Scribble Artist Interview with Kevin Whitlark!
Scribble Town (ST): Kevin Whitlark’s energy for creative is unbelievable! It seems as if he was born to draw. In 1989, Kevin started his own greeting card company, “On A Lark Greetings, Inc.” His career has soared and continues in many great directions, all that involve the sharing of funny, witty, and cute illustrations. Kevin, where are you and what are you up to these days?
Kevin Whitlark (KW): In Atlanta, Georgia. Working on some children’s books for Kindle (and other devices with a Kindle app) and hard copy. Also working on new greeting cards and puzzle designs. A lot of this is for 2014. We have a Christmas book coming out next week for Kindle–> The Twelve Cows of Christmas.
ST: Yay for The Twelve Cows of Christmas on Kindle! Please let us know more about One Hundred And One and all the products you create.
KW: One Hundred and One is expanding more than ever in 2014. Currently the concept is seen on jigsaw puzzles (sold by major retailers), prints, scrubs, fabrics/cotton. We are hoping to license and manufacture several new products and publish a major book incorporating the One Hundred and One concept and art.
ST: Sounds like things are on the up and up already for 2014 How do you come up with your themes for each book?
KW: With my six kids in the house and coming from a large family myself (I am the youngest of fourteen), inspiration abounds. The hundreds of children’s books I have read to my kids motivates and inspires me also. I have a vivid and overactive imagination naturally, so plugging these things into it makes for a very effective creative formula.
Cleaning my studio, cutting clean paper, sharpening pencils, mixing water colors….Go out and visit book stores, read children’s books…GOING FOR A WALK. (Exercise)
I also love to visit my kid’s school and I read my books, but more importantly I draw on the big boards for the kids and they react immediately. Usually I will visit the schools for holidays…so for example…I created a book right in front of the kids…this is 3rd grade…”Thanksgiving Revolt”… The fun is the live action, immediate response and the contribution from the kids!!
ST: You have a really big family and I’m sure there’s never a dull moment at home. Do your kids and wife often inspire your stories and artwork?
KW: BIG Family… Again, the kids definitely inspire me. I have a book coming out based on a true story with the kids. I am taking an already amusing (now, not at the time) event and making it larger than life, as usual. The details are confidential right now, but I’m confident it will be a best seller.
ST: When and how did you get started writing and illustrating books? What was the first book you made about? I wonder what is the creative process like with Ryan McLemore, your editor.
KW: I actually started in the greeting card industry. I submitted some designs to a major publisher and was rejected. I decided to start my own company. A year later I had accounts all over the country and was eventually approached by Andrews McMeel Publishing, Owners of Universal Press Syndicate. They were the largest publishers of humor in the world at the time. Farside was their monster line and it paved the way. I established a very large line with AMP.
I think in print they sold like 80 million On a Lark greeting cards from their licensing came. And the art from the cards themselves jumped on other products.
Today my greeting cards are Published by American Greetings, Papyrus, Recycled paper Greetings, Inc. and Sellers Publishing.
Children’s books didn’t come until much later and really started with Scholastics. AMP published four humor books of mine. The Red Cat Society books were funny parodies on the Red Hat Society here in US.
I did the twelve Cats of Christmas and The Twelve Dogs of Christmas for Scholastic, and now we are publishing the Twelve Cows of Christmas ourselves. Ryan McLemore and I publish the Kindle version and hard back for book stores. Scholastic distributes directly to the schools.
Ryan wrote the book, Hip & Helen Peg the Egg, with me. We did all the layout formatting, etc…Kindle version and is selling on line!!!
ST: That just shows you that rejection can get you to places you never could’ve imagined. Your story is very encouraging! When you get an idea for a story or a picture in your head how do you develop it? Are there tips you can give us on how to make our ideas and images grow?
KW: Getting an idea shouldn’t be limited. Write everything down, scribble everywhere, don’t even think about the actual final printed book. Take your idea and explore it on paper. Then refine it. Layer after layer comes off and sometimes you end up with an entirely different book. But you know that can happen then you should never hold back on an idea.
ST: What are your favorite tools/medium you like to create with?
KW: I like to sketch with pencil. I also will just scribble with pens…concepting, roughing etc… When I actually start a project I have a pretty clear method.
With Water Color paper…Pencil sketch, ink in, clean with eraser, then scan the black line art and file it on my MAC. I then go back to my original black line on watercolor and I paint. Light layers and after drying I add and do what is needed. I then scan this original art 400 DPI and open it in Photo Shop.
I brighten it, then I clean it up. Remove the background paper and take actual art and put in on another layer. I will thin lines, add, smooth etc…POLISH the art, I use air brush and maybe a shadow her and there or a reflection highlight. Because the art is on layers I may want to add tot he art. Say I create a really cool rabbit. I then have him finished and want to put him on a grass hill. I will actually scan a water color green/grass and bring it into that file on a separate layer and there is my grassy hill behind my rabbit, for example.
Once art is finished I save the file as a PDF, TIFF, JPEG for quick references and emailing, and I have a separate flattened file…and of course there will be that original Photoshop file with all of its free layers. You can change and move them for future needs.
The MAC is like a Stage and I supply all kinds of elements (Archives) water, trees, flowers, bugs, cars, houses etc…All supporting elements. Kindle is a fascinating venue and Ryan is all about Kindle (and is working on animated/interactive app development). He will get a file from me and he can format and move art if need be to conform to this version of the book. He also is a excellent editor and writer. Not so much for me as I write very simple children’s books but he can catch little thing. He in is own right can be published as a writer. I am actually illustrating a few books he wrote.
ST: Who are some artists and authors that you like?
KW: Artist and authors: There are a lot of them!!! Ill be right back, let me go see. I’m bad with names…There are too many and most of the well known children’s book illustrators and writers are on my list but to name a few outside the box, say Jenya Prosmitsky..great illustrator, Dav Pilkey…easy one, Kevin Henkes, these two are both writer and illustrator… Tim Hutchinson..illustrator…I’m attracted to their clever use of words, puns etc..and I also look at their medium, art…There are a lot of artist that I pull from just because of how well they us their mediums.
I believe that I am just really getting started as a writer and illustrator and I have a million ideas so I am excited that for years to come we will be seeing my books.
ST: I think you’re probably on some Scribbler’s list of favorite authors now too. Thanks so much for sharing with us, Kevin!