Posted by: Kathy Temean | July 5, 2015

Illustrator Saturday (Sunday) – Mike Ciccotello – Give-away

Jeanne Balsam is the winner of Mike Ciccotello’s original art doodle coffee cup – “Gus and Oliver”.


Mike Ciccotello attended my workshop at the NJSCBWI in June. In preparation, I looked at his website and Internet presence and was quite impressed with what I found. He said he would love to be featured today and we came up with the first Illustrator Saturday with a give away. Not a book give away, but an original piece of Mike’s art from his Coffee Cup Doodle Project, titled “Gus and Oliver”. If you would like a chance of winning, then you need to leave Mike a comment below. You will get additional points if you share the link to this post on your facebook page, reblog, or Tweet with a link. Please let me know in the comment section what you did. I will do the drawing next Sunday, so you have all week to talk about Mike. Good Luck!


Give-away – Mike Ciccotello’s original art doodle coffee cup – “Gus and Oliver”.

Mike Ciccotello is a New Jersey-based artist, and creator of the Coffee Cup Doodle Project. He works in media ranging from illustration to animated motion graphics. In high school, he was selected and attended the NJ Governor’s School of the Arts program. He received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Mason Gross School of the Arts, at Rutgers University, with a concentration in painting.

He was an Art Director at CNN, as well as the Senior Real-Time Graphics Specialist at Fox Business Network. Currently, he is the Art and Design Director at Telos Corporation.  Ciccotello is a featured artist on, a website for a leading artist material manufacturer.

His illustrations have appeared on Fox Business Network, Fox News Channel, and CNN. His work has also been featured in NJ Brew Magazine,, Artists and Makers Magazine,, and Industry Magazine. Ciccotello was the featured artist at the 2012 International Interior Design Gala at Keane University in New Jersey. He has exhibited work at both the Johnson & Johnson Corporate Headquarters and the NY Design Center. He is on the advisory board for the artist collective, Albus Cavus, a member of SCBWI, and is involved in many art related charity initiatives.

Here is Mike talking about his process:


This was an illustration I created for this year’s NJSCBWI Illustrator intensive.


I started off by selecting the text from Aesop’s Fables, The Tortoise and the Hare.

Hare ran down the road for a while and paused to rest. He looked back at Slow and Steady and cried out, “How do you expect to win this race when you are walking at your slow, slow pace?”


Then I did some visual research on my characters and setting. I selected some reference images and then started some character design. [pencil sketches of characters]



Simultaneously as I did my character design, I was thinking about my layout for the spread.


Once I had my characters design and a layout locked down, I did a rough digital black and white version, in Photoshop, using a 13HD Wacom Cintiq, of the whole spread with text placement. I scanned my drawings and placed them on the page to make sure I captured exactly how I wanted them to look. I sent this to the art director and waited for feedback.


I received the feedback and needed to adjust the spread size, placement, and a few character adjustments. I completed a color version for our Illustrator Intensive critique at NJSCBWI.


After the critique I chose to do another round of adjustments on the color.

How long have you been illustrating?

Ever since I was able to hold a pencil. In kindergarten, I knew I wanted to be an artist. There was a very short period of about two weeks when I wanted to be a racecar driver, but it didn’t last. In the end, I knew art was going to be my career. I started drawing very young, and was fortunate to have parents who nurtured it.


What was the first thing you painted where someone paid you for your work?

I was about 15 or 16 years old, in high school, a friend of my brother wanted me to paint a Pink Floyd mural in her bedroom. I thought it was the coolest thing that someone would pay me to paint on their wall… I was hooked.


Where did you go to college?

Mason Gross School of the Arts, at Rutgers University


What did you study there?

I went into college thinking I would focus on illustration, but unfortunately, the illustration program was cut my first year. I decided to concentrate on painting, but also took illustration, design, sculpture and a lot of life drawing.


Do you feel College helped develop your style?

Yes. Certain concepts and conversations I had with professors and students definitely impacted my style. They still pop up while I’m working and influence my decisions. It’s a constant evolution, but all of these people and experiences have added to who I am and how I create.


