Illustrator Interview with Bob McMahon

BobmGet to know Bob…

Bob McMahon’s work has ranged from advertising, toy concepts, and movie posters to educational art and children’s books. His latest project was the illustrations for the book Apple Days by Allison Soffer published by Kar-Ben Publishing. He lives in sunny southern California with his wife, daughter and a crazy dog named Riley. For more info, visit his website. 

Quirky Questions 

What aspect of the “good old days” do you wish could make a comeback today?

I wish  illustrators could afford to work in group studios where we can all see what each other is working on and inspire each other creatively. Nowadays with the pitiful pay that artists earn you just can’t afford rent or a mortgage and the rent in a group studio.

But I have to admit that Face book is a pretty close approximation of a group artist’s studio. 

Why would somebody choose not to date you?

Probably because I’m married…. to a Judo black belt. 

What one thing have you kept over the years for no good reason?’

I still have my Agfa Lupe viewer…you may have to Google that. And a Proportion Wheel. Haven’t used those in a decade + but I still keep them. I don’t know why. 

If you were the boss at your job, what incentive or perk would you offer your employees?

Free beef jerky. I got a tour of the Facebook campus once and they have big baskets of free beef jerky for their employees. Of all the free thing that they offered (and there were many) that’s the one that stuck out. 

What unhealthy habit will you never give up?

Red Vines. The world is divided into two societies- one that like Red Vines and those who like Twizzlers. Twizzlers..Pftpbbrrth! 

What is the most revolutionary TV show of all time?

Twilight Zone. Great stories with a message. Or Spongebob, same thing.

If every activity in life were an Olympic sport, what would you win the gold in?

Coffee drinking! I totally rock at that!! 

What one rule do you frequently disregard?

Draw within the lines. Never did, never will.

What concept or product has surprisingly never been invented?

A machine that tells an artist to start drawing and then takes the pen out of their hand when they are done.

What movie deserves a sequel?

Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Why was there no sequel to that? 

bombIllustrating Questions

Which of your projects gives you the most pride or satisfaction?

Projects where I’m given the freedom to come up with own ideas or my own projects where I can let my imagination go where it wants to go.

WhHow do you think you differ from other illustrators?

There are SO many great illustrators out there! I would like to think that I can come up with funny, clever little drawings that will make you smile.

Has your creativity changed stylistically as you have matured? If so, in what ways?

My art seems to be loosening up lately. I like to experiment with new styles and brushes and paints in Corel Painter and see where it leads.

When do you feel the most energized?

I feel most energized when I’m working on a project so intensely that I lose track of time and all the problems and distractions seem to fade away and just seem to be in my own little art world.

If you were no longer able to illustrate, how else would you express your creativity?

Strangely enough if I couldn’t illustrate I think I would like to be an archaeologist. I love history and I think working out in some long lost place digging up a former civilization sounds wonderful!

What words of inspiration were given to you that you would like to pass along to others?

Make art that makes people happy.

When did you realize that you had a gift for illustrating?

In elementary school I was told to stop drawing and do my school work. I didn’t stop. Ever.
Also I grew up loving Mad Magazine and New Yorker cartoonists so I really never considered doing anything else.

How do you balance your personal life and your creative endeavors?

It’s always a struggle I don’t think anyone has it worked out perfectly but I do put relationships with people above projects, especially my family. I want to see my daughter who is eight years old grow up and not miss anything by having nose stuck full time in my computer screen.

What is your typical day like?

I like to start my day at 5am…I know, that sounds crazy but it’s before everyone gets up and I can waste time on Facebook  guilt free. I start working by 5:30 or 6 and I work in 30 minute blocks timed by an on line countdown timer with 10 minute breaks in between.  In those 10 minute breaks I can make phone calls, pay bills and do general housekeeping stuff.
One hour for lunch and then I stop working at about 6pm and I’m in bed my 9pm.
Working in 30 minute blocks seems to work for me and it took a while to get the right work/break timing.

How do you deal with creativity blocks?

