Illustration Inspiration: Scott Magoon, Illustrator of Rescue and Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship
The Children’s Book Review | April 10, 2018
Scott Magoon has been designing, writing, and illustrating books for young readers since 2003. He lives in Reading, Massachusetts.
I make art because …
I love the act of creation, of making things and drawing. Making something that didn’t exist yesterday. I like visually expressing something relatable—a concept, emotion and bringing the seemingly unrelatable to where it might be more relatable to the reader. I like expressing myself on the printed page to share what interests me—or what I want to learn more about (one of my favorite parts of the process is the visual and historical research). I make art because I love working towards improving my craft.
My latest published book is …
RESCUE & JESSICA A LIFE-CHANGING FRIENDSHIP written by Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes. It’s a story about resiliency, about living through a traumatic experience, and learning to forge new friendships in order to emerge stronger than before. It’s about being a survivor.
Recalling their real-life experience as Boston Marathon bombing survivors and inspired by their service dog Rescue, Jessica and Patrick have written a beautiful picture book in three parts. The first is about Rescue, who is in training to be a service dog. The second is about Jessica, a girl hospitalized by injury who is learning to adapt to her transformed life with two prosthetics, a wheelchair, and life-changing challenges. The last deals with how these two come together and journey into life as a team.
Beyond all that, this book is especially charged for me, closely connecting my own personal experience, my art, and my love for the city of Boston. It marks a difficult chapter in my life that began as I was running in the Boston Marathon in 2013 when I was caught between the two bomb blasts on Boylston Street. My family was also there to watch me run by—and so having this book to work on has allowed all four of us to put that experience in a new perspective. This book represents a new beginning in other ways as well: the art style is one in which I have not worked before, for instance. So in more ways than one, this book has been an opportunity to grow from the past and start something new. It’s been transformative. I give much credit and gratitude to my friends at Candlewick Press for putting the team together and publishing this book.
Art medium used …
Digital art. Brushes by the great Kyle Webster. Sweat and tears (of joy, sadness and a little frustration) mixed in.
Artistic process …
Given the subject matter and style, I needed a very structured process for RESCUE AND JESSICA. Illustrating prosthetics, Boston locations, hospital environments and the characters themselves required a good deal of reference materials. I also reference many personal photographs from Patrick and Jessica’s life and their recovery. I used digital brushes in a way that was new and unfamiliar to me. Each day I put my faith in this process, one foot in front of the other. At points I wondered how it would all come together, and it did. I loved the process on this book more than ever. Love the process, love the product.
I am inspired by …
History. I appreciate how much living and struggling there has been before our time. I’m inspired by people’s actions in finding their place in their time and what it might meant for future generations. Big or small, I am inspired by the ramifications of their actions, because it can shade and inform our present time—and our future. Given our experiences in our time and those of others in theirs, how do we create? What will I create? Will it resonate with future generations at all? Will they learn from us?
My favorite place to create & illustrate is …
I wish I could say my paint and sun-spattered loft in some Italian seaside town. It makes for more intriguing copy! In reality, it is my home studio where I’m happily surrounded by collected items from my life…on shelves, on the walls. I love having my my family nearby as well, usually just downstairs. Conversely, I like sketching and writing in libraries, cafes and, sometimes, in the woods because these places are different enough to put me on my heels creatively. Get out of the comfort zone.
My most used art supply or tool is …
My Apple Pencil used with my iPad. If you have ever thought of getting one, get one. They are incredible—precise, pressure sensitive, angle-sensitive and they are very well weight-balanced.
Illustrator idols …
Picasso. Maurice Sendak. Carson Ellis. J Otto Seibold. William Steig. Isabelle Arsenault. James Marshall. Many others.
All-time favorite children’s book I didn’t illustrate…
THE DOT by Peter Reynolds. If you haven’t read it, read it. If you have already read it, read it again.
A literary character to create art with …
A character that’s creative, who’s seen life’s give and take, someone who’s either funny or completely cranky as they are both enjoyable to me. Someone who’s really good at what they do, but not too tortured by it. If I enter those parameters I think I get Count Olaf. But he sounds horrible. So I guess I’ll keep thinking on this one.
Currently working on …
I’m trying to write more; I have many picture books, chapter books, and at least one novel in me. I’m also trying to do more straight-up, just-for-fun drawing—currently I’m in a regular studio drawing class. In terms of current work, I’ve wrapped up MISUNDERSTOOD SHARK 2 by Ame Dyckman for Scholastic, and I am currently working on my own LINUS THE PENCIL for Disney/Hyperion.
Website & Social URLs …
I spend too much time working on my website—if you all were to visit me at scottmagoon.com.I’d feel somewhat justified in time spent updating and spiffing it up. You can also find me on facebook at scottmagoonbooks on Instagram as skortch and on Twitter as smagoon.
Thank you!! 🙂
Written by Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes
Illustrated by Scott Magoon
Publisher’s Synopsis: Based on a real-life partnership, the heartening story of the love and teamwork between a girl and her service dog will illuminate and inspire.
Rescue thought he’d grow up to be a Seeing Eye dog — it’s the family business, after all. When he gets the news that he’s better suited to being a service dog, he’s worried that he’s not up to the task. Then he meets Jessica, a girl whose life is turning out differently than the way she’d imagined it, too. Now Jessica needs Rescue by her side to help her accomplish everyday tasks. And it turns out that Rescue can help Jessica see after all: a way forward, together, one step at a time. An endnote from the authors tells more about the training and extraordinary abilities of service dogs, particularly their real-life best friend and black lab, Rescue.
Ages 5-9 | Publisher: Candlewick | 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-0763696047
Support Scott Magoon and the National Education for Assistance Dog Services
Scott Magoon is running the 2018 Boston Marathon with fundraising proceeds to benefit National Education for Assistance Dog Services (NEADS). The service dogs they train bring freedom, physical autonomy and relief from social isolation to their human partners who are deaf or have a disability and Scott is so proud to be able to contribute to their mission’s success.
Your generous contribution will help cover costs associated with the many aspects of training and care of these amazing animals including housing, food and health care. They will go on to aid people with disabilities in need of assistance and comfort as they go about their daily lives for years to come.
Learn more and donate here: https://www.gofundme.com/rescues-racers
Discover more picture book illustration inspiration and books like Rescue and Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship, written by Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes and Illustrated by Scott Magoon, on The Children’s Book Review by following along with our Illustration Inspiration series and articles tagged with Dogs, Inspirational Books, Teamwork, and Therapy Dogs.