Posted by: Kathy Temean | January 5, 2013

Illustrator Saturday – Patrick Girouard


When Patrick Girouard was growing up his teachers constantly scolded him for drawing monsters, robots and aliens during class.  Some years later he illustrated his very first book, Halloween Holiday Grab Bag, and got to put those hours of practice to good use.  Since then he has illustrated over one hundred books for children. They include Yikes- Lice!, winner of Science Books and Films Best Books, and I Have a Weird Brother Who Digested a Fly, a Society of School Librarians International Honor Book.

His clients include: Sesame Street Magazine, National Geographic World, Kid City, Spider, Weekly Reader, Highlights, USA Today, Click, Scholastic, Sterling, Albert A. Whitman. Oxford University Press, and Purdue University.

In addition to books, his work can be found on museum exhibits, greeting cards, t-shirts, games, toys, puzzles, odd scraps of paper, the margins of newspapers, and my Mom’s refrigerator door.  He loves coffee and robots, and hates writing about himself.

Patrick’s Robot collection below.


Patrick has loved Robots since he was a kid getting in trouble during school for constantly drawing them. Now he is doing exactly what he wants by drawing robots to his heart’s content and no one can say a word, except, “We love your robots and would love you to illustrate our books.” You will see many of Patrick’s robots in this post.

Here is Patrick sharing his process with us:


Although I do all of my painting digitally now, I still prefer to draw on paper. Sometimes I’ll draw all of the elements separately, and once scanned assemble them in Photoshop. When I get the drawing the way I like it I’ll print out a copy and redraw the whole thing on my light table so that the line is consistent.


Once scanned, I’ll open the drawing in Photoshop on three layers. I delete all of the white areas from the top two layers and keep the bottom just for insurance. If I screw something up I can always pull that area up from the bottom. The top layer holds the line and I do all of the painting on the middle. I like to paint over a toned background. A scan of a brown paper bag is my personal favorite, but for this drawing I used a scan of a watercolor wash.


You can see here how I build up layers of color using different brushes and levels of opacity. I’m basically painting with my tablet and stylus the same way I would using gouache or acrylics, but with the ability to change my mind about color with ease. The line layer is clicked off on this one.


Here it is with the line back in place. While working on this it occurred to me that the area at the bottom was kind of empty and boring, but working digitally made fixing that fairly easy…


with the addition of a pair of young spies. The top left corner looked kind of lonely as well, and I wanted this lab to be jam packed.


Finish piece.

Patrick flying car

I see that you studied art at Paier College of Art in CT. What year did you graduate? Can you tell us what type of classes you enjoyed the most at Paier?

I graduated in 1979 when it was still called the Paier School of Art. I think we were the last class to go the full four years before they began to offer a degree program. The first two years were very intense, like art boot camp with a focus on basics, culminating in what was called a Major Painting. It was a sharp focus still life, oil on masonite. We spent the entire second semester on it, along with a smaller trompe l’oeil painting. Once we made it through that the next two years were a lot more fun.


I got to study with Rudolph Zallinger and Leonard Fischer, both Pulitzer Prize winners. Mr. Zallinger’s wife, Jean Day Zallinger, was an accomplished children’s book illustrator and a favorite teacher of mine. We had an amazing watercolor teacher called Herbert Gute, who taught us ways to extend the limits of the medium with everything from Crest toothpaste to boiled seaweed. I’m sure I had some tough days there, but it seems like all of the memories I have now are warm and fuzzy.

patrick dragonbaby

Do you feel they helped develop your style?

They helped develop my work ethic, my curiosity, and my tenacity, but my style doesn’t really follow what I would think of as the Paier tradition. I certainly learned the basics of drawing and painting there, but they focused on a much more traditional and representational style.

Patrick alien leaving house

I love your robot illustrations.  Robots are very big now in children’s books.  Have you been sending them out to publishers?

Thank you! I have loved robots forever. Some of my earliest memories are getting yelled at by teachers for drawing them in class when I should have been doing something else. There is a large collection of them on the shelf above my desk right now. Robots have their own section on my website and are featured on my Etsy shop. A couple of robots are featured prominently on my current mailer.


What was your first book?

It was a book for Troll called Halloween Holiday Grab Bag, and I am happy to say it is long out of print!

Patrick Scarydebotil_570xN_263883534

How did that contract happen?

