Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Glen Ellyn Illinois. My dream as a child was to live in the mountains, once I visited Colorado in middle school and heard John Denver I was hooked, Now here I am living my dream at 9000 feet in Colorado. My studio looks out at Pikes Peak, Amazing!
Have you always loved drawing?
I was always drawing, really loved drawing people. I would draw anyone willing to sit still long enough. I used to sketch kids during lunch at school for $.50. I increased it to $1.00 when in high school. One of my best friends was also an artist, the two of us would sit in the same spot at lunch and the kids would line up for us to sketch them, Kind of funny thinking about it now but great practice.
Was anyone in your family an artist?
My father is a great painter. I know he would have loved to have a career as an artist. He made a living in the graphic design world as well as an architectural photographer. When I was 5 years old I asked him what I needed to do to be an artist. He said draw everything all the time. Best advice I’ve ever received. Even now I love painting along side him.
Who are some of your favorite artists?
I really love and admire Richard Jesse Watson’s work. I was so thrilled to sit in on his workshop and demonstration at the LA SCBWI Conference. I think what I love the most about him as an artist is his free spirit to experiment. Part of me looks at his many children’s books and think ,why in the world do you want to change your style or even try new things. His work is so perfect as is. But he is always growing as an artist. This is huge for myself as well as other artists to challenge each other in this way.
Who are some of your favorite illustrators?
Since I’m very focused on Children’s books the illustrators I am drawn to Michael Hague, Jerry Pinkney, and Chris Van Allsburg, Artists that have done a remarkable job in telling a story as well as have a more realistic approach instead of animated.
Do you have a favorite picture book?
I have several, Tom Thumb illustrated by Richard Jesse Watson, John Henry illustrated by Jerry Pinkney, and One Wintry Night illustrated by Richard Jesse Watson
What were your favorite subjects in school?
That’s easy ART !Tell us a bit about a typical art-filled day in your studio?
Well, getting a whole day to paint is so rare, but when I do I wait until everyone is off to school and I have had a sufficient amount of coffee. I then try to have a moment of quiet to think of what I need done that day. If I need to get a painting worked on I like to jump right in and paint. I can take a break later to work on other sketches for other paintings. I like to work fast and direct. I will have to say my favorite time of day to paint is after everyone is in bed and everything is so quiet. Love to paint late into the night.
When you were working on The Sandal Artist, did you use any models for the characters?
Yes,That was the fun part. Deciding who to use for models. I always work with models. Setting them up with the right lighting and angles is always challenging but fun. I really enjoyed painting the cobbler, who is a fellow artist friend. The beggar women is also a friend who I knew right away she would fit the character. The artist is my son Dylan. I added the beard!
The story is set in Italy – did you have to do any research for the clothing and scenery?
Yes, I did a lot of research of what a cobbler shop would look like, his tools what he would wear and even the windows he would have in his shop. The landscape is so different from where I live so I really wanted to capture the Italian countryside.
Do you have a favorite illustration from The Sandal Artist?
This one of the Cobbler ended up being my favorite illustration when all said and done. I just liked how his expression seemed so intent on the sandals, knowing the impact they would have on the young artist.
Do you have a favorite medium to work with?
I have really enjoyed watercolor for years but now am really enjoying oil and acrylics. I did this book with a medium called open acrylics which stay wet a little linger so kind of handles like oils. I also really enjoy pastels.
Tell us a bit about your live art.
I’ve had alot of fun doing live art on stage in 30 minutes. They are usually 8 feet tall by 4 feet wide. I do them in pastels.
When you’re not painting, what do you like to do?
Love to be with my kids. Now that three of them are in college and two finishing middle school they are at such fun ages. I really enjoy being outside. I have taken up Plain air painting. (painting outside on location) also love backpacking right here in Colorado, nothing more inspiring then being in the wilderness for days at a time. I also have a group of artist friends who meet regularly. This has been invaluable to advancing my career, I recommend this for all creative people. Art can be so solitary, we need others for inspiration, critique and support.
Any advice for aspiring illustrators?
Develop your drawing skills. No matter what kind of artist you become you need to know how to draw. Life drawing is the best, working from live models. If you don’t have the opportunity to go to an art school try and take some workshops to learn as much as you can.
What’s next – upcoming projects?
I’m finishing a documentary about the history of the Hispanic community. Very different to have still paintings being used for a movie medium. I’m up to 110 paintings. Not sure how many the project will Intel. Definitely something I have never done.
Check back soon to see where Lois and I will be making some joint school presentations.