Angie Azur is a YA Sci-fi Writer.
Writer for PALEO Magazine.
Former Intern at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
SCBWI & COWG Member.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Interview with Steve Gray: Illustrator of There was an Old Monkey Who Swallowed a Frog

 I met Steve on Facebook. My kids, and I love his books, and so I reached out for an interview. 

Steve is the illustrator I wish I could be if I could illustrate. His art is so funny, lovable, weird, awesome, cool, bizarre, kooky, did I say awesome? It totally rocks!

And, not only that, but he's a nice guy too. He's the whole package. 

Below are the questions I asked him:

  1.     Describe your illustrations in 5 words:  

    fun, humorous, detailed, colorful and wacky!

  2.     Ever get sent to the Principal's office for doodling? If so, what was it?  

   No, But I spent my whole first grade drawing and didn’t learn to read or write.  My artwork was signed “Seven Gay”.

   3.     What's the funniest thing a child has said to you about your work?  

   I’m not sure but the funniest thing a kid has said to me at a school visit was…Drawing your characters today was the best assembly we’ve ever had!  The best part was we didn’t learn anything!

  4.     What time do you get up and what do you eat for breakfast?  

   I get up at 6:30 and usually eat leftovers from the previous night’s dinner.  If I have cereal it will be in the late afternoon.

  5.     Give 3 great pointers for newbie illustrators: 

   Never turn in an illustration until you are proud of it.  Work on an illustration for as many hours as it takes to get it right.  Be patient, you’re not going to make it overnight.

  6.     What's the working relationship like between you and the writers?  

   Most of the writers I’ve worked with I have never met.

  7.     Where do you promote your work? Facebook? Twitter? Web page? And, which one do you think works the best?  

   I use facebook and my website.  I find facebook to be a great promotional tool.  For some reason I just don’t “get” Twitter.


   8.     Did you take professional art classes? If so, which ones do you recommend? 

   I went to Art Center College of Design.  I recommend the classes I took there which include figure drawing, head drawing, hand drawing, perspective, rendering, painting in all mediums, design and composition, editorial illustration.  These days I would recommend Photoshop or any digital painting program.

  9.     What's the best part about your chosen career? Worst?  

   Meeting the kids and families who love my books is the best part.  It’s hard to say that the worst part is doing the work because I do enjoy it.  However I generally spend over 700 hours completing a book and those long hours sometimes grind on me.

 10. Do you have an agent? If so, why? If no, why not? 

   I do not.  I’ve always felt that I can promote my work better than anyone else.

 11. What do you think about the publishing world today? Is it better to self-publish first to get noticed? Or go the traditional route?  

   I think we are on the edge of a new frontier in publishing and I’m excited about it! The possibilities in digital media are endless!

 12. How did you find your voice, or style? 

   I’ve always leaned towards a funky style with my work.  I’ve just continued to do what excited me and polished my style as I went.

 13. Who is your biggest cheerleader?  

  My wife Cindy and my sister Pammy and my mom and step dad

14. Name 6 things you did right that lead you to the career you have today. 

   Listened very carefully to what my client wanted from me. Did the best job I could on every assignment.  Pushed myself to make the art better than what the client expected. Tried to stay true to the style I wanted to do.  Continued on through rejection.  Tried to keep a sense of humor when the world seemed to be toying with me.

 15. Which writer would you like to work with? Why?  

   Jennifer Ward.  We’ve had a good chemistry from the very start.

 16. If one of your books became a movie, who would voice/play the lead roles? 

   I’m a big fan of Tom Hanks and Ellen Degeneres.  Also Albert Brookes.  He cracks me up!

 17. How can my blog readers help you to become an even bigger success?

   First of all, I want to thank you for reaching out to me to do this interview.  I’ve only been in the publishing business for about 10 years but have learned the power of word of mouth.  Blogs like yours reach a much broader audience than I can get from my webpage or facebook account.  

   I’m hoping your readers will check out some of my earlier work as well as my latest.  Be on the lookout for my next book to be released in Spring of 2013 “The Ant Who Walked from New York to L.A.”

 18. What is your favorite medium to work with, and why? 

   I used to work with pen and ink and DR. Martin dyes but now work in Photoshop and love it!

 19. Walk us through your process of coming up with the characters for the writer's words. 

   I look at photos of the animals I’m going to draw to see what features they have that makes them different from other animals.  I then try to exaggerate those features to make the character as funny looking as I can.

 20. How did you meet Jennifer Ward? How does that business relationship work? Do you collaborate now? Or, is it still the traditional separate working relationship? 

   I met Jennifer Ward for the first time in the Salt Lake City airport.  We were both flying to Casper, Wyoming because our coyote book had been chosen as a “Wyoming Reads” book.  All the first graders in the state vote and choose their favorite 5 books. I was looking for someone with red hair since I had seen her picture on the jacket flap.  We hit it off immediately and now have collaborated on two additional books along the same theme “There Was an Old Monkey Who Swallowed a Frog” and “There Was an Old Pirate Who Swallowed a Fish”.  She is a hoot!

 21. What one word best describes you? 


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