After graduating from art school I joined the flood of young hopefuls hitting up publishers in NYC. I had some positive responses, but a lot of art directors wouldn’t see me because I wasn’t represented by an agent. I interviewed with a few agents only to find out they weren’t interested because I hadn’t been published. Kind of a Catch-22 situation.


That fall I was offered a job in Chicago as a graphic artist. It wasn’t exactly what I wanted, but I could freelance evenings and weekends. Around that time a number of boutique greeting card companies began popping up. I had interviewed with Hallmark in Kansas City, but they didn’t work with freelancers, so I sent samples off to a number of smaller companies and began getting lots of work that way.


I also started getting assignments for magazines and newspapers, and over time developed a nice portfolio of published pieces. Eventually I submitted them to Paige Gillies at Publishers’ Graphics, an agency I had approached with no success right after graduating. This time they said yes, and the job for Troll Books was one of my first assignments through my new rep!


I see that you have illustrated a number of educational and activity books with Innovative Kids. They are also in CT. Did the college help you connect with them?

No, the only connection that I made through Paier was with Hallmark, who visited our campus during my last year and interviewed a number of seniors.


How did you connect with Children’s Press?

All of my book assignments come through my representation. In the beginning Publishers’ Graphics, and then after Paige retired through Bernadette Szost at Portfolio Solutions.


Was Children’s Press your entrée into working with Scholastic?

Hmm, it’s hard to remember. Scholastic is such a big company, and I’ve worked for a number of people in different areas. I did monthly illustrations for Instructor Magazine for about three years, I’ve done educational projects with them, books, all kinds of things.


How did you discover Teach Me Tapes and get to work with them?

That was through Bernadette, the project started out kind of small and ended up much bigger.

patrick flotbotil_570xN_229102152

What was the first illustrating job that you were paid for doing?

During my sophomore year I was hired by Subway to do weekly drawings for their corporate newsletter. It was the big time!


I see you have illustrated an number of books for the same author. Was this due to the relationship you built with the author or the publisher?

I can only imagine how scary it must be for an author to send their baby off into the world to be illustrated by someone else! So I hope the writers I have illustrated for are happy with my work, but with one or two exceptions I’ve never been in touch with any of them. In my experience repeat work has always come from positive relationships with art directors and editors.


What is your favorite medium?

I worked with ink and watercolor when I started out. I still draw on paper, but paint digitally for most assignments now. Lately I like to use acrylic gouache and pencil when doing things for fun.


I love your robot illustrations. Robots are very big now in children’s books. Have you been sending them out to publishers?

Thank you! I have loved robots forever. Some of my earliest memories are getting yelled at by teachers for drawing them in class when I should have been doing something else. There is a large collection of them on the shelf above my desk right now. Robots have their own section on my website and are featured on my Etsy shop. A couple of robots are featured prominently on my current mailer.


Do you have a story that could go with them?

Not yet…


Do you have any future plans to write and illustrate a picture book?

I have a couple of stories written, but haven’t done dummies yet. Maybe this year?


Do you feel the economy has had an impact on freelance illustrators?

Absolutely. Things have been painfully slow for the past couple of years and I know many incredibly talented people who are having to find ways to supplement their previously lucrative freelance careers. That being said, I have noticed an increase in new projects over the past year, and I hope it continues.


Are the Alphabet illustrations for a book that you are trying to sell?

No, I was asked to do a letter to be included in an alphabet book that would be auctioned off for a local charity. I had the letter M, and at the last minute another artist dropped out and I was asked to do his as well. The only specification was that the letter was included, and the art be 7.5 inches square.


I liked they way they turned out and sent copies to my agent. That led to a series of book cover jobs, and she suggested that I do the rest of the alphabet in my “spare time.” Two years later I finished them just in time to be included in a show at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art. I was asked to show them a couple of other places after that, and then they sat in a box in my studio closet. I opened a shop on Etsy in 2011 and they’re available there now.


Do you take pictures and do research when you get a new project?

Sometimes, especially if it’s for an educational job or represents something specific. I recently completed an illustration that is set at Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone Park. For something as specific as that I’ll get as much reference as I can. Once I drove up to Wisconsin to shoot reference photos of Revolutionary War reenactors. They were great!


Do you own a graphic tablet? If so, where and how do you use it?

