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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Award Winning Illustrator, Mark Wayne Adam, Shares His Work and Advice

I saw your artwork, and was fascinated.  Would you tell us a little about your background before we begin talking about the work itself? 

         Anyone who knows me, knows drawing is a huge part of my life.  When asked if I illustrate for a living, I respond with an inspiring drawing lesson and recommend my best sketchbook to aspiring writers and artists. Recently, I was awarded medals for the 2010 Florida Publishers Association, the 2010 IPPY Awards, the 2010 Eric Hoffer Awards, and 2009 Moonbeam Award as Best Illustrator for contributions to “Nicholas, That’s Ridiculous” written by Christa Carpenter.  Also received were medals in the 2010 Ben Franklin Awards, 2010 Indie Excellence Awards, and the 2010 Mom’s Choice Awards for contributions to “The Belly Button Fairy” and “The Fart Fairy” written by Bobbie Hinman.

Newly released is “King for a Day, the Story of Stories” and a Simplicity Pattern #2299 featuring an original toy design.

Where do you work?
Longwood, Florida is where work commences most days, usually by the pool or in the home office.  I also enjoy working remotely at a quiet hotel lobby, a local WiFi restaurant, or even a public library, I can illustrate most anywhere.

Tell us about your work.
My goal is to create diversity in my work, so I use a variety mediums and styles.  Each is as unique as the authors with whom I work.  As an aspiring animator, I knew matching specific styles would be an asset.  This has proven especially helpful for authors with nightmare illustrators.   Whether the illustrator quits, is slow, or has personal issues, I can complete the project.
Speed has become my second greatest asset.  I can usually illustrate a 32 page children’s book in about 30 days.  This allows series authors to release multiple books in one year.  Most times an author takes longer to sign a contract, than I take to illustrate their book.
Why did you choose to be an illustrator?
I will make this as short as possible.  Illustration was not my choice at first.  Animation was my dreamy first choice, so I moved to Florida seeking a career at Walt Disney Animation Studios.  Not long after arriving, the studios moved to California.  I had many good reasons not to follow; a wife, house, and daughter to mention a few.  The studio’s move helped me explore other artistic possibilities. 
I worked as a Lead in the Theming Department at SeaWorld, Orlando, Art Director for an Architectural Sign Company, and manager for a Commercial Printing Company.  Each business was a profitable facet of artistic design.  From murals to signs, digital to paper, and mass markets to individuals; art was an income for every company.  This valuable business knowledge was applied to my own illustration company.  Working 10 to 20 hours a week, I generated an income equal to my 50 hour a week J.O.B.S.  I do not mind working hard, however I much rather work smart.
As an illustrator, I began to visit schools sharing my career.  Illustration chose me at my first presentation for Cuba Elementary, in Cuba, KY.  After fumbling my way through the day, I realized my contribution to books reach more than bookshelf.  My art inspired children, adults, educators, and peers.  Not only when I was presenting, but also at bedtime, story time, and most importantly when someone wanted to tell his or her story.   Those children at Cuba Elementary helped illustration choose me.
What are some of your illustrations that have been published?
Most all of my illustrations are published.  The unpublished works are found in my best sketchbooks and given to children at special events.  In 10 years, I completed 52 journals, almost 12,000 sketches.  These are notes, storyboards, and character building pages.  My next 10 years of journals started in 2010.
What are the titles of some of the books you have illustrated.    

 “Nicholas, That’s Ridiculous!” by Christa Carpenter
 “Jilli, That’s Silly!” by Christa Carpenter
 “The Belly Button Fairy” by Bobbie Hinman
 “King for a Day” by Mark Wayne Adams
 Best Sketchbook” by Mark Wayne Adams
 “The Fart Fairy” by Bobbie Hinman
 “Field of Dreams” by Mark Hoog
“Treasure Island” by Mark Hoog
“The Skunk Who Was Afraid to Stink” by Brielle Kelley
“Jadyn and the Magic Bubble, Kenya Kenya!” by Brigitte Benchimol
“Guinea in My Cap?” by Wanda Hughes
“Shanti the Yogi” by Spirit Voyage Music
“The World’s Greatest Pillow Fight” by Suneet Bhatt
“Pop the Bubbles, 1-2-3” by Jennifer Goble
“Good Nightmare” by Mark Wayne Adams
“Miss Mary’s Missing Book Bag” by Mark Wayne Adams
“The McGregor’s and Me” by David Garrett
“The Little Orange Salamander” by Dolores J. Mazzeo

“The Nerds” by Beverly Webel
“Dogs of the Caribou and Other Stories” by Mary Gentry
“The Magical Forest” Kristen Mason

