“How To” Library series published by The Child’s World.
I thought it might be fun show you a little behind the scenes look at a few of the children’s book illustrations I did for this series of “How To” library books. You might have noticed that one of the sketches still shows the colored line technique I used to use when I sketched on paper. It’s an old art guy trick I picked up many years ago while working with Disney designed to save time. I still find it useful even though I have drawn a sketch on paper in years. These days I sketch exclusively in Photoshop using a big honking Cintiq tablet. Not being able to zoom in on my sketch seems ridiculous. I image in a few short years as new technology replaces the desktop work station we’ll look back and wonder how we ever got along without it.
Every once and a while I climb up into the attic and grab a bunch of stuff to haul off to the Goodwill store or the recycling bin. Sometimes I get lost up there and start dragging out old boxes full of memories (think Chevy Chase, Christmas vacation). Today I found one full of old disks and drives. Most of them were CD’s or DVD’s but I found a couple Zip Drives in there too. Why I save those I have no idea, it’s not like technology is suddenly going to reverse itself. Anyhow this pile of disks was from many years ago right after I bought my second MAC. I think it was a Power Mac G3… one of those blue/green ones. It was about the coolest thing since sliced bread and I was right on the cutting edge when I got it. Leafing through the disks I found one labeled Rugrats. I had almost completely forgotten about this project but it was a huge milestone in my career.
I had only been using Photoshop for only a couple on months when the Rugrats book Back Off, Bully Boys came into the studio. Up until then it had pretty much been just Illustrator or by hand. If I remember correctly the publisher was specifically requesting digital artists. There weren’t a lot of artists offering digital at the time so it left a big opportunity those of us who were. Wow, have things changed since then but I think if there’s one thing to be learned it’s that there is always opportunity for those willing to put themselves out in front. I certainly wasn’t the first to offer digital illustration by any means but I was ahead most other artists at my agency and many others outside as well.
Digital art is pretty much required these days and if you had told me back then I would be teaching Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign now I would have told you that you were crazy. Digital has gone through quite a few changes over the years. Things have gotten much easier for users but at the same time the competition has grown very intense as well. Artists who don’t know digital art find themselves a tremendous disadvantage with the gap widening every year. The odd thing is that the industry, always looking for something new, seems to have come full circle and what’s old is whats new. In other words the slick highly polished look that comes so easily to digital art is less in demand today. Publishers seem to be leaning toward things that are digital but don’t look digital. So how does an artist find that look? Textures, brushes, combining digital with traditional, all of the above, none of the above?… it’s all out there for those willing to jump out in front and make it happen and lead the way.
Early in my career I got a call from my rep (at that time) asking me if I had ever heard of the Magic School Bus and if I wanted to illustrate a Magic School Bus book. Having no idea what I was agreeing to of course I said yes. As it turned out the animation series was just about to be released on PBS and things were really heating up for the publisher. They were looking for several artists to help illustrate books that would hit the market to coincide with the release of the PBS television show. It was about to go from a very popular book series to a very popular TV show to an even more popular book series based on the very popular TV show. How do you say no to that?
Continue reading “The Magic School Bus”