Rugrats and Other Things from my Attic

rugrats back off bully boys art by bob ostrom 4

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.

The Magic School Bus

magic school bus illustration by bob ostrom

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”

Wild Thornberrys – An Inside look at Illustrating Licensed Art for Picture Books.

wild thornberrys childrens book art by bob ostrom

A Wild Thornberrys Book Illustrated by Bob Ostrom

When I first started doing children’s books I focused mainly on licensed properties. I did work for all the big guys… Disney, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon and lots of others. It was a pretty sweet gig with the exception of one thing. Illustrators who work in the world of licensed art can tell you that it’s kind of a lonely business. Your work is everywhere but you are rarely recognized for it unless of course you are the creator. Unfortunately even creators are sometimes not given the credit they deserve depending on how the art was developed.

This art was from a Wild Thornberry’s book I did. Most of the books I did for licensed properties were a little stingy with the credits but not Scholastic and the Wild Thornberry’s. The first time I saw the actual printed book was in at Barnes and Noble on display and my name was right on the front cover in big 20 pt type. I wanted to run around the store flinging copies into the air and dancing like a fool but I figured that would just be bad form. So instead I high-fived my son who was about 4 or 5 at the time and did the dad-dance. He thought it was pretty cool too. He used to love it when I got books from properties he knew from TV because they always came with a video that we would watch over and over as I tried to get the poses just right. He would often run around the house quoting lines from whatever series we had just watched. As he got older the fun kind of wore off and the cool factor faded a bit but every now and then we’ll spot one of my books in the book store or at the library and it’s cool all over again.

(To begin slide show click on any of the images below)