David Bucs began his art career peddling staple and tape bound graphic novels to his neighbors when he was five years old. His interest in creating original character designs continued all the way to University, where he studied illustration at the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design.
He then flew directly to Los Angeles where he worked in the animation industry as art director and character designer. Later his adventurous spirit lead him to Beijing, where he designed for a 3D animation studio while also working in various publishing venues as an illustrator.
He has Art Directed Television series for such major networks as Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network TLC and PBS. He has also done development for Disney. Graduating from the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design in illustration, it has always been a dream to design Children’s Books.
David loves to create characters and bring them to life through strong expression and posing in watercolor, color pencil and digital media.
He lives with his wife and young son in Hershey, Pennsylvania, where life is sweet.
Here is David explaining his process:
In the past I worked traditionally with watercolor and color pencil. But I have taken considerable time developing a technique in Photoshop which is similar to my traditional style. The main emphasis is on drawing and line texture, which I still do principally in pencil. The painting and surface textures are done in the program, and by some brushes that I designed from my own scanned textures.
I do quite a lot of sketching, and take time with my character designs. Eventually a good rough drawing develops from this process. I also believe in picture reference for almost all elements of an illustration. Strong design comes from reality.
New-Lion-sketch My lion illustration came from a story that I wrote, and I was in the process of developing a dummy. The initial sketch of a kitchen full of crazy animals was drawn before my MS was even started, but inspired me to continue with the story.
I drew a quick sketch for an editor of the lion at the door, and it felt strong enough to develop into an illustration.
I then scan the drawing and made design changes to the face and re-designed the girl and pose to express more surprise. I also adjust the pencil color if needed to integrate with the color.
Then I lay in the transparent watercolor brushes to create the palette. I use brushes that have been created by other artists. I mostly downloaded them for safe sites online. I found a wonderful tool set for watercolor at from http://www.PaintingDigitally.com, which provides digital painting tools and tutorials, (please let him know that I referred you if go!).
Then I create the texture for detail and volume, while also adding some line texture if needed as well. For example, if I need to fill out the hair or create more fur, etc.
However, I create my own textures with pencil on paper, scan them and create my own brushes with the texture file, so that I can recreate my original texture. I can do this by applying the texture to a basic brush.
Finally, I lay in the values and shadow, while also adding highlights. The most important part of the illustration is the drawing, and if that is not working well, it can affect the whole process.
Expression, posing and character design are important parts of the planning of my illustrations. I mostly love to draw humanized animals and funny monsters. However, insects are a lot of fun as well!
How long have you been illustrating?
I designed characters for animation and various publications for over 10 years. However, I have also illustrated for a number magazines and educational publishers in China when I was living in Beijing.
What was the first thing you painted where someone paid you for your work?
When I was attending Rhode Island School of Design, I worked for a greeting card company as an intern, and designed some original cards which the creative director bought to print. These designs were some of the first characters that I designed, and lead me to recognize my desire to draw original characters.
Where did you go to college?
Rhode Island School of Design
What kind of art and classes did you take at The Rhode Island School of Design in Providence Rhode Island?
I mainly studied illustration, drawing and painting. I also have a minor in film.
How did you end up going to Rhode Island School of Design?
I interviewed with David MacCaulay, who was the current Director of the illustration department at the time. He strongly encouraged me to apply to the program, and with such a prestigious faculty, I could not resist.
Do you feel College helped develop your style?
The instructors actually did not emphasize a need to develop a style. The importance was put on creative problem solving. Ideas are so important, and without that process all you have is a pretty picture. Actually, I graduated without having developed a strong style. That developed as I worked on my craft.
What type of work did you do after you got out of school?
I originally looked for work as an illustrator. However, as I was living in Los Angeles at the time, it was suggested that I look into the animation field for work. I worked for two months as a waiter in Hamburger Hamlet across from the famous Chinese Theater in Hollywood until I landed a job at Klasky Csupo Animation Studio designing characters for Nickelodeon.
Did the college help you get work?
Very much so! I found a list of alumni working in Los Angeles, and I called someone who was working on the Simpsons. It was his suggestion to apply at Klasky Csupo.
When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for children?
I have always had this dream to illustrate children’s books. Even when I was working in a successful career in animation, this was the real dream for my art.
