Chris Perry

Chris Perry

Chris Perry Interview

Chris Perry

Children's Illustrator

Who or what made you want to become an illustrator?

I love drawing more than anything. Coloring books and crayons, sheets of paper and pencils have always been close at hand. Creativity flows in my veins. My dad was offered a scholarship at Juilliard. I love to color and to create and my best work has a story behind it. I am at my happiest when I am creating and then get to put it up on the fridge for everyone to enjoy.

Refrigerators magnets are the original social media posts.

Did you attend art school or undertake any other formal artistic training?

Yes and no. I've drawn all my life but decided to go to University much later in life. I earned a BFA in Drawing. I also have mentors from the animation (Steven Silver, who created Disney's Kim Possible) and children's illustration ( Brian AJhar, illustrator of Scarlett Angelina Wolverton-Manning). I always have a subscription to some online art class. I aim to always improve my craft.

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Who or what have been some of your major artistic influences?

Steven Silver the creator of Danny Phantom taught me to exaggerate the pose and think sillouhette in character design. These contribute to the clarity of a character and instant recognition. Use of color and lights inspired by Christmas lights and Lite Brite, and stained glass. Walt Disney's animations Robin Hood and Peter Pan. Degas, Layendecker's rendering technqiues using dashes of color to enliven an illustration. 3D form in View Master reels. Additionally, I find inspiration from the wonky backgrounds in the German Expressionism films The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Nightmare Before Christmas.

Which books from your own childhood really stand out?

Color in Mary Grandpre's Chin Yu Min and the GInger Cat,

Shape language and forms in Chris VanAllsburg's Jumanji and The Garden of Abdul Gazazzi. 

Sense of humor in Scieszka's Stinky Cheese Man and Frog Prince Continued.

Anthropomorphic animals illustrations by Feodor Rojankovsky in Frog Went A Courtin's ,

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What was your first commission as a professional illustrator?

I was contacted by a local publisher when he saw my online portfolio. I created a cover and black and white illos for a reader titled World Wide Wes 1.0. About a kid who goes into the internet to save it. It's great fun creating characters designs for  Westin, Creatif Bloc, and Meg and the fantasy world they live in.

Do you keep a sketch book?

Definately! I use the sketchbook to create character studies. I fill pages and pages with facial and bodily expression as I "get to know" my character. When I have down time or I'm waiting in line somewhere this little book transports me interesting places. Sometimes the sketchbook renders an image that I will use in the final art. If the piece has good expression or energy I will use it and add color in Photoshop.

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How many times do you tend to draw a character until you are happy with it?

I fill pages and pages with sktetches to get the character just right. When I draw them over and over I discover what elements to keep and what is just "extra". If I can draw them in different action and create expressions and it looks like the samy character, I know I have a good design.

Do you offer more than one style, if so – talk us through the different approaches and the audience you are targeting for each.

I have a younger colorful style early readers. A black and white style for Middle Grade. I also have my own line of super hero chickens that I put on products. I hope to put them into books one day.

Have you ever thought about trying out a different technique or a different style?

I love to experiment with all kinds of media. I find it inspires new directions. I love to play with pencil, Prismacolor, pastels, pixels, portraits, poultry, and plastics (yes, I've even created art using Legos).

Here are examples my Bantam Super Chicken character done in different mediums:

Legos, marker and Prismacolor, lo relief sculpture in oil pastel and cardboard, chalk on paper and finally Foam Clay on a ballcap.

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How long does it take on average for you to finish a spread, from initial sketch to final colour?

If I distilled it down it probably can take about 10 hours from concept to finished art. I illustrated articles for the university nuewspaper which typically had a few hours turn around. In my last book, Go Away Moon, I completed 12 spreads and a cover in 2 months, and this is in addition to me making other images for a class I was taking with Steph Fizer.

What do you hope children take away from your drawings?

I hope the children will laugh and be filled with hope and confidense. As an art teacher I show examples of tmy work to "illustrate" the lesson.They will often emulate my work which helps them find their crative style.

What would you say is a distinguishing feature of your artwork?

I create art that lhas been described by many people as "scuplted", that is it has distinct forms. One could almost carve them out of wood. I love color, gestures/ action, and often generate laughter with puns and humor. 

Where do you get the ideas for your characters?

My characters are often based on movies, actors, and art history. I have a series of super hero chickens based on Marvel and DC and everyday heros such as policemen, firemen, and military. I have a tag line that I draw all my heros as chickens, because every hero is a little chicken.

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Share your favourite piece of artwork from your portfolio and walk us through its creation.

I start creating thumbnails. Working and reworking story boards until I have the images that tell the story best. When I am happy with the design I blow it up in Photoshop, to keep the ratios. I reduce opacity, print out then draw the image. I color it traditionally (sometimes digitally) then scan back into Photoshop to adjust, levels and make corrections. In the case of this book I painted the undercolor in Photoshop, printed it out and rendered details and textures in Prismacolor, then scanned it back into Photoshop. Afterwards I create a PDF and send 300 DPI CMYK files to the Publisher

Working both traditionally and digitally I like to tell people I work "tra-digitally".

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Outline your dream project.

I just love to draw so any project would be a dream. However, that being said, I would love to create for Middle Grade books since my color schemes (including my love for graphite) and subject matter tend to be more  for that genre. I enjoy fantasy and horor themes. I would like to create early readers for Poe or Ray Bradbury. I love Hans Christian Andersen and have written a mideval take on the Ugly Duckling. I would also love to work with DC and Marvel on my line of Super Hero Chickens.

Which area of children’s publishing excites you the most?

Middle Grade Books. I love color ahd graphite drawings. I love fantasy, humor, and classic horror themes. I love lots of action.

Have you taken part in any speaker events?

I'm a teacher and was a flight attendant so I am comfortable with public speaking.

What was your last ‘lightbulb moment’?

After the pandemic I found lots of fearful kids. I wanted to encourage children to be brave.Show them heros are brave they just move past their fears.  With the popularity of super hero movies I created a series of super hero chickens and came up with the tradmark phrase, "Every Hero is A Little Chicken".

What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?

At times, I can be a litle chicken.

How do you overcome a creative block?

I sketch and get inspiration from movies and art history. Browsing art books about animated movies.I think of puns and I have a list of characters I still have yet to draw. I look in old sketchbooks.

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My answer to creative block.

What are some of your favourite subjects to draw?

Chickens, Super Heros, Chicken, Fantasy, Medieval Chickens, and Dragons, Puns, Humor, and Cartoony Chickens.

Are there any children’s classics you’d love to illustrate and/or re-tell?

Yes! Hans Christian Andersens Ugly Duckling set in medieval times, and Little Match Girl. Donkey Skin an obscure fairy tale by Charles Perrault set in the Art Deco era. The Flying Trunk would be fun exploring designs from the middle eastern region. A series of Narnia Covers. Poe and Bradbury.

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Animals feature heavily in children’s books – do you have a pet?

Two dogs, a cat and lots of toy moose.

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