John Clapp
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F.
A.
Q.

Can you visit our school?

Where do you get your ideas?

How did you get started?

How long have you been drawing?

How long did it take you to become a professional?

Do you work with the writer a lot?

How do you get your work?

Do you write any of your books?

How long does it take to do a book?

How many do they print?

Will you consider illustrating the children's book I've written?

When’s your next book coming out?

Who are some of your favorite artists?

Who are your favorite children’s book artists?

Do you have any contact with the author?

How do you find your models?

Do you always work from photo reference?

How long does it take you to do a painting?

How much do you get paid?

Do you sell your original art?

 

If you don't see your question here, please email me.

 

Can you visit our school?

Where do you get your ideas?

How did you get started?

Yes!  Well, probably!  Email me at john@johnclapp.com with your information.   ( Kids, have your teacher do this for you. ) 

Everywhere!  Writing, usually from something that just hits me as funny, which happens all the time.  Visually, I just "know" what feeling I want something to have.  Creating that, I just try to keep myself entertained and interested.


I began my career doing bookjackets, then Young Adult bookjackets, and that brought my work to the attention of several children's book art directors.  Since then, I've grown to like the genre more and more.

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How long have you been drawing?

How long did it take you to become a professional?

Do you work with the writer a lot?

A very long time!  Since I was in a high-chair according to my parents.  I have a letter from my nursery school teacher (to my future kindergarten teacher) commenting on my capacity for self-entertainment while drawing.

I started working professionally about a year before I finished art school.   (1992)  I wasn't doing much work, I didn't have much time to spare in college, but I did manage to do some.  I began working on children's books in 1994.

Nope!  Probably the most surprising aspect of this career is when illustrating a book, I rarely even speak to the author at all. (Though I do sometimes meet them later ) This is done for several reasons, and believe it or not, is usually beneficial.

 

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How do you get your work?

Do you write any of your books?

How long does it take to do a book?

I'm now at the point with the children's books, that I feel I'm creating my own projects.  If I come up with an idea, I'll show it to my agent, who will then try to find a publisher for it.

 

My next book, my fourth, is currently planned to be a book that I am writing and illustrating.  I'll keep you posted as it gets closer to reality.

A LONG TIME!!!  Seriously, because of the way I work, my books take months to complete.  Right now I'm averaging about a book a year.

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How many do they print?

Will you consider illustrating the children's book I've written?

When’s your next book coming out?

It varies from book to book.  Since I'm a relatively new person to the field, the print runs so far have been low 5 digits, but better than average from what I hear.  I don't think it means as much as it used to because of how innovations in printing technology allow publishers to go back to press, and print smaller amounts, without the same kind of expenditures it would have required in the past.  As a result, publishers are printing smaller amounts to save on storage costs.

No.  I don't say this out of mean-ness.  The reason is that this is probably the most common question asked of children's book illustrators.  There are several reasons why they all say no.  First, editors don't want to be approached with collaborative submissions for the most part.  Unless all the work is done by one person, they want to be approached by each person separately, so they want to see your writing stand on it's own anyway. 

Second, most illustrators are working with several books under contract, or otherwise in progress at any given time.  As I write this ( 2/99 ) I figure I'm commited to projects that will keep me busy at LEAST until Fall of 2000. So I don't have time to illustrate another one.  On top of all this, I want to write my own books from now on with just a few careful exceptions--the exceptions being when I see fantastic stories from fantastic authors already established in the field.  If you are seriously interested in pursuing a career in the field, I would suggest contacting two groups to get more information on professional submissions guidelines,etc.  The CBC (Children's Book Council) in New York and the SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) in Vanover Hills in Southern California.

 

At this writing (7/99) my next book is due out this fall, October I believe.  If you'd like to be added to the email notification list, go to my Children's Books page and enter your email address in the box at the top of the page.  I'll be notifying people on that list everytime a book comes out.  (At this point--one a year each fall, though that may soon change) 

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Who are some of your favorite artists?

Who are some of your favorite children's book artists? (favorite books in parantheses)

Do you have any contact with the author?

I have a partial, and everchanging, list up on my Favorite Artists page.

There are dozens of artists and writers in children's books that I admire, but I'd have to say my two favorites are probably Kevin Henkes ("Julius The Baby of the World") and Shel Silverstein ("The Missing Piece").  I love how they write, and how their pictures look deceptively simple.   They work so beautifully with the words.  I just love their books.

Aside from those two, I really enjoy Lane Smith, (I love "The Happy Hocky Family") Peggy Rathmann (Officer Buckle & Gloria), David Shannon, ("No David, No!"--a former teacher of mine) and many, many others. 

 

Not really...see the other writer question above.  My contact with the writer is almost always through our editors.

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How do you find your models?

Do you always work from photo reference?

How long does it take you to do a painting?

EVERYWHERE!  It's a funny thing really.  Whenever I start a book, my brain starts forming visual ideas of the characters and I start watching for candidates.  The models for The Stone Fey came from my local pizza parlor and one of my classes at San Jose State. 

Sometimes I know the person, but often I don't.  In those cases, people are usually pretty surprised, but ultimately agreeable to posing for me.

Hmm, that's actually a difficult question to answer concisely.  The professional work I've done to this point is almost always backed up by photo reference to some degree.  What that means is it's like writing a five-page report on John F. Kennedy...if you have a couple books about him you can easily pull out and organize the information you need to make your point in your report.   The same is true when doing a painting.  A few good photos allows you to do what you want--achieve certain visual effects--that kind of thing. 

However, just as if you try to write a five page report on Kennedy off the top of your head, trying to get the kinds of pictures I'm making with no reference is basically impossible.  The only alternative would be using live models, and that's simply impractical for these kinds of projects.

A pretty long time!  Generally the painting time is about 15-20 hours each, with another 10-15 hours of preparatory work (Thumbnails, sketches, photo reference, etc.)  before I can start painting.

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How much do you get paid?

Do you sell your original art?

Generally, 5% of the purchase price of the book.  10% if I were to write the book as well.  So it usually works out to .75-.85 cents a book.  A slow way to make millions for sure, but I'm working on it.   Now I just need 1.25 million friends!

(Go buy a book now, while you think of it...)

Usually no, just because I like to hang on to them.  It's not that I won't, if someone were to offer me a ridiculous sum of money I would do it, but I'd rather not.  Even if someone were to offer me $5,000 for certain pieces, I don't know that I'd want to sell them. 

So far I haven't sold any of the work from my children's books, though I did give one piece from The Stone Fey, with a special meaning, to a friend whose sister had died.