Illustration Inspiration: Luke Flowers, Illustrator of A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: The Poetry of Mister Rogers
The Children’s Book Review | April 18, 2019
Luke Flowers has illustrated over 42 children’s books, including his author/illustrator debut series Moby Shinobi, a Scholastic Easy Reader that has sold 800,000+ copies across three books since 2016. Luke’s artwork explores a wide range of styles and techniques and has been featured in over 36 gallery shows in Los Angeles, New York, and Colorado. He also enjoys puppeteering, playing banjo, and going on adventures with his wife and three kids in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
I make art because …
I was inspired by creative heroes as a kid (Jim Henson, Walt Disney, Shel Silverstein, Dr. Seuss, JP Miller to name a few) and continue to be inspired by an incredible crew of creative friends today. I strive each day to create the same type of work that inspired me when I was young. I’m forever grateful to the teams of creatives I’ve been blessed to work alongside in pursuit of this lifelong dream.
My latest published book is …
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: The Poetry of Mister Rogers, by Fred Rogers (Quirk Books), debuted at #2 on the New York Times Bestseller list.
I grew up adoring this show (especially the puppets and Neighborhood of Make-Believe stories) so this has been one of the most treasured projects I’ve had the opportunity to illustrate and bring these beloved poems/songs to life as a celebration of our favorite neighbor!
Art medium used …
Digital painting. Using a Wacom Cintiq and Photoshop.
Artistic process …
My process begins with sketches (usually rough thumbnails on paper or digital on iPad or Cintiq). I then research colors, and peruse favorite books from my library of vintage children’s books. My go to is my ever-expanding collection of Little Golden Books for inspiration. Since I work in a few varieties of illustrative styles, I then explore a style that best fits the project. It’s then time to start the digital painting process in Photoshop. This is basically a 4 step process. First, I create and fill in the shapes of each element with a flat color. I start with the background, and then work on the characters and other elements. Second, I add the brush work (textures, shading, lighting). The final step is adding in the line details, to define certain elements of the characters and environment elements. My overall goal with my process is to capture the look of a traditional painting, by using a variety of digital tools. Having learned to paint using traditional mediums, has been key to implementing those same processes to bring the digital painting to life.
I am inspired by …
My collection of vintage children’s books, listening to music and my fellow book buddies on this creative journey. I try to start each day connecting with fellow creatives through social media, checking out their work and encouraging each other onward. I also listen to music all day, usually matching the playlist to capture the mood of the project. Whenever I get stuck, I always turn to my collection of both vintage children’s books and new favorites from my favorite current authors and illustrators.
My favorite place to create & illustrate is …
My creative cave. It’s a studio in our basement, that I’ve filled with artwork, books, toys, treasures and oddities that inspire me. I’ve always believed that to capture the playfulness and imagination of childhood in my work, I want to create that energy in the space I create. So many of the treasures are from my childhood and remind me of those times when I was dreaming of being an artist, and the books, toys, films, shows and games that inspired me. My kids describe the creative cave as an art gallery, library, toy store, arcade and theatre (because we often have puppet shows and dance parties there too).
My most used art supply or tool is …
My Wacom Cintiq. It’s a mighty workhorse!! I work a day and nightshift so it puts in some serious time each day.
Illustrator idols …
WAY TOO MANY to list here. So I will just share the one that inspired me most as a kid. Shel Silverstein! His wacky word wizardy matched his wildly weird illustrations. I collected all his books as a kid, and read them over and over. They are still the most treasured books in my library. Though a very close second would be JP Miller. His work with Little Golden Books is still my go to for inspiration!
My current 5 favorite illustrators are Christopher Lee (thebeastisback.com), Matt Kaufenberg (mattkstudios), Joey Ellis (Joeyellis.com), Steph Laberis (stephlaberis.carbonmade.com) and Nikolas Ilic (nikolas-ilic.com) … the list could go on and on though!
All-time favorite children’s book I didn’t illustrate…
WHEW! Again, this is tough to say only 1. “The Monster at the End of this Book” was the first children’s book I clearly remember loving and reading over and over. I was so fascinated by the way it engaged me as a reader and of course since Sesame Street and The Muppets are my favorite characters, this was a double loved book. I think it was that experience as a kid that made me fall in love with the power of storytelling through the humor and lovable nature of the character (Grover).
A literary character to create art with …
Not quite sure what this question is posing. So I’ll say my favorite literary character to create with is my Scholastic ninja pal “Moby Shinobi”! Creating this series has been the creative adventure that has most shaped my career, and given me the chance to truly connect with readers, teachers and librarians around the country. Which has been my hope from the very start of this creative journey. To inspire kids through story and creativity the same way I was inspired at their age.
Currently working on …
A few SUPER exciting projects, but they are in the NDA zone at this moment. So the 2 I’m wildly excited about are the “Moby Shinobi” chapter book series that will be released next year with Scholastic ACORN books. I’ve written and illustrated the first book, and now working on writing the 2nd book. I’m also illustrating a Paul Bunyan book for Little Golden Books, along with the 3rd book in the Minecraft chapter book series “Woodsword Chronicles” with Random House. It’s another busy season here in the creative cave!
Written by Fred Rogers
Illustrated by Luke Flowers
Publisher’s Synopsis: For the first time ever, 75 beloved songs from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and The Children’s Corner are collected in this charmingly illustrated treasury, sure to be cherished by generations of children as well as the millions of adults who grew up with Mister Rogers.
It’s you I like.
It’s not the things you wear,
It’s not the way you do your hair—
But it’s you I like.
From funny to sweet, silly to sincere, the lyrics of Mister Rogers explore such universal topics as feelings, new siblings, everyday life, imagination, and more. Through these songs—as well as endearing puppets and honest conversations—Mister Rogers instilled in his young viewers the values of kindness, self-awareness, and self-esteem. But most of all, he taught children that they are loved, just as they are. Perfect for bedtime, sing-along, or quiet time alone, this beautiful book of meaningful poetry is for every child—including the child inside of every one of us.
Ages 6-8 | Publisher: Quirk Books | March 19, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-1683691136
Discover more picture book illustration inspiration and books like A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: The Poetry of Mister Rogers, written by Fred Rogers and illustrated by Luke Flowers, on The Children’s Book Review by following along with our Illustration Inspiration series and articles tagged with Fred Rogers, National Poetry Month, and Poetry Books For Kids.