometimes I try using a new kind of paint or just a new color. Sometimes I look at art books and old magazines and put pictures I like up on the wall above my desk. Sometimes I just take a walk.

7. Best / most fun part of your job:
I feel so lucky to be able to do what I like most, make pictures, for a living. I am so lucky to have such a flexible, free schedule.
I also really like that I have to work with other people’s ideas and opinions and stories so my art isn’t just about me.

8. Worst / most difficult part of your job:
The times when I don’t know what is next.

9. Do you have side projects you work on?
I make pictures from old photographs and collage and sometimes embroider.

10. What’s on your horizon? Any current/future projects and plans/dreams you can share with us?
- I am trying to write another children’s book about my grandparents or my dad.
- I am going to paint from a friend’s collection of strange photographs.
- My husband and I are going to collaborate on some woodcuts.

* * * * *

5 things inspiring you/your work right now:
German educational posters
My kid’s drawings
Vintage wallpaper and textile patterns
Metallic and fluorescent colors
Strange old photographs

3 constants in your day:
Coffee
Lying down and staring at the ceiling or out the window to think
Planning out my next meal

Your #1 art tip or words of wisdom:
Making art should be as fun as it was when you were little.

* * * * *

Thank you for this interview, Giselle! I know that I, myself, have swooned over every book of yours I’ve gotten my hands on, so I’m thrilled to know more about the illustrator behind the scenes. Your work is so fun and unique!

Posted by penelope on 09/10/12 under children's art,children's illustrators,IF Kids,Interviews
7 Comments

Children’s Illustrators Interview with Zoe Tucker

Children’s Illustrators just posted a fantastic interview with Zoe Tucker, art director for Alison Green Books. It’s a must read

CI: Tell us a little about yourself, including how you came to be Art Director at Alison Green Books.

ZT: I studied a BA in graphic design at the University of the Arts in Bournemouth. I wasn’t too keen on the more serious sides of graphic design, and quickly found that children’s design was an area that lends itself to fun and personality.

After my degree show I was fortunate enough to be offered a position at Random House Children’s books as their junior designer. I worked across the list, designing books from board books right up to young adult and stayed for 5 years, working my way up to senior level. After that I spent 3 years with Puffin, working exclusively on their picture book list. This was an exciting opportunity to work with inspirational artists such as Quentin Blake and Jan Pienkowski, as well as helping to establish the Puffin Boutique picture book list.

Finally in 2005, Alison Green was looking for a designer to help her start up the imprint Alison Green Books, a part of Scholastic books. I was lucky enough to get the job and work with the lady herself! That’s how I came to be Art Director for Alison Green Books. {read the whole interview at Childrensillustrators.com}

Posted by penelope on 09/04/12 under children's art,Interviews
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IF Interview :: Meg Hunt

Name: Meg Hunt
Location: Portland, OR
Website: www.meghunt.com
Blog: showandtell.meghunt.com
Primary Medium: Mixed media/Digital

Sketchbooks:

Studio:

Work:

1. Tell us about yourself / Bio?
Well, I’m an illustrator, originally from a seaside city Connecticut; I spent a few years in Phoenix, Arizona and now live in the wooded city of Portland, Oregon. I am really driven by making things and exploring the creative process. I work pretty much every day and I love it; I’ve been an illustrator for seven years now and the lifestyle suits me well. My goal is to make people happy and see my work woven throughout the world; while I’m a bit shy, illustration allows me to show the things I see and love to the world. I love illustration 100% and have been fortunate to know and befriend amazing, talented, funny and kind peers who inspire me all the time, both in Portland and beyond.

2. How did you get started as an illustrator?
I always loved illustration but never thought of it as a job until high school when we had a guest from SVA talk about illustration. I wanted to go there to pursue it as a career but it wasn’t in the cards; instead I went to school (at the University of Connecticut) exploring printmaking and illustration together. I nearly gave up illustration halfway through but found my way thanks to my excellent mentors; by senior year I started emailing art directors in secret hoping to get work. I was lucky enough to get an illustration in BUST before I graduated and when I got my copy in the mail I stopped my illustration professor in the hallway and showed her, totally proud. From there I just dove in, taking odd music illustration jobs and a few editorial pieces and it’s just snowballed from there.


