Timothy Young Discusses His New Schiffer Kids Books, and More
Interview sponsored by Schiffer Publishing
The Children’s Book Review | November 30, 2017
The Children’s Book Review: Ok! So where do we even begin with our questions? You have been an animator, puppet maker, toy designer, sculptor, art director, and graphic designer for over 30 years. You’ve designed for Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, the Muppets, The Simpsons, Disney, and Universal Studios. How have all of these experiences shaped you into the illustrator/creator you are today? And which of these experiences would you consider to have had the greatest impact on your artistic style?
Timothy Young: It’s hard to pick just one. I’ve been very lucky to have all of the opportunities I’ve had to work for creative people (including some of my heroes) on so many exciting projects through the years. I think the diversity of experiences has helped me to be flexible and give each project the attention and style it needs. Rather than following the same pattern each time I can pick from so many influences and techniques to give each book an individual identity.
Since partnering with Schiffer Publishing, you have authored and illustrated several picture books including Do Not Open The Box, The Angry Little Puffin, and the highly acclaimed I Hate Picture Books! You have also collaborated and illustrated books with other authors, including the 2016 Foreword INDIES GOLD Winner for juvenile fiction, Just One Thing! What excites you the most about the two new titles you’ve partnered with Schiffer Publishing for Fall 2017, I’m Going to Outer Space and Creatures and Characters?
Having both books come out together is wonderful. I was doing a school visit around the time I began to write I’m Going To Outer Space!. I found myself in their library and I realized I was standing in front of the how-to-draw books. Inspiration struck and I ran the idea of a how-to-draw aliens and monsters book past the folks at Schiffer and they said yes. It’s nice to have 2 books that stand on their own but also go hand-in-hand.
I’m Going to Outer Space captures the imagination of a small boy, Luis, who visualizes the wild-looking creatures he hopes to meet in outer space, as he gets ready to go to sleep. Where did you find the inspiration for this title?
I’m Going To Outer Space! is my tribute to all the fantastic science fiction that filled my childhood and continues to inspire me. I watched a lot of old sci-fi films on television when I was young and then I read a lot of books by Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein. I was a huge Star Trek fan and was thrilled when Star Wars came out when I was 14. I’ve continued to love sci-fi all my life. I had so much fun illustrating all of the spaceships, robots and aliens that fill the book. I’ve drawn strange aliens and other creatures my whole life so it was exciting to be able to create so many new ones specifically for the book.
And for anyone who loves to draw, there is Creatures and Characters: Drawing Amazing Monsters, Aliens, and Other Weird Things! Within this sketchbook, you show kids how to unleash their imagination on the page. Are the techniques and ideas in this book the same activities that you use to unleash your own imagination?
Yes, I’ve had this long, fun career working in illustration, animation and toy design and I’ve learned many techniques and styles of creating art along the way. I’ve worked a lot with characters, both my own and ones from well-known cartoons, books and movies. I love being able to share what I’ve learned and developed through the years. Filling a book with drawings of aliens, monsters and other weird things was a blast!
Which of the creative techniques in the book—such as doodles, sketches, and scribbles—do you find yourself using the most?
I use all three for different reasons. I doodle when I’m drawing for fun and sometimes I surprise myself with what I end up with. Scribble drawings are also something I use when I want to challenge my imagination and create brand new characters from a really random scribble. Of the three, sketching is the one I use most. When you are starting a new project such as a picture book you do a lot of sketching. First you work out the look of your characters then you sketch some of the scenes and end up doing even more to get to the final illustrations. It can be a long process but most of the steps are fun and the end result is very satisfying.
Part of being an author is traveling to schools and talking to kids about your books. What do you love most about this aspect of your job?
I can’t believe I get to do this. When I started writing books I just thought about my books being in bookstores and people buying them there. Then I was invited to a couple of book festivals and I got to meet people and sign books for them. Then librarians and teachers started inviting me to come to their schools to talk to students about my books. I get to read some of my books, I show and teach some of my drawing techniques like scribble drawing and I answer a lot of questions about what it’s like to write and illustrate books. I also talk about some of the toys I’ve made and I bring some of them along. All the students and teachers really seem to have as good a time as I have doing the presentations. I’ve gotten to travel to many schools all over America and even to other countries.
