Posted by: Kathy Temean | August 13, 2011

Illustrator Saturday – Gerald Kelley

Gerald Kelley is a professional illustrator whose clients include Price Stern Sloan, Scholastic, Macmillan, Hearst, and Teen Magazine. His work has been featured in children’s educational materials, short-story magazines and corporate publications.

Gerald is the illustrator of the ABC picture book, T IS FOR TURKEY and, ‘A IS FOR AMERICA’ both written by Tanya Stone and PUSS IN BOOTS coming out this fall from Barron Educational Series.

Born in Texas, Gerald currently resides in South Florida where it’s far too humid and where he spends way too much time indoors.

Gerald says, “I’ve been doing professional illustration work in one form or another since 1996. Most of that time has been spent doing client work as a sideline to my 9-5 job.  I transitioned into illustration as my full-time focus and have been able to split time between drawing and marketing with varying degrees of success, but I found this a bit frustrating. While I didn’t suffer from a lack of work, it was a challenge keeping myself off the see-saw of no work or too much work. So I started to check out various illustration agents and signed with The Bright Group. Based in the UK, Bright has an office in New York. Having access to both the US and international markets piqued my interest and was something I wanted to explore. The other great thing is their subsidiary office, Heartfelt, handles licensing work which is another area of interest.”

You will find two videos that demonstrate how Gerald works at the bottom of the post, so don’t miss watching them.  Below is an interview of Gerald Kelley.  All three are excellent.

Work-in-Progress to Final Art

ORGE OF RUSHOMON Work-in-Progress to Final Art

RATCATCHER Work-in-Progress to Final Art

Legend of Sleepy Hollow character sketches

AUTUMN READING Work-in-Progress to Final Art

Making of Friendly Rats

Medieval Foods

Illustrations from Gerald’s new book PUSS IN BOOTS coming out this fall.

I don’t think I’m alone when I say that my path as an illustrator has been heavily influenced not only by illustrators of the past and present but also animated movies and television shows. I grew up in the golden age of Saturday morning cartoons–The Bugs Bunny/Roadrunner Show; Scooby Doo; The Jetsons; The Superfriends; Robotech. And every Saturday morning kicked off several hours of tense stand-off with my mom as she maniacally enforced a weekly cleaning schedule that saw me shouldering the heavy burden of cleaning the bathrooms and dusting everything. I wasn’t very subtle in my attempts to sneak in cartoon watching as I worked. And by working I mean sitting on the couch, remote in-hand. Parents never understood the need for cartoons.

Anyway, one of the legacies of this horribly stress-filled childhood has been a desire to eventually include character design for animation as part of my path as an illustrator. One of the steps I’ve recently taken toward that goal has been to enroll in Stephen Silver’s Character Design course hosted on Bobby Chiu’s Schoolism site. I’m currently in the midst of Week 6 of the course and I’m being challenged and learning TONS!

One of the biggest things I’ve learned is the importance of pushing past your first several designs until you break out of the self-imposed limitations of initial ideas. Given the limited schedule of most illustration projects, I generally tend to rely on my first few ideas so I can get on with meeting the deadlines. I’ve always known the importance of pushing ideas but I’ve also fallen victim to the need for speed and the tyranny the modern production schedule. Stephen’s class has changed that.

I’m in week 6 of classes and one of the assignments is working out designs for a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde project. We were to come up with a twist on the standard dual-personality idea and come up with the look of our characters. My idea is set in the 1920’s and Dr. Jekyll is an Oxford professor and Hyde is a self-styled adventurer type with delusions of grandeur.

Normally, my first inclination is to stop after doing only about four or five variations and then moving on. But pushing past my first ideas resulted in ideas that started moving away from my general solution patterns.

This has brought home the importance of idea exploration and the possibilities found in taking a little more time, allowing ideas to ferment and develop in ways that may surprise.

I can’t recommend Stephen’s class enough to anyone wanting to push their ideas further. He’s an amazingly talented guy and he’s developed a short course that will push you’re creativity.

Here are two videos that demonstrate how Gerald creates his illustrations.  I loved watching them.

You can see more of Gerald’s illustrations by visiting his website.

Hope you enjoyed meeting Gerald Kelley and Illustrator Saturday.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. I actually got chills looking at all this! Gerald, your work is outstanding and I was fascinated throughout. You gave so many wonderful tips with the link for the course especially. How wonderful to see all of this. Thank you SO much for this!

    And Kathy, I’m guessing you perhaps met Gerald in LA? Or did you just get lucky in a search? How wonderful!!!!


