Interview with Author/Illustrator Mark A. Hicks
I have to introduce one of my favorite illustrators, Mark A. Hicks. It is awesome that he wrote and illustrated lots and lots of books. I have read several of them. My favorite was Ellwood's Plans. Ellwood's life always goes well, but it takes a turn for the bad. He couldn't see what his future would be. But in the end, music wins out. He makes a new and important friend on the bus and there's a cool song that I can't stop singing! The funny thing was that so many things had music patterns on them (like his PJs). This is a very clever book. I LOVE THIS BOOK!
Another one of my favorite books is the Weather Detectives. These are some kids that explore the weather. My dad was in the Xenia tornado and so I am interested in the weather. It is so fun reading this book - it isn't only about tornadoes, but other weather patterns and phenomenon.
There is a sweet book for easy readers, called The Picnic Day. These two bunnies go and have a picnic. It is fun to look at the illustrations, and very easy to read. It is a perfect book for kids just learning to read.
I was so excited to interview Mark about his books, his art, and more. Here's what he had to say...
WE: How many books have you illustrated?
MH: Well over twenty-five. Some of them are trade books (books published for general readership) and some them are educational books just for the classroom.
WE: I love your new book, Ellwood's Plans. Did you enjoy writing it? How did you think of this story? How do you think of all the details that make the pictures funny?
MH: The story for Ellwood's Plans evolved over several years. I got the idea from people I knew who would make big plans for themselves only to see those plans never work out exactly as they planned. It was a lot of fun to write. I'm now putting together ideas for a follow-up book about Ellwood and BJ's band.
The ideas for the details in the illustrations came from observing the world around me. I have this ability to store interesting details in my head and apply them whenever they fit the right illustration.
WE: How did you become an artist?
MH: I have always loved to create art. I started drawing and painting at an early age. I was in art classes all through school and I won my first art award in 4th grade. My dad and older brother dabbled in art, so I had access to art materials and it just seemed so natural.
My professional art career started at a small daily newspaper where I worked as a graphic artist doing mainly page layout. I moved on to other newspapers, but I was frustrated at these jobs because I just wanted to illustrate and I rarely got a chance to do so. Eventually I quit and started freelancing full time.
WE: When I read your book, The Picnic Day, the words are so simple and the pictures must have taken way more time. Do you enjoy creating easy reader books?
MH: Yes, I love creating easy reader books. I have a couple more ideas I'm working on right now. But sometimes writing something so simple can really be a challenge.
WE: You've illustrated many books we're currently reading. My favorite is the Weather Detectives. Did you have to research the weather to draw the pictures? In American Grub, did you try to make the readers laugh with your drawings?
MH: Yes, I had to do a lot of research for the Weather Detectives. I wanted to make sure I got the details as accurate as possible.
I had a lot of fun illustrating American Grub. The editor was gracious enough to turn me loose and let me have some fun. And yes, I did try to make the readers of American Grub laugh. I always like to inject a little humor into my illustrations whenever possible. Sometimes it's obvious and sometimes subtle, but making people laugh or at least smile is always a goal when I illustrate something like American Grub.
WE: What is your favorite medium to work in?
MH: I still like using a "traditional" medium like watercolor, especially for book illustration. There's a certain warmth and charm in traditional media that just can't seem to be duplicated in digital artwork.
WE: How did you illustrate all of these books? Do you just draw all the time?
MH: All the books I have illustrated have been in watercolors with pen and ink.
I draw a lot, but I also create paintings, sculptures, inventions, and more. But sadly, not all of my creative work helps pay the bills, so for now, I try to
concentrate mostly on the business of illustration.
WE: Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?
MH: Besides creating artwork for children's books and magazines, I create greeting cards, wrapping paper, and other paper products for both children and adults, as well as education clip art, typefaces, artwork for t-shirts, and websites. Be sure to check out my Halloween website, I M Halloween and my Arizona (I'm a native Arizonan) website, Gila Ben's Arizona Pages.
From I M Halloween
WE: Thanks so much, Mark! I love your work. And your Halloween Pages are so much fun!
For more information, please see:
All photos courtesy and copyright of Mark A. Hicks
L Forteau is the Special Children's Reporter for Wandering Educators.