I use a Wacom Intuos 4 with Photoshop for painting, but still feel most comfortable drawing with pen and pencil on paper.


What are the differences in doing a job for a small educational publisher and working for a larger trade publisher?

I don’t really see any difference. Maybe deadline length.


You have been very successful finding illustration work from many small publishers. How did you find them and get their business.

I really have to credit my agent for 90% of my work. Aside from that, I keep an internet presence with my websites and blog, and through membership in the Picture Book Artists Association ( I send postcards out to specific publishers and magazines, and have portfolios on a few sites like


How did you make your way from CT to the Mid-West?

I was offered a job in Chicago as a graphic artist. At the time I was struggling to be discovered and working in an ice factory, so any job that was above 28 degrees sounded good to me.


Do you have a studio in your house?

Yes. I had a separate studio for a while, but found myself bring work home anyway. Now I have a really nice workspace in our home.


Do you shut the door in order to keep away distractions?

Nope. And let’s face it, it would take a hundred doors to keep me from being distracted!


I like that you have an Etsy Shop with affordable prices. Now people can chose a wonderful illustration as a gift, instead of just a book. How long have you been on Etsy?

I think I opened it in the spring of 2011. I haven’t sold much, but it’s probably my own fault. There are plenty of ways to promote sales there, and I haven’t spent much time doing them. I love the idea of buying gifts for friends and family directly from artists though.


Can you share how you figure out who to work with and whether they are offering enough money to make it worth your time and effort?

That is always a challenge, especially when things are slow. I would hate accepting a low paying job out of desperation, only to find I need to pass on a better job that comes along because of the previous commitment. On the other hand, I have accepted jobs that paid very little just because they seemed interesting. Finding that balance is a neat trick, please let me know if you ever meet someone who knows how to do it!


How many books have you illustrated?

I’m really not sure about the number of books I’ve illustrated, lists 139.


What are you working on now?

I just got an assignment for Highlights High Five magazine, and I’m beginning a series of books for Child’s World. I’m also involved in a very interesting crowd sourced project that I can’t tell you about yet!


This was for an exhibit sponsored by Purdue University’s Entomology Dept. They were full page illustrations in an open book that’s six feet tall. The exhibit, called “What’s Bugging Belva?” premiere at the Indiana State Fair.


What would you still like to accomplish in your illustrating career?

Well, writing and illustrating my own books is still high up on that list. I have to say that I feel very fortunate to be able to make a living doing what I love. The world of illustration has changed so much from when I first started out, I just look forward to learning more and continuing to participate!


What is your favorite book that you illustrated?

That’s a hard call. Probably Halloween by Alice Flanagan. That’s my favorite holiday and I had a lot of fun doing that book. And maybe Paul Bunyan by Bill Balcziak, that was the first book I ever worked on digitally so it was kind of an adventure. I just realized they were both published by Compass Point!


Are there any words of wisdom you can share with the other illustrators about how to expand their opportunities and build career?

I don’t know… how about this? Draw more than you already do, read and listen more than you already do, and talk less than you already do. And if you ever meet me, please remind me to take my own advice!

Patrick Floater
Thank you Patrick for sharing you talent and process with us.  Before this, I always thought of Dan Yacarino and Dan Santat when I thought robots, but you are right up there with them, so I hope the editors and art directors notice.  I’d like to see some picture books about robots done by you.  I really feel like I got to know you better while doing this post.

If you would like to see more of Patrick’s illustrations you can visit him at: Please take a minute to let Patrick know what you thought of his interview and illustrations.  Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Such an inspiring interview! Love the work and hearing about his process with Photoshop. Thanks for posting!


  2. Thanks.It’s so helpful to find out how people work. I love the energy in the piece with the boy in the aquarium


  3. Like

  4. Such glorious fun in these images! Cool to think that some are taller than I am :0)


  5. Great interivew, Patrick! I’ve always loved your robots and spacemen. I love your humor – very clever!


  6. The man is obviously a genius.


    • Kevan,

      That is what I think, too. I hope some big publisher gets him to do a picture book, so he can knock everyone’s socks off.



  7. Patrick, your work is GREAT! Thank you (and Kathy) for sharing 🙂

    Tell me, what is it about robots? They seem to be the thing lately. Have you met Dan Yaccarino? He loves robots! It’s why he did BOY & BOT 🙂


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