Illustrator Interview: Luke Flowers

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Plus, we’ve already had loads of fantastic entries for our Children’s Art Competition! (Have your creative kiddos entered yet? All they have to do is draw their own imaginary creature. Find out more here!)

When planning the competition, we decided to make it inspired by the creature in The Triantiwontigongolope by CJ Dennis. For the art, US-based illustrator Luke Flowers was the first person who sprang to mind.

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Download our Awesome Art Pack and enter our competition today!

We’ve collaborated with Luke on a couple of stories already (The Wind and the Sun in Storytime Issue 12 and Henny Penny in Storytime Issue 19), so we know he always brings something special to his work.

In fact, everything Luke turns his hand to is bursting with life. Full of energy, careful thought, gorgeous detail, vibrant colour and a healthy measure of off-the-wall. Luke was the perfect fit for The Triantiwontigongolope, so we were over the moon when he came on board.

Even more so when he agreed to not only judge our art competition, but also put together a step-by-step guide to creating a Triantiwontigongolope.

It’s part of our Awesome Art Pack, which is full of top tips and fun exercises for kids who love art and illustration. It also includes our competition entry form. Make sure you download it here!

As Luke is such an integral (and welcome) part of our 3rd Anniversary Issue, we wanted to take this opportunity to celebrate his work. What wild magic is he using to make him so very good at what he does.

We think you’ll be inspired!

 

Illustrator Interview: 12 Questions with Luke Flowers

 

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Awesome illustrator and Storytime art competition judge, Luke Flowers

1. We know you’ve always been arty, but what drew you to illustrating for kids? How did you get started?

I’ve always been drawn to whimsical, playful stories. The first book I can remember loving was The Monster at the End of This Book (a Little Golden Book with Grover). I was so intrigued by the way a story kept you wondering what would happen next with each page you turned. In 2nd grade, I remember wishing I could illustrate books because I loved how the words and images worked together to pull you into the story.

I first got started in illustrating for kids when I started doing editorial illustrations for several kids’ magazines back in 2010. But I didn’t actually start illustrating children’s books until 2013. So it was a long journey to finally get to be able to do what I’ve dreamt of since I was a 2nd grader.

 

2. Do you have any favourite creatives who have influenced your work?

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A selection of Luke’s amazing creative work.

Shel Silverstein, Jim Henson, Walt Disney and Roald Dahl were HUGE influences growing up (and still are today). I loved the way they brought a message of hope in the midst of the wacky worlds they crafted. Whether it was through a poem, story, film, or a television show. I wanted to be part of inspiring kids to see the fun and joy of the world through a variety of creative expressions.

Jim Henson was probably the biggest influence. I was so inspired by the way he used so many forms of art to tell his stories. He truly seemed to live out what he was telling in his stories. His message of dreaming big, following those dreams and loving others on that adventure has always stuck with me on my own creative journey.

 

3. How do you keep the mojo going when you’re busy? Do you have any top tips for creatives who are juggling full-time work with illustration jobs?

Having a list of dream personal projects or types of work I want to pursue always helps me stay motivated – knowing that there is some new avenue of creativity to explore and expand into. That list is longer than my life may allow for. It’s always inspiring to reach those milestones and see new doors open along the way.

I find so much of my daily inspiration by connecting with fellow creatives, whether through social media, email or phone conversations. Because I work alone in my creative cave, this allows me to have ‘co-workers’. We are all striving for the same goals and facing the same challenges, so we cheer one another on.

Music is also one of the main ways I keep myself focused and inspired. I collect all kinds of film soundtracks that I go through to set the mood for a certain type of work. I really love Synthwave bands, and found sound type bands (The Books, Pogo, Wax Tailor) to set a mood of creativity. Also, I enjoy listening to audio books, mainly biographies. The Jim Henson Biography (by Brian Jay Jones) is constantly on repeat.

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Luke’s work for Storytime’s fairy tale, Henny Penny (Issue 19) left our readers grinning from ear to ear.

4. What has been your biggest illustration challenge to date?

Illustrating over 36 children’s books in just under four years has been a marathon of creativity. It has gone far beyond all my expectations. I’m so grateful for each opportunity to work with such a wide range of talented creatives and publishers. They have inspired me each step of the way. I couldn’t have done it without the support of my family and fellow creative friends cheering me on and inspiring me with their work too.

 

5. What would be your favourite fairy tale to illustrate?

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A glorious illustration by Luke for Storytime Issue 12’s Wind and the Sun fable.

I have always loved Alice in Wonderland. It is so full of wildly imaginative characters and there are so many wonderful interpretations of that story. I’d love to give my own twist to it. Though one of my all time favorite stories is The Musicians of Bremen (Brothers Grimm) because, growing up on a farm, I always imagined the animals having adventures like that.

One of my all-time favourite illustrators J.P. Miller did what I believe is the best take on that tale. I’d have big shoes to fill if I ever took a stab at illustrating it myself.

 

6. We’ve been so lucky to work with you on several stories now, including The Triantiwontigongolope. How do you create such vibrant characters?

I’ve been SO LUCKY to have the opportunity to work with you, and bring such fun stories to life. So thank you for those creative adventures to share with the readers.

I always start with research, looking through my library of new and old children’s books just to get the creative wheels spinning. This is also a great way to start thinking about the colors that will fit the story and characters of the assigment. Then I go right to sketching out various ways of crafting the characters with shape exploration and details like wardrobe or props. I do colour explorations and, because I work fully digital, I can quickly change up the colours to see what works best.