Sometimes you can work your way through it by just keeping your pencil moving until the creativity starts to flow and sometime you just need to walk away and do something else and give your creativity time to recharge.

Can you visualize a finished product before you begin?

Yes I do visualize my finished art before and that can be frustrating! If I can just get 70%  of what I’m visualizing I consider the artwork a great success.

Do you feel that you chose your passion, or did it choose you?

All my life it felt like an irresistible force dragging me down into its swirling vortex…what that sounds like a good thing right?

Is there a particular place where you feel most creative?

When I sit down in my office chair first thing in the morning there a feeling inside that says “It’s Showtime!” and then sometimes nothing happens…and sometime I get a burst of creativity.

Who or what has helped you persevere when you face challenges?

I know that whatever challenges I have right now that they will pass.  There will be a day after, and that I can get through this just as I’ve always have.

What was your childhood like? Did your upbringing influence the way you illustrate today?

I grew up with Mad Magazines and New Yorker style gag cartoons when all the other kids were reading superhero comics and I think that shows in my work now.


Author Interview with Joyce Ragland

FRED-book-cover-frontGet to know Joyce…

Joyce C. Ragland, RA for Missouri 2011- 2013, is the author of more than one hundred academic publications in the form of two books, articles, reports, conference proceedings, training modules, conference papers and more. She has been editor or reviewer of publications by Prentice-Hall, McGraw-Hill, Wiley and others. In addition to academic publications, she has published short stories and poetry. She has two nonfiction books published by Paperback Press, LLC: DREAD THE FRED (November, 2013) and THROWAWAY CHILD (June, 2014) and a work-in-progress, TRAVEL IN THE SIXTIES, for her charity, the Ella Ragland Art Company. She lives in Springfield, Missouri with Bessie Jo, a short haired Border Collie rescue dog. For more info, visit her blog.

Quirky Questions 

If you could make up a school subject, what would it be?

Freelance writing.

What latest trend simply baffles you?

I’m not sure what the latest trends are. 

What bad habit will you purposely never kick?

Since I’m over 60, I’ve earned the right to be eccentric and part of that is not admitting publicly to any bad habits. 

If you had to choose, what is the most important quality in a relationship—humor, smarts, personality, looks, money, or mutual interests?

Intelligence, aka “smarts,” which is mostly related to your choice of “mutual interests” – and that also includes humor. 

If you could add one feature to your cell phone, what would it be?

My cell phone already has more features that I want or need, including several apps that don’t seem to have a delete feature. So… I want to easily delete foodball, candyland, and similar games from my phone. 

What do you consider your nicest feature? What about your worst feature?

Physical or emotional/spiritual features? I don’t know how to answer this. 

What would motivate you to run a marathon?

Turn back the clock to my twenties and someone has offered one million dollars for me to run a marathon. (You didn’t say I had to finish.) 

If you were a talk-show host, who would you want as your first guest?

Charlie Rose. 

If you were to write a song about your high school years, what would you title it?

Never My Love. 

Fill in the blank. I am so much smarter than _________.

I used to be.

What could never be considered “art”?

Environmental pollution. Child abuse. Animal abuse. Abuse in any form. 

What have you tried in life, and simply were not good at?

Most anything athletic. 

If you were to sell something at an auction, what would you sell?

Any of several antiques and collectibles, starting with some beautiful Czech glass vases. 

What are you most neurotic about?

You need to ask my friends and ex-husbands this question. I do try not to be neurotic about anything although I have been terrified of snakes all my life. And spiders. 

Can you share an embarrassing story?

I could, but won’t, thank you very much. 

What is the strongest bond you have with an inanimate object?

My laptop computer. 

48995614bd940a82390a4f.L._V367120624_SY470_Writing Questions

How did you pick your writing genre?

I write nonfiction and fiction – and had some poetry  published in college days. Writing is part of me and always has been.

What life experiences have inspired your work?

