How and why did you decide to pursue illustration as your career?
This is going to sound cheesy but I think a career in illustration was always my calling. I just can’t imagine doing anything else for a living and be as happy. Sure, there were other careers I was interested in, like being a veterinarian but I always fell back into my love for drawing no matter what.
I also have to thank my parents who were very supportive of my hobbies. They knew I had talent to become an Illustrator ever since I was a child.
Did you attend art school or undertake any other formal artistic training?
The only Art related training I ever did were a couple Drawing 101 classes and some Workshops when I was attending Wayne County Community college.
Besides the above, most of my training came from practice alone. I feel like I ended up finding my voice better that way.
Who or what have been some of your major artistic influences?
There are a lot of artists that inspired me; it's hard to narrow down to just a few. I’ll say a combination of the old school Little Golden Books and Mary Blaire’s artwork influenced my art style the most, though.
Which books from your own childhood really stand out?
I do recall loving to read a lot of children’s books written by Robert Munsch growing up. The “Alligator Baby” was particularly a favorite. I also very fond of "Matilda" by Roald Dahl
Do you keep a sketch book?
Yes, I always try to keep a sketchbook, especially when I’m on the go! Big ones, small ones, some finished, other un-finish. Some of my best ideals start from doodles from a sketchbook.
How many times do you tend to draw a character until you are happy with it?
It depends. I can get a character’s design perfect on the first go. Other times, I could be spending hours drawing dozens of different versions of one person just to find their personally.
Admittedly, I don’t see myself as a character design expert but do enjoy the character exploration phase of any of my illustrations.
Talk us through the process of creating one of your latest illustrations or books.
My illustration process can vary depending on if I’m drawing for myself or for a client. There’s typically a step-by-step process when I’m illustrating a book for a publisher.
Take the book cover from my latest children’s book, Time To Roar example.
First there is the thumbnail stage which are small rough sketches that help me work out different compositions really quickly for the cover. I do all this process on my iPad pro. When I’m working with an Editor/AD, I show them several composition sketches I came up with to choose from. After picking out the approved sketch and doing some revisions, then I do a greyscale values study of the sketch. Afterwards, it's time to move on to color which I create a few thumbnails of different color palettes just to find the right mood & setting for the illustration. Finally, once we agree on the perfect color palette, I do the final color and rendering in Photoshop and the illustration is done.
Take us behind the scenes and describe your studio / workspace.
Well, I have to admit it's a bit of a small, humble space to work with but have all the essentials I need and love.
The best part is the hanging lights decor with attached postcards, artwork, and other lovely accessieres I collected overtime. I like my personal workspace to be a calm and magical area to work in.
What advice would you offer someone just starting out as a children’s illustrator?
Stop worrying about the achievements and success of other artists compared to your own.
It is a natural impulse to compare yourself to others, but in every way, if you can focus as much as you can on being you, and being true to your vision and journey, the more you are free to appreciate other people’s art without comparison.
How important is it for you to be part of a creative community of people?
Very important. If anything, really valuable. I learn so much thanks to other artists openly sharing their experiences.
What are some of your favourite subjects to draw?
I love drawing nature related things, especially animals rather in an almost realism style or very cartoony.