3. How did you find your style? Has it changed since you started?
It’s definitely changed; I think through my creative process I’ve figured out my own visual language. I recently compiled a slideshow of my work every year from 2005 to today and it’s fascinating to see what changed and what remained. But it’s one of those things I only learned by making and absorbing the world. I often liken myself to a sponge– I’ll see snippets of weird patterns and textures out in the world or odd photographs and see if I can assimilate little details into my work. Sometimes it works, sometimes I learn that it’s not part of my language.

4. Can you briefly explain your creative process, mediums, etc?
It’s one part chaos, one part experimentation, and two parts fun! Seriously though, it’s very much changed from when I started as an illustrator; there’s always a digital component, but it was much simpler and line-heavy when I started. Now I experiment with breaking down the image into layers of washes, pencil texture, cut paper, painted shapes– whatever I think will suit the piece I’m working on at any given moment. I get pretty indecisive and curious about new mediums so I’m always exploring.

5. How do you come up with new ideas? Do you have a process?
I feel like it’s a pretty organic process; sometimes ideas come when I’m hiking through the woods or listening to music or from dreams; but other times it comes when I’m working on a project. On the times when I’m low on ideas, I tend to write a lot of lists and mind-maps, or ‘refill the well’ by looking at inspiration (not just illustration, but a lot of interesting visual ephemera) and reading.

6. Do you ever have creative slumps? What do you do then?
I do; but I think most people I know do. I’ve slowly learned that that’s the process — we’re not machines, but are going to have peaks and valleys. Usually I try to work through them and be kind to myself; but sometimes I just need to get my mind off of it. Thankfully where I live now there are lots of places to adventure and explore, from the city to the coast to the forests near my house — I don’t have to go very far to reinvigorate myself.

Through listening to a lot of podcasts and reading a lot of things, I’ve tried to remember also, that whenever I get into a slump, it’s just a bump in the road of my career. No matter how tough it seems at that given moment, I always pull out of it and usually am all the better for it — I’m my toughest critic, but I wouldn’t be where I am without that.

7. Best / most fun part of your job:
Getting to draw every day for a living, hands down. I’m always so thankful that I get to do what I love each day and make sense of the world with my hands and brain.

8. Worst / most difficult part of your job:
The business/time management aspect of it, for sure. I’ve gotten better but it’s a lot to juggle day in and day out. It’s also really tough for me to let go and not work every day on things, but I’m learning that’s important too.

9. Do you have side projects you work on?
Tons! I’m always working on side projects — trying to get new work, and explore what else I can make. Right now I’m working on a couple of animation collaborations, a little bit of writing for a possible book, some screenprinting endeavors (my other true love), and looking to collaborate with other folk, from photographers to woodworkers to ceramicists! I want to branch out and explore every avenue, and make my practice a lush and vibrant thing.

10. What’s on your horizon? Any current/future projects and plans/dreams you¬†can share with us?
I just wrapped a lovely notebook design for my friends at Monoblock and have a line of cards to finish for Red Cap Cards, along with some other licensing work in the pipeline. That in addition to designing some new products for my shop in time for the holidays and teaching illustration at two local universities will definitely keep me on my toes, but I’m hoping to collaborate and find some amazing personal and client work to challenge me into the new year and beyond!

* * * * *

5 things inspiring you/your work right now:
mythology, animals, the forest, the human experience and travel

3 constants in your day:
my little dog, drawing tools all over the place (sometimes in my hand), and something playing in the background, whether it’s a podcast, music, comedy or Netflix

Your #1 art tip or words of wisdom:
This business is not easy, for a billion different reasons. But I think the thing that has really gotten me through a lot of tough times is understanding that bad patches come and go, but you survive and get better by working through them and realizing they’re just blips in your career that can actually strengthen you. The more you avoid it the harder it gets, and it’s best to just be flexible and roll with the punches.

* * * * *

Thanks so much, Meg! Your art is incredible, detailed and beautiful. We feel so honored to have you share it with us!