    • Donna,

      Thanks very much for your kind words! I haven’t been able to complete a new video in a while but I hope to do another one soon.



      • Gerald, I must ask you something because I am not as knowledgeable with computer art as I’d like to be. What is the tablet/system called that you are “painting” with? I’m fascinated, intrigued and desirous! Thanks!


      • Donna,

        I asked him that same question. He is using a discontinued Wacom Cintiq 20WX tablet. It was smaller than the 21UX and cheaper. I’ve been checking out the Cintiq 21 UX. The cheapest price is $1,999, but there aren’t any available to buy due the the sumani that hit Japan. It looks like a 3 to 4 month wait. You can get a small one that is 12 inches for $999. We need to find a Sugar Daddy or we better start saving now. I’m drooling for one and even if I wanted to charge it, I still couldn’t get one right now.

        I saw your article and artwork. It looks good, but wouldn’t it be fun to play around with it? I don’t think you have Photoshop, so that would be more money. You could get Corel Painter, but then that is still an additional cost. Don’t do anything without checking with me first.



      • Donna,

        That is great that you have Photoshop. We’ll have to get together sometime so I can teach you how to use it. Remember I teach Photoshop. I absolutely love it. Gerald said he was so good at Photoshop, that he didn’t take the time to learn Painter and that is exactly what I have done. It takes a lot of practice to get good at a software program and it is hard to take time that you don’t have to get expert at another program. I scan my art into the computer or I draw directly using the mouse. I got so good at that, that I haven’t bought a new drawing tablet. The one I have is extremely big and I have never been happy with it. If I get a new one, I will give you my old one.



    • Donna,

      Kathy mentioned that I use the 20WX. This particular model was discontinued about a year after the Cintiq hit the market. Initially I purchased the 12WX and its also a great tool. However, it can be challenging to work on larger pieces on a screen not much bigger than a laptop monitor. I was sold on the user experience and so I sold the 12WX and bought the larger 20WX.

      Beyond the advantage of drawing directly on the monitor, the Cintiq offers the advantage of spinning the screen like a normal piece of paper so you can hit the drawing from various angles. A tablet doesn’t allow such flexibility. I loved my Intuos, but the Cintiq is much more intuitive by an order of magnitude.

      When I committed to working digitally, it made sense to make the process as streamlined as possible. If you are wanting to make a transition to digital work, I would suggest beginning with the Intuos tablet while learning Photoshop. Even a small tablet will give give you a better handle on how to leverage Photoshop’s strengths as a tool for illustration.


  2. Amazing work. I found watching those videos hypnotic, inspiring and mind blowing! Thanks for finding Gerald Kathy and sharing with all of us. Brilliant!


  3. Oh, Kathy, I’m so drooling over that tablet, though I really don’t want to be working on something electronic all the time. It just looks like it could expedite SO much! I already know I can’t buy one any time soon,that’s for sure, but I’m so glad I could see it demonstrated this way! I keep saying “someday” for so many things lol

    And the article has been revised again due to having to eliminate half the ilustrations, so the text is a bit shorter too. It works either way, I think 🙂 It’s still not concrete yet though. Glad you like it!

    Also, when my boyfriend ordered his new laptop, he ordered Photoshop for me! The thing is, I have absolutely NO idea how to use it, but can you get a “pen” attachment like Gerald’s using? I can’t draw with a mouse! lol Unless maybe I can use its tail 😉


  4. Always so generous, Kathy 🙂 I can’t imagine ever getting good doing artwork with a mouse, but I guess it’s possible! 🙂


  5. Just to follow up, my system consists of:

    – iMac Intel Core 2 Duo, 3.06GHz processor, 4GB expanded SDRAM
    – Cintiq 20WX

    -Photoshop CS3 (I haven’t upgraded)
    -Illustrator CS3 (for more technical purposes)
    -Sketchbook Pro (wonderful program for the relative cheapness)

    I’ve found that my iMac (which I maxed out with as much memory as I could afford) has had more than enough power to work on files at 20″x11″ 300dpi files with heavy layers. There really is not need to invest in a tower, especially given the power of the newest iMac models. You get a computer and a monitor for one decent price.

    Hope that helps.



  6. Gerald, yes! ALL your responses helped tremendously! I’m not in a position to invest right now, but also didn’t know the true capabilities of this equipment until I saw your demonstration videos. I can’t thank you enough for sharing all this with us 🙂 It’s SO wonderful!

    I’m printing out everything you said for future reference. I keep faith that, in time, I WILL have an opportunity to invest in this! 😀


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