David Harrington’s affinity for art began at an early age, when he enthusiastically drew on floors, walls, furniture, and other inanimate objects. A native of southern California, Harrington pursued a career in illustration by enrolling in the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, where he earned a BFA with honors. As a student, his favorite classes were figure drawing and painting.
In his professional career, Harrington has illustrated numerous children’s books. He believes that they open a door to a new world, and he admits that he studied books for hours on end as a child. In addition to children’s illustrations, Harrington creates advertising images for toys, games, food packaging, educational materials, medical equipment, and various other products.
Bold lines, sharp contrast, and vibrant colors render Harrington’s images stunning and memorable. He portrays real emotions such as fun and excitement through playful and accentuated cartoon images. The clarity of detail that Harrington gives to the page can bring a child’s imagination to life. He is the recipient of a WWA Spur Awards Storyteller Award for his illustrations in Pecos Bill Invents the Ten-Gallon Hat. David lives with his wife and children in Laguna Hills, California.
Here is David sharing his process:
This illustration is from a book I’m currently working on where some bandits steal all the ice cream in town during the middle of summer!
First, very rough, fast sketches trying to capture the energy, mood, emotion etc. Once I have a rough sketch I like then I keep tracing it and making revisions until I get to the final sketch.
I put the final sketch on a medium value, textured background. I keep it on a separate layer so it can be removed later.
Starting with the face, I put down a thin, base skin tone letting the background texture show through. Then I start building up the dark tones adding just a little red color to the nose and cheeks and a few high lights.
I keep building up the darks and start introducing some blues, purples and greens into the shadows.
When I have the colors and values of the face where I want them, I’ll start on the rest of the figure working from light to dark.
For the ice cream, I put down a medium tone trying to let the background texture show through. I then added a lighter color to one side and hit the other side with a faint shadow.
Lastly, I added the background, leaving some of the original texture untouched. I removed the sketch and then I add fine line detail.
Spaghetti Smiles by Margo Sorenson – published by Pelican Publishing Press (September 15, 2014). How many books have you illustrated for Pelican Publishing?
Spaghetti Smiles was just released and that was the fifth book I’ve illustrated for Pelican Publishing and I’m working on another right now.
How long have you been illustrating?
I’ve been illustrating professionally for about 25 years.
How did you decide to attended At Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA to study fine art?
During high school I took some Saturday classes at Art Center and fell in love with the school.
You say in your bio that figure drawing and painting were your favorite classes? Is that still a favorite thing for you to illustrate?
Absolutely, anytime there are figures in an illustration, whether they are stylized or realistic, it’s always fun and they bring life to the piece.
What was the first art related work that you were paid?
I painted store windows at Christmas time when I was a teen.
Did the School help you get work?
Yes they did, I got some work doing movie poster concept sketches for Warner Brothers right after graduation.
Do you feel the classes you took in college have influenced you style?
I don’t know, my style has been changing over the years.
What type of work did you do right after you graduated?
About six months after graduating I took a full time job as an art director/illustrator at a small company doing mostly sports art.
How did you make the decision to jump into freelance work?
I had been trying to make the transition to freelance by working at night but then when I got laid off unexpectedly from my full time job, I decided that -Now is the time.
When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for children?
I did a lot of soft drink advertising work for a good client and he asked me if I could illustrate a Children’s book, so I gave it a shot- and loved it!
When and what was the first children’s book that you illustrated?
It was called Gabby, about a little girl and a science fair project that went wrong resulting in a giant bubble-gum monster.
Do you consider that book to be your first big success?
No, but it opened my eyes to how much fun Children’s book are to illustrate. I love creating characters.
Do you have an agent or artist rep.?
No, I don’t have a representative but am not opposed to one either.
Do you have any desire to write and illustrate your own picture book?
Yes I have written some books and hope to be an Author/illustrator someday.
Are you the same David Harrington who does fantasy art?
No that is another David Harrington, although I have done some fantasy art over the years.
How did you get the contract to illustrate, Since We’re Friends: An Autism Picture Book at Sky Pony Press?
I don’t remember how I got that contract, but I remember it was two books.
How long did you have to illustrate each one?
The whole process from sketches to final illustration takes about four to five months.
Would you be willing to work with an author who wants to self-publisher their picture book?
Yes I would if I like the story.
What illustrating contract do feel really pushed you down the road to a successful career?
I did about a dozen Book covers for Pee Wee Scouts from Random House and that led to more work.
When is the title of the pirate book that you are working on and when is it coming out? Is that your next book that will hit the book shelves?
It’s a cowboy book titled Whistling Willie and should be released in the Spring of 2015.
Have you done illustrations for any children’s magazines?
Yes, mostly Club House magazine.
What materials do you use to paint your color illustrations?
Well it started with acrylic paint and pencils and over the years has transitioned to a Mac computer, graphic tablet and Photoshop.
What types of things do you do to find illustration work?
Once or twice a year I send out promotional post cards to publishers. But word of mouth is how I get most of my work.
What is the one thing in your studio that you could not live without?
Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?
I try to find time to experiment and learn new techniques or try different media. I love oil painting and sculpting!
Do you take pictures or do any types of research before you start a project?
Yes I do a lot of on-line research and look for inspiration.
Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?
Yes, it has changed everything about this business, from research to communication to the way finished projects are delivered.
Do you use Photoshop, Illustrator, or Corel Painter with your illustrations?
Yes, Photoshop and sometimes Illustrator. I have tried painter and that’s a good program too.
Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet in your illustrating?
Yes, Wacom Cintiq, it’s amazing!
When did you start using the computer to paint your illustrations?
That was a very slow transition, about 15 years ago I would just add the final details to an illustration in Photoshop. Then at some point I would finish a painting half way and then complete it with the computer using a mouse. Now, all or almost all of the art is created using a Graphic Tablet.
What are you working on now?
Right now I’m jugging about 12 different illustration jobs including Whistling Willie from Pelican Publishing.
Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.
My favorite is Winsor & Newton oils on canvas, from Art Supply Warehouse in Westminster, CA
Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?
Yes, I would like to illustrate the stories I’ve written.
Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?
You must be persistent, never give up and always strive to improve.
Thank you David for sharing your journey and process with us. Please let us know when your new picture book comes out , in addition to all your future successes. We’d love to see them and hear about them, so we can cheer you on. You can visit Daivd at: http://www.davidharrington.com/
If you have a moment I am sure David would like to read your comments. I enjoy reading them, too, even if I don’t always have time to reply. Thanks!