Tag Archive: Illustration


John McKinley studied Fine Art and Illustration at Denison University in Granville Ohio, and at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. He specializes in character design and humor, and has illustrated the Ready, Freddy book series for Scholastic. The series has more than 3 million copies in print. John’s work has appeared in diverse media, from Popular Science magazine to the LA Times to the famed Children’s Television Workshop.


Much of your work contains more than the simple illustration itself – I mean it often conveys ideas, wordplay, humor that stretches reality. Have you always been interested in extending the meaning and ideas in this way? Have you ever drawn a simple basket of fruit?

“Being an illustrator, I have to be able to draw anything and everything.  Knowing how to draw a bowl of fruit is important to me. Much like having gloves is important to a mountain climber. But extending the meaning is what it’s all about.  If I’m not employing wordplay, then I’m focused on the character’s unique expression. It’s never just the fruit bowl with no other message. That’s what art school is for.”


There’s a animated cartoon quality to some of your drawings – something akin to the old Tex Avery kind of va-voom! eyes, or the classic Warner Brothers hyper-reality. Were you a fan as a kid?

“I liked Warner Brothers cartoons, but my real inspiration came from the illustrators at MAD Magazine. Some of those guys, Jack Davis, Mort Drucker, Don Martin, Norman Mingo, Al Jaffee, Jack Rickard, all knocked my socks off. I wanted to be as good as them.  They were my heroes.”


When you brainstorm new ideas, are you chiefly interested in the words first (to create a visual pun) or is it more that you see or hear something and it strikes your mind in a way that tells you: this could be something interesting?

“Mostly it’s the words that come first.  A funny play on words will pop into my head then I’ll go to the drawing board and work it out.  I’m much more productive starting with a solid mental concept, than when I drift along drawing, trying to arrive at something. Of course I do spend tons of time drawing with no clear destination in mind.  I save ALL of my sketch books,  and will go back and look at them, because they are filled with funny ideas.  Things that didn’t strike me funny when I was drawing them.”


Your characters have a kinetic aspect to them, they are often captured mid-motion. But even when they are simply looking at the viewer, they seem to be ready to do something that could get them arrested. Do animals know more than they are telling us?

“Yes, definitely. I love the knowing stare…the eyes that lock onto the viewer.  I am endlessly amused at drawing animals looking right at me.  There’s plenty going on in animals heads that we don’t know about.   But the perfect, energetic, dramatic gesture is always successful in picture making. People like lively.”

What’s your favorite type of illustration? Do you prefer the one-off, stand-alone funny ones? Or would you like to get into more longform media like graphic novels?

“That’s easy, the stand alone drawing. Maybe it’s my short attention span,( I can barely follow a movie plot) but I prefer the impact of the single image.  I illustrate long stories, but my preference is short and to the point communication. I do love creating characters and whole universes of creatures. Instead of writing a script about what they say and think, I put it all in their faces.”


You have perfected a “John McKinley” style — did you start out drawing with this flavor or was it something that developed over time?

“The flavor has always been there but my technique has become more refined over time. I feel I draw better every day, which is a gratifying thing.  I am at a point now where “how to draw it” isn’t the challenge anymore.”




Daniela Frongia (aka, Cais) currently lives in London, UK where she works as a freelance illustrator. She was born in Cagliari, Italy in 1979. By the age of 4 she was already showing a passion and talent for drawing, inspired by the colorful style of the Disney classics and later Manga. She studied and obtained a degree from the Art School. Next she dedicated herself to mastering airbrush technique on Bikers and then focused on digital graphics. Her first art exhibitions on canvas occurred in the diverse galleries of London when she moved there in 2009. In 2010 she made the decision to dedicate herself to illustrating children’s books and she now collaborates with authors and publishers from all around the world.



What made you decide to become an artist when you were young?

“Since I was 4 my passion was drawing everything  with different techniques, I guess I just followed my own path”

How did you develop your style? Did you find artwork you liked and try to create visuals in a similar style?

“I think copying  the style that you like more, is the main road to find a personal style. My research began with classic illustration, and then passed first to manga and Disney style after. My own style now is a mix of these.”


What do you find most challenging about creating artwork for others? Do you look for specific direction? Or are you happy to work strictly from your own imagination?

“The challenge is tocreate the illustrations exactly as the author was imaging when he or she was writing  the story. I read many stories, but sometimes it can be so difficult and tedious create the right one. I prefer to draw based on my imagination, no doubt, but many authors and publishers usually want to describe the scene before  I draw. I think this attitude blocks the artist a bit, and his or her way of expressing.”


Many artists say that they couldn’t imagine doing anything else with their lives. Do you feel the same way?

“In a way yes; in my life I’ve had different jobs but I put a bit of art in them. I never lost my artist side only because instead of a piece of paper I had a computer, a helmet or a cake.”


Are there artists whose work you admire, and why?

“I particularly admire the Japanese artists.  Studio Ghibli is one of my favorites, they can create true art works.  Japanese masters have indescribable patience for details that I admire and that it’s hard to duplicate.”



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