How long have you been a member of SCBWI? What’s the most impactful thing you have learned from being in SCBWI?
I’ve been an SCBWI member since 2015 [back before the time of chaos]. The most impactful thing I’ve learned from SCBWI membership is the importance of community. Even though writing and drawing are often solitary practices, the support and feedback from fellow creators are the Flinstone vitamins of the creative process. After every conference and illustrator meetup I’ve attended, my mind is buzzing with ideas and inspiration.
What medium(s) do you use to illustrate?
I typically use my ipad these days, because it’s so convenient. I like Procreate for single illustrations and Clip Studio EX for my comics. I love the line quality and feel of actual brush and ink, but it takes longer and there’s no “undo” button.
What is your illustration process?
If it’s a tricky pose I’m looking for, I’ll take a picture of my wife.
Then, I’ll do a loose sketch in my sketchbook. When I’m satisfied with it, I’ll take a picture of it on my ipad.
Then, I’ll import the image into either Procreate or Clip Studio and trace over it with a digital “ink” line.
I’ll work out the rest of the details (scale of the subject, composition, background, etc) on the ipad before coloring on one layer, adding shadows and effects on another layer.
How long have you been illustrating? How did you first get into illustration?
I’ve been illustrating most of my life, but my “big break” came when I was caught drawing in a college critical thinking class. The professor walked past my open sketchbook and told me to see him after class. I thought he would scold me for not paying attention, but instead, he offered me a job illustrating a textbook he was writing. We ended up collaborating on three different textbooks over the next few years.
Are you self taught or did you study illustration?
I received a BFA in Drawing and Painting, but my “fine art” paintings always ended up cartoony and narrative in nature. I didn’t quite fit into that world. Once I started attending SCBWI conferences, meetings, and animation industry conventions (CTNX, Lightbox), I realized that artists could actually be nice and approachable, haha. But seriously, it’s been really eye-opening to discover and meet so many humble and genuine people in the illustration, kid lit, and animation industries.
Do you have a dedicated art space?
When my wife and I first moved into our home, there was a tiny, dusty shed in the back corner of the yard that served as a spider metropolis. It wasn’t long before I enlisted the help of my dad to knock down a few walls, expand the foundation, and build it back up to an insulated and drywalled studio with lights, windows, and a skylight. I purposefully keep wifi and television out of the studio to prevent distractions, and I tend to listen to a classical music radio station when I work out there.
What would be your dream book to illustrate?
My dream book to illustrate would be a collection of short story comics about my characters. I think I have close to 200 different characters, so it would have to be a long omnibus or a series.
Are you working on any fun projects now?
Yes, I’m collaborating with my wife (she’s the writer) on a graphic novel about bees. The pitch goes a little something like this: Claire wants to pursue her love of music, but the queen forbids non-foraging activities. When her hive faces collapse due to climate change, Claire must choose between her passion and her family.
Do you write children’s books as well or have any plans to do so?
Yes, I am also writing and illustrating on another middle grade graphic novel project featuring the adventures of one of my main characters.
Any tips for illustrators that are starting out?
1.) Join a community of like-minded people. Once you build a rapport, they can be a great resource of support and feedback. 2.) Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to your art heroes. Most of them are real humans and are really nice (the others are super-wizards. Don’t make eye contact!) You can reach out through social media. A nice, genuine compliment makes it more likely for a question to be answered. I approached one of my heroes after a CTNX presentation (before Covid) because I wanted to shake his hand and tell him how inspiring his talk was, and ever since then, he’s been a trusted mentor. 3.) See how pros tackle the problems you’re dealing with. Not sure about muscle structure on a foreshortened limb? There’s a YouTube video for that. 4.) And speaking of social media, be easy on yourself. Don’t let likes, comments, and subscriber numbers define you. The algorithms favor the already-famous. On that note, take breaks from social media altogether. Focus on your art.
Do you currently have an agent?
I’ve had two agents in the past. I met the first one while attending a writer’s retreat, and I guess I stood out, being the only attendee with an illustrated zine of my comic project. I met my second agent through querying. I’m currently weighing my options for querying a third agent, or to try out Kickstarter when I’m ready.
Tell us 5 interesting things about yourself.
- I am a beekeeper, and this year, we harvested more than 80 lbs of honey from one hive.
- I caught and ate piranhas in the Amazon (during a Brazil trip years ago, before the rainforest was on fire- so sad).
- I recently completely renovated my kitchen (with my dad’s help).
Where can people find more of your work?
To see our Previous Get to Know Our Illustrators, click here.