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An Interview with Children's Book Illustrator Korey Scott: Connecting With Children Through Art

We recently caught up with the very talented illustrator, Korey Scott. Korey specializes in children's books, amusing characters and educational material. His work has garnered awards such as "Best Children's Book" at the 2007 North Texas Book Festival and the Golden Spur Honor Award from the Texas State Reading Association (TSRA) 2005. When he's not creating his wonderful illustrations for his clients, Korey can be found in schools and libraries teaching and inspiring children of all ages with his art.

So tell us a little bit about Korey Scott the illustrator. How did you become interested in children's illustration?

I think my style of art is naturally geared toward this area. I enjoy making fun, happy, colorful characters that children and adults enjoy seeing. Also, I want my art to be used for educational purposes so that kids can learn and have fun.

Did you know from an early age you wanted to be an illustrator? Who influenced you as a child and prompted you to pursue a career as an artist?

The short version of the story is that when I was born, I started drawing. The longer version is that I don’t know of a time I haven’t been drawing. Being an illustrator is all I have ever wanted to do, except for that one day I wanted to be a policeman. One vivid memory I have was from library class in elementary school. The librarian was reading a story while talking about the Caldecott Medal for illustrators. I think the book was, The Polar Express. “They actually have this as a job?" I thought. “Well, I’ve already started drawing. This is what I want to do!” In the library that day, I knew that I wanted to make illustration my career.

My parents, however, were my biggest influence to becoming an illustrator. They always believed in me and gave me encouragement for my art. I would always draw something and run into the living room and show them. They were the best clients a kid could have. They liked everything I drew. I think this gave me the confidence I needed to keep creating art. Also, my grandfather was an architect. I still use his drafting table today, which was the same table I would use to practice as a kid.

Who are some of your favorite illustrators in the children’s book industry? How have they influenced your own work?

Some of my favorite illustrators from childhood to today are Richard Scarry, Roger Hargreaves - Mr. Books, Stan and Jan Berenstain - Berenstain Bears, and Jim Davis - Garfield. I think these illustrators have influenced my character design style as well as my love for writing stories. They didn’t just draw. They created a world from their own experiences and imaginations. Similarly, when I create characters, I usually have to create a story for them and write down their personalities and attributes. Where do these characters live? What do they do? Who are their friends?

Now, working in the industry, I have too many influences to name here, but I will mention a couple illustrators who have personally taken the time to help me along the way. John Nez, nearly a decade ago, was one of the first to help me with advice about the art business. As my career has grown in recent times, James Horvath has also been very helpful in sharing his illustration experiences and techniques with me. Now, with Facebook and blogs, I've gotten to know and talk to many other illustrators that inspire me like Scott Nelson, Marty Qatani, Jannie Ho, Doug Jones, and Paula Becker. We share advice and encourage each other in our work. It's great to be a part of such a talented art community.

How and where do you market your work to target the folks in your specific area of illustration?

I have many websites to promote my illustrations such as creativeshake.com, childrensillustrators.com, Hire an Illustrator!, my personal website Korey Scott.com, as well as my blog, Facebook Fan Page, Flickr, and several other free portfolio sites.

What’s been your favorite project to date?

Both of my favorite projects to date have been working with Northern Speech Services. The first project is Keli Richmond’s Literacy Speaks program. I’ve had the opportunity over the past four years to illustrate tons of word cards and coloring pages. One of my favorite things about this project is actually hearing about how much the kids like the artwork and how they are improving their language skills. The other project is the Crezca (Grow) Bilingual reading program by Ana Paula Mumy. I illustrated 12 books that teach English and Spanish to children with four different reading levels. I enjoyed this project because I also speak Spanish, and I hope kids will be encouraged to learn another language.

What are you working on now? What do you have in the hopper?

Right now, I'm working on finishing Kit 4 of the Literacy Speaks program, a self published children’s book, and spot art illustrations. Coming up already this year, I have two more children’s books to illustrate. Whenever I have the time or am inspired, I work on finishing my own books that I'm writing and will illustrate. In the meantime, I’m always looking for new opportunities with my art.

In addition to your illustrations on your website you mention that you’re available for school and library visits. This is a very interesting and unique aspect of your career as an illustrator. Tell us more about it. How did you get started doing this? How did you come up with this great idea?

The idea came about in 1997 when I worked at an elementary school. I would draw with the kids on the overhead projector. I had them come up with some characters, places, and finally a story from the scene. For example, the kids would yell out, "Alien, gas station, cinnamon toast!" So we would have an alien at a gas station eating cinnamon toast. Then, I would have them think about why the alien is eating toast at the gas station, where he got the toast, where is he going after filling up his car. They would of course come up with some really funny reasons. By the end of the drawing, we would have a story with characters, plot, problem, and a solution.


Can you walk us through the process of your visits?

