Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 13, 2018

Illustrator Saturday – Chris Robertson

Chris Robertson is just a big kid at heart who writes and draws Children’s Picture Books. His new  book, “If I Didn’t Have You” by Alan Katz launches in April 2018 from Simon & Schuster.

His first Little Golden Book, “The Tickle Book” by Heidi Kilgras debuted in May 2017 while  “Giraffes Ruin Everything” by Heidi Schulz from Bloomsbury Publishing and “Where Do Pants Go? by Rebecca Van Slyke from Sterling  both debuted in Spring ’16.

His book, “Harry and the Hot Lava” speaks directly to the imagination of a child, while “My Yellow Umbrella” hit the #1 spot on Amazon’s Bestseller list for Baby & Toddler Color Books, Bedtime and Dreaming and Children’s Game Books.

Chris’s other books include the Amazon’s Best Sellers, “I’ll Trade My Peanut-Butter Sandwich” and “Kit and Kaboodle”. He broke into the Children’s book field in 2005 with “Little Miss Liberty” published by Chronicle Books then subsequently by Scholastic Books in paperback.

Chris’s whimsical cartoon style feels light-hearted and carefree which seems to perfectly match his humorous writing style. He lives in Pasadena with his wife and three boys.

HERE IS CHRIS DISCUSSING HIS PROCESS:

Rough sketch of Banner illustration for The Cat Agency. Created digitally on the iPad with the program Procreate with the “6B Pencil” brush.

Inking in black line with “Dry Ink”brush.

Coloring with “2B Compressed Charcoal” brush.

Hand lettered type with "Burnt Tree" and "Gel Pen" brushes. Added color background.

INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS:

How long have you been illustrating?

I’ve been drawing pictures ever since I was able to hold a crayon. But “professionally”, I’ve been lucky enough to create art for most of my adult life.

What and when was the first painting or illustration that you did where someone paid you for your artwork?

I believe my mom gave me a quarter for a drawing of Mickey Mouse. Now looking back on it, it wasn’t very good. I should have told her to keep her money. But I was a kid, and gum was expensive.

Did you go to school to study art?

Art was always something I did for fun. So eventually, I attended college and continued to “study” art.

What school did you attend and what did you study?

I went to Lassen Elementary School and I studied everything. Years later, I attended Cal State University Northridge. By then, I focused primarily on art, but I still like to think I still studied everything.

Did any of the schools help find illustration work for you?

We got to paint a mural on the cafeteria wall when I was in Jr. High. Do they still call it Jr. High? Sheeeesh! I’m old. But seriously, when I was at CSUN, an art director at a greeting card company visited our illustration class and gave the class a card assignment. My illustration was the only one in class they bought!

How did you get into animation?

My mom let me watch cartoons when I wasn’t in school. I absolutely loved the Looney-Tunes! As you can see, Bugs Bunny’s humor really left a lasting impression on me. As I entered my teens, my favorite film was Disney’s JUNGLE BOOK. Many years later, I got my first job in Animation at Nickelodeon Studios..

 

 

What type of animation have you done?

TV animation mainly. Hey Arnold. Fairly Odd Parents. Oswald the Octopus. You know, kid stuff. Most recently, I’ve been at Fox TV Animation.

Have you made a book dummy to help sell a book idea?

I sold my first picture book, LITTLE MISS LIBERTY because of a dummy. No, I’m not calling anyone at Chronicle Books a dummy. They were smart. They bought my first book!

What do you think influenced your illustrating style?

No question. Walt Disney. Or maybe Charles Schulz. No. it was Dr. Seuss. Alright. All of the above.

Do you work a full time as a freelance artist?

I work full time as an artist. My day job is at Fox TV Animation and by night, I work on my books. But it’s not all work. Sometimes I go for a swim. Or go out to lunch. Or see a movie. Or surf the web. Do they still call it that? Sheeeeeesh! I’m old.

Was “Little Miss Liberty” published by Chronicle Books your first published picture book?

Why, yes it was! Thank you for asking!  I’d like to say it was WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE but I would be lying. And that’s not very nice to do.

When did you decide that you wanted to illustrate for children?

I don’t illustrate for children. I illustrate for me. It just so happens that kids like my drawings too. Probably because of how I draw elephants. Did you ever notice that elephants always have a trunk but they’re never going anywhere? Yeah. Me neither.

Is IF I DIDN’T HAVE YOU your latest book?

It’s the latest one you can find in a bookstore. Do they still have those? Sheeeeeesh! I’m old.

How many picture books have you illustrated?

Dozens. But only about 11 you can find on Amazon. If you want to see the rest of them, you’ll have to come over to my house.

