Please welcome artist Scott Fischer. He is a painter by birth, a musician by training, and a storyteller by choice. Best known as the author/illustrator of JUMP!. he is also the illustrator of Twinkle, the New York Times bestselling Peter Pan in Scarlet, Lottie Paris Lives Here, and Lottie Paris and the Best Place. Scott lives with his wife, daughter, and a menagerie of animals in Belchertown, Massachusetts.
Q: When did you get started illustrating for children? What did you do before?
A: My First children’s book was a retelling of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, with aliens and spaceships and interstellar crashes with meteors. Oh yeah, and a Star. I started really thinking about doing kids books about the time we had our daughter, Sarah. Funny how that happens. A big catalyst in getting there was Angela and Tony DiTerlizzi. They are some of my closest friends and Tony had already been blazing a path in children’s books. Prior to that, like Tony, I came from the world of Sci-fi/Fantasy, illustrating for games like Magic the Gathering, Dungeons and Dragons, and doing concept design for the computer game industry as well as doing novel covers, etc. Happy to say I am still working in all of these areas.
Q: Your newest book released this month is Lottie Paris and the Best Place by Angela Johnson. The last book in the Lottie series came out a while ago. Do you notice a change in your art with such a long gap between books?
A: I think the art for the second Lottie Paris book is a continuation and a bit of an evolution from the first book. I had about the most fun I ever have making art for those books. It was glorious MESS! Gouache, attacked with sandpaper, stamping, stencils for about every color change you see, airbrush, crackle paint, and on the second book I even dipped the illustration in marbleized paint to get some of those effects (that is the evolution). The final art is all live art, no computer. It was a joy to create. Reminded me of being a kid and the excitement of finger painting. And more importantly, the risk of not knowing what the art would look like till you were done.
Q: Tell us a little bit about the illustrations behind your recently released books, Scary School, middle-grade book series. How does illustrating a novel length book differ than illustrating a picture book?
A: Another genre I love is the middle grade genre. Scary School is a series I have been illustrating for 3 years and it is also a blast to do. But a different kind of blast. There I connect with my inner middle schooler who wished he could draw the things I saw in my head. Well, now I can draw them, and I remember those years and the things I thought were cool and funny. Those books are all ballpoint pen, which gives an immediacy to the drawings. They aren’t heavily labored on, focusing more on the emotion and energy than anything else. But you know you love your job when, in a quiet studio, with no one around, you bust out laughing at what you are drawing. “Are you kidding me, someone pays me to do this!!!”
Q: Do you have another book planned for either series? Anything you can share with us about them?
A: Alas as of now, last year I finished the last books planned for both Scary School and Ms Lottie Paris. It is hard to let the babies go, but that is the nature of things. Hopefully what is out there will live on for years in the hands of young readers.
Q: What other children’s books have you worked on?
A: This is a list of my fully illustrated books.
JUMP! (Simon and Schuster) Scott M Fischer (This book was in over a million Cheerios Boxes!)
Between the Lines (Simon and Schuster) Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer
TWINKLE (Simon and Schuster) Scott M. Fischer/Public Domain
PETER PAN IN SCARLET (Simon and Schuster) Geraldine McCaughrean and Scott M. Fischer
THE SECRETS OF DRIPPING FANG 1-8 (Harcourt) Dan Greenburg and Scott M. Fischer
ANIMALS ANONYMOUS (Simon and Schuster) Rich Michelson and Scott M. Fischer
Q: What are you working on right now? Do you have any other art projects you’d like to talk about?
A: Currently I am working on my first illustrated book for the UK market which is very exciting. A really traditional spooky ghost story. Also working on a handful of novel covers and even some art for the gaming worlds of Magic the Gathering and World of Warcraft.
Q: Do you do non-children’s book art (licensing, fine art, etc.) or art just for fun? Is that art similar or different from your children’s book art?
A: I am always doing art for fun. It is where I grow the most, and really, I have to be selfish sometimes. I have this dream of being a fine artist someday and showing in galleries, but I haven’t had the time to seriously venture down those pathways yet.
My art process is, “Whatever it takes to make it look awesome!” Actually I have soooooo many techniques I use from digital to graphite and it is all so dependent on the actual project I am working on that it would be impossible to sum it up. BUT I have started a blog which has been a great outlet for showing behind the scenes and how-tos.
Also, if you can find it, there is an article in the August 2011 issue of International Artist that breaks down my Lottie Paris Process step-by-step.
Q: What is your favorite medium to work in? Have you always worked in this media? If not, why did you switch?
A: See above LOL. I will add though that I take pride in finding the best technique to serve the book and NOT forcing a particular style on to the subject.
Q: Do you use models/source pictures or do you draw from your memory/imagination?
A: Yes. All of the above. But really the younger the art gets the more it is straight from imagination. Scary School, Lottie, about 99.9% imagination. Novel covers and gaming art are a mix. But in generally I do as much as possible from the head and back it up with ref. Try not to be a slave to the ref. Try to think beyond the ref.
Q: What gets you through an illustration when you’re stuck for inspiration?
Sketchbook, sketchbook sketchbook. Just draw your way through it. Draw things that aren’t even related. Tickle the idea, give your subconscious a name and let he or she work on the idea while you do something else. I’ve had to force things without proper forethought because “Scott we have this marketing meeting tomorrow can you get us something to show.” And I hate it. But sometimes you have to do that.
But actually for the most part, my problem isn’t getting stuck. My problem is figuring what, out of the zillion things I want to do, I will do. Which can be just as paralyzing.
Q: What is your favorite thing about being an illustrator?
A: EVERYTHING! (Except the unpredictability.)
Q: If you could be anything other than an artist, what would you be?
I would build custom things that move. Hot Rods, Motorcycles, Bicycles.
Q: What book do you remember from when you were young?
A: The sad thing is I wasn’t much of a reader. I was too busy acting out my imagination. Which is one of the reasons I try to make books that the kid in me would have rather spent time with rather than GI Joe and Legos! (But man, how awesome are Legos!!)
Q: What one piece of advice would you give to an illustrator new to the field?
A: Keep going. Keep learning. Did something go wrong in an illustration? Stop, take a second and understand what went wrong. Record it. This is deep practice which is different than surface practice. I have a great quote from my pal and awesome artist Doug Gregory. He was critiquing a student’s work and did a quick little sketch on the side to explain what he was saying. The student said, “Dude it took you like literally 5 seconds to draw something better than I had spent a week drawing.” And Doug replied, “It didn’t take me 5 seconds to draw that doodle, it took me 40 years.”