When I'm at a school visit, I first like to explain who I am and what I do as an artist while showing examples of my characters and illustrations. I show the kids the many ways that art can be used, such as in books, cards, comics, coloring books, and animation. I read them one of the books I have illustrated and describe the publishing process of taking an idea to a sketch/storyboard, outline, then coloring and final publication. I show examples of sketches that have been changed in revisions, and they tell me what has changed in the picture. It’s kind of like a "What has changed" game. They learn that one illustration has many steps just like writing a story or learning to play an instrument. I even show illustrations that I did when I was growing up and tell them how important it is to keep practicing and learning. I share with the kids that art is meant to share with others too. I grew up making my own greeting cards for my family. This is one way they can use their art to share with others, and I encourage them to make a drawing for someone in their family or a friend. Immediately, they have someone in mind. "My mom! My dad! My best friend!" I end the visit by drawing with the kids. They tell me what to draw, and we come up with a class story. This is usually very funny because all their ideas and opinions come out. Finally, they each take this class example and make their own story at their desks. It is fun to see all the stories and art that is created within 30 minutes to an hour.


What is it you enjoy most about these visits? Is it inspiring another generation of artists? Is it giving children a voice of expression?

For me, the best part is hearing the kid's ideas. They come up with the funniest things to draw, and they aren't afraid to share it with you. I think the best part for the kids is that they all enjoy writing stories and showing the characters that they create. Many times, they incorporate the visit into their lessons for other subjects. For example, the kids are studying bats in science so I would show them how to draw a bat. They would then tell me what bats eat, where they live, etc. I think it's a great way to show kids how to be excited about learning because it doesn't seem like work. It's a fun way to see how much they know. "Bats don't look like that. They have pointy ears and sleep in caves!" Also, kids who wouldn't normally draw get to see how fun it can be. Often, those are the kids who discover a talent they didn't know they had, and their style is really unique. When I go around to look at everyone's drawings, every kid has something to say about their work. One kid did several drawings that looked more like concept art on his story. He drew out a dragon's ship and explained to me how it worked and what happens in the story. One little girl had her book written in 30 minutes with several pages and even told me plans of writing a sequel.


This is a great benefit to you as a children's illustrator. The experience gives you a window into a child's world - in a way seeing the world through their eyes. How do you see this as a value to the children?

I think the school visits are a way to show kids that they CAN write, draw, and create something of their own. I start the visit by showing them that they can create a character just by putting shapes together. Circles, squares, ovals, lines, etc. I show them that as the shapes change, the character changes too. Once they see that they can put some circles together for eyes, a square for the head, a snake shape for arms/legs, they can create anything. I also explain how everyone has a style. My style isn't the same as another artist and that is okay. We can all be inspired by other styles and learn. I think this approach shows them that their creations are unique and people can enjoy them. Like I said earlier, when I was a child, I would run my drawings into the living room and show my parents. It made me feel proud that I created something that they liked. I still do this even today with my wife and family.

What’s the best comment or funniest thing a student has said to you?

Recently, the kids were telling me animals to draw. I was showing how you can take a character and add on details later like a hat, glasses, or whatever. I was drawing a horse character, and a little girl raised her hand. She said, "I can draw a better horse than that." This turned out to be true. After the session, she came up to me and showed me her horse cartoon. It was a great horse!


What are the teachers’ and parents’ reactions and comments to your school and library visits?

Sometimes the teachers let me know that the kids have written their books and are coming up with new ideas. They tell me how the drawings have helped the kids in other subject areas like science, reading, and social studies. When I was in school, I used my art even in Physics class and learned map pencil shading in geography. So, it's great to hear that kids are using their art to learn other subjects.

What have you learned or taken away from your many experiences interacting with the students?

I've learned that the arts are really important. Kids are really creative, and they all like to draw and write in some way. You can usually see their personalities and interests come out in a drawing. Even if they don't choose to all be illustrators, the concepts of dedication, practice, and learning are all important to have in any area they pursue. Plus, it's just fun to give kids a break to be silly and draw!


What advice do you have for children who have dreams of one day becoming an artist?

The first piece of advice I have for those who want to be an artist is to start calling yourself an artist. I think illustration is a career that you don’t have to wait for a job interview to get started. Art is simply the product of who you are. You can’t help but draw. Start developing your style now and use opportunities in your daily life to do art and a career will naturally develop. I made my own projects growing up to practice as well as used art in every subject at school. I got a 100 on a project I mentioned before in that Physics class. Don’t get discouraged either. I have days when I forget how to draw. Never give up. Lastly, with honest work and determination, you can never go wrong.

Illustration Pages would like to thank Korey Scott for taking the time out of his busy schedule to answer a few of our questions. In case you missed some of Korey's links that were peppered throughout the article, here they are again.

Korey Scott's - website

Korey Scott's Blog

and always our favorite here at IP - Korey Scott's Facebook page - Don't forget to fan his page

5 comments:

  1. Wonderful article! Glad I got to know Korey and his work through the blog world!

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  2. I agree wonderful article. Thanks.

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  3. Excellent article- really enjoyed it, thank you!

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  4. Thanks everyone. Yeah Korey is a talented guy. I was really interested in learning about his school and library visits - very unique idea.

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