Posted in Illustrators, The Illustrator Says

Meet Steve James


Website/social media: http://stejdesigns.wixsite.com/mysite @SteJDesigns

Tell me a little about yourself: Hi I live near the vibrant City of Leeds in the UK with my partner Vicky and little girl Rosanna, I also live very close to the countryside which we all love to explore whenever we can. There are lots of arty people in my family and I naturally had a love of drawing from an early age, inspired by comic books and Warner Brothers and Disney cartoons. I’ve worked in the creative industry for over 10 years mainly working in greetings cards (with a highlight being illustrating a range of Star Wars cards) and only recently had the pleasure of illustrating childrens books. I like to keep up to date with the latest cartoons and children’s books, and adapt my style by introducing elements from new sources of inspiration. When I’m not illustrating I like spending time with my family and friends, music, films, video games, walks in the countryside and attempting to play guitar.

How long have you been illustrating books? It’s been about a year and a half, I remember because that’s the age of my daughter and I was first asked to illustrate the Super Happy Party Bears a week before she was due to be born (it was a very busy time in our household) so far there’s been four Super Happy Party Bears books published and four more due out pretty soon so it’s all happened very fast but it’s been a really fun experience and I love working in this industry.

How did you become a book illustrator? iMPRINT Macmillan Publisher’s saw some of my work and contacted my illustration agent at Advocate Art who asked me if I’d like to be involved in the Super Happy Party Bears books. The piece of artwork I think they particularly liked was originally from a page in a calendar I illustrated which was very in tune with what they were looking for.

How do authors pick their illustrators? In this case it was iMPRINT Macmillan Publisher’s who came up with the idea for Super Happy Party Bears then they contacted Marcie Colleen to write the books and me to illustrate them, it’s been a team effort.

How do you know how to illustrate a story?For the Super Happy Party Bears I was originally given notes on the story outline, characters and setting and then drew sketches of how I thought the characters should look, I thought to have the party bears look as colorful and fun as possible like a rainbow and the grumpy woods towns people to be more drab colors but still keep all the characters looking different from each other so they are instantly recognizable, this then partly influenced how the books were written by Marcie. From that point on for each new book I get a list of characters, objects, scenery then draw everything separately so that there is a library of images then the artists at iMPRINT put everything together with the words and they design how everything goes together on the pages.


Do you have a favorite book you have illustrated? My favorite Super Happy Party Bears book so far is ‘Going Nuts’ as I like the Goonies style adventure Marcie has written and the Chipmunk cops, I also really enjoyed drawing the punk characters in Bat to the Bone which is due out this August.

Do you illustrate by hand or by computer? I do a bit of both, I usually draw everything in my sketch book first then redraw the characters in color on computer.




Posted in Illustrators

The illustrator says: Thom Zahler

At Motor City Comic Con, I had the chance to meet some of the illustrators of My Little Pony comics. I love that series so much and even have a subscription to it.  Today, you get to meet one of those illustrators!

 

Website/social media:  @thomzahler on Twitter and Instagram
thomz.com

How long have you been drawing?  All my life. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t. I’ve known I wanted to be a cartoonist from my earliest memory. There’s no time I didn’t have a pencil in my hand.

How did you get into comics? My parents had a reward program when I was a kid. I was well behaved, I got a comic. My parents had a really well-behaved kid and I had a lot of comics. So that fostered my love of them.

I went to the Kubert School in New Jersey and trained as a cartoonist there.I was a better letterer (back when that was done by hand) than I was anything else, so I got some lettering work while still in school. I freelanced on the side for a few years, lettering and inking here and there, before self-publishing in 2002 and my career sped up from there.

What is your favorite comic you have worked on?  I always hope my last one is my best, because I should keep getting better. That said, my Love and Capes books are a favorite, They launched my career in so many ways. Mark and Abby are like dear friends and I hope one day I can figure out a story to bring them back.

Do you have a favorite My Little Pony Cover you have done? I like the Twilight Sparkle and Rarity facing off with Nightmare Moon cover. It’s pretty sharp. I think it’s a great marriage of my style, with brushy lines and round forms, and the MLP style (Bridget note: I have this cover. It is awesome)

What are some all-ages comics you suggest?  I really like Supergirl: Adventures Across the Eight Grade, any Uncle Scrooge, especially by Carl Barks or Don Rosa, and Batman Adventures from DC. Lumberjanes is excellent as well. (And of course, My Little Pony and Michael Recycle.)


