PAL Illustrator of the month for May 2019
We are happy to announce that Daniel Wiseman is the Kansas/Missouri PAL illustrator of the month for May!
Daniel is a husband, dad, illustrator, and a creative director. He lives in St. Louis with his family.
Thanks to Daniel for sharing his thoughts, and his beautiful work with us this month. If you’d like to see more of Daniel’s work, go to http://www.danieldraws.com.
How did you get started in illustration? What is your background?
I’ve loved drawing for as long as I can remember. It’s always been a part of my life. It didn’t become a ‘job’ until I was in my 20s. I was in a band, and we eventually needed album covers, so naturally I jumped at the chance to do them. Then all my friends in other bands asked me to do their’s, too. A light went on and I realized, “I can make a little money doing this!”. So it became my backup plan. The main plan of course was to be a rock star! As time went on I began to really enjoy design, and more specifically creating my own illustrations to be part of the designs. It’s kind of naturally progressed from there, and over time art took the place of playing drums as my main focus. I had a few art director jobs at corporate companies, and then moved on to starting my own companies in fields like web design and video game creation. Through a video game company I started with some friends (Pixel Press), I was really able to hone my skills at creating characters and illustrations for children. I really fell in love with that aspect of the work, and began to build a portfolio focused solely on that. Once I felt ready I reached out to an agent (Teresa Kietlinski at Bookmark Literary), she signed me on, and the rest is pretty much history! I absolutely love creating picture books, and it’s really been a dream come true to have this career.
What is your preferred medium, method of working?
So far all of my books have been created digitally using Photoshop and a plethora of custom brushes. I use a 22” Wacom Cintiq tablet to do everything from thumbnails, to tight sketches, to final art. I find it helps me strike the balance between the feeling of drawing on paper, and the efficiency the computer offers me. I also really love cut paper collage, colored pencils, and watercolor. I hope to incorporate more of those traditional media into my books in the future, but for now deadlines and lack of time keep me glued to my computer.
How did your style and technique develop?
This is always a tough question. I think my style and technique are constantly developing and changing. I’ve always enjoyed simple, striking illustrations, so I strive for that in my own work. I love to look at art and pick apart what it is that I really like about certain pieces, or why I’m drawn to a specific illustrator. Over time this has influenced how I create my own art. Also, since I do most of my art on the computer, I have a multitude of tools available to me at (literally) the click of a button. I do a lot of experimenting with different brushes, textures, and techniques. Doing that helps me continue to develop and find new ways of creating images that really appeal to me.
Normally I’m woken up by one, or both, of my children around 6am. We come downstairs, eat, drink coffee, and hang out until it’s time for school. So I usually don’t sit down to work until 9. I like to catch up on correspondence first so that it’s not on my mind when I’m drawing. Then I turn on some music and jump into whatever project I have going on at the time. I’m normally most productive before noon. I give myself a proper lunch break. Lately that break has been one salad and two episodes of The Office. I’m re-watching the entire series. I then sit back down and draw some more. In the afternoon I give myself a stopping point. It could be sketching to a certain page number, or finishing a spread. I find that I work better when I have an end point like that, rather than being overwhelmed by an entire project. After that I’ll hopefully have time to go for a run or a bike ride. Then I go pick up the kids, and we come home and cook dinner. Typical days don’t happen that often, but that’s the beauty of doing this type of work. If I feel like more needs to be done, I can work late into the night. Or sometimes the creativity just isn’t flowing, and I take a day to do something else.
What do you find the most challenging in your work?
Striking a balance between work and life can really be a challenge for me. I’m not necessarily a workaholic by nature, but creativity doesn’t always hit on a 9 to 5 schedule. Sometimes I’ll ‘waste’ a whole work day doing art that will eventually get thrown out, and then I’ll get hit with inspiration at dinner time, or wake up in the middle of the night with an idea. There’s a good bit of guilt that comes along with needing to get that creativity out, while wishing I could be playing with my kids or fixing dinner. In the end I do an OKAY job at it, and it helps to have an understanding family that supports my atypical career! 🙂
What would you love to try?
The other day I saw a video of this guy in a glider with his legs sticking out the bottom. Basically he looked like a plane with legs. I guess it’s like a glorified hang glider, except you’re in a one person cockpit. He ran down a big hill, jumped, and just took off. All of the sudden he was airborne, flying over this beautiful valley surrounded by mountains. It looked amazing! I’m deathly afraid of flying on jets, but I think I’d like to give that a go.
Do you have a favorite book(s) from your childhood? How about more recently?
The books I remember most from my childhood are the Mercer Mayer LITTLE CRITTER and LITTLE MONSTER series. I remember laying down and poring over the illustrations of little monsters, and taking in every tiny detail. I really loved all of those books. I also couldn’t get enough of the Richard Scarry BUSY TOWN books. I really liked the detailed illustrations, labels, and little hidden surprises. These days I have a lot of favorite books for different reasons. Whether I love the art, or they’re just great books to read to my sons. One that fits the bill for both of those scenarios is THE SMALLEST GIRL IN THE SMALLEST GRADE, by Justin Roberts and Christian Robinson. I love everything Robinson does, he’s one of my favorites, but also the story is super sweet. It really is a perfect 10.
What would be your dream project? Or what was your favorite project?
All the projects I’ve worked on have been great for different reasons, but the one that will always stand out for me was the very first book I ever made, WHEN YOUR LION NEEDS A BATH. I remember sitting down to do the cover, and having this feeling of a decade of dreams coming to fruition. I’d known I wanted to be a picture book illustrator for a while at that point, but until then it felt like this unattainable goal. When I told people that’s what I wanted to do, they’d say “Yeah, that’s nice, but really who gets to do that for a job?”. I worked really hard building a portfolio, submitting to agents, and honing my craft. It felt like I finally had an answer for everyone. “I get to do that for a job!”. Things have only gotten better since then, but that moment when it was time to really get down and do the work was fantastic. I was excited, nervous, confident, and scared all at the same time.
Any words of advice for folks just starting out in illustration? What do you wish you would have known sooner in your illustration career?
Just keep drawing and developing your unique voice. It’s easy these days to scroll through Instagram and compare yourself to other artists. It’s good to study art, but comparing your career to others can really get you down sometimes. Everyone has their own pace, and their own story. Success looks different for each one of us. Focus on what you love to do and good things will happen.
What’s next for you? Any upcoming book releases we should be on the lookout for?
I just wrapped up the last book in a 4 book series called the BABY SCIENTIST series, by Dr. Laura Gehl. The first book, BABY OCEANOGRAPHER, is out now (April 30), and the second book, BABY ASTRONAUT, comes out May 7th. The other two books in the series come out Fall 2019, and Spring 2020. I also just finished a really fun picture book called RAD!, by Anne Bustard. It’s about a crew of skateboarding cats. It was a blast to work on! I got to draw all kinds of skate tricks, graffiti, and loads of 1990s era graphics. It was super nostalgic for me! It will be on shelves in Spring 2020. On the horizon is a fun book called DON’T HUG DOUG, by Carrie Finison. It’s about a little guy named Doug, who doesn’t particularly like to be hugged…if you didn’t catch that from the title.