Wilson Williams Jr. has been a successful commercial artist and designer for the past twelve years, but his recent work and focus is now in children’s illustration. Wilson combines his wonderful painterly style with great technical/composition skills to produce some truly delightful artwork. Earlier this year, Wilson completed his first hardcover children’s book, “A Perfect Pet for Peyton”.
I had the opportunity to talk with Wilson about his work, and his experience in illustrating his first trade picture book.
1. How did you get started as an illustrator?
Wilson Williams Jr: I know it’s cliché to say but I’ve been drawing since I was little. I’ve always enjoyed it. It’s always served as a personal companion, therapist and means of emotional release. It only made sense for me to take that on as my career of choice.
2. Your recently published children’s book, “A Perfect Pet For Peyton” is beautifully illustrated and wonderfully detailed. Were there any unique challenges you experienced while illustrating this book?
WW: Thank you so much for the compliment!
Yes, the deadlines!! Ha! This book served me a lot of lessons about myself, my style and how I execute my illustrations. A lot of the images are fairly involved with lots of animals and multiple characters per image. It was an ambitious project and a very creative idea from the writer.
3. Can you describe the processes you go through when working on an illustration from start to finish?
WW: I usually sketch the images traditionally at first. Then scan and pull them into Photoshop or Illustrator to tighten them and do finals. I prefer to do type in Illustrator and import the images from Photoshop into that program to finish.
4. What is a typical work day like?
WW: I’ve been adjusting my schedule some to work more during the day. But my favorite way to work is at night. There’s no phone calls, no disturbances, no interruptions and I get a smooth work period. I usually wake up in the afternoon, tend to emails and whatnot then around three or four start working and go till five or six the next morning. I do this with some good music or a television show, movie or podcast playing in the background. Good times!!
5. Whose work do you admire? Who or what inspires you from outside your own medium of work?
WW: Man, I admire so many artists for so many reasons!! I am most in awe of my peers work. People I know personally. People I have worked with and watched grow and who have helped me. So my immediate list of influences would include my friends Elliot Fernandez, William Skelton, Aja Wells and my partner on OnceUponASketch Norman Grock. The folks I always loved as I was growing up and helped me to decide to pursue illustration full time were J.C. Leyendecker, Mucha, Thomas Blackshear and Ernie Barnes.
6. What advice would you give an aspiring illustrator? – In hindsight, would you have done anything differently?
WW: If you go to college, take advantage of it. I know fresh out of high school it’s so cool (do they say cool anymore?) being free and being able to do whatever you like that you end focusing on the wrong things.
I would focus on surrounding yourself with artists (other students) you admire and let their dedication to improving their craft rub off on you and let their input on your work help you elevate what you do.
Ask your teachers questions about their careers and things they would do differently. Teachers are a great source of knowledge, good and bad. Let them know that you are really interested, invested and passionate in what you want to do.
Realize you are going into a competitive industry and you will need more than good drawing or painting to be successful. If you plan on going freelance, know that you are starting a business. With knowing that, get the skills necessary to run a business and maintain it. Also know that you need to be able to promote yourself in creative ways so some marketing skills can be helpful as well.
7. Where would you like your work to lead you? What are your plans for the future?
WW: The sky is the limit!! I set no boundaries. I know that I am the type of person who likes to dip my fingers into a bit of everything. The only thing I know for sure is that I want to stay within the children’s market. It’s a great home for me and my illustration style!
8. Do you have any upcoming books or projects you can tell us about?
WW: You mentioned, “A Perfect Pet for Peyton”, well we are currently working on the follow up to it, “Penny’s Perfect Present”. I am currently finishing up the artwork and it should be out fairly soon. Drop by or follow my blog to stay informed on when it’ll be published and on shelves!
Thanks for the great interview Wilson!