Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 21, 2012

Illustratior Saturday – Kevin O’Malley

This week I spent sometime getting to know author and illustrator, Kevin O’Malley. I am going to give you a link to one of his school visit videos, because not only is he a tremendously successful, talented children’s book illustrator and author, but he is extremely funny. I watched his whole school visit and he had me laughing right along with the kids. You can’t help but like this man. I am sure you will enjoy watching it, too.

Take a look and see how he keeps the kids entertained. http://henrico.k12.va.us/hcpstv/VA-Kevink-2.html

The bio below gives you an hint of his humor.

The yellow sticky note was written by Melissa Turk, his artist rep. Makes me think she has a good sense of humor, too.

Here’s Kevin’s rough set up for you.

This book ‘Once upon a cool motorcycle dude’ is about a boy and girl who can’t agree on how to tell their favorite fairy tale.

I wrote this book with the idea of using two other illustrators. I can draw fairly well but if I’m asked to draw a princess she might just look like me in a wig. I need Carol Heyer to draw the sweet and lovely images that the girl uses in her story. Scott Gotto needed to express to attitude of the boy.

I wrote up the story in a 32 page dummy book I have made up with a print service. (I always work with staple bound pre made dummies. It allows me to beat them up and toss the if I don’t care for what going on.) I sketched out all the pictures and emailed them to Scott and Carol to give them a rough Idea of what I had to include. The rough position of my character and the word balloons.

I set to work on the kids in the story. Which didn’t take to terribly long. Except that I was surprised how interested the editors were in the outfit that the little girl was wearing. I think I drew about ten different styles of hair as well. I redrew them in pencil and created a zip-a-tone pattern with the shadows.

Then I simple added a nice flat photoshop coloring.

I didn’t see Carol or Scott’s work until the designer and I received all the file from both of them. We layed my pixs on the art we received and added a shadow.

Finished Cover Below.

KT: When did you start illustrating?

KEVIN:I started as a profession illustrator straight out of college but I didn’t get my first book published until 1990 or so.

KT: What was the first thing you did and got paid for?

KEVIN: Believe it or not, I was payed to do a job advertising ATM machines. They were brand new at the time and people didn’t understand the idea.
HAH!

KT: What was the first picture book that you illustrated?

KEVIN:‘Froggy went A’Courtin’ It was published by the former Mr Martha Stewart.

KT: How did you get that job?

KEVIN: It’s an odd thing but sometimes you get lucky. Mr. Stewart, of Stewart, Tabori and Chang, published my book because he use to sing ‘Froggy’ when he was in college.

Kevin: Do you think your illustrations sold the book?

KEVIN: Probably but my take on the old song amused Mr. Stewart.
My frog was a gangster who robs a bank. I changed the text to fit my needs and finished the book with the line: “Where Froggy’s livin’ sure isn’t heaven cause now he’s doin’ seven to eleven.”

Below is a page from HOW THEY CROAKED. It belongs to the part of the book that feature James A. Garfield. Unusal facts and Kevin’s artwork makes it look like a very interesting book. Did you know that it is believed that Henry VIII’s remains exploded within his coffin while lying in state? You can look inside.

KT: How many books have you written and illustrated?

KEVIN: I think my name is on over 70 books now. Most are out of print. Most are third world fuel or laminated into Ikea coffee tables.

KT: What was the first book that you wrote and illustrated?

KEVIN: ‘Froggy went A’Courtin’

KT: Which of your books is your favorite?

KEVIN: All I ever want to do since I was a kid was picture books. It took me a long time to get published. I think ‘Froggy went A’Courtin’ will always be my favorite.

The above illustration is an example of Kevin’s earlier work.

KT: Did you belong to a critique group?

KEVIN: No, I have never been part of a crit group.

KT: How did you Melissa Turk and you get connected?

KEVIN: It was suggested by a very kind editor at Jim Henson’s publishing wing that I contact three agents. Melissa was kind enough to take me on.

KT: Is looks like you use watercolors. Do you use other types of paint, too?

KEVIN: I like to change my style to fit the needs of the text. I have used every imaginable material to complete my end of the project.
Pencils, oil, watercolor, computer even Cray-paz.

KT: Did you go to school for art? If so, where?

KEVIN: I went to the Maryland Institute College of art. I graduated in 1983.

KT: Did that help develop your style?

KEVIN: The beauty of art school is that it lets you develop your craft. Changing styles to fit class requirements. Maybe the best part is hanging around other artist. I know I remember my college days quite fondly. I met my wife at MICA.

KT: Could you share how your style may have changed over the years?