What type of work did you do after you got out of school?

I bartended, worked at a liquor store, painted murals and designed menu boards for local businesses. While working on murals at a local club, I made a contact that got me an interview at CNN. Three years after graduating, I got a job doing broadcast design.


Did the college you attended help you get work?

They helped me with some freelance work, and would have helped me with more if I asked, but at the time, I thought I was on my own. I wasn’t asking enough questions.

hair for kids

hair for kids2

What inspired your Doodle Cups?

I noticed I hadn’t been drawing as much as I used to. I was looking for a way to add sketching into my daily routine. I decided to sketch directly on my used paper coffee cups. I started taking photos of the cups and posting them to Instagram and Facebook. That was two years ago. Since then, I have gone through some modifications on how I produce the cups and the materials I use to create them. I now use new paper cups, and draw with archival materials. Each Coffee Cup Doodle now has a children’s art theme.


bumper car cup

I see that some of your cups display some of your finished artwork. Which came first the cup or the finished illustration?

I sketch my ideas as Coffee Cup Doodles and then go back to revisit some of the ideas on paper. Sometimes they lead to an exciting narrative. It’s fun to see how far you can take it.


Are your Doodle Cups for sale?

Yes… well, they will be available to the continental U.S. soon. I am working on setting up a store on my site. Each Coffee Cup Doodle is finished with a lid and stopper, mounted on a wood base, felted bottom, weighted, and then sealed with a gloss varnish. It winds up being an unusual display of art, for home or office. It’s something you wouldn’t expect. I want to be certain I get the packing and shipping done right before I start selling them online.



When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for children?

I’ve always thought about it, but recently got very serious and took a class online, Illustrating Children’s Books, at, taught by Will Terry and Jake Parker. That’s how I learned about SCBWI, how I should build my portfolio, and so much more.


Have you created a book dummy for a picture book idea?

I have one that I’m currently focusing on and a few ideas in the queue.


When did you do your first mural?

I was probably in 7th or 8th grade. My mom used to let me paint the walls of my room. I would come up with different ideas and paint them. It was so much fun.


Have you ever thought about doing a wordless picture book?

Yes. Maybe it’s because I worked as a mime for two summers, or maybe it’s because I’m a visual artist. I have an idea in mind, and have recently been doing some character development for it.


Do you have an artist rep? If so, who and if not, would you like to find one?

I am not currently represented. If you know someone, feel free to point them in my direction. I’m looking for a rep that will work with me to develop a long career in the world of children’s illustration and media.


Have you done any illustrations for a children’s magazine?

Not yet. I just started submitting my work to art directors. I am completely new to this world of children’s art and literature. 6 months ago, I didn’t even know SCBWI existed. It’s been a very busy 6 months.

How did your artwork find its way to Fox Business Network, Fox News Channel, and CNN?

At different points of my television career, I worked in the graphics departments of both, CNN and Fox Business Network. From time to time, managers would come to me with special illustration projects. These projects were not my normal day-to-day work, so I enjoyed any opportunity to draw for television. Once, while working at CNN, I was called into Lou Dobbs’ office. He asked me to create an illustration showing Congressman Charles Rangel, reviving Uncle Sam in his Economic Recovery room. I finished the illustration in time for the broadcast that evening. The next day I received a call directly, from the Congressman’s office, asking for an autographed copy of the illustration. I was amazed at the reach of what I created, and the target audience actually responded to it.

What type of things do you do to promote yourself and get your work seen?

It’s a delicate balance between creating and marketing. I try to be friendly and introduce myself to people. I utilize Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. Social media is an inexpensive way to reach my target audience. I try to be consistent with what I post online. I attended the NJSCBWI conference this past June and networked as much as I could. I work on my art and my brand a little every day.


I noticed a picture of you at a school with a bunch of kids. How did you get the gig? How did it go?

