Having seen Aaron Blecha’s exciting portfolio, I was keen to find out more about him and his work process. Aaron is known for providing artwork for various children’s books and folk tales, including the Three Little Pigs. His dynamic, vivid and ultimately very funny character creations are what stand out for me.
London-based Aaron was kind enough to answer some questions about his work and provide some exciting ‘behind the scenes’ insight into his most recent graphic novel, the grotesquely delightful The Ugly Duckling.
What kind of training have you had in illustration up until now?
I haven’t had too much of a formal illustration education. I’ve just always been a drawer. I went to the University of Wisconsin, but they didn’t have much to offer for commercial illustrators at the time so I was steered into graphic design.
It wasn’t until I landed in San Francisco that I started to pick up the pencil again and got involved in animation and character design.
Who is the person that most inspires you?
I don’t know if there’s just one person, but as a kid I loved Mercer Mayer. He’s not as well known as Maurice Sendak, but his goofy, detailed monsters and adventurous stories really grabbed me.
Lately I’ve been reading a lot of graphic novels, especially Guy Davis in the BPRD books and Lewis Trondheim’s French series, Dungeon. Both have such a unique way at looking at monsters and characters done with loose lines.
I come from a family of teachers, so I have to say that teachers also are an inspiration to me. Whenever I get to New York City, I draw with my brother’s class. He has one of the toughest jobs ever! I’m just hopeful that a kid in school will pick up one of my books in the library and be inspired like I was.
How did you get into drawing for graphic novels and is it hard work?
After working in animation, I wanted to guide myself into the publishing world. I started with a creepy graphic novel based on the Three Little Pigs a year or so ago.
It’s super fun to create your entire world on paper but also very time consuming to do everything from character design to end coloring, so I probably won’t continue with them exclusively. I’m moving more into children’s picture and chapter books. But if the right story comes along…
Can you describe your work process in drawing up and illustrating the recent ugly duckling graphic novel?
I start out sketching and designing the main characters in the story:
I use Col-Erase Blue Pencils for all my sketching. I got hooked on them when working in animation. They sharpen to a fine point and don’t smudge. Once the characters are approved, I storyboard the book out very loosely, to see if the action and the scenes are flowing together:
After that I lightly sketch out the finals on Strathmore Bristol Vellum Paper and ink it in with a variety of pens. My favorites right now are Faber-Castell Pitt Pens. However, I’m always on the look out for better ways to ink:
The inked work is then coloured digitally in Photoshop:
ⓒ Aaron Blecha, 2009
What are you working on at the moment?
I’ve just finished my third graphic novel based on fairy and folk tales. It’s Paul Bunyan: a character of old American Tall Tales. I’m also illustrating a few chapter books for Penguin that will be coming out next year.
Looking forward to it, Aaron!
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