Rob Shepperson today

Greetings all,

Today it’s a pleasure to feature Rob Shepperson, the talented illustrator of several popular books. You’ll enjoy meeting the witty voice behind the pen.

Q/A with Rob Shepperson
1- How does on artist prepare for becoming a book illustrator?
Someone once said that the difference between an artist and an illustrator is that an illustrator makes art for publication. In other words, art with a story. An artist planning to become an illustrator might want to look into that—does the art have something to say? And who’s listening?
2- How closely do you usually work with the author?
In the case of BUGS and VACATION, David e-mailed poems that looked pretty darn finished. I e-mailed back sketches that looked pretty darn finished. How close was that? We inspired each other, but didn’t tell each other what to do. Have you seen David’s drawings?
3- How long do you usually need to do a complete book project?
Sometimes the editor is having lunch, or is reading the wrong manuscript, and boy, things grind to a halt. But generally, it takes six to eight weeks to draw a book, if you don’t count naps.
4- What steps do you take from idea to finished work?
I think I’m finished as soon as the idea occurs. No-one else does, so I have to put the idea on paper. First, pencil sketches. Once the sketches are approved, or disapproved and redrawn, I use pen and ink to make the same drawings in a printable style. At this point, I’m finished again. Oh, and the artwork has to fit the page. For instance, if I’m drawing a snake on a “vertical” page, the snake has to stand on its back tail to fit in the book. Sometimes, I forget, and terrible things happen, like to that giraffe in BUGS.
5-How much do you revise your work?
With David, revisions are few, and painless. He writes clearly, and knows his subject. On the other hand, I just finished a job for someone else. Oh, there were many many revisions because new characters were introduced every time I sent in finished artwork. Sort of like if this question were changed after I answered it. What?
6- How do you use the computer as a tool for your art?
I use the computer to scan and send my inky drawings. Once they are scanned, they can be e-mailed anywhere, even to the White House. Or Antarctica. Or Mr. Harrison’s.
7- What advise would you give authors that would help an artist make a better book?

As an illustrator, I believe authors should write stories without clobbering the narrative with descriptions that can be shown more efficiently visually. Unless the illustrator is dim-witted. It happens.
8- Which usually comes first, the words or the art?
The WORDS come first! Did I say that?
9. How did you get into this business?
I got into the business by pestering editors, back in the day when editors could be pestered in person. That means I took drawing samples to publishing houses, and received jobs. It wasn’t as easy as that, ’cause I’ve forgotten all the jobs I didn’t receive.
10. Describe your work as a political cartoonist.
Political, or editorial art, is done on a short deadline. In fact, the art must be finished before the manuscript is read, and often before it is written. It’s no wonder that grownups are confused.

Didn’t I tell you? Please leave your questions and comments for Rob.

David