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Picture Book Illustrator: Interview

Illustrator, David Hohn

It's a privilege to share with you a great opportunity to meet this illustrator, David Hohn (@david_hohn). He is a local illustrator out of Portland and he has made a wonderful career out of fulfilling and perfecting one of his childhood passions, drawing. He was coming to Yamhill to promote his book about Beverly Cleary, Just Like Beverly.

Until we can reschedule, here is a fun interview about how he became an illustrator.

Check out what he has to say.

How many books have you illustrated? Book covers?

Roughly 15 picture books, 25 chapter books, and 20 or more book covers.

When did you get started in drawing?

I've always drawn. One of those 5 year olds who never stopped. I decided I wanted to be an illustrator at 12 when I learned what an illustrator was.

Did you read any of Beverly Cleary books when you were a child?

Oh sure! Her work is ubiquitous. In first grade there was a copy of Beezus and Ramona on my classroom shelf.

How long did it take you to illustrate this book?

I was working on this book for about a year.

What do you like about being an illustrator?

Everything! I really love the storytelling aspect. There's something special about the format of a book. The page turns. The illustrator gets to be director, cinematographer, costumer, casting director. And then there's the choices of medium. Should the book be full color or black and white? Painted in watercolor or oils or a flat graphic digital medium?

What tips would you tell kids about illustrating?

Kids are natural illustrators. Honestly, I wish they would tell me all the things I've forgotten.

What are some of your other books you have illustrated?

Zachary Zormer Shape Transformer (Charlesbridge), Finding Fairies (Beyond Words), God Gave us Christmas (Waterbrook), Headstrong Hallie (upcoming from Sleeping Bear Press)

Do you have a favorite picture book from when you were young?

While I now understand that it was technically a chapter book I read The Emerald City of Oz illustrated by John R Neil over and over. It had illustrations with metallic green spots that I thought were just really amazing. I must have copied out every illustration in that book!

How long did it take you to become a professional illustrator?

I studied illustration in my college years and then immediately started pursuing freelance illustration. So technically 4 years. To generate enough income to support myself on illustration only required another 5 years after that.

What would you share is most essential for new illustrators?

I would compare illustrating a picture book to running a marathon. It takes a long time to complete a single book and it gets tiring. But the sense of accomplishment at the end is significant. Pace yourself. Don't start right in on a full color 32 page book. Create a series of 4-5 single narrative images. Make a full dummy (a roughly sketched version of a 32 page book) for practice. And spend time dissecting your favorite picture books. Look closely at each spread and image to determine why the illustrator made the choices they did and how those choices reinforce the intention of the story at that moment.

Thank you David for your fantastic work that shares the love of imagination to children! Please check out more of his work here:

A book review of Just Like Beverly is found here:

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