Robert J Blake is an award-winning author illustrator who travels the world to find his stories. He’s authored/illustrated over 30 books and has developed a messy but proven process for organizing and producing ideas.
“I’m a messy guy and I have a messy procedure. I really think that’s the best way to work. That being said, you can be wildly creative but later you have to be able to organize it. And the organizing is an art in itself.”
Robert has kept every one of his sketchbooks since grade school. Everything he's ever worked on, he can find in his "records". He likes to paint on location and talk to locals to get the energy and feel of the setting and the story he wants to tell.
"When I start I get the worst ideas out of my head so they’re out. It’s just as important to the process. As you work, look for the rhythm and the statement that you want to make, don’t focus so much on the drawing. Keep your mind elastic as the concept takes shape."
Robert gave us a charming account of how he found inspiration for his book LITLE DEVILS on location in Tasmania. For a 40 page book he might have 15 spreads, and he does an action graph to map the emotional energy of the story before he moves to thumbnails and sketches. He'll do fifteen or more sketches for each drawing, considering all angles and perspectives. For this particular book, he did 8 dummies before he turned them into his editor. It might sound like a lot of work, but Robert believes you can't think of it that way. Illustrators have fun problems to solve. In our studios, we're the boss.
"It’s amazing that you can take something from your mind and show it to people -- show them what’s in your head. That’s the power we have as illustrators.”