Thursday, August 12, 2010

Jonathan Miller Interview

Tell me a little bit about yourself, about your life? Where did you go to school, and what classes did you study? What helped prepare you to become the artist that you are today?

I went to a 3 year illustration program in Montreal called Dawson College. I studied the basics of drawing from life drawing, airbrushing(with an actual airbrush), technical drawing, watercolor…etc…It was a decent program for it’s time, but we really didn’t delve into computers at all, so most of what I learned was on the job. I don’t think the program really helped me become a better artist, but rather after graduating getting a job at an animation studio really helped me learn how to draw. Being surrounded by people who are amazing artists/animators helping, correcting and basically giving you tips, made me a better artist. Nothing beats work experience.

How do you go about designing, and what goes through your mind, from start to end?

When I’m given a project, I usually go to the library or book stores and try to get some reference on the topic as well as get motivated by seeing other artists work. I rough out 3-5 different pencil sketches and get feedback from the client or art director. Once I’ve received my revisions and/or comments I tighten the rough and go to colors.

Depending on the project, I try to have as much fun with the illustration. I want it to be what the client wants, but also add little humorous things that you’d really have to look for. I like to add little details.

What is a typical day for you, and who are the people you work with?

I work for a small children’s book publishing company and work with a few other illustrators and graphic designers. A typical day would be sketching, and coloring in the spreads for any given title I’m working on that week, or weeks:). I don’t get to work on a book from beginning to end, because I tend to work on a few titles throughout the year, so I’ll sometimes draw and color in my spreads, or just pencil sketch, and have someone else color them in.

What are some of the things that you have worked on?

My first job was at an animation studio called Cinar. I started out as a clean-up artist, and worked my way up to layouts, character design and some development. It was probably the best experience in teaching me how to actually draw, but after a few years, I started to ger a bit stir-crazy as I didn’t feel I had any creativity at the job. I was drawing someone else’s creation, and most times, didn’t like the style of the cartoon. So, when I left, I was fortunate to find my current job where I have been for the past 8 years illustrating educational children’s books. I’ve done so many titles over the 8 years I’ve been there, so the majority of my work has been kidsbooks.

Is there a design you have done that you are most happy with?

Not really. I’m a perfectionist and fairly hard on myself, so I’m always feeling I could do better when I look back at older illustrations. I don’t think all my work was bad, but I still feel there is more for me to learn and the best is yet to come

What projects are you working on now? (if you can tell us)

I can’t tell you specifically what I’m working on for 2011, but the books consist of sticker books for girls, farm and vehicle books with sounds, and some concept ideas that I hope I get to work on.

Who are some of your favorite artists out there?

There are so many artists that I’ve discovered through blogs who influence my drawing and color palette. To name them all would take at least 2 paragraphs, but off the top of my head, Mike Adair who created Hoops & Yoyo from Hallmark, Steve Mack, Bob Staake(awesome colors),Miah Alcorn, Aurore Daumont, Steve Lambe, Johnny Yanok, Anna Chambers, Nate Wragg and so many others I’m sure I’m forgetting. And I just discovered Joe Moshier’s Go Pea Go! Amazing stuff!

Could you talk about your process in coloring your art, as well as the types of tools or media that you use?

I’m pretty old-school and still draw with a pencil(red or non-repro blue) and paper. I scan the pencil sketch and use it as a template in Illustrator. I still use a mouse, as I cannot draw with a stylus. If I need to render an image in Photoshop, then the stylus is a must. I’ve never seen a cintiq, but I’ve been told they’re amazing. Eventually, I’m sure I’ll use the Wacom for everything, but I’m so used to coloring with a mouse in Illustrator, I don’t know if it will be an easy change.

What part of designing is most fun and easy, and what is most difficult?

The most fun and easiest is the sketching…Especially if the subject matter and style is something I want to do or experiment with. The most difficult is choosing the right colors as well as rendering in Photoshop. Most of my work is in Illustrator and flat colors, so when a client wants a rendered image, it’s hard as I don’t airbrush in Photoshop that often. If I was able to render for 6 months straight, I think my confidence in that area would improve greatly.

What are some of the things that you do to keep yourself creative?

Looking at blogs of other artists. Going to local bookstores and seeing what’s out there and what styles(illustration and color-wise), cartoons, buying toys.

What are some of your favorite designs which you have seen?

I love most of the designs of artists like Mike Adair and Steve Mack, as I think my style and color choices are fairly close to theirs. I love Miah Alcorns drawings and character expressions and movements. Bob Staake has such an amazing color sense. Probably the best I’ve ever seen for cartoon work.

What is your most favorite subject to draw? And why?

Animals. They’re easy and fun. No detailed answer on this one…

What inspired you to become an Artist?

I had been drawing since kindergarden, and just kept at it. I don’t think I had anyone in particular that inspired me to draw, it was just something I did. I never thought I’d have a career as a cartoonist, but I’ve been fortunate to be able to find full-time work doing what I love(most of the time:)

What are some of the neat things you have learned from other artists that you have worked with or seen?

Simplifying my work is sometimes better then too much detail. Different coloring styles as well a various color palettes. Better and really cool layout designs.

What wisdom could you give us, about being an Artist? Do you have any tips you could give?

Work hard is pretty much the standard advice I’ve been given. Look at what other successful artists are doing and it doesn’t hurt to network either. There are tons of amazing artists who can’t find work and it has nothing to do with their talent…It’s a combination or luck, talent and who you know. I did get some advice a long time ago from Bob Staake which was to find a style of drawing and stick with it. I’m not sure I have a distinct or unique style, as I like to change it up a bit to keep it fresh and exciting, but I always thought that was good advice.

If people would like to contact you, how would you like to be contacted? (Email, Web page)

I have a blog at or you can email me at

Finally, do you have any of your art work for sale (sketchbook, prints, or anything) for people that like your work can know where and when to buy it?

You can find my books at your local bookstores…You just have to look hard

1 comment:

  1. Great work. I really love the little monsters. The simplicity of the lines is so hard to do for so many artists. Great interview.