bard-smallFor as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a writer and illustrator. In fact, I wanted to create children’s books and I wanted them to be fun, colorful, and have animals in them. That’s why I was so excited to do this interview with Bard Hole Standal, author of the interactive kids’ book Jack and Joe, which was built for the iPhone and the iPad. I was given the chance the read the book and play around with it and let me tell you, I loved it! Personally, I think this is HUGE, especially for the iPad. Interactive kids’ books aren’t exactly new, but I feel that with Bard’s style he could pave the way for many books like his. And iPads are a great size for kids to use.

Here’s a few things that really jumped out at me and made me love Jack and Joe:

  • I loved the illustrations! Bright, colorful, good movement! Very cute and great style for kids. The illustrations were really engaging and I felt the artwork went along perfectly with the story.
  • The interactions build into the book are fantastic. The hide and seek page was one of my favorite parts! There are also pages you can shake and some where you can pet Jack! In talking to Bard, I learned that in a future version of the story there will be even more interactive pages.
  • Jack and Joe very much felt like characters that could be on Disney or Nickelodeon – the voices were good too and there was a good pace to the book and the reading.

On with the Interview!

Let’s start from the beginning. Where did the idea to create an interactive children’s book for the iPad/iPhone come from?

I think all illustrators dream of publishing their own children’s book. For me, it felt like the right time to give it a go. I had focused all my time and energy in being involved in vinyl toys and endless projects with toy companies that seldom went anywhere. I was tired of both toys and spending a great deal of time on things that never came to fruition. With the iPad and the iPhone’s App Store, that would not be a problem. You are in control of what’s published, no second or third parties involved. So I talked to my brother who’s a computer engineer, and we decided to combine our talents to make this book happen. We originally intended on programming it using Adobe’s Flash CS5 iPhone module, but Apple pulled the plug on that. Plus the tech was incredibly slow, nearly useless.
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How did you begin each page? Walk us through your process of completing an illustration for the book.

I started the process by writing a simple outline. The initial idea about a boy and his best friend, his husky puppy. I thought of the fun things they could do together while keeping in mind what sort of interactive tasks would work with that. In the outline I wrote some ideas down for a story arc and how the boy would end up being jealous of the husky. The boy wanted to be a husky too because, let’s face it, there is nothing more awesome to be in the world than a husky puppy!

I never really set out to make a literary masterpiece, I wanted a sort of random character-focused story without morals or life lessons. I just wanted to make it a peek into the world of two best friends.

After the outline was written, I wrote a proper manuscript and drew a very crude storyboard of each page. Then I used Illustrator to draw up the final images, and adjusted the script and drawings as I went along. I also had to come up with what sort of interactive things we could add to the pages. I had a bunch of ideas, but we had to cut back to make it possible to produce. Coding for the iOS devices is very time consuming. Compared to technologies like Flash, this is much more demanding.
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Was creating an illustration for mobile devices different from simply creating an illustration for print or the web?

I always had to keep in mind that everything I drew would have to be cut up into smaller pieces for it to be animated or made into an interactive page. So working with vectors in Illustrator made that very easy, it’s part of my style and it’s how I like to work already. I’m an interactive art director in my fulltime job, so this is part of my everyday life. If you’re a traditional illustrator, I’m sure it would be a little harder to wrap your head around than producing things for print. Also, you have the issue of resolution differences on the devices. The iPhone 1 and the iPhone 4 have different resolutions, and the iPad even has a different format! So you end up exporting everything three times and you have to make sure that the illustrations for the iPad work even though you’re cutting the sides off to make it fit within the format. It’s easy to slip into madness with all of these things to think of 😉

What do you hope kids will take from Jack and Joe? Where do you see this book going?

My biggest wish is that kids get sucked into the world of Jack and Joe and just end up having a really FUN time. That was my goal all along, to make a super fun book kids can play with for hours. And maybe they’ll all convince their parents to get huskies! That would be cool. The world needs more huskies. I see a world in the future where everyone has a husky. I’d like that world!

I hope the book makes it up the App Store charts and that it gets some attention. It’s proven quite difficult to get it out there, there’s no automatic success by having a book in the App Store. You’ll have to tell people about it before it moves anywhere. I was hoping that wasn’t the case, that we wouldn’t need the PR machines of giant publishing corporations. We’ll see how it goes. I think we just need to tell people that it’s out there and that they should check it out. Maybe make a free preview version too.
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Who would you say has influenced your art style?

My art style is definitively influenced by a bunch of Japanese artists. I grew up with a keen interest in manga, so people like Akira Toriyama and Katsuhiro Otomo have been huge to me. In terms of vector style, Furi Furi Company, Buro Destruct and Maniackers Design were a major influence on me when I was starting out. Then of course there’s the video games of my childhood from Nintendo and Sega that were probably the reason for why I was drawn to illustration in the first place.

