A sketch of the funeral procession from Señor Don Gato. I drew this in 2002, and it was the first time my illustrations looked painterly rather than cartoony. I consciously mimicked Diego Velasquez for this project. You’ll notice that in the sketch I amateurishly put interesting details in the gutter—the vertical strip in the center where the 2 pages meet—which had to be moved to one side in the painting.
Another Señor Don Gato post here.
Here are odds and ends from the reference file I amassed for this project. I liked the banner in the Goya painting and adapted it for this scene.
For the shipwreck scene, I wanted to mimic antique oil paintings of storms at sea. The first three images by masters of the genre represent the kind of nautical art to which I would be tipping my hat.
Following those are my own work. By now you know the drill: thumbnail sketch, tight sketch, color study, final illustration.
The thumbnail sketches are each about 2″ tall, the tight sketch is maybe 8″ tall, the color study is the size of a postcard, the final is about 20″ x 14″.
Ashley is a high school grad in Texas who wants to be a kids’ book illustrator, and is looking for a good art school. Here’s my response to her e-mail.
I’m afraid I haven’t kept up on art schools. I went to the Art Institute of Pittsburgh long ago. They offered a 2-year Visual Communications program that included cartooning and illustration—it was a wonderful education. I have friends who teach there now, Mark Bender and Michelle Bamburak.
Make sure the school you choose will equip you to be a graphic designer when you graduate. I don’t recommend setting up shop as a full-time illustrator as soon as you get out of school. Get a staff job with a regular paycheck first.
Ask the schools if they offer any business courses. You’ll want to be taught how to make money from your art skills.
Were you considering the Ringling School in Orlando? I’ve seen impressive student work from them. Likewise Syracuse University.
You’ll most likely save some bucks if you choose a school in your own state. I think you can receive tuition grants if you do. The Art Institutes have several schools in Texas. I have no idea how good they are, but you should take a look at them.
As a kindness, I should warn you that it’s nearly impossible to make decent money in the kids’ book illustration business. Learn all you can about promotion and marketing. Get a copy of the Graphic Artists’ Guild’s Handbook of Pricing & Ethical Guidelines and read it. I caution you against blowing huge bucks on tuition.
Anyone have an art school recommendation? It’s been a long time since I graduated. I should plug New Jersey City University, in whose art department my pal (and Society of Illustrators prez) Dennis Dittrich is a professor. Most of what I know about the business of illustration I picked up from Dennis.
Four bored kids on a hot summer day—the opener from Peter Spit A Seed At Sue. Thumbnail and tight sketch.
This is the wraparound porch on my old house in Pittsburgh. And that’s my dog, India snoozing on the left.
I’ll be visiting my friends at the Northwestern Lehigh School District next week. Take a look at their way-cool promo!
Occasionally—very occasionally—I get an assignment to create an image for grownups. These two were for a business magazine; the article was about decision-making. One was to be of a couple of football players and an umpire flipping a coin, the other would be two lawyers playing rock-paper-scissors. The client provided a rough layout—
Here’s the sketch of the football players—
This was a black & white assignment, so I rendered it in India ink washes.
Here are the two lawyers, as a sketch—
And inked in—
Why is the sketch always more fun than the finish?
John Manders Illustration
Caricatures, Comic Strips
School Assembly Visits