SIX MINUTES WITH AARON BLECHA:
Today Aaron Blecha joins LitPick for Six Minutes with an Illustrator! Aaron is an artist who designs funny characters, animates goofy cartoons, and illustrates humorous books, including the popular George Brown, Class Clown and Shark School series.
In addition to illustrating children’s books (Penguin, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster), he works as a character designer in TV development (Disney, Curious Pictures) and a sometimes 2D animator (Cartoon Network, Warner Bros).
Aaron was born and raised (by giant squid) in Green Bay, Wisconsin and graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1997. After leaving school and bouncing around to Chicago, then Copenhagen- he landed in California. In San Francisco, Blecha worked as an animator and character designer in the animation and toy industries. He moved to London in 2007 and has been freelancing ever since. Today he lives with his family in Brighton & Hove, on the south coast of England.
How did you get started as an illustrator?
From an early age, I was always drawing. I was an average student so luckily I had art to carry me through school and keep me interested. I had an excellent, inspiring art teacher in high school that let us explore our style rather than demand you stick to specific rules (Captain Calamari was the title of my first graphic novel in high school). After university, I worked as a graphic designer and then an animator, but I've now been a freelance illustrator for 9 years, mainly working in children's publishing.
Who influenced you?
I'd say Mercer Mayer has a lot influence on me as an artist. He created such a rich world of goofy characters and monsters that still live with me to this day. Paul Galdone's scratchy creepy art and Richard Scarry's fun detailed worlds are still influential. I have two young daughters so I have extra incentive to keep up on new picture books and illustrators too.
Outside of publishing - I'm also influenced by the imagination of Bill Watterson and the craziness of Gary Larson. Also Star Wars, old nature books, weird sea creatures and 50s sci-fi/horror film posters.
Do you have a favorite subject/medium?
Subject- Anything humorous! I usually tell people I'm an illustrator that specializes in “monsters, burps, farts and zombies.”
Medium- I start sketching with either a red or blue Col-Erase Prisma-color pencil, then I ink over that with a Pentel Pocket Brush and Faber-Castell Pitt Artist pens. After inking I scan my illustrations in and color and add textures in Photoshop.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to be an illustrator?
- Find your style and keep working on it, trying to improve every day! Don't try to be a jack of all trades. Slight variations on your style will work well.
- Carry a sketchbook with you everywhere you go. Always try to progress- go to life drawing sessions, watch tutorials online, try new media, etc.
- Try to get inspired by other illustrators’ work but don't become obsessed by it. Balance it by locking yourself away from the outside world and just draw whatever comes to mind.
Where is your favorite place to work?
I have a cozy studio in the heart of Brighton's North Laine that I share with other creative people. I bike into "work" most days along the seaside.
What else would you like to tell us?
I’m currently illustrating chapter book series for both Penguin (George Brown, Class Clown) and Simon & Schuster (Shark School).
I also create characters for a variety of clients - from designing TV animation pitches for development studios (including Disney TV and Curious Pictures) to creating superheroes and monsters for a campaign advertising Cartoon Network’s first Animation Academy.
I’m excited to be currently writing and illustrating my first picture book for Harper Collins to be published in autumn 2015. I'll be sharing news about that in the coming months.
Thank you for being our first interview of 2015! We look forward to seeing your picture book in the fall!