Illustration Station

SCBWI Bulletin Cover & Interview

I had the honor and privilege of making the cover art for The Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators May/June bulletin! I even got interviewed like a famous person! Unfortunately, only members can view the bulletin, but they’ve allowed me to repost the interview. If you are a children’s writer or illustrator, I highly recommend joining!

Ricky Raccoon in Space! Just another casual day...

Ricky Raccoon in Space! Just another casual day…

ABOUT THE COVER

A Chat with May/June 2013 Cover Illustrator Mike Curato

by Sherrill Kushner

MICHAEL CURATO, WINNER of the 2012 SCBWI Winter Conference Portfolio Showcase, was born in Nanuet, New York. He earned his B.A. in illustration from Syracuse University, worked as a graphic designer for Microsoft and Amazon, led an in-house creative team

for Geocaching.com, and is cofounder of Queer Getting Married, a website for gay couples to create customized wedding invitations. Henry Holt Books for Young Readers signed him on for a three-book series starring his Little Elliot, starting fall 2014. In 2010, he illustrated Amy Jones’ Mabel McNabb and the Most Boring Day Ever.

SCBWI: What were you like as a kid? MIKE CURATO: I was obsessed with drawing and wrote my own stories. My first book was an illustrated cookbook with such culinary classics as “PB&J Sandwich”. After begging my mother not to send me back to pee-wee basketball, she enrolled me in art class.

Do you enjoy writing as much as illustrating? I love writing, but illustrating is my primary joy. The images usually come first and the stories fall out of them, as was the case with Elliot.

Describe your work space. The art studio in a separate room of my apartment is my sacred space. I have to walk up two steps to get to my desk, like I am ascending to my altar. Making art is a ritual. (check it out for yourself!)

What is your illustration process? I always start in my sketchbook, making quick thumbnails. When I’m happy, I gather reference. Sometimes I’ll find objects online and create a collage in Photoshop. I’ve also made some crude models to determine proper lighting and perspective. Once, I made a small Elliot with crumpled paper to see how his

reflection should look in a mirror. I use my sketch as the overall map, while I use the collage to pull detailed information for how something should look. Also, I read about

the subject to ensure things make sense. In Little Elliot, the story has a visual flavor

of the late 1930s, so I have to draw things that would make sense. (sneak peek!)

What art supplies do you use? First I lay down some graphite powder on Strathmore drawing paper with a chamois. I work on 11” x 17” sheets. Then I use a mechanical pencil to create the drawing, and then color in Photoshop. I keep the colors on separate layers set to multiply to let the drawing show through. (see this post about my process)

What authors/illustrators have inspired you? Chris Van Allsburg, Peter Brown, Shawn Tan, Arnold Lobel, Peter McCarty, Sophie Blackall, Richard Scarry, Renata Liwska,

Michael Sowa, and my favorite painter, Edward Hopper.

Describe a typical day. I try to exercise in the morning, and then work. I’m more productive if I jump into things early and try not to schedule anything mid-day. I finish what I need to so I can socialize in the evening; it’s my little reward. That’s not to say that I don’t work at night. Life is full of surprises, so I’m flexible.

How has social media helped you? It’s enabled me to talk to other illustrators worldwide. It’s nice to have supportive people who understand your struggles and triumphs. Also, a lot of people have stumbled across my work just because I’m putting it out there via WordPress, Facebook, Twitter, etc. (follow me! FB, Twitter)

What was the inspiration for your Bulletin cover? Since all of the Bulletin covers incorporate a kite, I wanted to do something different than a traditional kite in the sky. I thought about a few different scenarios one would not think to discover a kite flying in, and the one in outer space seemed to be the most fun and unexpected.

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