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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Interview with Michael Rex, Illustrator of With Any Luck, I'll Drive a Truck

I'm happy to welcome Michael Rex, the illustrator of Michael Friend's With Any Luck, I'll Drive a Truck, to The Hiding Spot to talk illustrating, hiding spots, and new tv shows!

Can you share a bit about your illustration process?  

For this book, my main goal was to create clear, easily readable drawings that were as technically accurate as possible, but also fun and active. For many of the trucks I was able to do my own research and get good photos of everything I needed. For a few of the trucks, however, I had to rely on the internet. Digging around online, I stumbled upon sites that sold trucks and large equipment. These had great, detailed photos from many different angles.

All of the drawings were first drawn in pencil, and then I do a tracing of them in ink. In the past I have used a quill, but for this book I wanted a very consistent line so I used a thin Copic marker. I then scanned the drawings, and, using Photoshop, made any corrections that were needed, and finally added the color. I also dropped in a layer of textured paper into the art to give it a warmer feel.

One thing that’s great about a book like this is that every spread is unique, and offers a different challenge. Some books require an illustrator to draw the same thing many times, but on this book I didn’t have to repeat myself.


My blog is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Name a notable book, author, or illustrator that has provided you with a hiding spot.  
I don’t know if I ever looked at books as a “hiding spot.” I think when I was young, drawing definitely provided a secure, quiet place away from everyone else. While I certainly do love reading a good book, and can get lost in a captivating story, I don’t know if I’ve ever become wrapped up in a book they way I can get wrapped up in a drawing. Drawing can create a “buzz” within me that I don’t get anywhere else.

When I think of books, I think of doorways. It’s corny, but that’s how I feel. Not so much as a doorway to escape into another world for imagination’s sake, but a doorway to real answers and concrete information. When I was a kid, in 1977, I was really into Star Wars. But while I loved the fictional universe it presented, I was much more interested in how it was made. Who made it? How were the special FX created? Where was it filmed? How were the creatures made? I wanted to know it all.

I approached drawing the same way. When I was a young, I was very aware that being an illustrator was a real job. My mom would always cut articles from papers and magazines about anyone who made a living drawing. Whether it was Charles Shultz, or a local cartoonist who drew political gags for newspapers. For long periods, I would stare at certain illustrations trying to figure out how they were done. What kind of pen was used? What kind of paint? What kind of pencils? I studied many “how to draw” books for hours on end. I wanted information. I wanted to get better at drawing. I used those books as a doorway to the life that I imagined.

That all being said, if there was one book that really pushed me into thinking about writing, it was The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I read it around 1982, when I was a freshman in High School and it really grabbed me. It was true sci-fi, full of odd ideas and well-developed concepts, but it was also very, very funny. I had never seen a combination like that and it really spoke to me. Because of the industry I am in, I have many signed books, but my hardcover edition of “the Guide” signed by Douglas Adams is my favorite.

Inspiration comes in many forms. Share three people, places or things that inspire your creativity.  
Inspiration is a tough one to nail down, because it can come from anywhere. Sometimes a shows up in my head without warning, and the story grows from there. “Goodnight Goon” popped into my head, so did “Truck Duck” and “Icky Ricky.”

I keep a lot of sketchbooks, and sometimes a little doodle will get me thinking about an entire series. “Fangbone!” started that way. So while drawings are hugely important, sometimes looking at my own childhood does the trick. My illustrated chapter book series, “Icky Ricky” was inspired by the way my friends and I behaved when we were kids. We weren’t bad, but we certainly got mixed up in some pretty good nonsense.

Lately, instead of trying to start with titles or drawings, I’ve been exploring “pivotal moments.” Right now, I’m developing two, big graphic novels that are both about how peoples’ beliefs affect their lives. Put more simply, what if something you’ve believed in all of your life---something that has meant everything to you---what if you found out that that ting was not real? What would you do? How would you react? How would you change as a person? That’s something that has me excited to write.

So, it’s 1) Titles, 2) Doodles, 3) My Childhood, 4) Pivotal Moments. (Sorry, that four.)

What can your readers look forward to next?  
Actually, my next release is a TV show! In 2012, my graphic novel “Fangbone! Third Grade Barbarian!” was optioned by a Canadian company production called Radical Sheep. A pilot was produced in 2013, and the show was sold as series in late 2014. We spent most of 2015 in production, and the show started airing in Canada in March of 2016. The “Fangbone!” cartoon will begin airing on Disney XD in early July. We are still in production, and are making 25 episodes. Each episode contains 2, 11-minute stories. So there’s a lot of Fangbone! coming your way. Even though the show starts soon, we will be working on it until November.

About the Illustrator

Illustrator Michael Rex has written and illustrated over twenty children’s books, including the New York Times #1 bestseller Goodnight GoonThe Runaway MummyTruck Duck, and the Fangbone series. He visits schools across the country, and has appeared on The Celebrity Apprentice as a guest illustrator. 
About the Book
New York Times bestselling illustrator Mike Rex’s vivid, vehicle-filled scenes are the perfect match for this enthusiastic celebration of big rigs and big imaginations.

Bulldozers and back-hoes, pavers and plows, trailers and tractors--the world is filled with so many types of trucks! Imagine the fun you could have if you could drive them all! And what if you could bring your best friends along with you? Hop along for a thrilling ride! This playful romp is sure to delight truck lovers everywhere!


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