Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Bill Abbott

How is it you became a cartoonist?
I took an exceedingly roundabout way to becoming a professional cartoonist. I've been a stockbroker, then went into Special Warfare in the military and served in places like Iraq, then finally got around to pursuing my true passion - art and humor.
Did you go to art school?
No, but every now and again I entertain the idea of going to one. I love to learn.
Were there 1 or more individuals that were an influence in your becoming a cartoonist?
I would have to say the single biggest influence was Peanuts creator Charles Schulz. He personified what a cartoonist is and should be, to me anyway. I had a stack of those little Peanuts paperback books when I was a kid.
What inspires you now?
So many things. For humor, I love to read anything by H.L. Mencken as well as Mark Twain. His 'Innocents Abroad' is hilarious. For art, I love the work of many of my fellow cartoonists, and he work of illustrators like Brian Despain, Chris Buzelli and too many to name - fantastic artists.
Is there anything you would like to share regarding your technique or style of work for instance what types of medium do you like to work in?
I wish there was some great artistic secret I could share, but honestly I just pick up an old Rotring mechanical pencil sketch out my drawing then ink it in with an old Pelikan fountain pen. After that, I scan it into Photoshop and add the color work and lettering. I've recently been doing some black and white cartoons for business magazines on an iPad using the Artstudio app - I really like that.
What types of markets do you do art for?
My black and white cartoons have appeared in the Wall Street Journal and Harvard Business Review, my "Spectickles" characters have been in Reader's Digest and lots of other print publications. Mostly though, they're used in licensing for such things as calendars, cocktail napkins, greeting cards, coffee mugs - even figurines.
Are there links to your images you would like to share?
Sure. My humorous art blog, where I try to share my experiences in cartooning and illustration mainly to assist fellow artists, is I have a sorry excuse for a portfolio site (a new one is being developed) at For those with an interest in buying stuff with my cartoons on them you can check out

Are there other creative interests you pursue like writing or music?
I do. When I was younger I actually played lead guitar in a hard rock band (many, many years ago). Now I enjoy teaching myself classical guitar. I've also done some humor writing and had a few pieces published which was exciting. One day I hope to publish a book on the aspects of Queen Anne's Navy - how nerdy is that?
Do you currently have product with your images on the market? Book gift or home products?
Currently, my work is licensed by a number of companies such as Hallmark UK, Mead Westvaco, Paperproducts Design, and a bunch of others in the U.S. and overseas. There are some exciting developments that I'm waiting to have the details finalized for, then there'll be a good deal more on the licensing front.
What is the thing you love best about what you do?
To be able to sit in the back of a boat and think up goofy situations to draw, and make a respectable income from it. It's a gift beyond measure. I honestly can't imagine a better, happier way to go to work.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Robert Hatem

