Posted by: Kathy Temean | July 6, 2013

Illustrator Saturday – Matthew Vimislik


So you don’t have to strain your eyes, here is what the above text says:
In addition to illustrating children’s books, magazines, and packaging, Matthew dabbles in books for the iPad, several completed for Vivabooks by Mythos Machine. He is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and is currently represented by Nicole Tugeau of Tugeau2

Clinets include Carus Publishing, Stories for Children Magazine, “VivaBooks” by Mythos Machine,, and Honorbound.

Here is Matthew discussing his process:

Step 1: First, I start out with a sketch.  I used to start out with pencil sketches, but since then, I’ve moved onto doing them digitally – I can move stuff around much more easily, and it keeps the images from looking static, and make changes to the image without worrying about losing the original sketch.  For instance, the expressions here look alright, but after messing around a bit… vimAStep2Step 2:  …I got some goofier expressions like this that look more like something I’d like to draw.


Step 3:  I take the sketch, and apply colors.  I don’t necessarily have to keep to this color palette exactly (the absence of the blackline will change the image a LOT), but it sets the mood, and gives me a sense of color and light that I can try to keep the image to throughout the painting process.


Step 4:  I take two copies of the color comp; one that I keep at 100% opacity so I can refer to it frequently while I illustrate, and another copy I keep at about 10% opacity that I will leave on a lot to work on the painting underneath.  I block out sections of the image with a pen tool, and using a layer mask, I’ll paint inside those shapes.  The layer mask makes it easy for me to apply a quick backlight if need be, without a lot of finesse.  I’ll work on it in chunks like you see here, otherwise I get CRAZY bored.


Step 5:  After I paint everything and make a few color tweaks, the final image looks like this!


How long have you been illustrating?

I had my first serious gig in October 2009.


I see you graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology. Can you tell us a little bit about that school?

It had a good illustration program – they really encouraged personal style and development, and the staff made sure they were available when you needed them.  When I went, the class size was pretty small, so I got to know everyone in the program.

I also lucked out, and managed to live in a dorm floor with mostly art students, so I was surrounded by other artists 24/7, which in a tech school is a rare treat.


What types of classes did you take?

A pretty standard assortment of art classes, and then lots of courses in postmodernism and film theory.  Ironically, I ended up dropping my Children’s Book Art class, because I am a DARING REBEL that REFUSES TO PLAY BY THE RULES.  *guitar solo here*


Did you have a focus in on any area of art?

LOTS of digital illustration courses. 


Did you study cartoon drawing?



What type of things help you develop your graphic style?

I used to do my final illustrations fairly realistically, but my sketches were always goofy and cartoony.  One of my art professors told me, “I like your sketches better than your final work, they have a lot of energy to them.”  So I spent a couple years “unlearning” a lot of my realistic tendencies.  My characters have been looking pretty static lately though, so I’ve been sifting and doing some sketches of work from Tony Millionaire, Tim Schafer, Thurop Van Orman, really any sort of artist that tickles my fancy.


What was the first thing you did where someone paid you for your artwork?

When I was 10, Pokemon was ALL THE RAGE, so I started drawing in my medium of choice, Microsoft Paint.  I made a series of Pokemon pictures, nine to a page on thick card stock that fit nicely inside collectible card carrying cases.  I sold them for a quarter a piece and signed them, so a lot of the kids in my neighborhood had a picture or two they kept to show off.


Have you done any work for children’s magazines? 

I do a lot of work for the various Cobblestone Magazines: Appleseeds, Calliope, Odyssey, Spider, etc.  


How long have you been represented by Nicole Tugeau? How did you and Nicole connect with each other?

I was listening to an art and illustration podcast with Dani Jones, and she spoke very highly of Nicole, so I sent off my portfolio, thinking I would at the most get a very polite “no”.  Instead, I got an agent.


When did you decide you wanted to illustrate a children’s book?

I used to show my portfolio around all the time at various functions, thinking my work had the off-beat and weird stylings of stuff I’d seen in “Hi-Fructose” or “Juxtapoz”.  Heck, my portfolio included an image of Paul McCartney’s intestines  being devoured by a giant Heather Mills Spider with a fake leg.  All the art directors would assume I was a children’s book artist though, so I rolled with it. 


I noticed that you have four digital books for children on Amazon. All published in 2012. All published by Amazon Digital. How did that deal come about?

I realized I needed a lot more practice with pen and brushwork, so over about 3 weeks, I wrote and illustrated four books that are criminally dumb, but they made me giggle while I came up with the concepts.


Have you illustrated any print books?

I’m finishing up a book series now for StoneArch Publishing, which should have some advance copies coming out in a couple months.  I’m not sure if I can tell you much more!


Do you have any desire to write and illustrate your own book?

Right now I’m working on some comic books – I’ve built up a portfolio of 50 some-odd pages of comics, but they’re all in various states of development, and a lot of them SCREAM for color.  I’ve been getting them done between client gigs, but it’s slow work.  I’m going to have a pitch ready in October for the New York Comic-Con.

As far as a kids chapter book or something, I have some ideas I’m knocking around, but they are still primordial soup in the virgin molten world that is my noodlespace.


Did you design your own website?

Haha, yeah, I did all the coding too!

This is actually the 4th iteration of the website – my first portfolio site had a monster eating a 3-layered ice cream cone, with each of the ice cream flavors being a link to a different part of my portfolio (that website was the sole reason I got an internship at Cartoon Network).  The next one was a website where a painting of me sleeping in the corner led to a thought bubble where my portfolio was.  The next version had a robot destroying the city with all of the portfolio pieces in a screen on it’s belly.  I did this one in early 2011, adding a rocket kid, and changing the design of the robot, and it is an absolute PAIN to update.  I’ll be uploading a much more vanilla design sometime in the next few months.  


