Everyone has fond memories of looking at their favorite children’s books when they were growing up. Those childhood stories still bring us back to a time when everything seemed dreamlike and magical. The pictures and illustrations kept us captivated and enthralled in this mystical and “other world” with endless possibilities. In respect to those fond memories I asked Bob Ostrom, an extremely talented children’s illustrator, to be featured in this week’s blog. I personally have asked Bob in the past to share his opinion and give me guidance with helping others create their own children’s books. And if you have ever considered creating a children’s book Bob can give you a glimpse into what it’s like to illustrate for the most imaginative audience.
David: Hey Bob, I’m thrilled to feature you on “Don’t Pick the Flowers” blog. Your illustration for children’s books is astounding. Can you share a little about your work and Bob Ostrom Studio?
Bob: Thanks for the kind words David. I’ve been illustrating children’s books for a little over 20 years. I began by working mostly with licensed properties. I was fortunate enough to be able to work with lots of big companies like Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, and Disney early in my career. Having things like Rugrats,MagicSchoolbus and Ninja Turtles in my portfolio helped my credibility and made it easier to find work but doing licensed art is very demanding. Eventually I became restless and wanted to expand. So I found a new rep who helped me change directions. She was an excellent mentor and helped me pursue my dream of doing more original art. The books I work on now all feature artwork and characters that I’ve created.
David: What do you consider to be some of the rewards of being a children’s illustrator?
Bob: There are lots of great things about being a children’s illustrator but one of my favorites is being able to share my art with kids. I really enjoy teaching kids about what I do and how to draw silly stuff. I teach lots of art classes for kids. I also do appearances at schools and libraries. For kids who aren’t able to come see me or take my classes I’ve built a website. It’s got all kinds of lesson plans, videos and free coloring pages for anyone interested in art or cartooning.
David: Do you ever consider it difficult at times to produce someone else’s ideas?
Bob: Not at all. My job as a children’s book illustrator is to be creative and bring those ideas to life. Designing and illustrating a book is a collaborative effort so the best part of any project is when I get to exchange creative ideas with an art director, author or client. Whenever I’m working on a project I try to make sure I’m not just painting pretty pictures. Yes, I want my illustrations to tell the story but I also want them to be fun and engaging. Sometimes I’ll build in little subplots or develop fun relationships between the characters. Richard Scary was great at that. He used to have this little worm on each page doing something silly. The trick is keep it subtle. You never want the subplot to upstage the actual storyline. Anyhow the point is if it’s fun for me then it’s usually fun for the reader too.
David: There are a couple of avenues for publishing children’s books, finding a publisher or self-publishing. For anyone who is looking to create their own children’s book, what advice would you give?
Bob: There are pluses and minuses to both.
Plus side- publishers and the people who work for them really know what they are doing. They understand every aspect of producing and marketing a book. They are professional, respectful and always strive to bring out the best in you.
Minus side-finding a publisher to accept your work can be very challenging. The children’s market is extremely competitive and the odds of getting published right away can be a little discouraging.
Plus side- There are no barriers. All you need to do is have an idea, a little bit of money and then follow through with it. You are in charge. Whatever you dream, you can do.
Minus side– Self publishing comes with a whole different set of challenges. As a self published author or artist you will basically need to take on all the rolls of a traditional publisher. Being a just writer or illustrator is not enough. You’ll need to understand everything it takes to produce and market a book. You’ll need to know illustration, layout and design. If you plan to make money you’ll also need to know about sales, distribution, marketing and promotion. If you can’t do all these things, you will need to pay someone else to do them for you. The costs can add up. Be aware that the less experience you have the more expenses you will incur.
Advice- I work on both traditional and self published books all the time. My advice to anyone who is truly interested in pursuing either directions is to learn as much as you can about the Industry. Do your homework and make a plan before you begin. There will be a lot of things you learn as you go but it’s a good idea to surround yourself with experienced and knowledgeable people who can help you gain understanding and eliminate some of the more costly mistakes you might make along the way. If you decide to take the self publishing route try to avoid bargain shopping. If you plan to partner up with someone be sure they can handle the task. There is no substitute for talent or experience. Above all in either case have fun and let it reflect in the work you do.
David: What is your take on books being downloaded, kindles and the like?
Bob: I can’t wait for this market to take off. We’re just at the tip of the iceberg right now and the possibilities are limitless. I love the idea of a story truly being able to come to life in an interactive way. The potential for learning and creativity are amazing. It’s the kind of thing I used to dream about as a kid. I still have a bit to learn when it comes to e-publishing but I’m really excited to bring some of the projects I’m working on to life.
David: And it does sound as exciting for the creators as it does for the kids. Thanks for being featured Bob and for helping me personally when I’ve had questions about illustrating for others who want to dive into the world of children’s literature.
Find out more about Bob Ostrom and the world of children’s illustrations at:
How 2 Draw site: bobostromstudio.com/how2draw
Drawn by Success: drawnbysuccess.com