KEVIN: I don’t think my style has changed. It certainly has gotten better, more professional, over the years but I still draw the same way. In fact it’s a bit of a disappointment that it hasn’t changed more.

KT: Do you use Photoshop during the process of illustrating?

KEVIN: I use photoshop as a cut and paste devise as well as a coloring system. I’m very poor at laying down flat color with paint. Photoshop does not have that problem.

KT:Do you own and graphic tablet? If so, which one? What does a graphic tablet bring to your art tool box.

KEVIN: I have always worked with a mouse. I had a tablet but didn’t care for it’s texture the smooth feel when I was drawing.

KT: It looks like Walker Books keeps you pretty busy doing books for them. Do you have time to fit in other publishers?

KEVIN: I think I might be one of the original OCD boys. I work very quickly. I’ve done as many as 6 books in one year. But Walker Bloomsbury have kept me quite busy and I am grateful to them.

KT: Do publishers get offended if you accept work from other houses?

KEVIN: There is some concern that folks will only by one of my books in any given year. Publishers do bring up the issue occasionally. I honestly don’t think that many people are making the tough call of which Kevin O’Malley book to buy. It seems silly.

KT: Do you have a studio?

KEVIN: I work just about everywhere in my house but the primary studio is in the attic.

KT: Do you follow a daily routine?

KEVIN: I do a lot of school visit during the year. Scheduling or creating a routine gets harder and harder. When I was a young guy I worked around my children’s schedule. Up early and done by 2:00 o’clock or so.

KT: I hear you do a lot of school visits. How did you get the ball rolling with the schools?

KEVIN: I solicited a couple of local schools and charged them a nice low rate. After that word of mouth started to get me gigs.

Do you do anything on a regular basis with the schools to keep getting visits?

KEVIN: This year I did send out notes to librarians that are within three hours of Baltimore. The hardest part of the school visit gig is the travel time. I’m in Iowa for a week coming up and you never know what will happen to the schedule when you’re flying

KT: What type of things do you do at a school visit?

KEVIN: I do stand up comedy for the kids. I want to make them go home complaining that their faces hurt. Inside my talk are a lot of messages about trying, suffering and practice. I alway retell a fairy tale in a contemporary fashion.

KT: Is there one book that the kids always want to talk about?

KEVIN: By the time I get done the seem to have forgot how to ask ‘good’ questions. Usually they are just lit up.

KT: Are there any marketing things you have done that helped you get additional work?

KEVIN: Be on it. Make a list of goals for the day. Do it every day. If you get a gig from somebody, be grateful.

KT: Do you have any words of wisdom for your fellow illustrators that might help them become more successful?

KEVIN: If you can’t handle somebody telling you no than you probably shouldn’t be self employed.

Thank you Kevin for sharing a little of your books and artwork. We can see why you have been so successful. You can visit Kevin at http://www.booksbyomalley.com/ Please take a minute to leave Kevin a comment.
Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Responses

  1. Kevin, Thank you for sharing your beautiful artwork and sense of humor. I just finished watching your school visit with a Kindergarten class. Not an easy task to keep 5 yr olds mesmerized. Your illustrations are wonderful.
    Barb Massa

    Like

  2. I love Mr. O’Malley’s work. These illustrations are delightful. There is lot’s of personality and character in all of his drawings. Great share, Kathy! 🙂

    Like

  3. Kevin,
    I thoroughly enjoyed watching your presentation to the Kindergarten – 2nd grade classes!! Your sense of humor is INCREDIBLE (but then I laugh hysterically at Spongebob Squarepants…). Your connection with the little ones is so great, I’m going to show the video to my 2nd grader grandson… I know he’ll love it!
    Oh….. did I mention that your talent for illustrating is wonderful? Such a variety of looks! Not many artists have that capability. Terrific interview! I learned so much!

    Like

  4. The video clip was terrific! My 9 yr old belly-laughed for half an hour! Way to do an outstanding school visit.

    Like

  5. I absolutely adored this post. What an exciting glimpse into an illustrator’s work. Kevin O’Malley is one funny guy! 🙂

    Like

  6. Wonderful interview! Love the art & the attitude! I tried the school clip – but the video quit after about 2 min. w/some grumpy dialog box….grrrr. Will try later.

    Like

  7. Thank you Kathy and everybody who took the time to look over my work.
    Your comments warm my heart.

    PS: I showed my wife. She handed me a list of home projects that should decrease the size of my head.

    Like

  8. I just love my copy of “How They Croaked.” Kevin is such a facile and talented illustrator!!

    Like

  9. Thank you E.R.
    (Your name is quite fitting for a book about croaking.)

    Like


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