Mary E. Roberts Elementary School hired me to create a mural in their main hallway. They chose an abstract sunrise, based on one of my acrylic paintings. All of the children walk through that hall in the morning. The sunrise symbolizes the excitement of learning something new everyday at school. Each class prepared a list of items they wanted me to add to the mural. I spent the last day creating the mural by adding those elements in as I spoke with the students. We had fun learning about what an artist does and tried to find all of the objects they wanted in the mural.


Have you ever worked with a self-published author? Would you be open to that?

I have not. Currently, I’m looking to get work with established publishers. BUT – I’m always curious to hear about a project.


Do you do any other type of illustration other than for children books?

Yes. I have a really fun line art style that would work very well with the adult coloring books. I’ve done this type of work on an 8”x10” sheet of paper and on a 20’x10’ wall.


Do you have a favorite medium you use?

Pen and ink is my favorite, but I really enjoy colored pencils, watercolor markers, and digital media as well.


Do you take research pictures before you start a project?

Yes. Sometimes I search for images on the Internet, sometimes I draw from life, and sometimes I shoot my own photos.


Do you use Photoshop with any of your work?

Absolutely! I use a bunch of digital applications. Photoshop is at the forefront. I also have done mock-ups in 3d for perspective and then bring everything together in Photoshop to plan out my piece. It’s an incredibly useful tool and saves a lot of time. Multi-layered files make it much easier to apply placement or color changes.


Do you have a studio in your house?

Yes, I have a space in my basement, and a small space in our family room.



Do you follow any type of routine to attain your career goals?

Draw. Draw. Draw. Market. Market. Market. Repeat. Well, currently I’m working a full time job and have five month old twins. I fit my illustration work in wherever and whenever I can. I post consistently to my blog and social media in the morning, before work, and work on my illustration in the evening and on weekends.



Any exciting projects on the horizon?

I was recently invited back to have a solo show at Johnson & Johnson Corporate Headquarters, in their main gallery. The show will be in the Fall of 2017. I am starting to plan the show now. Other than that I am working on a picture book dummy I mentioned before, a Coffee Cup Doodle book dummy, and tinkering with a few more manuscripts and characters.


What do you consider to be your biggest success?

In life, my family. In my art, finishing college. Seeing my education all the way through, was such an important step in my life. There were so many times that I just wanted to stop. I even dropped out at one point, but my parents talked some sense into me and got me back on track. The art of finishing , is a very important part of the creative process. When you finish something you gain confidence and keep going.


What are your career goals?

Short term: find representation, get published.

Long term: draw pictures for a living, entertain and teach through imagery, continue to get published, develop concepts for children’s televison, movies and toys.

telephone pole

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a few things. I am refining my portfolio and getting ready to submit to agencies. Creating new Coffee Cup Doodles, learning how to set up my online store, trying to finish a manuscript, working on skecthes for the manuscript, and developing a few more ideas.


Are there any painting tips (materials, paper, etc.) you can share that work well for you? Technique tips?

My favorite inking materials are Micron Pigma pens by Sakura, various sizes. I use Derwent Graphic pencils, H and 2H, for sketching. My day-to-day sketchpad is, 9”x12” Strathmore 400 series. I use 500 series mixed media Strathmore paper, for my larger scale work.


Any words of wisdom you can share with the illustrators who are trying to develop their career?

I live by these clichés below.


Do what you love, the rest will follow. No matter how old you are, don’t be afraid to try something new. Give your art the attention it deserves. Never stop learning. Work with people that are better than you. Ask questions. Be nice. Accept criticism , learn from it, move on. Be your own worst critic, fix it, move on. The only person that will keep you from fulfilling your dream is… you.


Thank you Mike for sharing your talent, process, journey, and expertise with us. Please make sure you keep in touch and share your future successes with us.

To see more of Mike’s work, visit his Web site,

If you have a minute, please leave a comment for Mike. I am sure she’d love it and I enjoy reading them, too. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Mike, you make me want to run out and get some coffee. I love your art! Wonderful article… It was truly a pleasure to get to know you at the conference last month. After looking at more of your art I feel inspired to “draw, draw, draw, market, market, market, repeat.” Thank you so much for sharing this with us!


