The ‘D’ is silent
Celeste: Welcome Mike, to my blog! Before we get started, can you tell my readers a little about yourself?
Mike: Thanks Celeste. I appreciate the invite and opportunity. I live in the beautiful countryside just outside Edmonton, Alberta, where I’ve lived most my life enjoying comics, cartoons, sports, and ice cream. I also love creating stories and drawing and have been doing so for as long as I can remember. Professionally, I’ve been working in as an illustrator for over 16 years working almost exclusively on products for children.
Celeste: You style varies a lot, from realist to very stylised work. Can you tell us what your favourite project has been so far?
Mike: I have a couple favorites. Recently, it would be the I Don’t Want to be a Frog book, by Dev Petty, as well as my next book, A Tiger Tail. Both those books were such a natural delight to work on – which also helps having an incredible editing team that I really connected with. I should add that when I have time for it, I love doing personal doodles. I should really try to make more time for those.
Celeste: Not only are you a creative illustrator, but you’ve also been published as an author. How does it feel to be on the ‘other side’ as a writer?
Mike: It’s a very different approach to a project for sure. Drawing comes very naturally for me, where writing does not. When I get a manuscript that someone else has written, most of the hardest work has been done. As an illustrator, I get a lot of ideas and concepts I’d like to do or write. But an idea or simple concept is nowhere near a finished story. Writing a great story is the most difficult thing I have come up against, but something I also enjoy immensely.
Celeste: A lot of illustrator/writers have mixed thoughts on how their stories come about. Did you see your characters first – or did the words come to you?
Mike: My own stories generally happen off of a simple doodle with a phrase that I come up with while drawing it – like it’s a page from a book. My next book, A Tiger Tail, happened because a number of years ago I drew a kid who was acting surprised to see a tail on his back side. I kept doodling it for a bit and it evolved into a little girl with a tiger tail and then the line “Her mother thought it went well with her hair” came to me. It was that line that pushed me to try to develop it into a full story.
Celeste: I’ve recently started in digital illustration and am finding it amazing! Do you still do your your roughs on paper and then switch over – or how do you work your process?
Mike: I used to scan in my roughs, but now the tools are so natural and quick that I find I do most everything on the computer using a cintiq and a mixture of Painter and Photoshop. Once in awhile I’ll find myself drawing on paper again and there’s still nothing quite like it. It’s easy to get lazy on a computer, so a sketchbook can keep you sharp and disciplined..
Celeste: A lot of your comics include you family and how much they mean to you. Do you find that your wife/daughter influence your artwork?
Mike: My family does influence and inspire a lot of my work. My wife, son and daughters often appear in my work, rarely in appearance, sometimes in personality, but mostly in little things, like a toy or shirt, that reminds me of them.
Celeste: I see that you love to be busy! Are there any personal project that you are working on that you can share with us?
Mike: There’s not much for personal projects. Two years ago I did a hobbit piece, and I’d like to do a follow up for that sometime, but it hasn’t happened yet. The Hobbit is my all time favorite.
Celeste: A lot of illustrators do more than just illustrate. They end up selling their art or doing graphic design work. Have you branched into other mediums/industries?
Mike: It’s mostly books for me these days. I have done a little toy design for companies like Fisher-Price or the odd logo here and there, but those are not that common. The other thing I do regularly on the side is selling my art prints at comics conventions or shows.
Celeste: Mike – it’s been fantastic having you and I really appreciate you taking time out to chat to us. Where can people find you online?