Monday, May 10, 2010

Meet Illustrator Chad Thompson

As a young boy, Chad’s grandfather sat him down at the kitchen table and taught him how to draw cartoons. Chad never forgot those early lessons!

His love of drawing led him to the Columbus College of Art and Design. After graduation, he had the great fortune of getting a job with the Walt Disney Feature Animation Studio in Florida. For the next seven years, he worked on animated movies such as Mulan, Lilo & Stitch, and Brother Bear.

After the studio’s closure in 2004, he continued to work in animation for smaller studios in Orlando. Chad currently works as an illustrator and designer for a wide variety of clients.

What inspires you as you begin a new project?

I work with many first-time authors and their enthusiasm inspires me. They are always very passionate about their stories and characters and I feel I need to match their excitement in order to do their book justice.

Was there a person from your childhood who encouraged you to pursue your artistic talent?

I have vivid memories of my grandpa sitting with me at the kitchen table doodling cartoons when I was in elementary school. He would draw a silly face, and then give me the paper to draw the same face next to it.

What was the best piece of advice you received when you started your career as an illustrator?

More than one person stressed patience. One of my instructors at CCAD (Columbus College of Art and Design) would tell us to expect enough rejection letters to wallpaper our offices.

Who are some of your favorite children's illustrators?

My favorite has always been Chris Van Allsburg. His technique is beautiful. I can stare at his illustrations for hours.

Please describe your path to success in becoming an artist. Where there any particular obstacles you needed to overcome? How long have you been working as a freelance artist and illustrator?

When I graduated from CCAD in 1997, I moved to Orlando to work as a clean-up animator with Walt Disney Feature Animation. I was there for seven years and worked on films such as Mulan, Tarzan, Lilo and Stitch, and Brother Bear. In 2004, the Orlando studio closed and all production is now done exclusively in Burbank.

That was quite a shock, but we were fortunate enough to have a few months’ warning, enough time for me to send my illustration portfolio around and build up my client list. I have worked from my home office as an illustrator since that time.

Do you have a favorite medium or style?

I now work digitally. I still do my thumbnails and sketches on paper, but I scan those and then ink and color them in Photoshop. I work pretty fast and this technique is great for those quick deadlines I always seem to getJ. I keep telling myself to find some time to get out the watercolors again. One of these days, I will.

How long does it take to illustrate a picture book?

On average, a book takes a couple of months.

Please describe the collaboration involved between you, the publisher, and the author.

The publisher will contact me to check availability and discuss the project, the timeline, contract, etc. Once we begin, I will do a round of sketches that go to both the publisher/art director and the author. I will usually do a second round of sketches, based on everyone’s thought and concerns. After that, I will ink the illustrations digitally and send them around again, and do the same with the finals in color.

Do you conduct school visits? If so, how do you structure a typical visit?

I have not yet.

Are you normally hired directly by the author or the publishing house?

I like to send postcard samples to publishers a few times a year. They do the hiring and pair up the author and illustrator based on the story and the style they think suits it best.

Books Illustrated by

Chad Thompson:

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