My nonfiction book, Dread the FRED, published November 2013 tells the story of a small rural (underdog) school’s 2010 national robotics championship. I graduated from that high school in 1965 so know better than anyone, the challenges those students faced – and conquered.

How do you know when a book is finished?

The characters tell you; however, you must have a story arc so when you start writing you know the ending in general. But the action and dialog will end the story for you, if you’re really letting the characters tell the story.

What traits, if any, do you think that creative people have compared to people who are not creative?

Creative people must have an outlet for their “juices” or they will go stark raving crazy.

Have you ever felt that your personal expectations have limited your creativity? If so, how have you dealt with this?

I want to write the perfect story from the outset, so have trouble getting the first words on paper – onscreen, that is. I have to make myself just put something down, then I can later go back and revise as much as needed.

Do you ever feel that you have to censor your creativity because you don’t want to offend anyone?

In nonfiction, yes, but not in fiction.

Do you do anything special to get your creative juices flowing?

I need to be well rested because I write best in the morning. Can’t get going if I’ve had a bad sleep.

What are your words of wisdom for someone starting out in the field of writing?

Join writers’ groups; if there is none in your area, start one. Go to writers’ conferences. Invest in paid critiques of revised manuscripts (not first drafts) with top name editors. Then, only then, submit your manuscript to agents or publishers. 

Who do you consider a literary genius?

Annie Proulx, Ellen Hopkins, Ernest Hemingway, Harper Lee, William Faulkner … just a few.

What obstacles have you had to deal with in your career?

My tendency toward perfectionism is an ongoing obstacle – wanting to get the manuscript perfect from the first draft to the final edit. I’ve learned to write, get critiques, re-write several times, then after one final outside edit, go to press. The next huge obstacle for all writers, I think, is marketing the book. The competition is fierce – hundreds of thousands of good books (and some not-so-good books) flood the market.


Illustrator Interview with Laura Jacobsen

SockPuppetsGet to know Laura… 

Laura Jacobsen has been drawing, painting, doodling, and generally making a mess her whole life. She graduated from The Columbus College of Art and Design and her work has appeared in many, many textbooks, wonderful magazines like Cricket, Spider, Ladybug, Ask, Highlights for Children and High Five, and in several picture books including My Brother Loved Snowflakes, Animal Mischief, The Best Eid Ever, A Party in Ramadan and The Boy and the North Wind.

Laura now uses her computer to create her illustrations when she is not posting on Facebook or answering e-mail. Her two dogs, Hopper and Lucy, keep her company in her studio, clean up the crumbs and alert her to every outside noise, including those audible only to them. For more info, visit her website.

Quirky Questions

What would you do if you wanted to annoy someone?

I’ve made up personalities, back stories and voices for my dogs. I’ll walk around holding imaginary conversations with them. In public.

What do you do too much of?

The internet.

What do you do too little of?

Writing, painting, drawing, any of the hundred hobbies I’ve bought all the supplies for…

If you could make up a school subject, what would it be?

General Life Skills 101. Seriously, how hard is it to break down a cardboard box so it fits in the recycling bin?

If you could own one type of store, what would it be?

An art supply store. I’d spend all day there just inhaling THAT SMELL.

What do you waste your time doing?

Again, the internet.

What is the biggest inconvenience about the place you are currently living in?

Lack of good food close by. I would love to just walk down the block and have all things spicy available.

What was your favorite meal when you were growing up?

Spaghetti with Italian sausage, or homemade pizza. My WASP mom learned to cook Italian like a pro.

What do you do every day, without fail?

I make the bed. It makes the feeling of Clean Sheet Day last longer.

What is something you wish you did every day, without fail?


What makes you want to throw up?

German chocolate cake. There was a CVI (Childhood Vomit Incident) involving it, still can’t eat the stuff.

What was the worst grade you’ve ever received? What class was it?

I got a C in Biology one semester in high school. I drew two big posters showing the insides of frogs for extra credit to bring it up to a B. I was a bit of a slacker in school and so did a lot of extra credit posters to keep the parental units happy.