From there it is just diving fully into the illustration with shapes, adding texture with brushes, and then lighting the scene and adding the final details.

 

7. Are there any favourite projects you’re working on at the moment that you can tell us about?

Creating my first author/illustrator book series with Scholastic. I remember absolutely treasuring that stack of books, which would arrive each month when I was able to order them as a kid. So to have the opportunity to not only illustrate a book for Scholastic but a series has been a lifelong dream come true for me.

The book series is called Moby Shinobi, about a helpful ninja kid who visits various job sites to offer his helpful ninja skills. He realises (after making several mistakes) that ninja skills don’t always fit every job. But in the end an emergency occurs that truly requires a certain ninja skill and he is able to help out in his own unique way.

Ninja on the Farm was the debut book, and has sold over 150,000 copies since its release in December 2016. Ninja in the Kitchen (book 2) was just released in July and Ninja in the Pet Shop comes out in December 2017. We have two more books scheduled for this series, and hopefully many more! You can read the full story of how this series started and came together on my blog here.

(Buy these titles direct from Scholastic or download Kindle editions from Amazon UK ~ Ed.)

 

8. Is there any work you’re particularly proud of that you’d like to point to?

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Luke’s Labyrinth A to Z, which now hangs proudly in the Jim Henson Company offices!

Other than the Moby Shinobi book series, I’m also proud of the personal work I get to do for gallery shows each year. Gallery shows are a fun way to explore my own personal work style, while paying tribute to some of my favorite films, shows and book characters.

I do one or two gallery shows each month with several galleries in Los Angeles. I’ve had the opportunity to connect with several studios and companies through them, like Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and, best of all, The Jim Henson Company!

I created an alphabet poster to pay tribute to Jim Henson’s Labyrinth on its 30th anniversary, and that piece was a big hit, which connected me with the team at Boom! Comics, who were putting together a book of tribute art. That opportunity also led me to connect with Lisa Henson (Jim Henson’s daughter, and CEO of the Jim Henson Co.), and now a print of that piece hangs at the studio!

 

9. What’s your preferred creative medium and why?

I prefer digital for several reasons. I love the variety of brushes you can quickly explore and implement, and the unique challenge of trying to create work that the viewer can’t figure out if it’s traditional or digital. Also, I love the way it allows for a more streamlined process with clients – making changes and giving them a variety of digital assets to use for promotion and publication. And, of course, the undo key is quite nice for a fella who makes a lot of mistakes in the creative process!

 

10. If you could work in any location in the world, where would it be?

I’d love to work with a studio in California on a film or show at some point. Working for the Jim Henson Company or Walt Disney Animation Studio has been a lifelong dream so if that ever happened that would be a big milestone. I really enjoy visiting New York and all the incredible publishers and fellow creatives there. Every time I visit I feel deeply inspired and would love to spend a whole month just working there and visiting with fellow creative friends.

Of course I’d LOVE to visit London so I could come visit the Storytime team. I’ve dreamt of spending a whole season there, just creating and soaking in the inspiration of all the history of great art that has and is being created there!

(You are welcome at the Storytime Studio any time, Luke! ~ Ed.)

11. What would be your dream project or are there any different areas you’d like to explore?

I’ve recently started working on a Little Golden Book series with Nickelodeon for their television show, Rusty Rivets. I’ve always wanted to work with Little Golden Books, but I would also like to work with other properties like Walt Disney or Jim Henson Co. doing Little Golden Book variations of their stories.

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Luke’s series of Rusty Rivets titles for Little Golden Books.

I also want to do more puppeteering work. Recently I had the opportunity to work on a pitch video for a show with my friend Joey Ellis. Joey created a world called Leaky Timbers, about a little monster named Wolfie, and his crazy adventures. I played the part of Roy, Wolfie’s older brother. It was such a great experience to learn from Joey about puppeteering and help him bring that world to life. You can see the video and more of the story here. I hope we can do more with that in the future.

One of my main goals for the next few years is to create more of my own author/illustrator children’s book. I’m working on developing and pitching those in 2018. I have several stories I’m really excited about and one that I may even develop into a graphic novel or television show pitch.

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Full of life and colour – a classic Luke Flowers illustration

The one I’m most excited about though is a chapter book series that my daughter, Lydia (11 years old) and I are writing together. We hope to pitch that book series sometime in the next year. I would be so thrilled to be able to pursue that dream with her more in the years ahead.

 

12. Is there any advice you can give to children (or aspiring illustrators) who want to get into illustration?

I always say you should reach out to someone who is five miles down the road you want to travel, but be sure you are always reaching back to help someone who is five miles behind you on that same road.

Basically connect with someone who is doing what you want to do and inspiring you through their work, but be sure to share your work and help to inspire someone who may be on that same path and looking for some guidance, encouragement and inspiration.

I would not have been able to reach any of the milestones on my creative journey had I not had friends helping me along the way and sharing their experience, encouragement and work that inspired me.

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Well, that’s an utterly lovely note to end on and what a great motto for life!

Luke’s words have really inspired our creative process and we’re sure you feel the same. You can follow Luke on both Twitter and Instagram for more inspiration and good vibes. Remember, if you have creative kiddos, don’t miss the chance to enter our Art Competition. They could see their work in print in Storytime!

 

Stay inspired and keep reading stories!

 

stories for kids

(Storytime Ed.)