    • Karen, if you run out for coffee, please get me one too. I’ll buy 🙂 Thank you for your complement. The pleasure was all mine. You really helped me out in so many ways. I look forward to the next time we get to hang out.


  2. I loved this post and am over the moon for the art!!! Thanks so much, Kathy and Mike!


    • Thank you, Lynne Marie, that’s very kind of you! I’m so happy you like my art. I’d like to thank Kathy as well – for inviting me to participate! Thanks Kathy!


  3. Mike, your art is so amazing! I love it, and your creative Coffee Cup Doodles are so much fun! Wishing you much success as you pursue your goals!


    • Hi, Andrea. Wow. Thank you so much!


  4. Thank you for sharing. You have amazing work. I believe you will be very successful in your career!


    • Hi, Kate. I’m so happy to have the opportunity to share. A BIG THANK YOU to Kathy for making it happen! – AND thank YOU for the complement. 🙂


  5. Bravo, Mike! Obviously you ARE living your dream …

    (P.S. Thank you, Anne-Marie Moesch, for finding this extraordinary guy and adding a beautiful new branch on our family tree 🙂


    • Thanks, Connie. 🙂 It was wonderful spending time with all of you. I’ll pass the message on to Ann-Marie! 😉


      • **Just for the record – yes, I spelled my wife’s name wrong. I make TYPOS! I can’t edit my reply. Anne-Marie. There… I fixed it. 😉


  6. Love love love your whimsical art!


    • Thank you, Joan! I appreciate you following along with all the posts and projects.Thanks!


  7. Mike I LOVE your art:) I remember you from New Brunswick and your mural at the Wich always made me smile. I would love to win one of your Coffee Cup Doodles!!! They are so whimsical and happy. If that makes sense:)


    • Hey, Barbara. Thanks! I went to the Wich recently and saw the murals. It feels like 20 years since I painted them… oh wait… it’s just about 20 years. YIKES! It makes total sense. Good luck on winning the Coffee Cup Doodle!


  8. I love the Coffee Cup Doodle Project-what a great idea! The artwork is beautiful. I’ll tweet the link, which will then post to my facebook.


    • Thanks for the complement, Sabrina – and thanks for sharing!


  9. Awesome article, Kathy, about the amazing, Mike!!


    • Thanks, Sheri! 🙂 Kathy is pretty awesome for sure!


  10. I have been drawn to art all my life and am a novice artist. I call myself a artist want a be, LOL. Your work is beautiful and I enjoy seeing what you create. My daily fix is checking Facebook to see the newest cup that you have come up with, thank you for sharing.


    • Hi, Bobbie. Thank YOU so much for the complement, and for following along with my projects on social media. I’m happy you enjoy the posts.


  11. The Coffee Cup Doodle Project is brilliant. Thank you for sharing your amazing art work. Thank you, Kathy for featuring Mike.
    ~Suzy Leopold


  12. Doodle is the description for my best art. 🙂 Nice to meet local artists!


    • Then your art must be DOODLE-RIFIC (I just made that up… too much coffee 😉 ) Glad to meet ya’, Wendy!


  13. Mike, wonderful work, and you have inspired me to keep applying myself to my current drawing challenge and to draw more frequently as well. Kathy, thanks for featuring Mike. Heading over to his website for more!


    • Thank you so much, Still a Dreamer (Jeanne)! (LOVE your screen name!!) I’m SO SO happy that it inspired you! Wow. That’s so cool! All of us creative types need to push each other to keep going. It’s important. 😉 Best of luck with everything!


    • Jeanne, Congratulations! You are the winner of Mike’s give-away. Here it is your birthday, too. Nice birthday present.



  14. I have already one of his fabulous pieces of art, but a cup would round out my tiny collection quite nicely!


    • Look at you, Mary, trying to build out the collection. Nice! As always, thank you for following with the projects. Good luck!


  15. Great art, Mike! Good luck with entering the kidlit world! I’d love to win that cup!
    I also tweeted:


    • Hi, Lynn. Thanks for the complement and for sharing. 🙂 Best of luck on the contest!