 

Posted in Graphic Novels, Illustrators

The illustrator says: Keith Grachow


Website/social media: http://kgrachow.com/ 
I also use my Facebook page for promoting my work which can be found at Keith Grachow and also have an On A Planet Named Up In The Sky page for me and my mom’s children’s book series. You can also find my comic book work at http://www.kikamikacomics.com/
Tell me a little about yourself: I’m a professional illustrator that does comic books, children’s books, and illustration work for companies. I also teach workshops for kids and adults on Visual Storytelling.
How long have you been drawing? Since as long as I could hold a pencil.

How did you get into illustrating? My parents owned an advertising agency when I was a kid, and when I turned thirteen they let me draw a cover for a tv guide like magazine they put out. It was terribly amateurish, but super cool to see my art in print for the first time. I’d always been drawing, but that was my first taste of commercial work, so I think that idea stuck in my head when I went to university. In school I studied fine arts with a concentration in graphic design, so I took jobs related to that in college and after I graduated. I did some spot illustration and concept art as well as toy package design but it wasn’t really making me happy. 

What I really always wanted to do was comic book illustration, so about 10 years ago, I went back to school to focus on illustrating for comic books. I’m so glad I did, because it’s been really gratifying to create stories with my mom and other writers and to do illustrations for families and friends. And to make a living at it!


What is your favorite book you have worked on? Whatever I’m usually working on becomes my favourite book most of the time, however if I had to choose, it’s probably my latest Up-In-The-Sky book Above A Planet Named Up-In-The-Sky. I think me and my mom knocked that one out into space (pun intended)!

What illustrators do you like? I was classically trained in fine arts, so I always loved the paintings of the renaissance artists like Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci, but illustrators really came into their own during the golden age of commercial art in the early parts of the 20th century and that’s where I’d begin to choose the ones I like. So artists like Mucha, NC Wyeth, Norman Rockwell really inspired me. There were also classic comic strip artists I liked such as Alex Raymond, Austin Briggs, Hal Foster and classic comic book artists like Joe Kubert, Wally Wood, Jack Kirby, and John Buscema to name a few. Modern artists like Mike Mignola Bill Sienkiewicz, Lee Weeks, Dan Panosian and many many others are also in this list. There are just too many to count!

Posted in Illustrators, The Illustrator Says

The illustrator says: Joshua Buchanan

Picture2

Website/Social Media:
joshuadraws.com
I also have the handle of joshuadraws on almost every social network. Except for Instagram and Youtube, that’s joshuadrawswithink. (Boo)

 
A little about myself:
I’m a graphic designer by day, and a storyteller by night.
I self published my first book in 2013, called “The Rocket”. Immediately following that, I was asked to illustrate the fun “Scratch9” series by author Rob Worley. That book was published by Hermes Press in 2015.

 
How long have you been drawing?  Like most kids, I was sketching as early as five. (At least that’s what I remember) But as I got older, I realized that we all didn’t keep up with drawing everyday. I just loved making art, and drawing the cartoons I was watching. Even now as an “adult”, I’m still drawing everyday, and thankfully seeing improvement for it.

Picture4
How did you get into comics?  I think the first memories I have of loving and reading comics, was tearing through the newspapers to read Peanuts and Garfield.
I read so many other ones, but those two influenced me in massive ways. It wasn’t until our family moved to Germany, that I realized floppy issues of comics even existed.  I couldn’t read the German newspapers very well, and the military newspapers didn’t carry comics regularly. Thankfully the AAFES stores did have bookstores, where a limited supply of comics were carried.  My first ever purchase was an Archie Comics Ninja Turtles book. (I might still have it.) After that, I was hungry for more, which led to me finding superhero books. (A genre that I thought comics were all about until several years ago)

 
Favorite comic that I have worked on?  That’s tough. I loved what I learned from “The Rocket”, and I loved working with Rob on “Scratch9”! I’d hate to give that classic answer of “Whatever I’m working on now”, but I’m super excited for the new book that I’m starting.
(Does that count as an answer?) (Yes!)

 
Why do I think kids should read comics/graphic novels?
(Sorry if I get on a soapbox here, and feel free to edit as you see fit, or if this feels too redundant. Seriously.)
I think EVERYONE should be reading comics and graphic novels.  Old guard librarians tend to think of comics as a jumping off point to “real books”, but they fail to realize that comics read completely different than the traditional novels they push so hard on younger readers. Comics engage both sides of your brain at the same time, it’s a complex skill to build and master. People who struggle with using both sides of their brain tend to write off comics as garbage because they can’t read them, literally.

To be honest, I also struggle with this. I have a hard time engaging in conversation at a table, while I’m drawing, or reading. I’m a single task guy, but I’m also a single sided brain guy. Reading comics is a skill that I work to perfect everyday, because it’s full on brain engagement that taxes me if I do it too much. When I read articles or pages without pictures, or a visual narrative, I force myself to slow down, process what’s happening, understand it, and move on.

