Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 30, 2021

Illustrator Saturday – Lee Gatlin

LEE GATLIN has been drawing as long as he can remember. He learned to draw by looking at cartoons, kids’ books, and comics. Born and raised in south Alabama, he is an illustrator and cartoonist based in the Mississippi Delta. He has illustrated Monster School by Kate Coombs (Chronicle) and recently With Great Power: The Marvelous Stan Lee.

In addition to drawing and making things, he enjoys making a racket on the piano or banjo. An illustrator and cartoonist, he lives with wife and three children in Georgia. You can find his weekly cartoons in Athens, Georgia’s Flagpole Magazine, and more of his work at or

Here Is Lee discussing his process:

UFO 1: This is the rough draft I sent in to see if this idea was okay. I don’t usually go ahead and do color at this point but it was important to the atmosphere of the picture.

UFO 2: This is the inked UFO, on tracing paper. This was done with a Papermate Flair pen.

UFO 3: This is the cars at the drive-in, inked on tracing paper, on my lightbox.

UFO 4: This is the final color image, where all the pieces are composited and colored digitally in photoshop.

UFO 5: This is it in print!

Rough Sketch

Finished sketch

Final Illustration painted with Photoshop


How long have you been illustrating?

As long as I can remember, but professionally not very long—almost five years?

What and when was the first piece of art you created for money?

I won an art contest in kindergarten, if that counts. I did comics for the local paper, I guess I’d consider that the first paying cartooning or illustration work, though.

When did you start drawing comics?

I started drawing comics in middle school. Superhero comics, heavily influenced by Spider-man and Ninja Turtles. And single-panel cartoons, once I found out about Far Side.

Did any teacher in high school notice your talent and mentor you?

Yes, but it was more encouragement of creative writing. All my English teachers: Mrs. Lucas, Mr. Richburg, and Mrs. Graves. I didn’t take art in high school.

Did you go to college to study art? If so where?

I went to Troy State University, which has since become Troy University. I studied Journalism, but also took a bunch of art classes. I ended up switching to art once they established a design department.

Did you ever take any illustrating courses?

Not illustration, per se, but plenty of drawing classes and a lot of printmaking.


I noticed that you animated one of your illustrations. Did you take a class to learn how to do that?

I learned how to do that watching videos online!

When did you decide you want to illustrate for children?

It was one of my first job ambitions, right behind garbage man (because they get to ride on the back of the truck)

Was Monster School that you illustrated in 2018 your first illustrated picture book?


How did you get that job?

The editor, Melissa Manlove, ran across me online and felt I’d be a good fit. She sent me the manuscript to see if it was something I’d be interested in (of course it was)

In 2019 you illustrated Shout Out for the Fitzgerald-Trouts (OZ) with Tundra Books. How did they discover you?

John Martz with Tundra knew my work from the internet and thought I’d be suited for it.

2020 you illustrated Garfield:Garzilla with publisher BOOM! – KaBOOM!. Was this the first book you illustrated with them?


How did you get that contract?

They also knew my work from the internet (artists, please put your work online!)

How many of the Garfield Book Series have you illustrated?

Oh, just the one. They have a guest artist in each issue. I’ve read Garfield all my life and was happy to do a Garfield story.

This year you illustrated With Great Power: The Marvelous Stan Lee by Annie Hunter Eriksen. Was Elena Giovinazzo at Pippin Properties responsible for getting this contract for you?

No, they contacted me prior to Elena.

How did you connect with Elena?

She had contacted me to see if I was interested in being represented.

What do you feel helped develop your style?

I really don’t know. Drawing forever. Looking at a bunch of comics and kids’ books and watching a lot of cartoons as kid? I remember really liking the childcraft story illustrations because the styles varied so widely, and they were pretty interesting looking. Trying out a bunch of different materials definitely helped. Keeping a sketchbook, helping keep up with what I like about certain drawings, and what I don’t. And making a note of what pen or pencil or ink it’s in, what type of paper it’s on.

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

Sure! I’ve got some things I’m working on.

Do you plan to continue to illustrate comic books?

Hmm. Maybe a graphic novel or something. A collection of comics.

Do you have studio in your house?

Interestingly, I did have an office but due to some plumbing mishaps the floor developed a fault line and I’m currently working out of a makeshift cubicle in the dining room. Probably when the floor gets fixed it’ll be my two-year-old’s bedroom and we’ll have to close in part of the garage for my studio space.

Do you ever exhibit your artwork?

I haven’t in a while.

Have you illustrated anything for a children’s magazine?

No, but I’d love to. I always like seeing other folks’ pictures though.

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

I don’t know. Depends on the money, I suppose?

I know you will have many successes in your future, but what do you think is your biggest success so far?

To have a book that I’ve drawn pictures for, and a book that I’m drawing pictures for, and a book I’m going to draw pictures for.

What is your favorite medium to use?

Really I just like using a pencil. For comics, I mostly use a black flair felt-tip pen on tracing paper, a Micron PN, and some pencil here and there. For book work I’ve used pencil and the flair. I use smudges a lot, and the flair smudges pretty good. I like watercolor pencils, they smudge good. Cheap kids’ markers. Almost all on tracing paper or vellum. Most big backgrounds are watercolor washes. Anything I color I do it digitally because you can mess around with it forever, it’s pretty low stakes. I love the paper in the smaller moleskine notebooks. If anybody knows what that stuff is, I’d love to get bigger pieces of it.

Has that changed over time?

It’s changed a lot—ten years ago I used a brush a lot, or nib pens. I colored things using a mouse!

What type of Graphic Drawing Tablet do you use when illustrating?

Just one of those little Wacom ones. It’s about 9 inches wide, 7 inches tall. I just use it to color. I can draw with it but I don’t care for it. I did start using the iPad more recently with Procreate, which took some getting used to but I like it. I feel like I can draw okay on it but I don’t like the coloring tools.

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

It’s almost impossible to draw unless all the kids are in bed, so I draw almost exclusively at night. Not an alotted amount of time, just as much as I can get in.

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

Yes! I do a lot of screenshots off the internet, or if I know what I’m looking for I like to take the pictures myself.

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Absolutely. It’s how I’ve gotten all my jobs.

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

I’d like to do my own book. I’m working on it, but verrrrrrry slowly.

What are you working on now?

Skeleton Stomp!, A Musical Tour of America’s Most Haunted House, by Jarrett Dapier, for Abrams Books

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.

Any words of wisdom for new illustrators?

Nothing I’m qualified to say, other than put your work on the Internet!

Thank you Lee for sharing your illustrations and process with us. Love all your illustrations! Keep in touch and let me know when you have another book I can show off. You can see more of Lee’s work at:






Talk tomorrow,



  1. Very much enjoyed strolling, scrolling through your work, Lee! Really, so, so very good.


  2. Wonderful illustrations. Perfect for this Halloween weekend. Thanks for the post.


  3. So many talented illustrators! So many wonderful takes on Halloween! Thanks, Kathy, for sharing them all this Halloween! Bravo! BOO!


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