Have you taken advantage of showing off your portfolio at one of SCBWI national conferences?

Once, at the 2010 Winter Conference in NYC.  Granted, I was BRUTALLY under prepared – I just had a portfolio of about 20 images, all color, no examples of how it would be used for a final product, no book dummy, and honestly no idea about what sort of market I could appeal to.


Do you do all your digital work in Photoshop?

Yup!  Years of pirating Photoshop innoculated me against the desire to learn how to use something cheaper.


Do you use a Graphic tablet to draw?

I picked up a Wacom Intuos 4 last January to replace my old tablet; I’m hoping it lasts me long enough until I can afford a Cintiq, or until technology advances enough that neural implants can make my strange imaginings come to life on the screen.


Have you studied animation?

No, which I’m sort of regretting right now.  I’ve done a lot of New Media work that’s called for simple animations, so I’ve been sort of learning it on the fly, especially any shortcuts that can limit the frames of animation.  I’ve watched a lot of Hanna-Barbara cartoons to figure out some of the basics.


Do you think your art was influenced by any other illustrators?

I grew up when Klasky-Csupo was one of the dominant animation studios, so you can see some influence from there, especially my color palettes.  I was also CRAZY obsessed with indie comics, anime, and SNES-era games.  I can’t think of a specific artist that was a huge influence, I just sort of pick up elements from artists that I like.  Specific names of artists that come to mind: Amadeo Modigliani, Jhonen Vasquez, Akira Toriyama, George Herriman, Edward Gorey and Peter Chung.


Do you try and spend a certain amount of hours every day working on your art?

I have more of a tendency to binge draw; I’ll spend a couple weeks where I’m drawing and drawing like CRAZY, and then a week where I might just do a few sketches, and spend a lot of time reading, or getting some non-art work done.  For the last six months though, I’ve had a LOT of client work, so I’ve been working nearly constantly; maybe after all the hullabaloo I’ll try to keep a schedule going. 


Do you ever do any artwork using traditional materials?

All of my black and white work starts with brush and ink on paper, and I’ll color it later on the computer.  At the last New York Comic Con I was at, I ended up meeting a comic artist from my hometown who informed me my inking was TERRIBLE, so I’ve been hard at work redoing a lot of old comic pages, finding new, better materials to work with, and practicing a BUNCH to give myself a sure hand. 


Do you take pictures or research before you start a project?

Haha, I did some work for the Australian/New Zealand division of Oxford University Press, and I had to do a LOT of research just to understand what I was drawing.  I had to look up local flora and fauna to find plants that looked “Australian”, I had to look up local cars, and even just what certain words meant in Australia (example:  “torch” means “flashlight”, not “burning stick”).


Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

My first professional clients were from Singapore, who I found from a random freelance site, a lot of my clients come through online directories that I pay to be on, and maybe 60% of what I have made total from freelancing has come from projects that hinge on the internet to work, so yeah, the internet has been pretty important for me professionally.

On the downside, cute cat videos reduce my work productivity immensely.


Do you think your style has changed over the years? Have your material changed?

The figures have been steadily getting more stylized: larger, buggier eyes, thinner limbs, arms that curve and bend more, and they have a lot more energy to their stances.

My physical tools haven’t changed much (I’m using a drawing tablet on a desktop in photoshop), but my digital tools have!  I used to use just the pen tool, fill, and airbrush, but now I use more textured brushes, and harder brushes with a slightly soft edge to them.  There was a period of time that I used hard brushes on a light opacity, thinking it would give my pieces a more traditional look, but instead it made them look UGLY.


How do you market yourself?

At the suggestion of fellow Tugeau 2 artist Courtney Martin, I started putting myself on, which has been working out REALLY well for me, and has been paying for itself every year.  Otherwise, I let Nicole do a lot of the marketing for me.


vimfloatingDo you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

-Get my own comic book series or graphic novel published

-Write and illustrate a book a semi-popular book that becomes a major hit and a cultural touchstone  after I pass away, and gets adapted into two movies, both of middling quality and success

-Have an animation studio hire me to write and do character designs and concepts for a cartoon pilot, which no network picks it up, but the pilot becomes such a hit on youtube, that Netflix picks it up as a mini-series, so I write a great one-season storyline, and it gets picked up for two more seasons before I gracefully leave, and the show continues for another two seasons without me.


What are you working on now?

I’m finishing up some covers for a new book series, and getting a comic pitch ready for the New York City Comic-Con, and coloring some old black and white comics I finished up last year.


Do you have any digital creative tips you can share with us?

The UNDO button is the greatest tool in my digital arsenal, and I will use it often and with reckless abandon.  If I’m not using the UNDO button a lot in a piece, it means I didn’t explore as many visual possibilities as I could have.


Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful illustrator?

I would love some please, thank you!

Thank you Matthew for sharing you dynamic illustrations and process with us. I only see success in your future, so please let us know as they come your way.

You can find Matthew on his website: Please take a minute to leave a comment for Matthew. It is much appreciated.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. SO glad I was able to enjoy this art this week. Matthew, your work is SO distinct, and as Kathy said—dynamic! Your “dreams” cracked me up, and how could anyone not get a kick out of Ritz and Cheese 😉 Thanks for sharing!


  2. Great interview, lots of useful info. And I love the illustrations! Gotta love the cheese and crackers romance 🙂


  3. love your art Matthew…. smart of Nicole to snap you up! you’re dreams will be met….


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