There are also TONS of things that comics do so well, that ONLY comics can do! They can create visual flow on a page that drive a story. They can tell us all about a scene without saying a word. They can convey sound effects with uncanny pizzaz. They can universally communicate a single idea across language barriers by using visual cues and icons.

Whew…okay, I think that’s enough for now. (I agree with you and didn’t edit your response at all!)

Picture1

 
What are some all ages comics you suggest?
Ohhhhh I love talking about other artists’ work!
– Tyson Hesse’s Diesel.
– Anything Ben Hatke. Like Zita the Spacegirl, and just read everything.
– Jeff Smith is an obvious choice with Bone. (The book that convinced me to give making comics a try.)
– Walt Kelly’s Pogo. (It’s vintage, but it’s so rich.)
– Christian Slade’s Korgi series. (All in pantomime, with no words. It’s a joy to read.)
– Anything Faith Erin Hicks does. For real. Friends with Boys, Superhero Girl, and – – Anything Can Possibly Go Wrong are GREAT places to start.
– I’m not sure if Usagi Yojimbo is all ages, but from what I’ve read, it is so far.
– Jay Fosgitt’s Bodie Troll is delightful.
– It’d be dishonest of me not to recommend a Japanese manga, so I’d read Yotsuba, by Kiyohiko Azuma. It’s a charming series about all the new experiences in our world, from the perspective of five year old Yotsuba.

That’s everything that comes to mind right now.

 

Picture6Picture3

 

Posted in Illustrators, Meet the authors

Author/Illustrator: Lori Richmond

Lori_Studio_large

Website/social media
www.LoriDraws.com
Twitter: @loririchmond
Instagram: @loririchmonddraws


When you were my age, did you like to read?


Yes! I used to stay up late every night and devour the Nancy Drew mystery stories.

What was your favorite story?

My number one favorite was THE CLUE IN THE OLD STAGECOACH. I know what the cover looks like, and I probably read it 100 times. But now I can’t remember the storyline!
Pax_Proofs

How do you get your ideas?

Both of my author-illustrated titles, PAX AND BLUE and BUNNY’S STAYCATION (coming in 2018), came from real life things that were happening in my family or with my children. There is so much inspiration in our everyday surroundings. The most important thing about making books is being a good observer and paying close attention to the world around you. Ideas are everywhere!


Pax_Interior

Is it hard to write a book?
Since I consider myself an illustrator first, it is very hard for me to write and I have to go through many, many drafts. I’m good at thinking of ideas, but turning them into a whole story is something else. It can be frustrating, but all the do-overs ALWAYS make the book come out better in the end. It’s really important to keep at it and keep trying, especially if you really believe in your story.

As an illustrator, how do you get matched with an author?
An author’s manuscript is received by the editor, who works at the publishing house. The editor then meets with the art director and they go through illustrator portfolios and websites to find an artist they think will be a good fit for that story. The editor sends the manuscript to the artist for review. If the artist likes the story and is available to do the work, it’s great news!


Do you have a favorite among the books you have written/illustrated?

That is so hard for me to choose. I love PAX AND BLUE because it is my first book, but I also love BUNNY’S STAYCATION because it addresses an issue that so many modern families face — a parent who has to travel for work and leave their child at home. I hope my book helps little bunnies everywhere with that tough situation!
Pax_Sketches
How many books do you work on at one time?
I have 3 books coming out in 2018, so the past few months were a little tough for me with a lot of work to do. I prefer to only work on one book at a time, but sometimes schedules overlap and I have to get all the work done anyway. It’s a good thing the work is so much fun!

What author do you really like right now?

I am really obsessed with Jon Agee’s book LIFE ON MARS. I love it so, so much. I think it is a perfect book.

What advice do you have for a kid who wants to be an author?
Are you already writing stores? Well, then, you’re already an author. Keep writing. Keep
drawing. Keep dancing. Keep singing. Keep creating. Don’t lose the joy you find in your art, you’ll carry it with you all the way to being a grown-up.

Annoying Little Brother question: how excited are you to be working with Tim Kubart? How did you get matched with him?
Haha! That is not annoying at all. I am VERY excited to be working with Tim! I haven’t met him yet but I can’t wait to! Our editor Nancy Inteli at Harper Collins thought my art style would be a nice fit forTim’s story. I read it and loved it, and the rest is history. Look for our book, OOPSIE-DO, next spring!

Pax_Birdface

 

Posted in Illustrators, Meet the authors

Meet the author/illustrator: Matthew Cordell

cordell_face

Website/social media:
Website: http://www.matthewcordell.com
Facebook: facebook.com/cordellmatthew
Twitter: @cordellmatthew

Tell me a little about yourself: I was born and raised in and around the small-to-medium-sized town of Greenville, South Carolina. At the age of 24, I moved to Chicago and have lived here and in the suburbs ever since. I’m married to young adult author, Julie Halpern, and we have two wonderful children, Romy and Dean, and a crazy cat named Norbert.