What was the first illustration get published?
My first published illustration was actually for the cover of a Popular Beijing Magazine called “That’s Beijing.” From that cover I was able to acquire work for children’s educational publishers. I also worked as a design director for a digital animation studio as well.
The publisher in China was primarily for English instruction for Children all over China. I designed signature characters and illustrated workbooks.
Have you done any illustrations for a children’s magazine?
Do you have any desire to write and illustrate your own book?
Yes. My current manuscript is written, and I am finishing the dummy. I have other manuscripts in various stages of editing as well.
Do you have an artist rep.? If so, who and how did you connect.
I am represented by Rachel Orr at the Prospect Agency. We first met in a portfolio review at an SCBWI retreat at the Highlights Foundation. We connected again at the New Jersey Conference where she offered to represent me.
Have you ever thought about trying your hand at a wordless picture book?
I have not yet. But I would not shy away from the idea.
What type of things do you do to promote yourself and get your work seen?
So far, I have made my connections through SCBWI, and the contacts that I have made have contributed greatly to getting to this point of having a very good agent.
Have you ever worked with a self-published author? Would you be open to working with one?
At this time no.
What types of illustration do you do, other than for children books?
I have only drawn and painted for children’s related content.
Do you have a favorite medium you use?
I originally worked with watercolor and color pencil. But now I work primarily in Photoshop (starting with scanned pencil drawings).
Do you take research pictures before you start a project?
I always work with extensive picture reference. For every animal, person, object, vehicle, architecture, etc., I make sure that I have a strong visual examples to aid in my design. However, I rarely take photos of my own. My reference comes mainly from the internet.
Do you use Photoshop with any of your work?
Photoshop is my principle medium for my illustrations.
Do you have a studio in your house?
I have a wonderful studio workspace, which takes up a whole floor of my home. There I can close the door and work separately from the family space. And decorate it I with my own style! It is truly my own creative space.
Do you follow any type of routine to attain your career goals?
I do work five full days a week on my art. I look at the process as a 40 hour work week. That is unless I can accumulate more hours in the evening if my wife offers to babysit.
Any exciting projects on the horizon?
I am currently working on my first manuscript and dummy to send out to publishers and editors. It takes a lot of time to create a strong visual story and manuscript. I am also waiting to find out about an illustration job for a series of books. That will have me very busy indeed!
What do you consider to be your biggest success?
To this day my biggest success still remains to be my career in the animation industry as a Character Designer and Art Director.
What are your career goals?
I wish to write and illustrate children’s books. I have always wanted to see my own design style, characters in print. Not that I would not be just as excited to illustrate another author’s manuscript. My work has always been collaborative, and working with other artists and writers is something that is very rewarding. It can also help to inspire creative choices that I might never discover working alone.
What are you working on now?
I am currently working on a dummy for a book that I have written, and looking forward to showing to publishers soon. I am also illustrating four books for Cantata.
Are there any painting tips (materials, paper, etc.) you can share that work well for you? Technique tips?
I have recently put away my brushes and materials in order to go fully digital with my painting. I have spent a great deal of time, research and experimentation for my digital methods. Yet, it was still scary to make such a decision, coming from a traditional background. Believe me, I am still experimenting! But it is such a wonderful media, with so many possibilities, while developing better all the time to imitate traditional materials and tools.
Any words of wisdom you can share with the illustrators who are trying to develop their career?
I am just at the beginning of my career as an illustrator. However, I am on the track that I set out to take when beginning my new portfolio. It seemed daunting at first, but my first goal was to find an agent. Reaching out at SCBWI conferences (go to as many as you can!), and finding online critique groups helped me to develop my work and make good connections and friends. I really have to say that it was that support, both as encouragement and for creative and professional decisions that got me a great agent. It is too easy as an artist or writer to become isolated, and reaching out gives me perspective on my work. Mostly, I love what I am doing and believe that there will be opportunity for my work in the marketplace. Never quit the dream.
Thank you David 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 David’s work, visit her Web site, http://www.davidbucs.com/ Or follow him on Twitter: @DaveBucs
If you have a minute, please leave a comment for David. I am sure he’d love it and I enjoy reading them, too. Thanks!