David and I have worked on four books together–God Gave Us Christmas, God Gave Us Family, God Gave Us Thankful Hearts and now God Gave Us the Bible. As an author, I usually send through illustration ideas for each spread, but what I know about my illustrators is largely via social media. I wanted to know more about David, and thought you might too…
1) Did you want to be an artist when you were a kid? What were your early art projects like?
I decided I wanted to be a picture book illustrator when I was 12. I learned to draw by copying out of comic books. So my bedroom walls were covered in my versions of my favorite characters.
2) Was it always illustration that drew you, or did you pursue other mediums?
It’s always been illustration. I’ve done the odd landscape or portrait, but I really want to tell stories with my images. That said, the mediums or materials I’ve used have changed over the years. In college and my early professional work was watercolor, or oil paint — and often a combination of both! These days while I still use all sorts of mediums: printmaking, charcoal, watercolor, oils pastel. But the work that I create for publication is a hybrid of physical media and digital.
3) How many books have you illustrated?
Something like 45. I’ve done four books in the God Gave Us series with God Gave Us Christmas being the best known. I illustrated 21 books in the Imagination Station chapter book series. I will always appreciate Finding Fairies as it was the first book I ever illustrated, and just recently I illustrated Just Like Beverly, a picture book biography about the legendary author Beverly Cleary.
4) What’s the most challenging thing about illustrating books?
Editing. When I start I do sketches of pretty much everything that happens, but there’s never enough space for that. Then it comes down to determining which image or moment is perfect for the scene and how it connects to the image that came before and the image that comes after. And of course every decision has a cascading effect on the rest of the book. It’s like putting together a jigsaw puzzle where you don’t really know what the final image (in this case, the book) is going to look like.
5) I see you often do posters for local theatre. What’s your connection?
I have always had a soft spot for theater. I was around it as a child, and designed and built sets while in high school and college. One of my first part time jobs was as an usher for a theater in Baltimore. Going to a play is like being inside a book with the story taking place in front of you. There’s something magical about a live performance. I can’t sing or dance, but I can make posters!
6) What do you do for fun when you’re not on deadline?
I get outside to play with my son. I paint and draw random, weird things. These days I spend a fair amount of free time writing my own stories.