How do you come up with the visual portrayal of characters in books?
I first seek input from the author.  I ask authors about each character’s personality and “underlying” story.  For example:  Nicholas Wallaby and his mom from “Nicholas, That’s Ridiculous!,” are actually the author, Christa Carpenter, and her son, Nicholas Carpenter.  The entire series is based on actual events in her life.  In addition, knowing Christa’s love for teaching, writing, and embroidering t-shirts helped me illustrate some great marketing tools within the story.  
How is being an illustrator different than other graphic artist?
Being an illustrator requires a fusion of art and storytelling talents.  Illustrators create entertaining artwork for a variety of audiences using a variety of mediums.  The variety is not limited to realism, fantasy, cartoon, or portraiture, not even by digital art vs. oils.  This talent separates illustrators from graphic artists.
Why and when did you begin?
I have two beginnings, uneducated and educated.  My uneducated beginning started in the late 90’s.  I no longer wanted to follow my animation dream, so I illustrated a few under estimated projects.  I was making no money at that time.
My educated beginning started in 2005. I discovered the Graphic Artist Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines.  This book contains industry pricing standards, contracts, and business tools that made making art a business.  A must own for authors and illustrators to determine the value of illustrations.
What is your working schedule?  Is this your fulltime profession, or do you do other things as well?
Wow!  A working schedule sounds like a J.O.B.  Have you every heard the saying, “if you love what you do you'll never work a day in your life?”  That sums up my schedule.  I illustrate about four to six hours a day, five days a week.  If I am not illustrating, I am drawing in my best sketchbook. My full time profession maneuvers around school visits, book events, and most importantly my family.  
Do you usually work directly with authors, or with the publishers?
I work directly with authors.
Is there something that writers should know about time and cost of having their books illustrated?
Hiring a professional illustrator will save authors time and money when having their books illustrated. Illustrators require the printer and graphic designer’s guidelines along with the final edited story.  Artists are liberal with time; however, a professional illustrator creates according to timelines and budgets.  Require communication throughout the process using standard Digital Proofing.  The Digital Proofing website is one that allows remote viewing for the author, editor, printer, graphic designer, and artist.  The site is generally password protected and includes the story, storyboard, and resources.

Three basic Children's Book contracts are Purchase Contract, Copyright Contract, or Royalty Contract.  (Descriptions can be found in Graphic Artist Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines)  A Royalty Contract should require the least up front investment, and usually offer unlimited use with a royalty percentage.  Each contract is based on the number of illustrations, artistic style, scanning, manipulation, and digital clean up.
(Do you ever design just book covers?) 
Yes.  I include book covers within the scope of an illustration contract.
What things should an author know when they are thinking about working with an illustrator?
Royalties are a wise investment!  By rewarding the illustrator through royalties, authors can expect 110% from their illustrator.  Working to make an author successful is less inspiring than working to make author and illustrator successful.
What kind of advice or tips to you have for someone who wants to have their books illustrated?
Illustrations take time.  It takes generally 30 to 60 days for professional illustrators.  Much longer for artists, first time illustrators, or “nephew artists*.”  Before choosing an illustrator, define a production timeline and insist the illustrator follow.  Sign a mutually rewarding contract.  Being underpaid, rushed, and inexperienced are all ways to ruin even a close family relationship.
*Nephew Artist; a family member with minimal artistic training.  Authors generally choose a “nephew artist” out of loyalty, a desire for cheap artwork, and to keep the money in the family.
Are there any other comments, advice or tips that you would give to writers?
Expect the same quality you see on the shelves of your bookstore.  Compare your illustrator’s artwork with that of other professionals.  If the quality is not there, do not be ashamed to terminate the agreement.  Having a quality product is much more important than making caressing your illustrator’s ego. 
What “Made It” moments have you experienced.
As a marathon runner, milestones are important to reach the finish line.  Therefore, I will mention a few personal milestones. 
1.  Winning my first poster contest in 1st grade, taught me I could make money with my gift.
2.  Attending the 1988 Governor’s School for the Arts in Kentucky, taught me my gift would take away from the farm.
3.  Meeting Don Egbert, the bank manager in my hometown of Dawson Springs, KY.  Don said, “Mr. Adams your name is the most valuable thing you own. Be careful where it appears.”  A milestone I did not understand then, but apply daily in my business!
4.  Meeting Arnold Schwarzenegger who stopped his workout to discuss my sketchbook.  As a Disney employee at the time, I was not allowed to approach guests for autographs.  So, I did what I do best…draw.  Mr. Schwarzenegger talked for over 15 minutes about my “gift” as he called it.  The one “star” I had hoped to meet exceeded my expectations with his interest.  This moment taught me how to introduce myself to some incredible people, and all without saying a word, but by only using my “gift.”
My life is still moving in milestone moments.  I love what do, which means I will feel successful all my life. My “Made It” moments will be determined by others.

Ms. Christa Carpenter,
author of "Nicholas, That's Ridiculous!",
and I at the
 "King for a Day" launch party
 held at Barnes & Noble, Altamonte Springs, FL

Mrs. Bobbie Hinman,
author of the Best Fairy Books series,
and I signing
at Barnes & Noble, Bel Air, MD.  

Mr. Mark Hoog, author of the Growing Field Books series,
 and I with the Principal and teachers of
Twin Lakes Academy Elementary in Jacksonville, FL.

If you wish to contact Mark or learn more about him and his work, you may do so in the following ways:
Mark Wayne Adams, P.O. 916392, Longwood, FL 32791
Phone:             (407) 756-5862

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