While you focus primarily on assemblies for elementary schools, you also do workshops and talks with middle and high school students, as well as adults, about the process of putting together a picture book and about creative careers. What goes into preparing for a school visit and other workshops?
I also do a whole program on character design with students of all ages. I show them a few techniques and then as a group we create brand new characters. We come up with a backstory about them and then we use them as a prompt to write stories about them. My trip overseas was to the United Arab Emirates were I did a week of character design workshops with children at the Sharjah International Book Fair. I also do talks with middle and high school students about creative careers and have talked to adults about the writing and illustrating process.
You’re also very active attending book festivals, conferences and shows such as New York Comic Con. As an author-illustrator, what do you get out of attending these events? And why would you recommend readers attend these events?
It’s really nice to connect with people who like books. We spend long hours working on these stories and it’s really nice when a kid tells you how much they like your books. For me, since I’m not that well known, it gives me a chance to meet people who have not seen my books before, show them my books and maybe have them buy a book or two. You can’t just assume someone else is going to promote your books for you, its good to get out and put a face to the name on the cover of your book.
As the founder and creative director of Creatures & Characters LLC, you go beyond authoring and illustrating picture books creating original illustration and design work for a variety of mediums including toys, packaging, animation, apparel, and more. Which medium, besides illustrating picture books, do you find the most rewarding?
I love designing toys. I was the design director for two toy companies and I’ve worked freelance for many, many more. I currently work for a few companies helping to develop their ideas and working on their products. I included a few original toys I created in Creatures and Characters. I’m very excited that I have a new pool toy that will be in stores in the spring of 2018 but I can’t show it yet. If you check out my website or follow me on social media you’ll see it soon.
Is there anything else you would like to share with your readers?
My first book came out in 2008 so it’s exciting to have my 9th and 10th books coming out just before my 10th year as a published author/illustrator. I feel so lucky to be doing what I’m doing. Every year more and more people discover my books, I have more coming out in the next couple of years and I plan on continuing to write and illustrate books for as long as I can.
Written and Illustrated by Timothy Young
Publisher’s Synopsis: It’s almost time for bed, but Luis is staring out the window at the starry sky. Any minute now, he’s expecting a spaceship to pick him up and whisk him to outer space. While he waits, he imagines the strange creatures he’ll encounter. Will he find a robot friend? Will he get to fly through space with a rocket-pack? Will he meet . . . aliens? Get lost in outer space as you pore over pages filled with dozens and dozens of robots and aliens (some new and some that might be familiar). Join Luis to find out all the incredible things he expects to see and do on his daring journey to a distant planet.
Ages 5-8 | Publisher: Schiffer Kids | December 2017 | ISBN-13: 9780764353857
Creatures and Characters: Drawing Amazing Monsters, Aliens, and Other Weird Things!
Written and Illustrated by Timothy Young
Publisher’s Synopsis: A professional artist and animator shows kids how to unleash their imagination on the page. Using pencil or ink, learn how to draw all kinds of strange creatures, from classic monsters to mythical beasts and abominable aliens. With dozens of process drawings as examples, this children’s book illustrator demonstrates creative techniques such as doodles, sketches, and scribbles, and shows children not just how to draw, but how to be creative.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Schiffer Kids | October 2017 | ISBN-13: 9780764354038
About The Author
Timothy Young has been an animator, puppet maker, toy designer, sculptor, art director, and graphic designer. He is the author/illustrator of picture books including the highly acclaimed I Hate Picture Books! and the middle readers’ book, Just One Thing!
The Author Showcase is a place for authors and illustrators to gain visibility for their works. This interview was sponsored by Schiffer Publishing, the publisher of ‘Im Going to Outer Space’ and ‘Creatures and Characters: Drawing Amazing Monsters, Aliens, and Other Weird Things!.’ Discover more great writing and illustrating artists in our Showcase.