Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 25, 2020

Illustrator Saturday – Guy Wolek

Guy Wolek is an artist with over 30 years freelance experience. Guy has done a variety of work over the years, from court room sketch artist and character development to corporate annual reports and children’s books. Often called on to art direct and illustrate, Guy is comfortable with creating many of his projects from scratch. He is adaptable to just about any situation and tenacious enough to figure out new challenges.

Guy lives in Oxnard, CA.


First let me say, I do not do all illustrations the exact same way. Sometimes I use many layers some time I use  few. sometimes I flatten the layer as I go so I don’t have to search for layers it’s faster.

The character concept. I am sometimes asked to create the character look first. That’s usually billed separately as an hourly rate.

step 1. Rough in the scene. sometimes its a tight sketch, sometimes its a simply rough to show how things will be placed on the page and how it will work with the type

step 2.  The main Character. I like to start with the main character. Actually I start with the eyes and the expression. Its the first thing our eyes go to, then I refine the pose. I have an idea of posture from the sketch as to the feel of the character.

done on a layer

step 3.  In this illustration, I had an idea of what the cast of characters should look like and I wanted to develop their individual looks.

done on its own layer. I will turn on the character layer to compare and see the overlap from time to time (3.2).

step 4. The whole scene draw. This is when I add the scene, In this case the buildings they are loosely drawn with lighter line and I will often take the opacity down a little so they go back in the scene.

step 5. the back round wash , It sets the temperature and basic feel of the image. I tend to work in warm tones but in this image I wanted it cooler.

step 6. painting in the main character. getting the color palette of the main character and seeing how it works  in the scene.

step 7. painting in the background characters. I want people to see the look of them but I don’t want them to be too important.

The idea in this image is that the main character stands out from the crowd.

Then I add detail to the main character to make her stand out some more .

When I am working in layers. I will adjust layers up and down sometime changing color value and tone.

Sometime I  will drop a texture layer on top set to multiple in a low opacity.

My Interview with Guy Wolek:

How long have you been illustrating?

I am in my 38th year

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

As an apprentice, I painted an olive. As a freelance illustrator I did a pen and ink sketch of a refrigerator, which the client sighed me on th payment

Do you feel you made the right decision leaving American Academy Of Art in the middle of your 2nd year to take an Illustration apprenticeship?

Yes, It was an opportunity. At that time it was touch to get an illustration job and it was a chance to learn on the job from some very good experienced artists.

What do you feel helped you develop your style?

I offer a few different styles currently. Over the years I have jumped from one style to another and then did that style for a few years. I think what draws me to a style is I like it. All art kind of follows the same rules. Then just figure out how to put it together.

You have a long list of clients. Who was your first freelance illustration client?

The very first one was when I was 8th grade I was hired to do a comic strip for a Heavy equipment company.

When did you decide you wanted to illustrate children’s books?

In 1994 My wife Debi, asked me why I don’t children’s art since I drew funny little characters for fun. At that time I had been freelancing doing realistic, moody, editorial art since 1982.

Was Under the Water Hardcover – 1995 your first illustrated book?

That was the send or third one MY first one was Bugs and Butterflys for Landol Books. I was asked to step in and help on Under the Water because the original art was not able to finish the book. They wanted to know if I could match the style and I could.

Was Dinner with Olivia in 2009 your first Olivia book?


How did you get that contract?

I had an agent that asked me if I was interested in doing a test illustration for Olivia. I was one of seven artist chosen to illustrate the books for Olivia.

How many Oliva books have you illustrated?


Did you know you would illustrate so many Oliva books when you illustrated the first one?

NO actually I almost got fired on that first one. I thought I understood how they were producing the images I messed up a bunch of pages. I felt so bad. I had a lot of repairs to do. Many late nights.

Is My Breakfast with Jesus your latest book?

It may be the last one that was published. I do more books for eduction then I do that end up in Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

How did Harvest House find you?

Through my Agent. I was first contacted to do a book Series By Tony and Lauren Dungy. That came before Breakfast with Jesus.

I see you have illustrated a series of time travel books. How many Maximilian P. Mouse, Time Traveler books have you illustrated?

Six. I received the whole project at one time all six books. Thats when scheduling comes in handy. I set personal deadlines for each book so I would finish on time and I did.

This October you have Around the World with Matt and Lizzy – China: Kids Mission Series coming out. Is this the first one you illustrated in this series?

I think the China book is number 5. It’s the first one With the current publisher.

Do you have a contract to illustrate more?

I don’t have a contract, I have been doing these since book one and they like my work and the characters.

How many picture books have you illustrated?

I don’t recall exactly, but I changed my invoicing system in 1995, the same year I started illustrating children’s books. So based on that, 661 projects since 1995, all of them humorous art in nature and around 80% children’s books.

Have you ever illustrated a comic book or graphic novel?