  16. Your cup runneth over with creativity!


    • Wow! Thanks so much, Natasha! 🙂


  17. Your art is wonderful and makes me smile!!! Can’t wait to purchase one of your coffee cups they are beautiful and unique.
    As a side note to Kathy, Mike’s website link in the email does not work (I believe his name is misspelled).


    • Helen,

      I corrected it on the post around lunch time. You probably are using the post that was emailed. Thank you for pointing. I need all the eyes I can get to make sure things are right.



      • I was reading the email, sorry about that. 🙂


    • Helen,

      Hey, I’m just happy that you are a follower and sorry that I hit the wrong key and confused everyone.



    • Thank you very much for the complement, Helen. Your kind words made me smile 🙂 I’m so happy you like my Coffee Cup Doodles. Thanks for keeping an eye out on the link. We were just checking to see if you were paying attention – Good job! 😉 Kathy was very quick to fix the link this morning. Hey, at least it wasn’t like this on CNN… watch this video link


  18. I love seeing you be successful at doing something you love for as long as you have, as well as see you grow as an artist. I’m also excited that the Coffee Cup Doodles will be available soon. Can’t wait to have one at the office. Keep doing what you’re doing, and I’ll always be a fan.


    • Thanks, Kristina, that means a lot. I will do my best. 🙂 Thank you for following along with the doodles, paintings, and the whatnot.


  19. Thoroughly impressed Mike! Great interview and great art! everything you do and draw is excellent! Super proud of you! &


    • SHEENA! I’m so happy you like it. Thanks you, ScribbleMaster! 😛


      • * Thank you* …that runaway “s” was looking for some extra screen time.


  20. I loved this post. I think Mike’s story would be inspiring to my son who is a gifted artist and writer and doesn’t know , as a high school senior, what to pursue in life. I am looking forward to the coffee doodle mugs. They will make great gifts, personalized art directed at my friends’ interest! Keep me in the loop. I shared this post and I liked Mike’s FB page.


    • Thank you, Shiela! I’m so happy you like the Coffee Cup Doodles. Please sign up for updates on my blog, or follow my Facebook fan page for info on when the Coffee Cup Doodles will be available.
      Best of luck to your son. It is not an easy decision to make. Education is definitely worth the effort. It pays you back over and over again. The beauty of going into a creative field, is that you get to do what you love for the rest of your life. It’s a hard road to travel, but it’s a great ride!


  21. This is the kind of stuff I love most about SCBWI in general, and about the NJ conference in particular! It never fails to amaze me how many talented people attend, and how supportive and helpful everyone is to one another. I “met” Mike on twitter just days before the conference and fell for his doodle cups (and quirky charm) immediately. I’m so glad to see him here – getting such great exposure from your blog, Kathy! I’ll be sharing on twitter, too.


    • Who’s quirky?
      CAN YOU FEEL THE NJSCBWI LOVE? Katey, thank you for sharing and adding another level of fun and awesomeness to my SCBWI experience. “Meeting” people ahead of time on twitter, made me feel like part of the gang – right when I walked through the door. I can’t wait until next year!

      Liked by 1 person

  22. Really nice work. I especially like it that you try new elements/style in your work. You are very talented. SO want to buy a cup!


    • Thanks so much, Patricia, that’s very kind of you. I’m doing some behind the scenes work on the store today… I’ll be sure to keep everyone posted when the Coffee Cups Doodles are available!


  23. I’m not an artist but I appreciate art, especially art for children. And unique concepts such as coffee cup art! I found this an interesting post.
    I especially enjoyed reading about your mom supporting your artisitic interestst. Perhaps if Adolf Hitler’s dad had done that, many lives would have been spared. I also appreciate history.


  24. Always a fan of your work. I see a design I like, then see another one…and like it more.
    My son told me the other day he wants to be either artist or paleontologist. I asked “why an artist?”. He told me, “there is no right or wrong. It’s just beautiful.” The paleontology is just because he wants to name a dinosaur after himself.


    • Thanks, Meg! Tell your son that I think he’s pretty cool. If the paleontology doesn’t work out, he could always create a dinosaur character with his name. Actually… why wait? He could do that now. 😉 If he draws it – make sure to send me a picture on FB.