How did you become an artist?
I sort of chose my career when I was 4 years old. I've drawn to make sense of my world as long as I can remember.
Did you go to art school?
I graduated from the Columbus College of Art and Design with a BFA in Illustration (my minor in Fine Arts was really mostly figure drawing). Working at Hallmark was an extension of school in a lot of ways: all the talented artists working there, all the in-house and guest artists' presentations and workshops.
Were there one or more individuals that were an influence in your path to art?
My parents and teachers and friends through grade school and high school encouraged me. My brothers and sisters would save paper and cardboard for me to draw on. Drawing was the thing I was good at. When I was in grade school I remember loving a big book of Norman Rockwell's illustrations at the public library. The oversized books were on the bottom shelves, and I'd just slide it off the shelf and study it there on the floor in the aisle - I can't remember checking it out so it must've been a reference book, or too big for my Mom to trust me with. I loved his sense of humor and the specific faces of individuals he painted, the details. I always get lost in details, still.
 As a professional, I came across the work of an artist, Stephen Johnson, who lives in Lawrence, KS, now, through his beautiful paintings for Alphabet City, one of his first picture books. I may have seen found letters before, but never in a way that caught my eye like that. His work has a subtlety and sophistication that inspires me to this day to look for letters and numbers hidden in architecture, in nature, everywhere. That practice helps me continually rediscover the world I see everyday, because it forces me to look and look again.
I remember a presentation by another artist, Ivan Chermayeff, who showed the photographs he took of peeling posters, splashed and chipped paint, layered colors and textures he found on walks, that continues to inspire me in the same way. Part of what I liked was that he wasn't just showing slides of finished illustrations and designs. He was showing part of his process and what you might call his "discipline" but it looked more to me like his passion for discovery. My work doesn't look anything like theirs but they changed the way I look at the world.
What inspires you now?
My sons, everything I see that surprises me, that makes me look again, see something I'd never noticed before. A million different artists, past and present: sculptors, painters, illustrators, graphic designers, children's book art, caricaturists, cartoonists, animators, outsider and folk artists…and on and on. Finding stuff on walks inspires me. I have a big collection of smashed gloves and eyeglasses I've found on walks. I guess Stephen's book made such a lasting impression on me because I've always looked for stuff.
                                                       propery of Hallmark Cards
Is there anything you would like to share regarding your technique or style of work?
As for my approach to work, a lot of it grows out of my sketchbooks and responding to the stuff I see and stumble on. I work in the extremities of my house, in the attic and basement. The basement is full of all that stuff I find and that finds me, that I combine and rearrange into 3D works. As far as painting goes, I think the technical word for what I do is scumble, with a c, not stumbling with a t, but that's another good word for it. I just keep scumbling until something looks OK. I work most often in acrylic, sometimes color pencils, whatever it takes. I like the technique to be invisible. 
I'm most interested in communicating an idea and try to do whatever serves the idea. In my sketchbooks I will use different tools to draw with - carpenters' pencils, ballpoints, the kind with 4 colors of ink are fun, whatever - and work at different scales to try to surprise myself. And of course, I do a lot of digital illustration, too, scanning sketches onto the computer and finishing them in Photoshop.
What types of market do you do art for?
I have to confess I can be been pretty clueless to marketing. I get some good reactions to my site name,, from the dozen or so who've seen it, because it helps them with how to pronounce my name, and, I hope, remember it. But years ago, to help people with my name, I would say, "it's 'hate' with an m." Or I'd say I have two aggressive verbs for a name: rob and hate 'em. It somehow never occurred to me that might come across as a little threatening, or distancing. 
For most of my professional life I worked for the greeting card market. Sometimes that meant trying to make something you thought the person who might buy this particular card would like, but more often it was trying to figure out what the person responsible for art-directing thought the marketing people who developed the strategy for selling to that person thought that person would like - it could be a lot of tail chasing. 
I'm still trying to find the best markets for my stuff, some mix of galleries and commissioned illustration and design. I've tried prints and calendars. I've been working on a few picture books. I tried for about two years to sell cartoons to The New Yorker - not easy - there aren't really many paying venues for cartoon drawings anymore. My most interesting work is self-generated or has come by word of mouth: somebody knows someone who wants something I can do.
Are there any links to your work you would like to share?
My website and blog are at Someday I'll probably show more of the things I used to do, the cards, on my site. And figure out how to get people to check it out. After 2 years I just realized how easy it was to add a 'comments' feature, but now there are a lot of posts with '0 Comments' so it looks like almost nobody looks at my work. My kind and funny friend, kid's book author/illustrator Laurie Keller, broke the ice and wrote a nice comment after a post. Bless her sweet heart.
Do you do other things regarding art?
Last year I taught art at my son's middle and high school, Kansas City Academy, while the school's art teacher, the wonderful Kendall Kerr, the most popular person in the school, was on maternity leave the first semester. It was more educational for me than the students. During that time, Wes Benson, a friend who was teaching at Kansas City Art Institute, asked me to speak about my work to the Illustration Department. After my presentation the Acting Department Chair, John Ferry, said he might have a class for me to teach 2nd semester. He actually gave me two classes. Friday before my first classes, my wife broke her femur. Right in two, the biggest, strongest bone in the human body. Because I'm an illustrator, I work to deadlines, and my deadline was to have my class plans ready by Monday. My wife's totally selfish, over-the-top ploy for my attention, threw off my carefully planned schedule. I wasn't crazy about how those two classes went, but I enjoyed interacting with students, and I hope to teach more. I will be teaching a 2nd semester class at KCAI again, starting in late January 2013. It's still early January as I write this, so of course, I still have more to learn about that. My wife's walking very carefully.
Do you currently have art for sale?
I want to write kid's books, but it's hard. When you're eking out a living, raising two boys, leaning on your wife as the primary income-earner, it's hard to write and re-re-rewrite, without any assurance there's a paycheck on the other side of happily ever after. And there's always another load of laundry to do.
I just had a fun exhibit of 18 caricatures of classical composers at a friend's barber shop -"longhair" musicians in a barber shop - too clever, eh? Most of those pieces are still for sale as of this writing. I still have some prints of images from a fun calendar I did (for another friend), and a t-shirt I designed, and I have 4 illustrations in the Andrews McMeel Universal book, Team Cul de Sac, a project to raise funds for Parkinson's research. A lot of the 3D stuff on my site is for sale. Scroll over an image and if it doesn't say somebody owns it, it's probably for sale. 
I should probably make some things I could sell - is that a good marketing idea?