How did you connect with The CatAgency?

I connected with the Cat Agency through a bizarre set of circumstances, most of which I’d prefer not to get into. But I do know, when we did connect, I felt like the luckiest man on the face of the earth. Sorry Lou Gehrig.

 

Would you illustrate a book for an author who wants to self-publish?

Probably not. I’m way too busy trying to get my own manuscripts published. Of course, everyone has a price.

Have you worked with educational publishers? Which ones?

I’m sure most all the publishers I’ve worked with would consider themselves educational. 🙂 I’ve had the good fortune to be published by Simon & Schuster, Bloomsbury, Random House, Sterling, Chronicle Books, and Xist Publishing.

Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines? Which ones?

Yes! Highlights for Children and Cobblestone.

Do you have any desire to write and illustrate your own children’s book?

Yes.(This question probably isn’t necessary.)

Have you ever thought about illustrating a wordless picture book?

No. But I have thought about writing a pictureless word book. But B.J. Novak beat me to it.

What is your favorite medium to use?

You could probably tell this answer from my previous answers. Crayon. I kid you not.

Has that changed over time?

I’m trying to find just the right digital version of crayon, but nothing beats the real deal.

Can you tell us a little bit about your studio?

It looks a lot like a dining room. With a couple of computer desks. And computers. And 3-D printers. Which are not mine. They belong to my oldest son. I keep telling him to move his stuff out to the garage. But does he listen? NOOOOOOOOO!!!! Kids these days! Sheeeeesh! I sound old!

Are you active in your SCBWI Chapter? If so, have they helped open any doors for you?

I attend the SCBWI booth at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books each year and I will be in their booth at the Los Angeles Comic Con later this month. I can’t recall whether they’ve ever opened a door for me. I’m sure they would. Many of their members are awfully nice.

Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

No. Not a specific amount of time. Just most of my time.

Do you take pictures or research a project before you start?

Depends on the project. But most of the time, I surf the web for reference. For you kids that aren’t hip to my lingo, I browse the internet.

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

I think it’s much easier to connect with people professionally now, but people still should look up from their phones once in a while. Especially when they’re crossing the street. C’MON PEOPLE!!!

What do you think is your biggest success?

I whole heartedly believe my greatest success is still in front of me. Just ask Christy of The Cat Agency.

Do you use Photoshop or Painter with your illustrations?

I mostly use Story Board Pro by Toon-Boom and Procreate on my iPad. Or crayon on paper, which I mentioned earlier and I’m still not kidding!

Do you use a Graphic Drawing Tablet when illustrating?

How dare you ask me that question! No. I do not. But I do use a Wacom Cintiq and an iPad.

Do you ever exhibit your art?

I exhibit my art every time a child opens one of my books. Was that too corny? Sorry.

Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

I would…if it’s not …too much trouble… maybe one day…it would be very special…if I could win…the Caldecott medal. WHAT? A guy can wish, can’t he???

What are you working on now?

Finishing this interview! No seriously, I have a couple of new books in the works that I just recently handed over to my new agent, Christy Tugeau Ewers!

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.

Sure. It’s not a certain pen or pencil. It’s not a new digital program for your cintiq. It’s not a nib, a hot key, or short cut. It’s not the material. Period. It’s YOU. You and your good old fashioned imagination.

Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?

That’s simple. Follow me on Twitter. @booksbychrisr. And work really, really, really hard. And toss in some luck. And don’t give up. And follow me on Instagram @booksbychrisrobertson. And believe in yourself. And above all else, don’t take any wooden nickels. Do they still say that? Sheeeeesh! I’m old.

 

Thank you Chris for sharing your talent and expertise with us. Make sure you share your future successes with us. To see more of Scott’s work, you can visit him at: Website: http://www.chrisrobertsonbooks.com/

If you have a minute, please leave a comment for Chris. I am sure he’d love to hear from you and I enjoy reading them, too.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Responses

  1. We too are SO glad circumstances landed you in the CAT family! Welcome!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This was one of the most enjoyable Illustrator Saturdays ever! Your humor kept me smiling straight on through, and we have SO much in common! Well, everything but our career paths lol And thank you for being specific about your digital tools and settings 🙂 IF I ever get a tablet I’ll make use of the info!

    Like

  3. I LOVE the humor in Chris’s art AND in his interview! Humor is what oils all my squeaky days, so thank you, Chris, for making me laugh today.
    Janet Lawler
    http://www.JanetLawler.com

    Like

  4. Ha! This was a fun interview. And the art is terrific. I love the dancing alligators. Thanks for the post.

    Like

  5. Thank you for sharing your whimsical work!

    Like


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