Posted by penelope on 08/29/12 under Interviews
6 Comments

IF Interview – Christopher Silas Neal

Name: Christopher Silas Neal
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Website: www.csneal.com
Blog: csneal.tumblr.com
Twitter: @csneal

Sketchbooks:

Studio:

Work:

Video:

1. Tell us about yourself / Bio?
Chris Silas Neal is an artist and illustrator, born in Texas and raised in Florida and Colorado. His work has been published by a variety of magazines, book publishers and television, and has been recognized by the AIGA, SPD and Type Directors Club among others. His first book, Over and Under the Snow, with Kate Messner is a 2011 New York Times’s Editor’s Choice, was selected to the Notable Book List and won an E.B. White Honor Award in 2012. He exhibits drawings at various galleries and speaks at events across the country. He currently works and lives in Brooklyn and teaches Illustration at Pratt Institute.

2. How did you get started as an illustrator?
I found illustration in a roundabout way. It started with a Graphic Design elective in the School of Mass Communication at the University of Colorado, Boulder. I started undergrad as a music major (drums) but switched to advertising half way through. The last semester of my senior year I took the one and only design class offered at the school. The teacher and I hit it off and by semester’s end, I was offered a job at his small design studio. It was just the two of us. I worked at his shop for nearly four years learning about type, composition and idea making. Though I wasn’t making illustrations, working as a designer really provided the foundation for my art career. Eventually, I moved to New York working as a designer and making drawings at night after work just for fun. Through a mutual friend I met Rachel Salomon and seeing her work successfully as an illustrator changed everything. I left my job and starting making an illustration portfolio. I haven’t looked back since.

3. How did you find your style? Has it changed since you started?
I’ve always used flat shapes, color, decorative elements, texture and conceptually tried to elicit an emotional response- a smile or something sad that tugs at the heart. My work for the most part has been simple and quiet. But, the drawing and technique has shifted over the years while experimenting with media, surface quality and visual tricks. It’s sort of like fashion. At its core, my work is anchored to something individual, personal and immoveable but in order to be in the moment and reflect culture, the surface has to change each season.

I can’t say exactly why my work looks the way it does other than I am bound by my limitations. I enjoy having to navigate around my quirks and peculiarities in order to arrive at a picture.

4. Can you briefly explain your creative process, mediums, etc?

Read.
Sketch.
Scan.
Email.
Draw, Paint, Scan, Photoshop.
Repeat.
Save.
Email.

5. How do you come up with new ideas? Do you have a process?
Ideas mainly come from drawing. Sometimes, I’ll arrive at an idea while going for a walk, surfing the web or just thinking- starring off into space but mainly, the act of drawing is what generates the most ideas. I most enjoy when a concept is intrinsically fused to the medium or drawing technique- the idea simply couldn’t exist if the artist didn’t draw with scribbles or use acrylic paint. Those are the best ideas and often feel the most personal.

6. Do you ever have creative slumps? What do you do then?
All the time and no matter how long I work at this business, I’ll read a manuscript and think, “I have know idea what I’m going to do” But I suppose thats a good problem to have. I simply freak out and have a miniature panic attack until I figure something out.

7. Best / most fun part of your job:
Two things I enjoy most are creating something personal and making my own schedule. I pretty much get to do those two things everyday.

8. Worst / most difficult part of your job:
It’s really hard to plan in this business. It seems like everytime I go on vacation I’m offered the coolest job ever and have to turn it down.

9. Do you have side projects you work on?
I just bought an apartment and working in our garden keeps me busy.

10. What’s on your horizon? Any current/future projects and plans/dreams you¬†can share with us?
I just published a picture on Chronicle Books with author Kate Messner. We are working on a follow up. I’m also pitching my own ideas and hope to have something published soon.

* * * * *

5 things inspiring you/your work right now:
swimming, travel, colored pencils, stand-up comedy, walking

3 constants in your day:
cat poop, drawing, food.

Your #1 art tip or words of wisdom:
“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everyone.” – Bill Cosby

* * * * *

Thanks, Christopher!!

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Posted by penelope on 08/14/12 under Interviews
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