Shari: Jack, please tell my readers a little about yourself.
Jack: I married the most wonderful, beautiful woman in 2005. Her name is Aleithia. I have 5 terrific grown children, Jenny, John, Alex, Eric and Beth, and 4 adorable grandkids. My wife and I recently moved to Lisle Illinois to be closer to my mother-in-law who is battling cancer. I am a huge Chicago Cub fan. I love kids and teach Sunday school at our church. I love to draw for kids. I even incorporate it into the lessons. I'm a Christian and very involved in the church. So I guess when someone gets to know me, I hope they'd say "He loves God, he loves his wife, he loves his kids, he loves his grandkids, he loves his neighbor....and he's not a bad illustrator either.
Jack: Actually I've only been doing Children's book illustrating since March of this year when Guardian Angel Publishing contracted me to illustrate two books. I just recently finished them and the release date has not been set yet. I had so much fun, so when GAP contacted me about another book I was thrilled. The two books I recently finished illustrating were Poodle and Doodle by Donna Shepherd and Shoo Cat! by an author you may have heard of named Shari Lyle-Soffe. (Shari: I can't wait to see the finished book.) As far as difficulty breaking into the biz...it only took me 34 years.
Jack: Well Shari, it's a long story. I originally wanted to have a syndicated comic strip in the newspapers, however years and years of submitting material only got me file cabinets full of rejection letters. Some of the letters contained critiques about my work, so those were helpful. I learned a lot about shading and composition. Many of the letters said that my style was too "cute" for the papers. Instead of switching markets (like children's books), I tried to ugly up my style and keep trying the syndicates. I have a hard head sometimes. By this time I was renting storage space just for the rejection letters! I finally switched gears. I started doing signs and decorations for children's parties. I really enjoyed putting a smile on a kid's face. Then I began doing murals for kid's rooms. I really liked when the little boy or girl would try to communicate exactly what they wanted on their walls. A couple of years ago, the light finally went on. Children's books! I started researching styles, artists, formats etc... I was computer ignorant at the time and had to take some computer art classes. I was so embarrassed at my first class when the teacher said, "Turn on your computers", and I had to ask for help.
Shari: How do you earn a living? Do you do other kinds of illustrating? Tell us about them please.
Jack: I am a letter carrier to put dinner on the table and an illustrator to put dessert on the table. I'm hoping to do dinner and dessert as an illustrator soon. I,ve been selling cartoons on several websites for the last year and a half. I have sold over 2000. A couple of the sites are Fotolia.com and Bigstockphoto.com. I'm listed under the name Jacktoon. I've also been doing a lot of creative work for our church like CD covers, murals, drama backgrounds etc. I've also been illustrating for an online magazine called Stories for Children.
Shari: I am not an artist. Will you tell me how you work? What materials do you work with?
Jack: I have cheap sketchbooks everywhere. In my livingroom, bathroom, car and work. I always have a small notepad in my pocket for ideas and pencils, pencils, pencils. I scan my pencil sketches onto the computer. I don't use outlines in my work. I create my illustrations using shapes and shading. So after I build the shapes over my pencil sketch, I delete the sketch and put the finishing touches on the illustration.
Shari: Do you have a studio? Describe your workspace?
Jack: We just moved and I finally have a studio, although it is a maze to get around in here as we haven't finished unpacking yet. For the last 3 1/2 years my workspace was a small corner of our bedroom. We were renting a small 4 room coach house. I had to decide whether I wanted a dresser or a workspace. Workspace won out of course.
Shari: Will you tell us where we can look at some of your illustrations?
Jack: I'm having fun with a blog which has links to some of my other work. Stop by at http://jacktoon.blogspot.com/ and leave me a comment or two.
Shari: What are you working on now?
Jack: I have just recently been contracted by GAP (Guardian Angel Publishing) to illustrate a delightful book by Jessica Kennedy named Klutzy Kantor.I'm very excited about it. Jessica is a very special author.
Shari: Where did you get your training to become an illustrator?
Jack: My oldest daughter, Jenny, is a graphic artist. She just recently had a baby, and now is doing a lot of freelancing. (she has an Etsy store with a lots of goodies named Zuq and Zoe) She knew that I was left behind as far as digital art was concerned. She urged me to take some college courses and "catch up" so I did. I spent a few nights a week at a community college in Des Plaines. Going back a few years (about 30), I attended The American Academy of Art in Chicago. They actually offered cartooning classes.
Shari: Do you have a writing mascot?
Jack: Yes Shari, We have a 15 year old full-sized pomeranian. He is about 25 lbs. and his name is Tucker. He resembles a cross between a fox and a harp seal, so we call him our little seal-fox. He is blind, but he gets around pretty well. Tucker has been the subject of a few of my doodling sessions.
Shari: If you were not an artist/illustrator what would you be?
Jack: When I am channel surfing, if I see the word "forensic", I'm hooked. I love the way crimes are solved using this technology. So if I wasn't into chilren's book illustrating, I think I may have tried my hand at forensic crime solving. Hey Shari, maybe I can combine children's art and forensics and try to figure out if Humpty Dumpty really fell off that wall or if he was pushed. (Children would like to know.)
Shari: What would readers be surprised to learn about you?
Jack: That I was lost in the woods as an infant and raised by a family of squirrels. I still store food in my cheeks and climb trees. ...I guess it would be that I'm a math wiz. Since I could remember, I never got less than an A on my report cards for math.
Shari: Thank you for visiting with us. I'm sure we will be hearing more about you in the future.