After getting his BFA in painting from the University of Texas, Robert Eberz worked as a set designer for the movie and television industry in Hollywood California. It wasn’t until he was asked to illustrate an article for a children’s magazine that he discovered his passion creating artwork for kids. Since then, his illustrations have appeared in children’s books, educational material, and magazines.
Robert loves to create artwork that is colorful and whimsical. He uses a variety of media for his art including watercolors, acrylic paint, and colored pencils. He also creates many of his images digitally and is as comfortable with his stylus and pad as he is with the paintbrush and canvas.
At home, Robert (aka “Bobby”) was born in San Antonio, Texas and has a sister named Laura, a dog photographer, and a brother Scotty who is a policeman. Together they grew up all over the United States, living in 16 different houses and 7 states throughout their childhood. He shares his studio with his pug “Sukie”, and Rhodesian Ridgeback “Tyler”. Robert currently resides San Francisco, California.
Here is Robert explaining his 3-D Art Process for “Mouse Cottage” diorama:
Concept sketch and supplies. Craft plywood, straight edge, cutting tools.
After all of the parts are cut, sanded, and glued, it’s time for a primer coat and the painting begins.
I sculpted faux river rock out of Sculpey Clay, glued them in place then spackled in between the rocks to give the illusion of cement. After all of the cottage is painted I age it down a bit with sandpaper and a wash of raw umber.
Secured the cottage in a shadowbox and on a base. I drilled holes in the floor of the cottage and in back so I could install a lighting source. Paint the background and base. I decided on a autumnal sunset since the scene takes place at Halloween.
I sculpted the separate elements like the mouse and other props out of clay to be attached after I completed the cottage. The tricky part was sewing Miss Mouse’s tiny costume.
Same with the cookies.
Landscaping the scene is the last stage of the project as well as last minute adjustments.
The final piece with the lights turned on.
How long have you been illustrating?
I got my first “professional” book assignment a week after I signed with my agency which was about eight years ago.
What was the first thing you created where someone paid you for your work?
When I was in fifth grade I entered a drawing contest called; “How to Save Electricity” in our local newspaper. I drew a man and a woman eating dinner by candlelight. I won a first-place check for $50.00. If I remember correctly I blew the money on a skateboard, a bunch of comics and a Slip ‘N Slide.
How did you decide to attend the University of Texas for painting?
I’m originally from Texas and when I decided to quit the film business in Hollywood, the University of Texas at Tyler seemed like the logical choice at the time geographically. Close to friends and family. The reason I ended up majoring in painting was because they (UT Tyler) didn’t offer an advertising program which was what I had originally intended on majoring in. My advisor at the time challenged me to give the fine art program a try and I was glad I did. UT Tyler employs world class teachers I was fortunate enough to meet and learn from.
What types of classes did you take that really helped you to develop as an illustrator?
Painting gave me a chance to spread my wings and try a medium I had never attempted. Before school I was a die hard watercolor and ink artist, but painting gave me much more freedom and helped me to develop visual storytelling skills.
How did you end up working as a set designer out in Hollywood?
After I dropped out of college (the first time) I wandered around aimlessly from job to job trying to discover what it was I wanted to do. A friend of mine who was a set decorator in Hollywood came to town on a vacation and saw my miniscule portfolio. I had taken some architecture classes and had a few set designs in my book. He asked me if I’d liker to work on a movie he was filming in Los Angeles and I accepted.
How many years did you do that job?
I worked in the film business for about eight years. I started as an production assistant and worked my way to Production Designer.
Are you now working full time illustrating?
Yes. And loving every minute of it.
How many children’s books have you illustrated?
I’m currently working on my twenty-fifth children’s book. Nine of those were for the children’s educational market and the rest are trade.
What was the first picture book that you illustrated? When did that happen?
Robot-Cat by Jeanne Willis was my first book assignment. That was about eight years ago.
It looks like HarperCollins has published many of your books. How did you make that connection?
I met them through my wonderful agent at Wilkinson Studios. An opportunity came up that Harper Collins was looking for an artist they could license to illustrate the Splat the Cat ICR (I Can Read) series. After ‘auditioning’ several sample pieces and competing against many artists, I landed the job and have been the licensed illustrator for Splat the Cat for about six years now. Splat is a wonderful creation by Rob Scotton and everyone at Harper Collins has been a joy to work with. I’ve learned so much.
How many books have you done with HarperCollins? Do you think the series will continue?
I’m currently working on my sixteenth book. Based on what I’ve read about the sales of the books, the Splat the Cat ICR series is doing very well. Splat has even made some top ten publishers lists. As far as I know, Splat the Cat will continue.
Do you think your style has evolved since you attended college?
Absolutely. And continues to do so every year.
Do you use Photoshop in any of your work?
Yes I do. PS5 and Corel Painter 11
Would you consider working with an author who wants to self publish?
Most definitely! I always feel honored when an author wants me to illustrate their story. I think it’s wonderful that authors have another option to get their stories out to the public. All they have to do is contact my agent to get the ball rolling.
Have you worked with educational publishers? If so, which one’s?
Yes. The first part of my career was all educational work. Some of the publishers I’ve done work for are Harcourt Achieve, McGraw Hill, Scholastic, Weekly Reader Magazine.
Have you done any artwork for magazines?
Yes. Before I landed an agent I designed a lot of logos. I also did some still photography for fashion and home accessory ads. Anything to pay the bills really.