What are you thinking about right now?

How gross dissecting frogs was. 

PigNeedsANameIllustrating Questions

How do you deal with creativity blocks?

I surf the web looking at art, I read, I go out with friends. Just DOING something is always the best way to get past a block. Staring at the wall wallowing (which I have also done) never helps.

Can you visualize a finished product before you begin a book?

Things rarely turn out like the image in my head, but yes, I usually have an idea of how I want it to look.

Do you feel that you chose your passion, or did it choose you?

I feel I chose it. I was always drawing as a kid, and when I visited the art school I ended up going to, I can remember telling my mom, “I HAVE to learn how to do this.” I am still running after it yelling, “No, wait, I choose you! Get back here, I choose you!”

Is there a particular place where you feel most creative?

In the shower, I always get the best ideas there.

Who or what has helped you to persevere through the challenges?

Definitely my long suffering hubby. I’m not sure he knew what he was signing up for, but I could not be doing this without his support. And his computer expertise.

If you were no longer able to illustrate, how else would you express your creativity?

I’d write no question.

What has been your greatest sacrifice that has enabled you to become the illustrator you are today?

I don’t feel I’ve had to make any sacrifices. I’ve worked hard and continue to at something I love-no sacrifices there. I’m extremely fortunate, my life is easy compared to many. I try not to take this for granted.

What words of inspiration were given to you that you would like to pass along to others?

Don’t give up what you want most for what you want right now. The big picture might change, but one needs to always, ALWAYS keep it in mind.

If you knew that you had only one last opportunity to express yourself creatively, what message would you want to convey to others?

I like the funny, I like making people laugh. I would want to put something amusing out there.

When did you realize that you had a gift for illustrating?

I have always liked to draw and do art projects. I was lucky to have gone to a well funded public school that had art classes, so I got encouragement from my teachers to continue to pursue art, including a scholarship to art school.

How do you balance your personal life and your creative endeavors?

I don’t have children, so it is pretty easy to juggle. I really don’t know how some of my illustrator/parent friends manage.

What is your typical day like?

I have coffee and peruse Facebook and answer e-mail, then I get dressed. I try to do my hair and makeup etc., just like I’m going to a regular job most days, it is a slippery slope to wearing your pajamas for two weeks straight. Then it is into the studio to work. If I’m on deadline it’s pretty much non-stop until around four when I work-out for an hour and then start dinner. After dinner, I work more if I’m on a deadline, otherwise evenings are spent reading and binge-watching shows on Netflix with the hubs. I try and save errands and chores for a day during the week rather than the weekend. One of the perks of self-employment.

How much of your own life is reflected in your work?

Up until now, not a whole lot, but I am currently working on a picture book manuscript that has its beginnings in my own family.

Do you have family members who are writers or illustrators?

My mom’s dad was an artist, both commercial and fine art.

What was your childhood like? Did your upbringing influence the way you illustrate today?

Again, I was very fortunate. It influenced me simply because I was given all the opportunity and encouragement a child could have. I hate how we have eviscerated art education in this country and grieve the loss of all that talent. I will continue to vote for those who support strengthening and funding public education.

Which of your books gives you the most pride or satisfaction?

The one I just finished, Exploring the West, Tales of Courage on the Lewis and Clark Expedition, mainly because my drawing and painting skills get better with each project, so the most recent is usually my favorite.

How do you think you differ from other creative people in your genre?

I’m still casting about trying to find my niche despite being at it for awhile. I’ve always been a late bloomer.

Has your creativity changed stylistically as you have matured? If so, in what ways?

I’ve definitely loosened up and am trying to do so even more. As my drawing has improved, I let it show more and more. I may switch mediums eventually.

When do you feel the most energized?

Usually when I’m working on my own stories. As I mentioned, I enjoy humor, so if I’m cracking myself up, that’s a good day.

Does your illustrating reflect your personality?

Some parts of it, others not as much. I think the goal is to have your work showcase the parts of yourself you most want it to. I am still working on that.