What is your process like?
My process varies – each illustration is its own problem. I approach each medium in a different way, and I’ve varied my approach over time. But I will do my best and have documented the process for creating a Casein illustration here.
The initial concept is explored in a variety of thumbnails. I want to capture an emotional moment, one significant to the story, the world, and the characters, which will connect that moment with the viewer.
Character Study of 'Bela'. (Pictured below)
Number 2 became the selected thumb to develop. (Pictured below)
I often shoot photos to use as reference.
Photo reference for Picking Berries. (Pictured below)
When creating an image of something which does not exist, I will sometimes build a model or macquette to use as reference. I did not do so for this image, but here is an example from a different illustration.
Macquette created of Grendel (Pictured below)
Before painting, I resolve the image with a detailed drawing. I often draw on an iPad Pro with the Apple Pencil using an app called Procreate.
Digital Drawing of Picking Berries (Pictured below)
My planning stage also entails a value study.
Digital Value Study, Picking Berries (Pictured below)
I need to transfer the digital drawing to paper.
How I transfer the drawing depends on the size of the piece and the medium. When I paint in Casein, I paint on 300 lb Hot Press watercolor paper. If the painting is smaller than 13 X 19 - I print directly on to the watercolor paper at about a 30% opacity. (The largest paper my printer can handle is 13 X 19. If the final image is larger than this size, I employ a more complex process.)
The printed image provides a light image over which I redraw/trace with a brown colored pencil. I clean the digital drawing up more carefully before printing when printing directly onto the paper on which I will be painting the final illustration.
The digital drawing printed onto 300 lb watercolor paper (Pictured below)
The finished drawing, mounted with tape on a drawing board (Pictured below)
I next completed a value underpainting (I don’t always complete an underpainting – and in this instance it proved to not be very helpful).
Value Underpainting (Pictured below)
While the underpainting dried, I explored color schemes. I prefer to explore color with traditional media. I find it provides a better sense of how I will mix the colors and which tubes of paint to use. I make specific decisions as I explore different color schemes.
Color studies (Pictured below)
I selected C5. This selection introduced a different value scheme than I’d already painted (a High Key value scheme). Sometimes this happens! As a result, I had to ignore the value underpainting when applying the color.
In process – you can see the edge of the Stay-Wet palette I use when painting with Casein (Pictured below)
Palette before I started to paint (Pictured below)
Detail as I painted Bela (Pictured below)
Picking Berries, completed (Pictured below)
How long have you been a member of SCBWI? What’s the most impactful thing you have learned from being in SCBWI?
Hmmm, I’m not sure what year I joined. I think it was 2015 (might have been 2016). And the second part of the question is even harder to answer. I knew little of the children’s book publishing world and have learned so much from fellow members and the SCBWI conferences I’ve attended. I think I can better answer if I consider the most impactful or beneficial experience - in that context I would say that the SoCal Illustrator’s group, the small illustration community we’ve created, has been most impactful. I’ve benefited from the shared experiences and support of members and it has been wonderful to learn from and receive critique, counsel, and support from the other illustrators.
What medium(s) do you use to illustrate?
Lots! I enjoy drawing and painting and create art using pen and ink, pencil, Casein (an old paint medium, kind of somewhere between acrylic and gouache), watercolors, and oil paints. I also use a lot of digital tools. In particular, I use Clip Studio Paint EX when writing/drawing Graphic Novels.
If more than one, which do you prefer?
I hate having to pick a favorite! But if pressed, I think I’d pick Casein. I enjoy its immediacy and the matte finish. However, I also enjoy the depth of light and color oil paints allow.
For Graphic Novels, I think Clip Studio Paint is unparalleled. It is fast, fun, and provides the most respo0nsive digital watercolor tool I’ve ever used.
How long have you been illustrating? How did you first get into illustration?
I’ve been drawing my entire life, falling in love with animation (especially stop motion animation) when just a kid. This led to studying art and film in college and a career in animation.
I worked as an animation artist for studios such as Disney and Nickelodeon and had my own studio with a partner for a time. Now, I teach animation at Cal State Fullerton. I’ve also created my own animated shorts which have screened in festivals all over the world.
Illustration is something I began to explore in earnest in 2015.
Are you self taught or did you study illustration?
I have college degrees, though not in illustration. However, concepts I learned studying film and animation have informed my approach and understanding of illustration. I’m not sure I understand or embrace the concept or claim of being ‘self-taught’ vs. ‘school-educated’. We all learn on our own and we all learn from others, whether in a formal institution, or from a book, workshop, or online videos. Formal schooling (ideally) provides a foundation. It is not the end, but the beginning. We continue to grow and learn throughout our lives. I continue to take classes and learn from others, but at the same time I teach. The journey continues.
If you did study illustration, what school did you attend?
I earned a BFA in Applied Media Arts from Edinboro University and an MFA in Film Production from USC. Neither was a focus on illustration – my interest was more on animation and filmmaking. I’ve also attended the Illustration Master Class and taken courses via the SmarterArt School. James Gurney’s blog is regular reading and I’ve learned more than I can measure from his books, videos, and daily musings. I learn by drawing and painting in my sketchbooks on a regular basis, reading books, and talking with artists.
Do you have a dedicated art space?
Yes, I do. I have an office space outfitted with a digital work-station equipped with a Cintiq and traditional work-stations comprised of an easel and an antique oak drawing table. (Pictures included above.)
What would be your dream book to illustrate?
But if I have to select something existing (and not written by me), I’m drawn to fantasy and love Tolkien’s world of Middle Earth. I also love Ursula K LeGuin’s Earthsea stories. But both of these worlds have been so well visualized by other artists – maybe TH White’s “The Once and Future King”? I adore King Arthur and TH White’s rendition of that world in words.
Are you working on any fun projects now?
I just completed as huge personal project, self -publishing a Middle Grade fantasy novel. The Goblin Twins is an illustrated novel and includes over 100 illustrations, many in full color. (Picture above.)
I’ve also been busy painting illustrations for Magic the Gathering.
Do you write children’s books as well or have any plans to do so?
I’ve written a few stories set in my world of The Garden Clan including an MG novel, ‘The Goblin Twins’. I’ve als explored some concepts as Graphic Novels.
Any tips for illustrators that are starting out?
Draw. Draw all the time. Draw every day. Draw what you see. Draw what you love. Then draw some more. Look stories in the world around you and capture those stories in your drawings.
When you find yourself inspired by an artist – dig a little. Discover who inspired that artist. And then go further. Who inspired the artist that had inspired THAT artist? Steve Hickner (DreamWorks director and story artist) put a name on this idea for me, he called it following the breadcrumbs. It’ll expose you to new ideas, imagery and understanding.
Do you currently have an agent? If so, how did you end up with that agent?
I am not currently agented.
If you’ve won any illustrating awards or have any books published, please list them here?
My work has been featured in Spectrum vol 23 and Spectrum vol 27, ImagineFX magazine, the Infected By Art annuals, Volumes 4-10, Illustration West 57, and I was awarded an SCBWI, SoCal region Portfolio Showcase Award in 2018.
If you have had books published, when and what was the experience like?
Just self-published my 1st book.
Where can people find you?
List 3 to 5 interesting things about yourself.
I’m originally from Norristown, Pennsylvania and am a 1st generation college graduate.
Met my wife (to be), who is also an artist, the 1st day of college.
I’ve worked many jobs, house painting, assembly line work, short-order cook, asbestos removal, but my 1st art job was as a Storyboard Artist at Walt Disney TV Animation.