I did some penciling for one once.

Do you have any desire to write and illustrate a picture book?

Yes I do. I have done a little work on one with a working title “Lion And The Big Fish” I have a short video up on my you tube channel.

Do you have an artist rep.? If so, who and how long have you been with them.

Yes I do. Our first project together was done 10 years ago. I have had a few reps throughout my career.

Is working with a self-published author to illustrate their book something you would consider?

Yes I have been working with self publishers a little for about six years now.

Have you done any illustrating for children’s Magazines? If so, who?

I think so. But I am not sure. It’s funny. I lose track sometimes. I have done projects and they will end up in store. I will do a double take and think “where have I seen that before”? Here’s the best one. I was looking at a piece of exercise equipment going through the booklet and thinking I like
this art. Then I realized I was the artist. LOL!

Have you ever tried illustrating a wordless picture book?

I never have.

Do you have a studio in your house?

Yes my studio is in the house. I have had a studio in the house and I have had a studio outside of the house. The nicest one was when we lived in Chicago, We lived in the city and I worked a mile from home. I had a nice walk to the studio.

You have three free video art classes on your website. Do you think you will do more?

Yes I want to do more. I really like doing them.

Click here to check out his free classes.

Did you teach yourself Procreate when it came out?

I watched a few videos. Procreate is a great program I have been using it into my work flow more and more. I like to do line work in procreate.

Do you still use Photoshop?

Yes that is my main art program. I do most of the coloring in Photoshop. Mainly because I am use to using it.

In one of your videos you mention that you get a lot of work from Behance. Do you still get a lot of work via them?

I was getting a lot of work from Behance. I was posting a piece of art almost every day at one time. The more you post there your art kind of moves up the ranks in viewing I had work showing up on page one sometimes. Behance has a world wide reach.

With so many illustrated books, why don’t you show them off on your website?

Good question. I try to have a sampling of styles. I want people to get an idea of what I do and spark interest. If people want to see more specific examples I can provide it if I have it.

What do you think is your biggest success?


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

I like to sketch. I carry a sketchbook and draw people sometimes. I watch art teaching videos online and then try it out. I think you always have to push to grow.

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

Yes I do. For me even if I know something I am illustrating there are little nuances that I don’t always catch that can really sell the look. So I will find reference or take a photo.

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Yes. The opportunity for more people to see my work grew with the internet. But then the competition grew as well.

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

Writing and Illustrating my own books.

What are you working on now?

A couple projects. The quarantine has not really effected me.

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.

I do have a couple. I like this pad of paper I can get from the dollar store nice tooth and it scans really nice. I bought a stack of em. It’s just called “sketch paper pad”.
My sketchbooks are moleskin they fit in my pocket and I really like the feel of the paper.
I draw traditionally with a variety of pencils, from prismacolor to 2 b technical pencils .05
I use a screen protector on the iPad it has a tooth so it has nice feel when you draw. It’s made by iCarez .
I have some nice inking brushes for my iPad made by Georg’s Brushes called “Comic and Cartoon ink set”

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

a. Stick with it. Don’t get locked down by “your style” allow yourself to grow and develop.
b. Learn to be organized . It will help in every area. I was a disorganized mess when I started. I was able to change so anyone can. It helps when you are doing multiple jobs to know what’s priority, how much time you need, and when you can work it in and not get surprised by an unexpected due date.
c. If you’re not comfortable with a project you don’t have to take it. This is a touchy one because sometimes uncomfortable jobs are ones that stretch you out and you grow. I’m not talking about those. Sometimes people approach you with projects and they are sketchy and you may be getting
set up to be ripped off.
d. Get 1/2 up front if you can. Your client should be invested like you are. It’s a mutual trust thing.
e. You are an artist and providing a valuable skill. Your art work has value.
f. Time yourself when you doing an illustration. Do it a few times. I kept a time record for one year to get an idea over time how long it takes for me to do illustrations. It will help when giving a job quote or knowing how long you need to do a project.
g. No question is a dumb question. If you aren’t sure ask.

Thank you Guy for sharing your talent and expertise with us. Make sure to let us know your future successes. As a freelance artist, you have done a great job using your talent in many areas, which is so important for any illustrtator to learn and perfect.

To see more of Guy’s work, you can visit him at:





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

Talk tomorrow,



  1. I am trying to contact Guy about an illustration opportunity – please email me how to contact you. V Harris


  2. What a variety of illustrations! I love the different characters and their expressions. Fun! Thanks for sharing!


  3. I am encouraged that Guy can be so successful and have a variety of styles. Thanks for sharing your work and for the tips, Guy.


  4. Wow! What wonderful, expressive illustrations and so much variety. Thanks for a very fun and informative post.


  5. This was a surprise today to see the illustrator of my book MY BREAKFAST WITH JESUS. I enjoyed learning about him. Thanks, Kathy!


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