You say on your website that you love drawing animals. Any hope for a children’s book about pigs in the future?

Haha, yeah now that would be something! I would love to just sit down and draw pigs for a 6 month stretch. That would be a amazing!

I am actually working on a CGI short about a pig that wants to go to the north pole. It’s a side-burner project, so it’ll take a while to complete. I get my monthly dose of pigs that way though, keeps me sane and far, far away from bacon.

I eat a lot of sausages though, so technically I’m a hypocrit!

And finally… what “fuels” your illustration?

Giant exploding mega ultra death pigs! with LASER EYES!

At least the dream of one day giving such a vision a proper rendition as an illustration.
Until the day I do that, I will relentlessly be working on my skills until they can achieve such awesome awesomeness.
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Find more about Bard here:

Patrick O’Leary is an illustrator and member of the Association of Illustrators who creates colourful, often humorous illustrations on a range of themes. His work plays with scale, composition and visual narrative and seeks to create a psuedo-reality where anything is possible.

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Your illustrations have a very unique style to them. What does your process consist of to create a final piece?

Usually it starts with an idea in my head, or a few words on a page which I can then rough out into a basic composition. I used to draw my roughs in pencil and scan them in, but now I do them straight on to photoshop and move things around with the lasso tool until I’m happy with the way it looks. I’d say that that is the most important stage, establishing the best layout for the idea so that it communicates the message. Then it’s just a matter of choosing colours and adding a background texture.

How did you first get into drawing and illustration?

As a lot of illustrators will probably say, I started drawing from a very young age. I used to love Quentin Blakes illustrations in the Roald Dahl books when I was a kid and I was always doodling on/in my exercise books at school, but I only really became aware of illustration in the sense I now know it about 4 years ago, just before my degree. I wanted to be a photographer for a long time, but when I discovered how broad the field of illustration was and how creative people can be with it, I was hooked.
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Looking through your work, it’s easy to see there is a message within each. Where do you find your concepts?

Sometimes they just come into my head, but that’s very rare. Other times, they come from things friends have said, something I’ve read in the news etc. Most of the time though, I just brainstorm the subject and what it is about that subject that I find interesting or humorous. If there is a visual metaphor to be had, I’ll try and accommodate that too.

What are your favorite tools to use and do you have a favorite subject?

First of all, technology. My work would be nothing without a graphics tablet or Photoshop. They are so vital in the creation of my work that if I’d been an illustrator 20 years ago, I think my output would have been vastly different.

As for a favourite subject, I’m not sure I have one. I like anything current, anything that people are talking about at the moment. I think that’s why I enjoy editorial illustration, because it’s all very immediate. I have no particular preference in terms of the gravity of the subject though; I’d just as happily illustrate something whimsical as I would something very serious.
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“Hello. I realised the other day that trees are brilliant.

We owe everything to the humble tree: the birth of humanity in the Garden of Eden (if you’re a Christian), the discovery of fire, gravity and books. It was and still is used as a rudimentary building material.” – Patrick’s blog.

And, of course, what fuels your illustration?

Lots of things! Reading the news, talking to my friends, meeting people, I have to keep my brain active. I’m not a very solitary person, despite my job. Most of all though, I get my fuel from looking at other illustrators, especially on flickr. A few I’m digging at the moment are Stuart Kolakovic, Chris Madden and Ben Newman, but there are so many more.”

If you’re a kid of the 80s and 90s, you’ve probably got a soft spot in your heart for movies like the Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, and all the Muppet films. So if you’re anything like me, you’ve probably hoped and wished for the dream team of Henson and Froud to come back together to create another masterful storytelling epic.

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Well. Your wish has been granted. Via Kickstarter!

Lessons Learned: A Practical Puppet Short Film

Toby Froud, son of Brian and Wendy Froud (and baby Toby in Labyrinth), has teamed up with Heather Henson (youngest daughter of Jim Henson) to bring to fans a short film called Lessons Learned. Together, they are bringing to life characters with the same magical puppet artistry that made their parents such integral parts of our childhoods.

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Toby writes on the Kickstarter page:

“Lessons Learned will be a short film about a young boy who receives an intriguing birthday gift from his grandfather. It is a gift that will stay with him for the rest of his life.

Having grown up with inspiring movies like The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth,it has been been a dream of mine to create such imagery with hand/cable controlled puppets. This film will also utilize a bit of modern technology to better immerse viewers into the world.

I need your help to make this movie come to life. If you are a fan of the Henson-Froud collaborations or perhaps just want to make a statement that puppet art is alive and desired, please consider a generous donation at one of the many pledge levels to help me reach my goal.

Be a part of the magic. Partner with me on this journey to make the dream into reality!”

