An Interview with Prescott Hill!
GAS-ART GIFTS has the pleasure of interviewing Prescott Hill for the WIK (writing & illustrating for kids) blog tour. Prescott is VP of Graphic Communications for Michaels Hill Inc., and operates a small illustration studio in Decatur, GA . He holds 30 plus years’ experience as a graphic designer, art director and illustrator. He’s provided illustrations for a variety of companies including Hasbro Inc, SpinMasters, Milton Bradley/Parker Bros, and Scholastic to name a few. He will be running a workshop at the WIK’s October 11th and 12th 2013 conference in Birmingham, Alabama
. A complete list of interviews for the blog tour is listed below.
So on to the interview!
Q. Hi Prescott, Tell us more about the WIK conference and how you’ll be a part of it?
A. Hey Gregory! This is quite an honor to be interviewed by you. You sir, are an outstanding and respectable illustrator in your own right.
This will be the third WIK conference I’ve attend and the first workshop I have ever presented anywhere. The name of my brain-child is “What a Bunch of Characters!”, and my evil plan is to have everyone who attends play in my nutty right-brain sandbox to stimulate their own imaginative approaches to character design. It’s going to be fast and fun. Your inner-child is encouraged to participate. Doodling, wisecracks and general mayhem during the event will be encouraged.
Q. How has a membership with SCBWI helped you?
A. How do I count the ways? I joined SCBWI three years ago and it has been one of the best things I have done for my career. Being involved in an organization like the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, has put me in direct contact with other talented and dedicated people that I would never have the chance to know otherwise. That alone is worth every penny of the membership to me. SCBWI has great support and a huge resource library available for any member. I only wish I had known about the organization earlier in my career.
Q. With this economy do you think things are bleak for aspiring commercial artists? What should they do for longevity if transitioning in to the field early or later on in life?
A. Challenging, yes, but not as bleak as one might think. We have been experiencing a evolution that is shifting the very ways we have traditionally processed information and entertainment. It has stirred up a tempest that is threatening to topple long established institutions like publishing and at the same time democratize how we express ourselves to the world at large.
Anyone who has the gumption and access to the internet can create options for themselves as never before. Everything you need; from art training, to supplies and software, to startup funding, to networking, to establishing a sustainable business, is accessible at your fingertips. Opportunities abound for artist who know how to mine for them. When one door closes another opens, you just need to find it and be ready and willing to leap through it.
For instance, one of the complaints I hear from frustrated artist is “illustration is dead” and they point to the lack of work they are experiencing as proof. In reality, they have been trying to do the same thing that they have always done, but their market has since evolved and moved way down the road without them. To succeed they need to be willing to let go of their old perceptions and redefine themselves to be marketable again.
Illustration is not dead, it’s alive and doing quite well in gaming, toy packaging, apps, children’s books, graphic novels and animation. New ways to communicate graphically on a global scale are being innovated every day! These are the most exciting times for a creative person I’ve witnessed since the desktop publishing explosion in the early ’90s. Now you can write and illustrate a book, publish it on CreateSpace, which automatically sends it to Amazon and Kindle, and in twenty-four hours your book is available as a paperback or ebook to a world-wide market of SEVEN BILLION people! Anyone with access to a PC or tablet connected to the internet can do this, and it won’t cost a penny to do so. This was flat-out unimaginable not that long ago.
Now, I’m not saying it is easy to make money as a creative, one can make a much better living for themselves a hundred different ways, and they should–if creativity is not the driving force in their lives. However, if your creativity IS your strongest asset, then you will find ways to support yourself with it. You just have to be honest with yourself, do the hard work even when it sucks, and stay current with the changing environment.
Q. How did you start? After things began and you started to see success or at least steady clients, how did you maintain it?
A. When I graduated art school in 1979, graphic design was done using hand cut Rubylith, huge photostat cameras, and hand assembled paste-up boards. You can imagine how much time it took put a simple two-color ad together. I worked at a few advertising shops, freelanced a bit, and was hungry most of the time. Then one day I saw a new computer called a Macintosh being demonstrated and it blew my flipping mind wide open. From that point my entire world changed and I did everything I could to beg, borrow and steal time on computers, (which were prohibitively expensive to own), so I could be ready for the future.
