Jack has consented to an interview. If you have any questions for him, please ask them in the comment section.
Q: Did you take art lessons? I got married right out of high school, so I got a good paying job and went to night school at The American Academy of Art in Chicago. I took cartooning and drawing classes. Then 20 years later I went back and took some computer art classes.
Q: What is the hardest part about illustrating a book? The hardest part is the consistency. Trying to maintain the same “look” of the characters, as well as their clothing, hairstyles and proportions. In one of my books, I didn’t notice that I had changed the color of the main characters shirt in the middle of the story…oooops…. Maybe he ran home and changed when we weren’t looking :o)
Q: Please describe the process you go through to illustrate a book. When illustrating a book, I fist read through the whole story a couple of times. I visualize the characters mostly at first.Then I sketch out the characters. Then, depending on the number of pages, I break up the story into even segments. I read and reread a segment. I already have the characters, so I start visualizing them in the story, page by page. Then I do up a quick storyboard, which looks like a giant comic strip. The rest is just refining the sketches, scanning them into my computer and painting them.
Q: Why did you decide to illustrate Sh Sh Sh Let the Baby Sleep? I love the story. I was a big brother and I could identify with Zachary and his adventurous imagination. I like to draw stories with adventure, animals and apple sauce… there wasn’t any apple sauce in the story, but two out of three worked for me ;o)
Q: How long did it take for you to illustrate Sh Sh Sh Let the Baby Sleep? It took me about two and a half months. Each illustration takes between eight and twelve hours … the cover a little longer.
Q: What materials and supplies did you use for the pictures? All I use is a pencil and a sketchbook. The rest is done digitally on the computer.
Q: How did you decide on the cover? Actually, I had drawn a baby sleeping on a moon about ten years ago. It was always one of my favorites. I decided to redo it with Layla. Then I added Zachary making the sh sh sh sound. I wanted the reader to get an idea of some of the adventure in the story, so I included the bear and train. I took a while to set it up so it didn’t look crowded and still had enough room for the title.
Q: Which illustration in this book is your favorite and why? There is a page where Zachary is pushing Layla in the stroller and a big wind kicks up! That was a blast… so much going on. Zachary is startled and struggling to hold onto the stroller. He has one foot in the air. The blanket is blowing away and baby Layla is not vey happy. It became my favorite because it was the most fun to draw.
Q: Do you model your characters from real people? I was thinking about myself as a kid when I was drawing Zachary, then I remembered a friend of mine in kindergarten who had this cool wave in his hair. So I gave him the “wave”. Thanks to Bobby Farrell… where ever you are ;o)
Q: Was there part of the story that was difficult to illustrate? On one page, Zachary flies up to the top of a bookcase to get some diapers. It was difficult to make it look like he was soaring in front of the bookcase and not climbing or standing on a shelf.
Q: You have an incredible talent for showing movement in your illustrations. What are your secrets? I’m the dad of five kids. There was always something going on at our house. I learned how to harness the energy in the house by capturing it in sketchbooks. My kids taught me a lot.
Q: Do you have a collection of your own artwork? I have a portfolio of all my best work… I guess you could call it a collection. Since most of my work is done digitally, I have to print any work that I want to keep physically.
Q: Do you hang illustrations in your home as artwork? Sometimes I’ll be working on a project and my wife will tell me that she would like something like that in a frame to hang in our house. I’ve done a few, but honestly, she is such a wonderful woman, I should do a lot more for her.
Q: Do you have any wise words for students who like to draw? Your sketchbook…Don’t leave home without it! Also, set an illustration goal. There are so many avenues to take. If you like comic art… make your own comic book, children’s art… make up a “dummy” book. Set a goal, and do one thing every day toward that goal. Even if it only takes you ten minutes, do it. In a year you will amaze yourself at how far you’ve come and how much you’ve grown as an artist. I speak from experience. I let weeks turn into months and into years without pursuing my God given talents. Then I set a goal and did a thing a day.
Q. What is your favorite medium? I don’t have patience for oils. I like that acrylics dry quickly. …I’ve always loved airbrushing. I try to give my children’s book illustrations a kind of airbrush feel.
Q. What artists/styles have influenced you the most? Walt Disney has inspired me as an artist and as a person. He was an amazing man who never gave up. His feature length films have some of the most wonderful artwork. Also, my character style has definitely been influenced by Jim Henson of Muppet fame. Most of my characters have large round eyes sitting atop their heads…. ala Elmo, Burt, Ernie…. etc…..:o)
Q. Do you also paint besides what you do for books? I do airbrushed murals for our church’s kid’s rooms and have done some in homes as well. We are renting now, so I don’t have any murals in my home…. It’s too hard to take them with us when we move. :o)
Q. Do you also write? Reading all the wonderful stories that I have had the privilege of illustrating has given me the writing bug. I have started several stories… but MAN, writing is hard! Maybe someday, but for now I’ll stick to the easy stuff. :o)
Author, Kathy Stemke has a passion for writing, the arts and all things creative. She has Bachelor degrees from Southern Connecticut State University and Covenant Life Seminary, as well as graduate coursework from New York Institute of Technology and Columbia University. Hanging her hat in the North Georgia Mountains, she has been a teacher, tutor, and writer for many years.
Kathy’s first children’s picture book, Moving Through All Seven Days, was published on Lulu. Her next picture book, Sh, Sh, Sh Let the Baby Sleep, was released in May of 2011. Her third picture book, Trouble on Earth Day is scheduled for release in June of 2011.
Mrs.Stemke offers great teaching tips and children’s book reviews as well as a monthly newsletter titled, MOVEMENT AND RHYTHM, on her blog. http://educationtipster.blogspot.com
Sh Sh Sh Let the Baby Sleep can be found:
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