Meet Ken Eaton!
Interview by Darren Cools
It's nearly Easter, and we are finally getting a little sun and (slightly) warmer weather in southeastern Michigan. We were excited to catch up with Ken Eaton, a Detroit area-based picture book author, illustrator, and automotive engineer.
Ken grew up in Akron, Ohio, earning a degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Toledo before moving to the Detroit area to work in the auto industry.
He has always enjoyed drawing and comics. After (re) discovering Edward Gorey, he found himself inspired by the myriad ways words and pictures can be assembled in book form to create humor, mystery, suspense, drama, and delightful nonsense.
Hi Ken, we are excited to get to know you a little better. What are some of your go-to inspirations when drawing?
Thank you! It's exciting to contribute to The Mitten!
If I need
inspiration, I have a large collection of picture books (mostly vintage), like
Dr. Seuss, Arnold Lobel, Jose Aruego and Ariane Dewey, Tomi Ungerer, Richard
Scarry, Edward Gorey, and many others.
The reference books I go to most are by Jack Hamm. I’ve had his Cartooning the Head and Figure since the third grade and still reference it. The others I reference are How to Draw Animals, Drawing the Head and Figure, and Drawing Scenery: Landscapes and Seascapes.
I also keep a sketchbook with me to jot down ideas, doodle, or sketch something that catches my eye.
Tell us a little about your process and tools.
My traditional drawing tools are primarily pencil and ink applied with a dip pen or brush. For sketching, I really like the Pentel color brush and Stylo pen. I generally rely on watercolors and colored pencil for traditional coloring. The paper I use depends on the drawing medium. If I am only going to scan in pencil work, I may use regular sketch paper; but for ink and watercolor, I’ll use Bristol board or 100% cotton watercolor paper.
To create digital art, I use a Wacom tablet with ArtRage6, or Adobe CS6 Photoshop or Illustrator. I find ArtRage to be the easiest to use, and thanks to YouTube, I’ve unlocked even more of its potential.
book dummies, I started with Adobe InDesign, but I have switched to Microsoft
PowerPoint. It gets the job done and is much more user-friendly.
I have been documenting some of these processes on my blog if you would like more detail.
Do you have a dedicated workspace? Do you prefer quiet, or do you listen to podcasts or music when you work?
If I do listen to music while I’m drawing, it’s usually something ambient, like classical, chillsynth, or dub techno. If I’m dragging, then it might be 80’s alternative music or 90’s dream pop.
What aspects of your work offer hints about who you are? Are there underlying themes you hope people pick up on?
I strive to make my characters feel alive, engaging and choose an art style that fits the story. I would say the general themes are a balance of humor, friendship, learning, and sharing knowledge, which are also things that have helped me get through life.
It’s fascinating that you are both an engineer and an artist. Tell us something more about you that people might not know.
Yes, my full-time
job is an engineer at an automotive supplier. Because I was pretty good with
math and science, I was encouraged (except by my high school art teacher) to go
into engineering and pursue art on the side, and that’s what I’ve done ever
The steady income from my engineering job has provided opportunities for travel, cooking classes, and art classes, which is how I met my partner.
I have learned that my art and engineering work complement each other. My art skills have helped me work through technical issues, explain technical information to others, and with making pretty presentations, while engineering has helped me with writing, people skills, and problem solving.
Lastly, I would like to say that SCBWI has been a great experience. It has been both inspiring and motivating to be part of a creative community with shared goals and to meet so many nice people.
Thanks for sharing with us, Ken!
Be sure to check out bigtallken.com and Instagram for more.
Previous Featured Illustrators
|Ruth McNally Barshaw|
|Heidi Woodward Sheffield|
Will there be any market ideas such as new publications or publishing companies included in The Mitten?ReplyDelete
Great idea, thanks for the suggestion! We'll explore this as we grow and add more features.Delete
Keep in mind the most up-to-date market research can be found in the members section of the national site, www.scbwi.orgDelete
You can download it for free or have The Book sent to you for just $5 postage. It's an amazing resource.
Brilliant, Heidi. Huge congratulations and also hugs.ReplyDelete
I'm a mentee now, too -- let's storm the castle and hang up our artwork. ;) -- And let's pull the rest of our Michigan illustrators up the steps too.
GREAT JOB! Kritstin and Jodie.ReplyDelete
Heidi, you know I am already a fan, and your work never fails to WOW me!
Heidi, your art is so beautiful! Thanks for your courage in sharing your life challenge with us. I wish you the very best.ReplyDelete
Kristin and Jodie--this is a terrific idea! Looking forward to reading more.
Heidi, Thank you for sharing your work and your hard-won wisdom. The depth from which you speak comes through in the strength and vibrancy of your artwork as well. Blessings and continued healing to you. Most Sincerely, Elizabeth McBrideReplyDelete
This is a question for Kristin and Jody but I can't seem to find anywhere else to ask it---will we still be sharing marketing news, Hugs & Hoorahs, etc? I don't see any of those at this time. Thanks!ReplyDelete
I emailed Monica, but for anyone else who is reading this, we will definitely have Hugs and Hurrahs - I'm compiling them now for an upcoming post. We'll have to look at market news going forward, but the SCBWI Bulletin and our listserv continue to be good resources for that info.Delete
Wow! Heidi, I can see why you got the mentorship--touching, heartfelt essay. Impressive!ReplyDelete
So happy for you. Nice work, Heidi!ReplyDelete
I'm such a neophyte here that I forgot there might be posts (and replies!). I really and truly very touched by the kind words and feedback. Thank you all, a bit late! XO HeidiReplyDelete
Thank you to Jeff and Heidi for their gorgeous artwork! And, Heidi, thank you for your honesty and inspiration, all wrapped up in your beautiful essay. It's a touching reminder of what matters in life--the perfect start to the new year. Happy 2015 to everyone!ReplyDelete
Jeff - thanks for a little insight into your creative world, challenges, and motivations. I'm excited to see more of your work! And Heidi,I want that bronco girl! Love her spirit.ReplyDelete
Amazing artwork Jeff (and Heidi). Fascinating that Matt Faulkner suggested the 3-D look. The value of SCBWI is our proximity to working writers and illustrators. The sparks that fly when creative minds meet fuels the forge of inspiration.ReplyDelete
Love it, Jeff! Your art is fabulous and it's great to see more of it.ReplyDelete
Great art work Heidi and hugs all over for you...And Jeff, the cover is so good - just want to reach out and squeeze the other hand of the tree, or two or more! Love clay too!ReplyDelete