Today I'm pleased to feature another guest illustrator - Bobby Hammer. Bobby, twenty-two-years-of-age, comes from the Midwest of USA and seems to know where he is headed. Bobby did the illustrations for a former guest's book - Erika Kathryn. Welcome, Bobby ...
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR ILLUSTRATING JOURNEY.
My name is Bobby Hammer; I’m twenty-two years old, and a native of the Midwest. I’m graduating from Purdue University Calumet this spring with a Bachelors of Science degree in chemistry, minor in French, and I consider art to be a long-held passion of mine.
Technically, I’m a portrait artist; I trained in portraiture under artist D. Anne Jones from the seventh grade, well into high school. I’ve been turning out portraits ever since. Audie the Angel and the Angel Army, Vol. One, by Erika Kathryn, was the first cover illustration that I had personally executed.
WERE YOU GOOD AT DRAWING AS A KID?
Define: good [laughter]. I was always very artistic as a child; something both my parents encouraged (I’d like to give a massive thank-you to my parents for the years of lessons, seeing that I had the proper tools of the trade, and their never-ending support). Art was, hands down, my favourite subject in elementary school; some of the things I’d turn out would be put in display cases at school, or entered into the art showcase the school district would put on during the spring, so I guess my teacher saw aptitude. Like anything, it takes practice and commitment.
I definitely went through many-a-box of crayons growing up. I actually started to develop brand preference, and would steer clear of the ones I didn’t like [laughter]; there aren’t many six-year-olds that I’m aware of that are that pernickety when it comes to art supplies where the main objective is to stay in the lines.
WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME AN ILLUSTRATOR?
I never have marketed myself as an illustrator per-say; my training was in portraiture, and I’d only ever done portraits. The first volume of the Angel Archives was actually the second book that I’ve been privileged to contribute to. I had worked on another book a year prior to Audie with Anne Marie Jenkins Holler (a wonderful neighbour of mine); however, I acted as more of a creative consultant. The publishing house had a team of illustrators that would send concept sketches to Anne Marie and I. We’d tell them what we envisioned, discussed what we liked, and make suggestions for changes. My role was definitely less hands-on and more middle-man, but it was fun for me all the same; it certainly was very interesting to see the more industry-driven side of things.
For Audie the Angel, Erika Kathryn had approached me to do the cover for Volume 1 after seeing my work on Facebook; I post the majority of what I’m working on, so family and friends can see what I’m up to. She gave me some insight into the story and the characters she had developed; the concept was so fun, unique, and creative, I knew that it was something I had to be a part of. It really was great fun and I truly enjoyed working on it. As an artist, it was easy to draw inspiration from Erika’s story. The characters were so relatable, so vivid; and the world that she’s created really left an impression on me, both as a reader and an artist.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING AN ILLUSTRATOR?
Lately, the trend in education has been pretty heavy on group work; being able to collaborate successfully with others to accomplish goals. Chemistry, especially, is a very group-orientated discipline; in a laboratory environment, you can bet that you’ll be working with others.
With such work-ethic being engrained in me, as an illustrator, nothing compares to the synergy that you develop in those preliminary consultations with an author. I like to get an idea of what the author envisions, and then you both run with it. In the end, it’s almost like telepathy; you both find that you’re envisioning something very similar.
Creatively, it’s exciting to be on the same page with someone in a collaborative effort; it certainly makes the whole process easier and increases the willingness to accomplish the task at hand.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING AN ILLUSTRATOR?
Deadlines [laughter]. I applaud those artists that can crank out work after work to no end; who can sit down, anytime, anywhere, and create masterpieces. For me, the creative vibe has to be there, otherwise I turn out art that I’m not particularly happy with. If I’m not “feelin’ it”, then I’m not drawing; that gets difficult when deadlines come into play. I do my best to meet them! I swear I do! [Laughter]
DO YOU WORK FOR YOURSELF, OTHERS OR BOTH?
When I draw, it’s typically for me; I see something that inspires me and I feel the need to put it down to paper.
However, if a commission comes along, I adopt an “in-the-business-to-please” mentality; you have to. Especially in working as an illustrator; I feel it’s crucial to respect the author’s creative vision. They’re artists too, and they need to be respected; in my book, it’d be a criminal offense to quell their creativity, to completely disregard what they envision for their work. Especially when they’ve sought you out to showcase what is essentially their pride and joy. That’s why it’s important to me that a sort of collaborative synergy develops; it gets you both on the same page and generates that buzz of excitement to carry you through a project.
WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME AN ILLUSTRATOR?
I don’t know if I can name any one role, but I definitely relate to the Romantic period; that blend of scientific progress and a renewed significance in the arts. It pretty much sums up my life and education really. I actually really do like the literary greats of that time, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and the majority of the works of Victor Hugo and Jane Austen.
WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT?
Apart from my impending graduation date (they don’t give away degrees, folks [laughter]), I’d have to say, artistically, that the cover for Audie is my greatest achievement. It’s the first of my own, personal work to be on display for the masses and I’m fiercely proud of it. My family is really excited for me, and Erika has been so great about making sure that my name gets out there as well (something I’m truly grateful for). You really can’t ask for more as an artist.
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
I tend to focus on certain time periods and use those as inspiration for my uncommissioned portraits, works that I hope stay in the family for generations to come. At the moment, I’m pretty heavy into the expanse of time from the Edwardian era to the 1920s.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE MEDIUM?
The majority of my work has been done in black and white charcoal, blended with a blending stump; I’m just now starting to pick up color chalk pastels again (I trained in them briefly). They’re messy. Who am I kidding, it’s all messy, really [laughter]. But with the chalk pastels, you can’t really get around using your fingers to blend them, but I do like the end result and they’re very forgiving should you make a mistake.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
As far as individual artists are concerned; some of the Italian greats, such as Botticelli (a print of The Birth of Venus hangs in my bedroom), da Vinci, and Caravaggio. I enjoy doing portraits inspired by classics; I guess it’s my way of paying homage to my favorites.
I’m big on the Baroque and Rococo movements; they’re gawdy, but I love ‘em. The 18th century movement dubbed the Grand Manner, specifically artist Sir Joshua Reynolds, is also a favourite.
Basically, I really appreciate anything that is heavy on detail; I think because I can appreciate the time that it takes and the work it entails.
WHAT DO YOU PREFER TO ILLUSTRATE?
Being trained in portraits, is it shocking that I say people? [Laughter] I enjoy the challenge of realism, creating that spark of life. Landscapes pose a challenge for me; the depth that they require is often more difficult to suggest than people make it out to be. I tend to get a little lost in trying to establish foreground and background.
DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR EMERGING ILLUSTRATORS?
I’ve got a few “Nevers”: Never stop drawing, never stop trying to improve, never hold back, never worry about what others may think (that’s the big “No-No”, it’s terrible and so crippling to creativity). It’s important to stay true to your own style. Take pride in your work; if you’re not proud of it, your chances of making an impression with it are slim-to-none. It’s also important to know when to stop; to say, “Okay, this piece complete” (I’m still very guilty of this).
DO YOU SUFFER FROM ILLUSTRATOR’S BLOCK?
All the time; as I said, if I’m not feeling the creative vibe, I can’t turn out good work. It’s virtually impossible. However, I do try to counteract it; listening to music or watching a favourite movie or TV show (something that’s really visually compelling, those feast-for-the-eyes types of shows and movies) definitely helps.
DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED SCHEDULE?
Not really, I draw when the mood strikes; however, it’s easier to work in color when you’ve got sunlight. Light from electric bulbs doesn’t really do the pastels justice.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE PLACE TO ILLUSTRATE?
I did! There was an old pine tree in our backyard that was pre-existing on the property; I don’t know the exact type, but it was shaped like a lollipop. I’d gather up my supplies and easel, and then head out to draw under it.
It got struck by lightning about two years back (think the commercial with Mr. Owl, where he bites the sucker clean off the stick, that’s what it ended up looking like [laughter]); I was a little devastated.
Now, I just clear the dining room table and draw there. I miss that tree…
WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST JOY IN YOUR WORK?
I’m a very antsy sort of person, definitely a “Go-Go-Go” mentality and work ethic (I sometimes pace while studying for school, it’s kind of tragic, but I swear it helps me [laughter]); as such, I have a hard time relaxing.
All art is self-expression in some form, which is innately therapeutic whether you recognize it or not; however, for me, it’s also my “stop-and-smell-the-roses” moment [laughter]. I actually sit down and unwind for a while; anyone can tell you that’s a rarity for me.
WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE ILLUSTRATOR AND WHY?
Mary GrandPré, of the Harry Potter series, hands down. I love her style, in that it’s hard to define. It’s geometric, but soft; abstract, yet concrete. Looking at her cover work, your eye is immediately drawn to the characters, and then everything else is sort of ethereal. She’s brilliant when it comes to her use of color as well; I really admire that. Also, I can’t imagine how difficult it was for her to do age-progression over seven books (a person’s face definitely changes quite a bit from eleven to seventeen); there’s some serious thought and planning that goes into that.
WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED?
I don’t really know if there’s ever been any one compliment that I’ve received. I do like to see the reaction that my work elicits; they say actions speak louder than words, and I couldn’t agree more. Seeing someone’s eyes light up upon seeing something that I’ve done, it can’t be beat.
WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED?
I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve never really experienced anything so negative that it stands out in my mind; however, if there has been something, I’ve never let it stop me, or break my spirit. Part of being an artist is putting your work out there and, of course, it will be scrutinized. It’s nerve-wracking and terrifying, but at the same time, if you are genuinely proud of something you did, you’ll find won’t back down from it. I’m not saying that you’re going to bare-knuckle fight over an adverse reaction, but you will let negativity roll off your back.
There’s another part to being an artist (or even a creative person in general) that no one ever tells you about: You do need to be your own biggest fan, especially when you’re just starting out. It helps to buffer negative feed-back and to build a thicker skin; you need to possess some sort of self-confidence, otherwise none of your art would see the light of day.
WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU?
You won’t find a work by me, immortalizing the time when a box of chicken caught fire at a graduation party we were hosting, although I imagine that’d be gold to a comedy writer [laughter]. However, if you did, it’d look as valiant as the portrait of Washington crossing the Delaware; greasy, flaming box in hand, darting out the front door [laughter].
In all seriousness, I’ll go through moods, sometimes reflected in the expressions of the subjects of my works. Sometimes the subjects I choose exude confidence, other times they don’t seem to certain of themselves or anything for that matter. Sometimes they are serene, other times they look as though they’ve got the worries of the world on their shoulders.
That’s one of the more poignant things about portraiture. As humans, relating to expression is second nature; the subjects an artist renders are instantly relatable. It’s really remarkable that a portrait can elicit the same feelings that standing next to an actual person would; to be honest, that’s my favourite part about portraits.
HOW MANY BOOKS HAVE YOU ILLUSTRATED?
I’ve only ever done the cover for Audie the Angel and the Angel Army, Vol. 1, by Erika Kathryn. I also contributed to the art direction of The Adventures of Tully, by Anne Marie Jenkins Holler, however the actual illustrations weren’t personally done by me.
HAVE YOU WON ANY PRIZES OR AWARDS?
I never have, unless we go way back to third grade when I one a third place ribbon for a Fire Prevention poster I did [laughter]. But I can tell you as an artist that recognition is such a great feeling. I’ve been really very lucky in that Ms. Jenkins Holler and Erika Kathryn have both been so appreciative of the work that I’ve done, and have made sure that my name gets out there. That’s really more meaningful than any award that I’d receive!
OTHER THAN DRAWING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?
I’m a very domesticated sort of person; I enjoy cooking (a little advice: if you like to eat, you should know how to cook). I don’t mind yard-work and, as I’m also a bit of a neat freak (it borders on OCD [laughter]), so cleaning is also up there. It’s sad, I know, but I can’t help it [laughter]. I also get a kick out of planning and hosting parties and such; I view that as an art in and of itself.
I read frequently (mostly fiction and suspense, but also some biographical works); I don’t get to as often during the semester, as I feel guilty reading for enjoyment when my nose should be in that physical chemistry book [laughter].
I’ve definitely got my sights set on travel eventually, when time and money allows for it. The top of my list is Versailles and Paris (I consider it almost as a pilgrimage that has to be made, having a minor in French), but I’d also jump at the chance to go to England, Ireland, and Italy. In all honesty, I’d probably do Canada first; keep it a little closer to home for the first voyage.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO ALL WORLD LEADERS IF YOU HAD THE OPPORTUNITY?
Other than something along the lines of “Quit your bickering, why can’t we be friends?” I’m not too sure what the trend is in other countries, but I know that the importance of the arts in waning in this country; something that is really puzzling to me, as the arts are one of the few things that transcends language and cultural barriers. It’s something that’s unifying; seems foolish to undermine and completely disregard something like that.
DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.
I could give you an entire agenda; it’d certainly involve a cup of Earl Grey in the morning, and a glass of Fortissimo in the evening [laughter]. But, in all honesty, I feel that every day has the potential for being a perfect day. It’s entirely up to you to either find perfection in it, or generate it yourself.
Ideally, I’d get a job in the flavour and fragrance industry upon graduation; I’ve got to put that French minor to good use [laughter]! I think that type of industry is something that I can be truly passionate about, as it will still allot for me to utilize my creativity while putting my education to good use. I love that right-side/left-side brain duality.
Really though, the beauty of the degree that I’ve chosen is that my options are wide open; grad school, med school, there’s plenty of options and paths to go down. It’s a really exciting time for me. And, of course, I’ll still find time to coat my arms and hands (and sometimes portions of my face [laughter]) in chalks and charcoals. I won’t be giving that up for the world.
Clancy's comment: Well done, Bobby. Now grab a cup of Earl Grey and relax.