What is it that you love best about what you do?
Making discoveries, finding connections, being surprised, making the work, getting good responses, maybe a smile or a laugh. Sharing my passion for this work.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Connie Kang

            How is that you came to be an illustrator?
Drawing has been a hobby of mine since I was a little girl. Following this path I started my journey of art. I went to the high school of fine arts. I drew and imitated every day. I like all of the variety with art, such as oil painting, water color, sculpture, installation, graphic, design and media. I got my BFA of art in college. I tried a lot of different type of art at that time. Finally, I decided to pick illustration as my future career.
      Did you go to art school?
Yes, I graduated with bachelor of art design major from Donghua University in Shanghai, China. I went to Academy of Art University as an illustration major and pursued a Master’s degree, which I successfully finished  in 2012.
 Were there 1 or more individuals that were an influence in your becoming an illustrator? 
The first illustrator I got to know was J.C. Leyendecker. I still remember the instructor showing his image, Miss Liberty to us. I was fascinated by this illustration. He had strong sensibility and could catch the subtle expressions and interesting story inside his subjects. After that, I looked at a lot of his artwork and decided to be an illustrator like him.
      What inspires you now?
I am working on an illustration series of Yakuza Japanese gangster art. I get a lot of inspiration from their tattoos. 
    Is there anything you would like to share regarding your technique or style of work?
Personally, I prefer the traditional media like oil, watercolor and  gouache.  However, I  need an effective and fast way at my work place, so I  sketch first by pencil and scan them into the computer, then use photoshop, painter or illustrator to redefined drawing and color it. I do like the Cintiq, however still prefer to use the Wacom tablet.
        What types of markets do you illustration for?
I worked as a concept artist at Disney Mobile. Before that I was in charge of character design, props, UI and background design. I would like to get into the animation feature film in the near future.
      Are there links to your images you would like to share?
Portfolio link is
Video link is
      Do you do other things regarding art?
I love sculpture and handcraft. Portrait sculpture and paper craft are my favorite hobbies after work.
   Do you currently have product with your 
images on the market?
I‘ve done mugs and tumblers designs with “The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf” and “Starbucks,” that sold in China.  In addition, my illustration project “Freedom” was adopted by Nokia through the HuntHaggarty, a British headhunting company. I also designed  a T-shirt with eno  which also sold in China.
   What is the thing you love best about what you do?
I love to design the characters in both the game and animation field. Because I like to observe people and creatures, I enjoy drawing their subtle expressions, actions and figures.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Michael Storrings

How is it that you came to be an illustrator/artist?
I always loved to draw and paint, but when I was younger I had no idea what the possibilities were for a career in art. Actually, I thought that I would probably go into some form of medicine, instead! In high school, in my junior year, I spent the summer in a special arts program given by a college in upstate New York. Meeting artists from all over the country and making all different forms of art every day, I realized that this is what I loved and wanted to pursue. Oddly, when I started investigating art schools I was discouraged by my guidance counselor.  He even told me I was going to starve! I was lucky I had a very encouraging teacher who guided me, after which I received a scholarship to attend Parsons School of Design in NYC. After my foundation year at school, I remember walking onto the illustration floor and saying to myself this is the career in art I want.

Did you go to art school? 
Yes, Parsons School of Design in NYC.

