Illustrator Feature: Mark Hoffmann

Illustrator Feature: Mark Hoffmann

In this fun and funny celebration of literacy, kids of all ages will discover that the act of reading is a daring adventure that can take you anywhere! You can read at the playground, under the sea, at the opera and even in outer space! It turns out you can read everywhere! And when you do, you open yourself to a universe of adventure. Presented in light-hearted, rib-tickling verse that’s perfect for reading aloud, You Can Read sings it loud and proud: Books are awesome. And so are the people who read them.

How do you start an illustration project?

Lots and lots of sketching. I have primarily switched to digital sketching which allows me to make lots of small variations and end up with hundreds of sketches to pick from to bring forward to my client.

What was the hardest part of illustrating your new book?

Maintaining style and color palette. And the hand cramps I got from making the final work.

You Can Read by Helaine Becker and illustrated by Mark Hoffmann

What is your favorite part / aspect of your illustrations in this book?

There are a few spreads that I am really proud of, for subtle design choices, that most would not notice. Also the joke titles I gave to the books in the story.

What type of research do you do before starting a set of illustrations?

I do a studies on specific elements that I may not already know. It’s easy to draw a table, but architecture from specific regions or clothes and such might need more referencing. I also study the text quite a bit and do a lot of “lateral thinking”.

What illustration technique did you dislike at first but grow to like?

I wouldn’t say a technique, but rather a medium. I hated gouache (a type of paint similar to watercolor that is opaque) while in school, but learned to appreciate it on my own and it has a huge influence on all the work I do, whether with gouache or not.

What are 5 words that best describe your illustration process?

Fun, stressful, colorful, rewarding, exploratory.

What is your ritual before starting a project / work for the day?

It really depends on the day. The better question is, “how do you find time to paint, with all the other things you have going on?” When I do get to paint, I set up my paints and palette in a specific manner and sit and stare at a blank page quite often.

Which artist, living or dead, would you want to have coffee with?

Freddie Mercury, and I’d prefer he be alive. He was, and still, is the best singer ever.

What was the most interesting job you had before becoming an illustrator?

I worked at a movie theater that Prince used to go to!

You Can Read is on shelves now!

Mark Hoffmann is a freelance editorial illustrator, children’s-book illustrator, fine artist and professor in the illustration department at Montserrat College of Art in Massachusetts. He lives with his wife and son in the New England area. For more information, visit

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