That effort paid off for me in 1993 when I was hired as a graphic designer at Milton Bradley Games. The graphics department had just installed a handful of Macs and having previous exposure designing digitally, I got into the groove pretty quickly. My job also put me in contact with some of the best know illustrators in the country. I got to know these artist well during our projects together and soon I felt the tug of desire to be one of them myself. By 1999 Hasbro had taken control of both Milton Bradley and Parker Brothers and put the vice-grips on how we operated. The stress level was red-lining in our department so I left Hasbro to try my luck in Atlanta, and promptly fell flat on my face.
The Dot Com boom had just busted, hitting Atlanta hard as I arrived, and resulting in a glut of unemployed designers scrambling for jobs as the economy slid. It was one of the bleakest periods of my career and I tried a lot of ways to gain a toehold. Fortunately, I had not burned my bridges with Hasbro and a good friend who had move to a creative department level there, asks me to take on an illustration job that another illustrator dropped the ball on. That project eventually lead me to another project creating the style elements and character illustrations for Littlest Pet Shop from 2004 to 2008.
When Pet Shop moved on to a different graphic direction, I began illustrating Pet Shop themed picture books for Readers Digest and Scholastic. Since then, I have illustrated twenty children’s books with sixteen of them published.
If I have learned anything from my experience in my career is how important building trust and dependability is when dealing with creative clientele. Art directors are extremely busy people and don’t have time for artistic egos. They want to work with someone who cares about the project, understands the goals, sticks to the schedule and delivers the goods on time and within budget. Making an art director’s work load easier makes you more likely to top their list for more projects.
Q. Do you think people have it easier in your various fields since you first began it?
A. Art has never been an easy way to make a living, but it is rewarding, and if you are lucky–you can carve a career out of it.
I feel its still as challenging for someone starting out in graphic design and illustration today, (if not more so), as it was in the 1980s. Back then, nearly everything was done by hand, and your knowledge base extended to only what could be achieved within a limited network. Today, tools , communication and contexts have changed, but talent, skills, passion and dogged determination is still required to succeed. In many ways, young artist need to extend their knowledge base to anticipate emerging technologies on a global network scale, and be flexible and adaptable within their own creative process to deliver the goods. It really has become a Darwinian process of creatively adapting to an ever-changing environment. Each new idea brings with it the promise of success and the threat of obsolescence.
Q. What is the top thing to do to become a great illustrator, cartoonist and graphic designer?
A. Making that choice for yourself and devoting your life, time and effort to mastering it. … And coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.
Q. Any last tips (business and artistic)?
A. Keep a sketch book and fill every page front and back with everything you can observe and conceive of. Sketching is the best way to jumpstart imagination, engage visual thinking, and tune essential creative skills.
Avoid burning bridges, be honest and fair with whomever you do business with.
Network with your peers and follow up on leads.
Never do a project on spec. EVER. Don’t make me say, “I told you so”.
Eat your vegetables, even that slimy okra.
Stop taking yourself so seriously, you’re here on this planet to play.
wik13 Blog Tour Schedule:
Aug. 28 Author Matt de la Peña at Stephanie Moody’s Moodyviews
Editor Lou Anders at F.T. Bradley’s YA Sleuth
Aug. 29 Author Doraine Bennett at Jodi Wheeler-Toppen’s Once Upon a Science Book
Author Robyn Hood Black at Donny Seagraves’ blog
Aug. 30 MFA program director Amanda Cockrell at Elizabeth Dulemba’s blog
Illustrator Prescott Hill at Gregory Christie’s G.A.S.
Aug. 31 Author Heather Montgomery at Claire Datnow’s Media Mint Publishing blog
Editor Michelle Poploff at Laura Golden’s Just Write
Sept. 3 Author Nancy Raines Day at Laurel Snyder’s blog
Author Jennifer Echols at Paula Puckett’s Random Thoughts from the Creative Path
Sept. 4 Editor Dianne Hamilton at Ramey Channell’s The Painted Possum
Author Janice Hardy at Tracey M. Cox’s A Writer’s Blog
Sept. 5 Author / illustrator Sarah Frances Hardy at Stephanie Moody’s Moodyviews
Agent Sally Apokedak at Cheryl Sloan Wray’s Writing with Cheryl
Sept. 6 Agent Jennifer Rofe at Cathy Hall’s blog
Author / illustrator Chris Rumble at Cyrus Webb Presents