Today I’m pleased to bring you the talented artist Brad Sneed as my Featured Guest. I enjoyed our interview and know that you will too. Here’s Brad.
Q- How does an artist prepare for becoming a book illustrator?
A- The best way to prepare is to learn from someone who has experience illustrating books. I learned the finer points of illustrating a book from Thomas B. Allen, who taught a Picture Book Illustration class, at Kansas University.
Q- How closely do you usually work with the author?
A- The short answer is that I don’t work with the author at all. I know that’s a surprise to most folks. It’s important to understand that when I get a picture book job, it comes from the publisher rather than the author. So, when I illustrate that book I work with the Editor and Art Director. I’m not opposed to working with the author, but from the publisher’s perspective, I guess this arrangement works best.
Q- How long do you usually need to do a complete book project?
A- It takes me seven to nine months to illustrate a book.
Q- What steps do you take from idea to finished work?
A- I read the manuscript many times, making notes as various notions occur to me. Then I begin to scratch out little, very rough drawings while I consider the size and shape of the book. Next comes the storyboard phase where I plan the layout. I think about how to separate the text, text placement and where the illustrations are going to go. When I’m reasonably satisfied with the layout and pacing, it’s time to refine the sketches. It’s at this point that I begin to collect visual reference material. I build a mock-up of the book, (called a “dummy”) filled with comprehensive drawings. When the dummy is complete, I send it to the Editor who passes it around the office so various people have an opportunity to comment. Some Editors will show the dummy to the author as well. Eventually, the dummy is returned with helpful suggestions attached. I talk about the proposed changes with the Editor and/or Art Director. Some changes require re-drawing partial or entire pages. When the sketches are approved and everyone is happy, I begin the final art.
Q- How much do you revise your work?
A- Revisions are numerous and easy to make in the early stages, and fewer and more difficult as the art progresses. For example… the image begins in my imagination. Revisions are a piece of cake at this stage! As I move the image to paper, it becomes real, which means it’s now more difficult to alter. But at this point the sketch is small and lacks detail, so it’s no big deal to draw the subject several times, adjusting the composition, and/or content with each new version. When I’m pleased with the rough sketch, I enlarge and refine it for the dummy book. Now I’m ready to paint, but am prepared to revise again, if the Editor has concerns. Once I have approval on the sketches, I begin painting the final illustrations. I don’t expect further revisions, but there may be a few minor adjustments before the art goes to the printer.
Q- How do you use the computer as a tool for your art?
A- You may consider me an “old-fashioned” (I prefer, “traditional”😉 ) illustrator, because I don’t use the computer in any way to create the art. Watercolor is my favorite medium, but I also enjoy working in acrylic, oil, and graphite.
Q- What advise would you give authors that would help an artist make a better book?
A- Don’t be afraid to let the illustrations do some of the heavy lifting. The words and pictures should work in tandem to effectively tell the story. Be selective when and how to describe characters, settings, and other elements. Remember the illustrations can show the reader quite a lot.
Q- Which usually comes first, the words or the art?
A- For books I’ve worked on, the words have always come first. That’s true even for those books I’ve both illustrated and written.
Q- How did you get into this business?
A- I went to college knowing I wanted to be an illustrator. As a Senior, and soon-to-be graduate, I had a portfolio I was proud of and was ready to move on to the next step – employment. The problem is there aren’t many places to find a “real” job as an illustrator. You know…a place to go…put in a day’s work…collect a paycheck with benefits… Anyway, with the encouragement of one of my teachers, I travelled to New York, to show my work to picture book Editors and Art Directors. Shortly after my return, one of the editors I met called to say he had a manuscript he would like me to read, and that if I liked the story, perhaps I would consider illustrating it! I’ve been illustrating books ever since!
Q- What have I not asked that you would like to tell your readers?
A- I would like to mention a book that is quite different than the others I’ve worked on. Following Featherbottom is a print-on-demand book, which means it can be customized for every customer. To learn more, please visit, www.marblespark.com .
I’m having a great time illustrating, Cock-a-doodle-doo, Creak, Pop-pop, Moo, by Jim Aylesworth. Check out my blog to keep up with my progress. Visit me at, www.bradsneed.com and click on, “What’s Up”.