Featured Illustrator

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 AnimalsDrawing 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.

For making 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?

Yes, I am fortunate to have a big and bright basement office area. Although our house was built in 1925, the ceilings are tall enough to accommodate my 6’7" height. It holds my large drafting table, vintage taboret, much needed file cabinets, and a closet full of my art supplies. 

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 since.

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 

January 2023

October 2022

Nico Ridge

July 2022

March 2022

January 2022
Kristen Uroda

December 2021

May 2021

January 2021

October 2020

May 2020

Rebecca Howe

March 2020

Nina Goebel

January 2020

Melanie Bryce

October 2019

Makiko Orser

July 2019

Ruth McNally Barshaw

April 2019

Melissa Bailey

January 2019

Nick Adkins

October 2018

July 2018

Darrin Brege

April 2018

Basya Cohen

January 2018

John Bleau

October 2017

Lori Eslick

Lori painted two banners and they both deserve to be shown, here is the other one:

July 2017

Amy Nielander

April 2017

Cathy Gendron

January 2017

Brianne Farley

October 2016

Bradley Cooper

July 2016

Kara Marsee

April 2016

Lori Taylor

January 2016

Dana Atnip

October 2015

Deb Pilutti

July 2015

Jennifer Scott
April 2015

Diana Magnuson

January 2015

September 2014

Heidi Woodward Sheffield



  1. Will there be any market ideas such as new publications or publishing companies included in The Mitten?

    1. Great idea, thanks for the suggestion! We'll explore this as we grow and add more features.

    2. Keep in mind the most up-to-date market research can be found in the members section of the national site, www.scbwi.org
      You can download it for free or have The Book sent to you for just $5 postage. It's an amazing resource.

  2. Brilliant, Heidi. Huge congratulations and also hugs.
    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.

  3. GREAT JOB! Kritstin and Jodie.

    Heidi, you know I am already a fan, and your work never fails to WOW me!

  4. Heidi, your art is so beautiful! Thanks for your courage in sharing your life challenge with us. I wish you the very best.
    Kristin and Jodie--this is a terrific idea! Looking forward to reading more.
    Lindsey McDivitt

  5. 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 McBride

  6. 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!

    1. 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.

  7. Wow! Heidi, I can see why you got the mentorship--touching, heartfelt essay. Impressive!

  8. 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 Heidi

  9. 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!

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. Love it, Jeff! Your art is fabulous and it's great to see more of it.

  13. 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!