HomeBooks by AgeAges 4-8Illustration Inspiration: Chad Sell, Creator of Doodleville
Interview with Chad Sell

Illustration Inspiration: Chad Sell, Creator of Doodleville

The Children’s Book Review

Chad Sell’s first children’s graphic novel was The Cardboard Kingdom, which he illustrated and co-wrote with a team of ten collaborators. Doodleville is his first full-length solo project, and it is set in Chicago, where he lives with his husband and two cats. Much of the story takes place in Chad’s neighborhood of Lincoln Square and at one of his favorite places in the world: the Art Institute of Chicago.

I make art because …

It’s how everything that’s inside of me makes it out into the world! My art is often fueled by questions and concerns that I’m wrestling with in my everyday life, and so I have characters in my books deal with them, too—sometimes they come up with solutions before I do!

My latest published book is …

Book DoodlevilleDoodleville! It’s a children’s graphic novel that came out in June. Doodleville is a really personal book for me, because it’s about a group of creative young kids discovering the incredible possibilities of their creative potential, but also the doubt and inner demons that are the darker side of creativity.

To me, art is the closest thing to magic that there is in the world – making something out of nothing! Bringing characters to life! In Doodleville, art really does come to life, which is hilarious, and beautiful, and amazing, and sometimes… monstrous.

Art medium used …

I draw all my books digitally on a tablet monitor! Although I like drawing on paper with more traditional materials for fun, the versatility of digital illustration is crucial for my work.

Artistic process …

As a graphic novelist, I find myself often thinking in pictures – scenes play out in my head, visual motifs woven throughout. After I have a solid outline for a story, I like to start very loosely sketching things out, because so many of the specifics are worked out visually, as I’m actually imagining the book’s characters interacting in the world I’ve created!

For all my books, I work up a readable “doodle draft” that is fully lettered and conveys the entire story on a (hopefully) emotionally engaging level. That allows me to see what works and what needs work as I share it with readers!

Book Art DoodlevilleI am inspired by …

The creativity of kids. Both my books The Cardboard Kingdom and Doodleville have been centered on creativity and imagination – they allow me to remember the best of my own childhood. But more importantly, I love sparking creative responses from my readers! When I get to visit schools and bookstores, nothing brings me more joy (and inspiration) than seeing the art that the kids bring and share with me!

At some schools, kids have come dressed up in cardboard costumes inspired by The Cardboard Kingdom. At others, teachers have filled walls with the kids’ artwork after they followed along on my Youtube drawing videos! At one bookstore event, a girl showed me the comic book she was working on that told the story of how her own character enters the world of The Cardboard Kingdom and befriends the characters there! Those kinds of experiences have been the most rewarding part of having a book out in the world!

My favorite place to create & illustrate is …

At home with my cats!

My most used art supply or tool is …

I create my books entirely in a program called Clip Studio Paint. It’s specifically designed for comic artists, and it allows me to work on a whole book at once – I can see all the pages in front of me, so it really helps with pacing and storytelling. It’s also easy for me to quickly assemble a PDF and share it with my collaborators or my editor to get their feedback!

Illustrator idols …

A lot of my favorite artists are cartoonists and painters.

Some cartoonists: Jeff Smith, Sophie Goldstein, Eleanor Davis, Jaime Hernandez

Some painters: John Singer Sargent, Gustav Klimt

All-time favorite children’s book I didn’t illustrate…

Jeff Smith’s Bone. You can’t read the first few chapters of that book without falling completely and utterly in love with all his characters. The mastery of his cartooning skills is incredible and endlessly inspiring to me.

A literary character to create art with …

There is a Japanese fairy tale called “The Boy Who Drew Cats”—in the story, this boy draws cats along the walls of a temple which then come to life and save him from a monster. I feel like we would have a lot in common, and I want to meet his cats.

Currently working on …

I just finished art for The Cardboard Kingdom: Roar of the Beast, which will be out next year! And now I’m writing Doodleville Book 2!

For more information about Charles Santos, you can visit:

chadsellcomics.com | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Book DoodlevilleDoodleville

Written and Illustrated by Chad Sell

Publisher’s Synopsis: For fans of Svetlana Chmakova’s Awkward and Raina Telgemeier’s Smile comes an inventive new story from Cardboard Kingdom creator Chad Sell about a group of young artists who must work together when one of their own creations becomes a monster.

Drew is just a regular artist. But there’s nothing ordinary about her art. Her doodles are mischievous . . . and rarely do they stay in Doodleville, the world she’s created in her sketchbook. Instead, Drew’s doodles prefer to explore the world outside. But after an inspiring class trip to the Art Institute of Chicago–where the doodles cause a bit too much trouble–Drew decides it’s time to take her artistic talents to the next level.

Enter the Leviathan–Levi, for short. He’s bigger and better than anything Drew has ever created before. He’s a monster, but a friendly one. That is, until Levi begins to wreak havoc on Drew’s other doodles–and on the heroes her classmates have dreamt up.

Levi won’t be easily tamed, and it seems there is a link between the monster’s bad behavior and Drew’s feelings. With the help of her loyal art club friends, will she be able to save Doodleville–andLevi–before it’s too late?

Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers | June 9, 2020 | ISBN-13: 978-1984894700

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Discover more illustration inspiration and books like Doodleville created by Chad Sell, on The Children’s Book Review by following along with our Illustration Inspiration series and articles tagged with , , , , and .

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Bianca Schulze is the founder of The Children’s Book Review. She is a reader, reviewer, mother and children’s book lover. She also has a decade’s worth of experience working with children in the great outdoors. Combined with her love of books and experience as a children’s specialist bookseller, the goal is to share her passion for children’s literature to grow readers. Born and raised in Sydney, Australia, she now lives with her husband and three children near Boulder, Colorado.

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