Illustrator Interview with Bob McMahon
Get 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.
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?
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.
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