This month’s Featured Artist is Patrick Loehr. I came upon his work in an accidental way by picking up his first children’s book, Mucumber McGee and the Half-Eaten Hot Dog in a bargain bin.
I liked the artwork from the start and read maybe a page or two at the store and decided it was definitely worth a purchase. I got it home and read it to my son. For any of those that have a two year old, you can understand that it isn’t easy to keep one still long enough to finish a book, even one so short, but he was attentive the entire time. As for me, I loved not only the illustration style but the writing as well. I highly recommend picking it up whether you have kids or not.
I don’t have it yet, but Patrick has a second children’s book out now called Mucumber McGee and the Lunch Lady’s Liver. And most recently he has another book released called 20 Days of Snow at Mountview Mansion though this isn’t specifically a children’s book.
Patrick has a Masters of Fine Arts in Visual Arts from Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University and is now Chair of Art and New Media Design at the Community College of Aurora, located in Denver. He was kind enough to agree to answer a few questions. You can visit Patrick Loehr’s website and see much more of his work.
What is the first creative thing you remember making?
I created a little book when I was 5. It was about King Kong and contained lots of drawings and misspelled words.
How did you become an illustrator?
After 12 years working in video production and photography, I started drawing again. I had learned a lot about color and composition so things fell together fairly quick. In 2002 I put together a portfolio and started finding work.
How did you initially find work as an illustrator – were you freelance, work for someone, have an agent?
I won a few on-line contests with my illustrations. The publicity from this led to email inquiries about freelance work. I accepted a couple of jobs doing magazine covers and some CD artwork. These went well so tried finding an agent to round up more work. Eventually I found an agent who works in the publishing industry, so I focused my illustration on children’s books.
How did you find a publisher for your books?
My agent shopped my portfolio to various publishers. Eventually she found one interested in doing a project.
How do you create your art – primarily digital or traditional?
My work is typically a combination of traditional media and digital process. I scan drawings and paintings and combine, composite and compose everything in the computer. This gives me the organic aesthetic of traditional media but also the control only available in the computer.
How do you decide that a piece is finished so that it isn’t lacking nor is it overworked?
Good question. I keep “working versions” of all of my stuff (V1, V2, V3, V4, etc). I usually overwork each project, but my process allows me to go back 1 or 2 versions to find the “best” one. Many times it takes a week or two of separation from a project before I can objectively assess the work’s success.
Do you have a favorite piece and why?
I like “Pretty Frida” (a photomontage) because it is the first image I created that I knew people would respond to. It was also the image that got me thinking about incorporating traditional illustration into my work.
Who or what are your influences?
I find a lot of inspiration in Victorian imagery and writing. On the surface, such work often appears very proper and civilized but if you spend enough time with it, an odd darkness begins to emerge. I find a lot of inspiration in contemporary art (Marcel Dzama, Tony Oursler, Wengechi Mutu, Kara Walker) but one of my all time favorites is Edward Gorey. His work is endlessly inspiring on many levels.
How or why did you get into writing and illustrating children’s books?
I thought it would be a fun thing to do (which it is). And like a dummy, I also thought it would be an easy thing to do. Ignorance is bliss.
Can you explain your process in writing and illustrating a children’s book – do the words or the drawings come first?
I frequently get my ideas by sketching and doodling. When a story idea seems flushed out, then I begin writing. After the story is finished I revise and revise several times. Then I begin the real illustrations.
Do you have children (of your own or others) proofread your books before they are published?
I have a four year old. He likes hearing my story ideas and looking at my drawings. When he REALLY likes something, I usually put it in the “keeper” pile.
Do you have any recommendations for a person trying to move into illustration?
Start building a portfolio and showing it to everyone in your circle of friends/contacts. Get as much feedback as you can and continue to develop new work. When people consistently begin to respond in a very positive way – it’s time to try finding work.
How can people follow you that are interested in your ongoing work?
My website is the best place to find out what I’m up to.
And most importantly, cake or pie?
Many thanks to Patrick for the interview and showing a sample of his artwork here. Please post any comments below.
© This article is copyright of Chris Lane Photo and should not be found elsewhere.