  25. Thank you for your comment, Sally. Both my mother and father, supported me in my decision to become an artist, each in their own way. My dad still gets a kick out of some of the cartoons I draw in the cards I give him, or little notes that I have left him on his desk. My mom is always dropping hints that one of my paintings would look nice in her living room. (For the record, she has the largest collection of my art around) A parent’s interest in their child’s activities goes a very very long way.


  26. I tweeted the link. I met Mike at the NJSCBWI conference where our paths crossed several times. He was very helpful explaining the mysteries of Twitter. I wish him all the best.


    • Thanks, Doris. It was a pleasure meeting you at NJSCBWI and crossing paths several times 🙂 I’m already looking forward to next year!


  27. Hi Mike, we met briefly at Kathy’s workshop. I love love love your cups and I’m impressed you get any work done with 5 month old twins in tow! Keep working. Hope to see you around at more events. I posted the link to my facebook illustration page, and tweeted it.


    • Hi Lori, Yes – I remember 🙂 I’ll send you a message to find out more about these events you speak of. Thanks so much for sharing!


  28. Mike as always fantastic work, the article as well was fascinating. Always interesting to see how an artist gets their inspiration! May you find continued success and further and further exposure. And the coffee cup doodles can bring a smile to me on whatever type of day I’m having! Cheers and keep striving for those dreams


    • Thanks so much, Dennis. Thanks for following along with all the projects. I’m happy that my Coffee Cup Doodles can bring a smile to your face. Cheers to you man. I’m happy we randomly bumped into each other and reconnected!


  29. love your work! I to am an artist wa a be…I would be on clouds if I could work with someone like you! love the cup art!


    • Thanks, b4painter. You’re very kind 🙂


  30. Love love love it!! I want one (or many?)!


    • Thank you, Drawrite. 😀


  31. Mike, your art really sparks my writers imagination. I could picture one of my PBs coming to life. Thanks! (I tweeted.)


    • Thanks, ManjuBeth. I’m so happy that my art spoke to you! Best of luck with your writing, and thanks for sharing!!!


  32. Checking the cupboard for coffee… Thanks!


    • 🙂


  33. Love your colourful post, it got me thinking a little outside the box, thank you.
    I will retweet though this Irish lady and her colourful blog dog don’t stand much chance of obtaining one of the highly sought after coffee cups, we can always good at dreaming (and we are great at that).


    • Excellent, Maria! Thank you for the complement! Best of luck 🙂 and thanks for sharing!!

      Liked by 1 person

      • you are very welcome, we will be back for more.


  34. Oh, I always drool with envy over blog posts about artists (since I am not an artist!), and this was no exception. Thanks for shining a spotlight on Mike Ciccotello! I love those doodle cups — how creative!


    • Thank you for the wonderful complement, Heather. 🙂 I’m so happy you like my Coffee Cup Doodles 😀


  35. Silly rabbit!


    • Trix are for kids 😀


  36. Honestly, I’m not a big fan of drinking coffee but if I use this awesome cute coffee cup, I would be drinking it everyday! I really, really love great arts. It inspires me to draw, too! I wish you more success in life, Mike! And never stop creating manificent arts!


  37. Thanks, Sui! Well – that’s the beauty of it… you don’t have to drink coffee. My Coffee Cup Doodles are art pieces for display only. They are filled with a weight, mounted on a wood base, and meant as an unusual display of an original illustration. It’s a unique and unexpected way to view a piece of art. Thank you so much for your kind words! Inspiration is everywhere, never stop creating!


  38. Kathy, Thank you for a wonderful week and asking me to be part of your Illustration Saturday. This was such a fantastic opportunity. Thank you, to you, and all of your readers. You have given me a warm embrace into the wonderful world of children’s literature. Best of luck to everyone who entered the giveaway. I’m as excited as you are to find out who won!
    -Mike Ciccotello


  39. Your art is fabulous, Mike. Love your coffee cup idea! 🙂


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