How do you start an illustration project?
It depends. If it’s a manuscript from an author, I can see the characters and setting in my head as I’m reading it. I can hardly wait to sit down and draw it before I forget everything. I sometimes have a drawing pad beside me and do rough character sketches while I read. If it’s for a book I am conceiving, it’s much the same except most of the work goes into making the story work first, then I worry about the characters, setting, etc.
What was the hardest part of illustrating your new book?
I enjoy working on the cover. It’s in colour and the face of the book. My job is to hopefully make it stand out on the shelf and make people want to pick it up and read it.
What type of research do you do before starting a set of illustrations?
Google is my friend. I spend hours researching what I need for the settings, characters, etc. Most of it I never end up using but it’s better to have too much than not enough. A lot of it is from my own imagination. I used to go to the library and do this research and it would take much more time but I probably had more unique research this way.
What illustration technique did you dislike at first but grow to like?
I used to detest digital illustration. It was probably because I was afraid of it and thumbed my nose at it. When I finally made myself sit down and learn the digital side of it, I realized it was just another illustration tool and it is there to make your life easier (until your computer dies on you halfway through a project). I can do things digitally that I can’t do with traditional illustration and vice versa so it’s a good mix.
What are 5 words that best describe your illustration process?
Excitement, when I first start a project. Absorbed, when I start the idea work and research of the project. Challenge, when I delve into what is required and I figure out what is needed to bring the job alive. Fulfillment, when I get to start work on the final art. I throw myself into a book project and it’s almost sad when it is over. Satisfaction, when I finish a book, it’s a great feeling. It’s still hard to wrap my head around the fact that something so personal, that only you have seen at your drawing table, will now be seen by thousands of people in bookshelves all over the place.
What is your ritual before starting a project / work for the day?
I usually start my day having a nice large coffee and do my idea work. This is when I get my best ideas. Not sure if it’s the coffee or just when I get in the zone. I usually start rough sketches or revisions by 10 am or 11, once I am done the concept work. The afternoon is reserved for the actual illustration work, although every day is different. My best time for illustration work is at night, when there are no disruptions. I can just go for hours and my best work usually comes during this time. I work on several projects at once so I am used to juggling things.
Which artist, living or dead, would you want to have coffee with? Why?
I’ve been fortunate enough to meet many of my heroes as a member of the National Cartoonists Society. I’ve met Charles M. Schulz (Peanuts), Matt Groening (The Simpsons), all the Mad magazine guys. They say you should never meet your heroes but that doesn’t apply to cartoonists. They are great people. If I had to chose one that I haven’t met before, it would be Bill Watterson, who draws Calvin and Hobbes. I would love to tell him what his work meant to me, without it getting all awkward.
I’ve had a lot of crazy things happen during my career but probably my most interesting was when my comic “Reality Check” became internationally syndicated. The part I really enjoy about it is hearing from the readers all over the world. I have a comic appear in newspapers and online everyday and after 21 years, that’s A LOT of comics but I still love doing it.
Dave Whamond is an award-winning illustrator and cartoonist whose work has appeared in books, magazines and newspapers. Visit his website at www.davewhamond.com.