children's book illustrator, digital media, digital painting, illustration, kidlitart, levinland, Levinland studio
I’m quite aware that sticking an interview with myself on this website is a little self-serving but I believe it’s also constructive. I started the Illustrators Journal because I was interested in how other illustrators work, live and go about their lives. I wanted to connect with them, know them and do right by them. We artists work alone most of the time, and in some cases don’t sleep much or when necessary do “all-nighters”. So reading about each other’s lives is a good way to connect and to know that you’re not alone. So here goes…
How does your work take form?
I start with an idea then thumbnails sketches. The sketches are very crude but they serve as a guide.
Once I have an idea I either collect scrap, use stock or take pictures to support the poses and the look and feel I’m after. I build a rough look in photoshop then switch to Illustrator. I usually sketch over the rough art in Illustrator with a stylus. Then I started rendering using tools in Illustrator. The ability to use layers to separate elements makes it easier to resize or rebuild individual areas without disturbing the entire image.
You were an art director, so you ve worked with many illustrators. It seems like you might have a leg up on other illustrators knowing how they think. How does that affect your work as an illustrator?
It doesn’t. My time as an art director is over by choice. I love creating imagery that enhances whatever project I’m working on. I want the art director to guide me and give me feedback. Besides things have changed so rapidly in our industry my knowledge of what an art director does these days is very different than it was back 5-10 years ago.
Do you do experimental work completely different from your published work?
Always. In fact I think in many ways that confuses potential clients and/or reps. I know they like to see consistency in an illustrators work. If you show one piece that’s different from 12 others it places doubt in their minds, which I find odd. To me versatility is a gift. It’s what made me such an effective art director and kept me on a roll when I worked as a freelancer.
How long do you see yourself doing kid lit art? Do you have any ideas for books you intend to write and illustrate?
I do kidlit art all the time. If I don’t have a paid project I create my own. It gives me a chance to explore new techniques and styles. I have ideas for books and I’ve written a few but I’m not pushing that part of my creativity right now. I’m leaning towards creating large paintings that are more intuitive and not planned. When I start out I don’t want to have a plan of what I want to do. I want to see what forms then shape it as a sculptor would.
Anything new you’ve wanted to do for a while that you are excited about?
The Illustrator’s Journey and Podcast!
My publication partner, Gregg Masters and I have stepped up our efforts to make the Journal a destination publication. I am always searching for great stories, ideas and illustrators to interview. I’ve been very lucky and I’m very thankful that artists worldwide have taken time to speak with me and reveal a little about their life and artwork.
I have some other longer term projects like my semi-biographical graphic comic novel “The Kid From Beverly Hills” and a series of gallery paintings as yet untitled.
I also created a new publication called REAL CREATIVE. The format is essentially the same as The Illustrators Journal but it encompasses all creatives whether there’re Actors, Musicians or kitchen designers! I still go behind “the curtains” to get to know people.
Do you do your work using traditional materials or do you do work digitally or both. How has working on the computer helped or hindered? Do you do any social media marketing?
I do use traditional materials, specifcally pencils and water oils. I sketch out on cold-press boards and paint into the drawings. Mostly, however I work digitally. It’s more liberating because the concerns an artist would have working traditionally are not a problem working digitally, specifically changes, or alterations. I can also experiment a lot quicker and easier. Additionally I can get real close to my art and fix details which traditionally would be very difficult to do.
Working on the computer has helped me quite a bit, especially timewise. I can do things a number of different ways to cut time which would be impossible traditionally. The only hinderance I perceive is there isn’t a physical piece of art. Somehow I think there are still clients that place a special value on art they can touch and feel. It seems more real to them.
I do tons of social media marketing. It allows me to reach out and communicate to many more people than I ever could call or meet in person
How long did it take you to establish yourself in the kid lit area? Was it hard for you or did it happen very easily?
I’m still establishing! This is tough question for me. I’ve illustrated 15 or so children’s books but none that have broken thru. Most of them are done in a style I no longer work in. I do like some of the work in “There’s A Kid Under My Bed” and wish I still had the art but a Canadian art collector bought them all. I’m working towards getting that one great project that’ll be a break through for me, the publisher and the writer.
How has your wife reacted to having an artist as a husband. Do you talk about your work together?
My wife is a saint. She puts up with my ADD behavior and my very active imagination. As long as I do my chores (washing dishes, making the beds and taking out the garbage) she’s happy.
Actually we talk about everything and though she’s not an artist she is very creative and has great ideas. She is also a brutally honest critic. I couldn’t do what I do without her.