Have you ever tried to write and illustrate a children’s book?
As a matter of fact, yes. My agent is currently shopping a few of my own books to publishers as we speak.
I notice Wilkinson Studios represents you. How did you connect with them?
I got a call from my agent after they received one of my promotional postcards. Up to that point I had sent out loads of cards. I could never decide on one particular style so I had several made. I still wonder to this day how many eyes rolled when publishers and art directors saw yet another version of “Robert Eberz – Illustrator” postcard land on their desks.
Do you do any types of promotion on your own to get your work seen by publishing professionals?
Other than my own website and social media, I’m embarrassed to say no, I don’t. I’ve been pretty busy with my Splat the Cat illustrations and loads of other projects, so my schedule it pretty tight right now. It’s not the smartest move to ignore promotions, but I have plans to get that sorted as soon as possible.
Have you gotten any work through networking or the Internet?
Yes. I can’t stress enough the importance of networking and the internet. Fifteen years ago I would have smirked at that statement, but not now.
When will your new website be finished?
Yes, sadly it’s still “under construction”. I feel naked without it. In my eagerness to re-design my website and include my newest work, I forgot I am contractually bound to NOT publish photos of any art I create for books that have not been released yet. I had to put the breaks on the re-do for now, but all of that will be sorted out within a week or so and I’ll be up and running by February 13 at the latest. Should anyone need to reach me for a professional inquiry, I can be reached through my agent at Wilkinson Studios @ 1121 East Main Street #310, St. Charles, IL 60174
Do you use software for painting like Photoshop or Painter?
Yes. I use PS5 and Corel Painter 11. Next to my glasses, they are a necessity for me in my work.
Do you own a graphic tablet? If so, how do you use it?
Yes. I use a Yiynova Graphics tablet for almost everything I do in illustration. It’s more cost friendly than the amazing Cinq, but also does a great job. I love it.
How much time do you spend illustrating?
I spend about eight hours a day, six days a week on illustration. The reminder of my time goes to my other projects and one day for family time.
Do you have a studio set up in your house?
Yes I do. It’s my sanctuary and sometimes my prison. Seriously though, anyone who’s ever faced deadlines on three book projects at one time can relate. But at the end of the day I am truly grateful I am fortunate to be able to pursue my passion.
Does San Francisco have a strong art community?
Yes, it does. It’s vibrant, and diverse. There is much beautiful art to be experienced there and artists look out for one another. Unfortunately, the soaring cost of living has driven many artists away in my opinion.
How did you start doing 3-D art? How long have you been doing that?
In addition to illustrating children’s books I create holiday themed “art dolls”. I’ve always been a big fan of holidays and I derive much pleasure from creating whimsical characters, costumes and props. I have been creating these dimensional sculpts for about the last five years and have dedicated a portion of my studio for this work. I call it “Grimm Grinz Studio”
Do you sell those pieces independently or are they commissioned?
Both. Through my Grimm Grinz Studio page on Facebook, and my blog, I hold bi-monthly (sometimes monthly) “web-sales” of a collection of characters I have created. Through Facebook I have landed quite a few commissions from collectors of holiday art. I also produce an annual Halloween art show in Seattle called “Hallowbaloo” that features other art doll artists from around the country. My show partner and I have already begun plans for this year’s show. You can find Hallowbaloo on Facebook and on our website for more details.
Any picture books on the horizon?
Yes (fingers still crossed), but I better not say much more because I am a tad superstitious. But, I guarantee you I’ll make the announcements when the contracts are signed!
30. What are your career goals?
One of my goals is to develop better strategies for time management and to have a better understanding of the business side of things. I’m constantly working on ways of improving my art, but somehow I neglect things that are not my favorite, but are essential to a self-employed person.
What are you working on now?
Currently on my desk are manuscripts I am illustrating for two new Splat the Cat books, and a Japanese fable.
Are there any painting tips (materials, paper, etc.) you can share that work well for you? Technique tips?
Since I work digitally on most of my illustrations I highly recommend a graphics monitor. I used a Wacom pen and tablet for a long time, but when I switched to the Yiynova graphics monitor it was like night and day. Its much more intuitive. I also highly recommend you step away from your work periodically. Take a five to ten minute break every hour then come back to your illustration. Seeing your work with a fresh eye will definitely make a difference in the end.
Any words of wisdom you can share with the illustrators who are trying to develop their career?
-Draw, draw, draw, then draw some more.
-Read, read, read.
-Always carry a sketchbook with you wherever you go. It’s cliché, but it works. You never know when the next great idea will strike, and it’s usually when your in line at the post office. (cont.)
-Have a website that is simple and easy to navigate. There’s no excuse to not have one these days and its vital to your career. Forget all the bells and whistles. Art directors and publishers have little time to navigate through complex websites. (cont.)
-Send out those postcards! Buy the latest edition of the Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market for the most current and up-to-date info on publishers, submission guidelines and agencies. I find it’s cheapest on Amazon.
-Don’t get hung up on having a “style”. Yes, its important, but time will help you out with that one.
-The wheels of publishing turn very slowly — be patient.
Thank you Robert for sharing your process and journey with us. Please let us know about all your future successes. We’d love to cheer you on. You can see more of Robert’s work on his web site: http://www.roberteberz.com/ or his blog: http://roberteberz.blogspot.com/
If you have a moment I am sure Robert would like to read your comments. I enjoy reading them, too. Thanks!