Who or what made you want to become an illustrator?
I like to believe I was born to create art. At home, school, sitting in the mall I would be drawing.
I worked as a Typography artist for many years and recently decided to make illustration more of a priority. I have enjoyed creating characters and drawing the scenes for the children's books, helping to bring a story to life.
My father had a gift for art but never had a chance to chase that dream. He had won a scholarship for an art school but had to set that aside to raise four kids. I think he would be happy knowing I have not stopped chasing that dream.
Who or what have been some of your major artistic influences?
As a child I grew up when Saturday morning cartoons were at their height. My brothers and I would sneak down the hallway at six in the morning, making sure not to wake our parents, and watch the original Mickey Mouse Club, Bugs Bunny and a bit later Spiderman. I tried to copy Bugs Bunny, especially his hands. I have no idea who the artists were but they mesmerized me by the way they drew his hands. It started me on the drawing style that I do today. The artist that I started to study later and tried to learn from was Walt Kelly, of Pogo fame. He was one of the very best then and now in this field. Of course Disney was a big influence for everyone, we all wanted to draw Mickey Mouse. The one book I would recommend, if you can find it, is called Figure Drawing For All It's Worth by Andrew Loomis. A great book for figure drawing.
Which books from your own childhood really stand out?
I like the Dick and Jane books from my childhood. I don't even know if they are available anymore. The illustrations were simple, clean and very well done.
Describe your working technique and how you came to perfect it.
When I was younger everyone said I had a style that resembled Disney. As I got older people told me if I was to break into the field of illustration I would have to change that and develop a style that was a bit more contemporary. People then told me I should give up my sketchpad and use more of a computer tablet, then they said I should use more of a sketchpad and get away from a computer tablet. I was actually told I should change my style and draw more in the style of Disney. Truth is I like the style I have arrived at. I have realized trying to change to please others is a waste of time. Be true to yourself. I was once called flashy, which was a surprise to me, I was also called old school and I'm still trying to figure that one out. I just like to draw, paint, silk screen, etc. When ever there is a chance to make a mess you'll find me there, smiling, wearing my flannel shirt covered in every color in my art box, trying to create the next big work of art in whatever style I choose for that day.
Tell us about the creation of your favourite character from one of your books.
When I was about sixteen years old I had a dream one night. In the dream was an old man and a younger boy, who was the grandson to the old man. The old man was wise and kind, the young boy was just that, young. He loved two things: his grandfather and his dog. In the dream there were no parents. He liked to talk to his grandson and the grandson liked to spend time with his grandfather. When I woke up I tried to remember what they looked like and I have worked on trying to draw them exactly the way I dreamt them ever since. I try to use them in books whenever I can.
Which project has been most instrumental in developing your personal style?
When I was younger everyone said I had a style that resembled Disney. As I got older people told me if I was to break into the field of illustration I would have to change that and develop a style that was a bit more contemporary. People then told me I should give up my sketchpad and use more of a computer tablet, then they said I should use more of a sketchpad and get away from a computer tablet. I was actually told I should change my style and draw more in the style of Disney. Truth is I like the style I have arrived at. I have realized trying to change to please others is a waste of time. Be true to yourself. I was once called flashy, which was a surprize to me, I was also called old school and I'm still trying to figure that one out. I just like to draw, paint,silk screen. Where ever there is a chance to make a mess you'll find me there, smiling wearing my flannel shirt covered in everycolor in my art box, trying to create the next big work of art in whatever style I chose that day.
How long does it take on average for you to finish a spread, from initial sketch to final colour?
I can often begin and finish a drawing in the span it takes to watch a movie. People ask me why I watch "We Bought A Zoo" so often when I'm drawing. It's not that I'm watching the movie, but the noise in the room. I base time off of sound. I once worked in a shop where a large spray booth ran all day long creating a massive amount of noise. I could tell the time of day by the sound of the spray booth and when it shut down I was to to go home. One day the painters shut the booth down early, at two in the afternoon, to clean out the holding tank. I got up from my desk put my coat on and left for home. It wasn't until I was half way down the street I noticed the time. I need to work with noise in the background.
What do you hope children take away from your drawings?
I like it when a child trys to draw in my style. I enjoy watching them expressing themselves with a pencil or a brush. I want them to have fun and enjoy art, not to think there is a right or wrong way to draw.
What would you say is a distinguishing feature of your artwork?
I use to take night classes in oil painting at the university. I talked to the teacher one night about my disappointment not to be able to get into the university classes for fine arts. I was in the army at the time and thats just the way that went. He listened to my story and told me every year he gets something like 40 students in his class, all having totally different styles when they arrive. At the end of the fourth year he has 40 students leaving with all the same style. He told me not worry about school so much, just keep painting and my style will stand out and will be mine. I guess the most distinguishing feature is it's my style.
Have you visited any schools to speak or hold workshops?
I enjoy taking time to speak to people no matter the age group. Art is one thing we all have in common; the other is music. Give a little child a stick and they will use it to bang out a tune. Give them a pencil and in no time a work of art is taped to the refrigerator door. Speaking to people also gives me a chance to listen to them. We all have stories, we just need someone willing to listen.
What things affect your creativity?
People affect my creativity. I hate sitting by myself when I know somewhere people are getting together. I will try to find myself in areas where I know people will meet such as eating spots at the local mall or parks. I draw energy from them, they are my battery source.
What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?
I'm hard of hearing. I'm not completely deaf but as a child I had a high fever which destroyed one of my ear drums. People think I'm messing with them when I ask them to repeat what they said and they walk away upset. When I try to explain I have a hearing loss they don't believe it. Its not all bad, I can usually block out things I dont want to hear such as when my wife wants me to fix something in the house...what?...I didn't quite catch that.
If you weren’t an illustrator, what would you be doing?
I always wanted to be a rancher, with horses and cattle. My uncle would have me stay with his family in the summer and I got to experience what farm life was like when I was young. The slow majestic walk of the cows as they came in from the field at night, the strength of the horse and the feel of the saddle as my uncle got them ready for the work day. I loved working with horses. I had some very close bonds with some of them, especially my horse, Cactus. There is something about knowing that at any moment they could step on your foot, but don't.
Are there any children’s classics you’d love to illustrate and/or re-tell?
I enjoy Oscar Wilde stories, such as The Happy Prince, The Fisherman and His Soul and The Selfish Giant. He had a special way of writing that really speaks to me. I also like Charles Dickens' works. I have trouble reading anything else after I finish one of his stories, in the way he wrote it. I find myself not putting the book down until I'm finished, no matter the time. I will illustrate scenes from those stories just for myself.