How long have you been illustrating books? The very, very first book I was hired to illustrate was a middle grade novel titled The Gorillas of Gill Park (written by Amy Gordon). That book came out way back in 2003. Shortly after, the first picture book I illustrated, Toby and the Snowflakes (written by none other than my wife, Julie Halpern), was released in 2004.

How did you become a book illustrator? As long as I can remember, I’ve loved to draw. I always looked forward to and thrived in my art classes throughout elementary, middle, and high school. I ended up studying art in college, learning all I could about all different ways to make pictures. Once I graduated college, I tried a few different ways to make a living at art, and lucked into children’s books. (When I met my wife, she was an elementary school librarian.) I loved illustrating children’s books above anything else I’d ever done in art! I love the people I work with, and I love the entire process of making books. All the way from the scribbles and sketches, to the planning out of pages, to the creation of the final art, and all the way to the end where I finally get to hold a finished book in my hands. And I love knowing that these books will land in the hands of the best audience in the world: kids.
toby_a
How do authors pick their illustrators? One would think that authors choose the illustrators of their books and that authors and illustrators work together on the story and pictures until the book is finished. But believe it or not, this is not how it happens! When the author and illustrator are not the same person (when you have one person who writes the story and another person who makes the pictures), usually the story has been written and finished first and has been accepted by a publisher to begin making it into a book. Then the folks at the publisher (an editor or art director or both) will decide what illustrator they think would best fit the story. An illustrator is hired to make the pictures for the book and the author is typically not involved at all in the making of the illustrations. Even though, in most cases, I do not work directly with the authors of books I’m illustrating, I always enjoy meeting them on social media or better yet in person, whenever possible!

How do you know how to illustrate an author’s story? That’s an interesting question with a kind of complicated answer… For the most part, when I’m hired to illustrate someone else’s story, what I choose to do is completely up to me. Sometimes there are some notes about certain things or certain parts of the text, but I have to figure out much or most of it all by my lonesome. I always start by creating sketches of how the main characters will look. I share those with the publisher and they sometimes share with the author. Some changes may need to be made here and there, but once those character looks are finished, I start sketching the pages. It’s a lot of problem solving. Trying to figure out backgrounds for things and colors and facial expressions, and so on. So many details that have to be figured out. But it’s a lot of fun. Sort of like solving a puzzle or something like that.

Do you have a favorite book you have illustrated? I love all of my books and all of the authors of the books I’ve illustrated for all of their many different qualities. But I’m going to give an incredibly selfish answer and say that my favorite books to illustrate are the ones I’ve written! It’s not that often that I get to write and illustrate my own books—and be in complete control. [insert evil laugh] I always have considered, and maybe always will consider myself an illustrator. Occasionally, I am bequeathed a good story idea by the universe that is deemed publishable by the… publisher. Generally speaking, my favorite book is always my newest one, so in this case that book is WOLF IN THE SNOW.

Do you illustrate by hand or by computer? I use the computer for some things, but generally speaking, I illustrate using pens and brushes and paper. My art is drawn with old-fashioned pen and ink (very much like when folks used to write with a feather dipped in ink) and color is painted with watercolor. I know my way around the computer a bit, but I do not use it completely to make my artwork. Nowadays, though, one could make illustrations for a book without touching a single piece of paper! But I like paper way too much to ever do that.

Posted in Comics, Illustrators

Meet Nneka Myers


Website/social media: kinopia.tumblr.com; Twitter: @kiinopia; Instagram: @kinopia

Tell me a little about yourself: I am a character designer and visual development artist working in Toronto, Ontario, Canada! Over the past two years, I have worked for numerous clients in the Animation, Comic and Media industry including BOOM, IDW, Dark horse, Nelvana and Facebook.

How long have you been drawing? I have been drawing ever since kindergarten but I didn’t really take it seriously as a career until Grade 11!

How did you get into comics? It was an unexpected opportunity about two years ago – I still consider myself new in the comic industry since I generally do guest strips but my first freelance offer was for Garfield with BOOM and it has been constant ever since! I still feel I have a lot to learn about comics but I am so happy to share my art through this medium.

What is your favorite comic you have worked on? So far my most favourite comic I have worked on has been Gumball! It was the most liberal series I worked on to date in which I had 100% control on the story and art style.

What are some all-ages comics you suggest? Gumball!!! It’s so funny for all ages and the characters are so diverse and enjoyable 🙂

(Bridget note: Look at her work below! You can meet Nneka at ComiqueCon this weekend)