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Pledge to Toby’s Kickstarter Campaign!

This Kickstarter has been up and running for awhile, but you still have about 50 hours still to pledge! As of right now, they’ve reached their goal and some! They’ve even hit their first stretch goal which has enabled them to add a new character designed by the one and only Brian Froud! Also check out the different pledge reward levels – they’re fantastic!

What are you waiting for? Pledge to Toby Froud’s Lessons Learned Kickstarter now!

One of my favorite traditionally-colored webcomics is Dawn Chapel by B. Root. Brian has a gift with watercolors, and I decide to ask him if he would be willing to do an interview with me. Dawn Chapel is a series of eloquently rendered short stories in comic-form. Each story consists of detailed panels and beautiful illustrations that could easily stand on their own. I strongly suggest going and reading some of Brian’s stories. My favorites are A Fine Day Out, Firefox has Crashed, and They Sit So Still.

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Have Some Questions

When did you start drawing comics and what inspired you to?

I started doing The Dawn Chapel in October of 2009, but I’ve fooled around with comics a few times before then. I did a few comics for the university newspaper when I was in school, and attempted a webcomic called Rabicano about a year before my current one that I stalled out on as soon as I started.

I’ve been wanting to get started on a comic for something on the order of ten years now, and I had these big obnoxious plans about these awesome stories I wanted to tell and kept not ever getting started because I didn’t really feel like my art abilities were at the point where they’d do any justice to the stories; until finally I decided that the time when I was ‘good enough’ just wasn’t ever to come and I was wasting my life not doing this thing I wanted to do.

So with The Dawn Chapel I threw out any big stupid ambitious plans about epic, sweeping stories and just gave myself a homework assignment of one page a week, doing little short stories that I wouldn’t have to commit years of time to, and put the comic work itself first and foremost. I didn’t fuss over the web page layout (right now it’s still the barebones Comicpress theme, now that I’ve been at it for almost a year, I should probably take the time to do something with it) and used a domain name I’d registered for another project I meant to do and never got around to, and just started throwing comics at it.

There were a couple of specific things that gave me the boot in the pants to get started on the comic, though: one was a contest called the Sequential Endurance Competition, where all the participants were required to draw and post a page of comics every day, that I thought would be pretty good practice but then missed the entry deadline. The other was seeing my friend Beckey do her comic String Theory, which she started at around the same time I started Rabicano, but she actually stuck with her project and seeing her successes was hugely motivating to me.

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Art History Lesson! Ukiyo-e: The Floating World

I’m going to start out by saying I have never been to Japan. In fact, I’ve never been to any part of Asia. IN FACT, I have never been outside of the United States. Yes, I know, it’s tragic. Thankfully, I have the internet (and awesome worldly friends), and I’ve been introduced to some really fantastic cultures, and in that turn, some really remarkable art techniques.

Ukiyo-e: The Floating World

One of these is Ukiyo-e, which, roughly translated, means “pictures of the floating world.” It was an art form in Japan in which artists printed amazingly detailed pictures on blocks of wood. The subjects of the paintings ranged from city life to mountain landscapes to ocean scenes. They were meant to show the beauty of the world around us. This technique was developed in the 17th century and became popular with townspeople who were not rich enough to own original paintings. Woodprints were easy and fast to make, taking one painting and making hundreds of prints. Because of this, they were mass-produced, so much so that soon there were far too many of them and their popularity waned. They were considered so worthless, in fact, that the Japanese began to use them as packing materials on ships. It wasn’t long before prints found their way outside the country and the rest of the world became aware of their existence.

European artists were in awe of the paintings. Impressionists like Vincent van Gogh and Claude Monet were greatly inspired by the artwork, and the influence of the Ukiyo-e art form was given a name: Japonisme. Though the rest of the world had embraced it, traditional Ukiyo-e died out in the early 1900s, and despite attempts to resurrect it, it has never hit the popularity it had once enjoyed.

I own several different paper prints of traditional Ukiyo-e images, but have never had the opporunity to see an actual woodprint of one. Are there any art forms that you admire but are no longer around? I’d love to hear about them! Feel free to share. For now, enjoy some of my favorite Ukiyo-e prints. For more information about Ukiyo-e, please visit The Japan Ukiyo-e Museum and the very informative Ukiyo-e wiki page.

ukiyoe-sharaku ukiyoe-ogata ukiyoe-kiyonaga

ukiyoe-greatwave ukiyoe-tokaido

ukiyoe-suzuki ukiyoe-edo ukiyoe-kitagawa

ukiyoe-kunisada ukiyoe-kuniyoshi

ukiyoe-yoshu ukiyoe-fuji ukiyoe-hatsuhana

Clicking on any image will bring you to the Wiki page for the artist. Enjoy!