Were there 1 or more individuals that were an influence in your becoming an illustrator/artist?
I had a wonderful art teacher in high school who exposed me to artists and the art world beyond my experiences in Syracuse, NY. She took us on art trips to NYC, encouraged me to attend a summer arts program in my junior year, and helped me to prepare a portfolio and apply to art colleges. 
 What inspires you now?
Many things inspire me—travel, Christmas, other artists and illustrators, my pugs—but my main inspiration comes from New York City itself. I love everything about it— the sounds, colors, fashions, diversity, and energy! Every time I walk out of my door, I never know what interesting things will happen. It’s exciting and I feel very lucky to live here.
 Is there anything you would like to share regarding your technique or style of work? For instance, what types of media do you like to work in?
I mainly work in watercolor. I start out by drawing roughs in a sketch book, I like using Sennelier brand sketchbooks. After I have my thumbnail sketches the way I want them, I gather any references I need and then render my initial pencil on Arches Hot-Pressed watercolor paper. I use the Aquarelle Arches watercolor blocks. I then ink the drawing and then begin to color. I love Sennelier paints and primarily use them, sometimes also using Holbein and Old Holland watercolors. Whenever I get to Paris, I visit the Sennelier art shop on the Left Bank and bring back any unusual colors I don’t see in the US. I also combine water-soluble Caran d’Ache crayons with the paints. I then scan the final image into the computer and then sometimes make adjustments in Adobe Photoshop as needed.
 I know you have a really fun line of ornaments. Can you tell us how that project came about?
I have been illustrating for magazines and books since 1986, and in the late ‘90’s I started to license imagery for art prints and apparel. In 2004, Landmark Creations, an ornament company based in California, saw my work and contacted me. They wanted to see if I would be interested in designing a line of NYC ornaments for them. That year, we launched 4 designs plus a custom ball for Saks Fifth Ave.
How do you create the art for these?
I research the area I want to depict and then begin my sketch process. Once I get the sketch to where I want it I then create the art. After the art is created, prototype sketches are rendered to show how to position the art on the ball.  I then work with Landmark and discuss finishes, colors, embellishments, and glitters. We spend a lot of time paying attention to all the details.

People can see and purchase my designs at major retailers at the holidays or online at 

The ornaments have also led to the creation of Christmas books. People loved the art I was making for the ornaments so much that I thought I should bring them together into a book. My first book came out in 2007, called A Very New York Christmas. It shows many of the things you can see and do in NYC at Christmas, along with how some of those images were used on my ornaments. With the success of the response to that book, I came up with a new book idea about NYC at Christmas that just came out this year. It is called The 12 Days of Christmas in New York, a spin on the famous carol with a New York twist. This even led to the creation of a coordinating ornament! You can find my books online at or 
 You also are involved in publishing. Can you tell us more about what you do as Creative Director at St. Martin’s Press?
I have a great career and am very lucky. As well as being an artist/illustrator, I have been working in publishing since 1986. I am currently a Creative Director at St. Martin’s Press. I design book jackets for New York Times bestselling authors Jackie Collins, Kristin Hannah, Lisa Scottoline, Mary Kay Andrews, Robert Ludlum, and Tatiana De Rosnay, among others. I also oversee and manage the creation of approximately 300 book covers each year.
 How do you think working in publishing has influenced your licensed work?
Working in publishing has allowed me to think more commercially about my own work. I now ask myself questions like—Who is my audience? How do I speak to them? What is the best way to get my ideas and voice across?
What kind of advice would you give to an artist interested in publishing or licensing?
First of all, you must LOVE what you do. Don’t enter any career that doesn’t excite you. You have ups and downs in any career, and in order to get through the low points your love of that career will be all that drives you. I think that if an artist wants a career in publishing, they first need to investigate what is involved and make sure it is a career for them. They have to love books and to create covers. They need computer skills, along with a love of typography. Many artists are scared of type, and I always tell people that type is just a shape—just as when you are painting a picture you are working in positive/negative areas, you are doing that same thing with type. You need to be upbeat and work on command. One of the most important skills to learn is to let go of your work and be flexible. Sometimes you have to present your work to a team of people and not everyone will like what you did, so you will just have to let go of it and adapt to what the audience wants. This is a very customer-focused profession, so you need a very thick skin.

In terms of a licensing career, you need to be commercially savvy. One thing I have learnt is that you really need to know your own voice first. If you don’t, you won’t be able to sell it nor will you be able to determine which products would make a great vehicle for your voice. Then, it is valuable to learn the skills to sell it! If you can’t do that, then you should look for an agent.
 I really love that you have such diverse styles. How did your style changes evolve?
As a person you are always changing and growing. Change is the only constant! Just like I continue to grow as a person, I am also growing as an artist. I change as I grow. For example, I started out in my career making linocuts, and then when the computer arrived on the scene, I developed a graphic, colorful, fashion’y style. My current watercolor style developed from my travels and from the journals I keep while I am traveling.
Are there any other artistic pursuits that you delve into?
I am not very musically gifted, but I also like to crochet and knit.

 Are there any other links you would like to share to show more of your work?
People can see the majority of my work online at 
 What is the thing you love best about what you do?
The best thing about what I do is to be at an event and someone tell me that my work makes them happy and brings them joy. That is the greatest reward!