home   booksartist bioschool & library programsgallerieskids corner  contact  
 

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in New Jersey, near the shore. There was the beach but also lots of wooded areas. New Jersey is two-thirds pine forests and I loved to explore. We even have our own version of a Bigfoot legend -- a creature called the "Jersey Devil." The guy supposedly looks like an ugly kangaroo-like creature with wings. I've never met him myself, but magic always seemed to stir in those woods. Folk tales can inspire the imagination.

Where do you live now?
I grew up in New Jersey, near the shore. There was the beach but also lots of wooded areas. New Jersey is two-thirds pine forests and I loved to explore. We even have our own version of a Bigfoot legend -- a creature called the "Jersey Devil." The guy supposedly looks like an ugly kangaroo-like creature with wings. I've never met him myself, but magic always seemed to stir in those woods. Folk tales can inspire the imagination.

Where do you get your ideas?
Ideas come from lots of different places. My snake Raja gave me an idea about how a dragon might be colored. The shape of my coffee pot gave me an idea of an alien brain dispenser. When I hike I imagine there might be dragons behind trees, or unicorns under waterfalls. Where some people see trees, I might see an Ent!

Ideas are all around me … and all around you too. Every time you ask the question "What if..?" you open yourself to a whole new world.


My daughter Giana with Raja, Cookies, and Shelly.

Do you have any kids?
Yes, a wonderfully silly little girl named Giana. She loves Halloween, swimming, carnivals, and root beer floats. She doesn't like broccoli but eats it anyway.

Do you have any pets?
I've had dogs all of my life, but right now I have a cat named Cookies, a snake named Raja, and a tortoise named Shelly. Shelly's an African plains tortoise called a Sulcata. She lives in the backyard and eats any small children that should happen to wander back there.

 

Do you have any hobbies or interests besides art?
Yes, I like old science-fiction and horror movies. I have a collection of classic Universal Monsters toys and figures. (The Universal Monsters are Dracula, Frankenstein, Wolfman, Mummy, Creature from the Black Lagoon.) I also like to read and cook. I like to go to theater to see plays and musicals, as well as live music (there is plenty of that in Austin). I've also been an avid hiker for years. Here I am hiking different trails with friends and family:



Whats your favorite holiday?
I love Halloween, and autumn is my favorite time of year. I make a Haunted House for the neighborhood kids every year. You can see pictures here: Halloween.

What other jobs have you had?
Growing up, I spent summers working the boardwalk rides on the Jersey shore. I've been a restaurant waiter and worked in the Atlantic City casinos. One of the coolest jobs I ever had was making floats for parades. These are two floats I helped design and build.

How do you make your drawings?
It takes a mixture of four things to create great art:

Imagination - To see a diamond in the rough, to believe your characters exist, get into their skin. Einstein said imagination is more important than knowledge.

Research: Learn about the thing you want to draw, how it lives and breathes, how it feels, what it eats, where it lives, its history and legends. If you do that with every illustration, you are always learning something new.

Reference: Use references to help you draw very realistic things. You can use photos of real people, objects around your home, props, models, and more.

Hard work: Art is fun, but it still takes a lot of hard work. Anything worth doing is worth doing well.

Learn more here : The Making of I Was a Sixth Grade Alien.

What books did you read when you were little?
I loved The Hobbit -- anything Tolkien became a life-long love. Also all those classic boys adventure stories -- Count of Monte Cristo, The Adventures of Robin Hood, and lots of Jules Verne -- 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea', Journey to the Center of the Earth, Mysterious Island. When I finished the last of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's, "Sherlock Holmes" mysteries, I felt as if I were losing a close friend! I still go and visit all of my friends -- Sherlock, Captain Nemo, Frodo. I feel as if they're a part of me even when I'm not reading them.

Do you have any advice for aspiring Illustrators?
The best thing you can do is practice. Art is a technical thing. You need to train your mind to work with your hand and your heart. The more you practice the better you will be. It takes drive and tenacity to be a successful illustrator. You have to keep pushing yourself to new creative places. And if you don't, you won't be able to compete with those who do.
You can find more information here: Tutorials.