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!
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 Liquitex.com, 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, ClothPaperScisors.com, Artists and Makers Magazine, NJTV.com, 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.
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.
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 SVSlearn.com, 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.
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, http://www.ciccotello.com
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!