Welcome to my monthly interview feature! I’m so excited to be interviewing all the fabulous artists, illustrators and designers I’ve meet over the years (both personally and virtually!) and sharing their artwork and experiences here on Bird Meets Worm. Look for a new interview on the first Tuesday of every month.
This month I’m excited to be chatting it up with the super fun Illustrator/Designer, Merrill Rainey! Merrill is a fellow Tugeau2 artist, who has been illustrating and designing for more than 10 years. He is a 5 ft. 7 in. kid at heart, who uses his youthful memories of growing up as inspiration to draw his imaginative ideas. A techie geek by nature, Merrill generates all of his illustrations using a combination of a Green Pencil, his Modbook, and Adobe Illustrator. His clients include American Greetings, Hasbro, Highlights Magazine, U.S. Kids Magazines, Picture Window Books, Pockets Magazine and Scholastic. You can view more of Merrill’s artwork here.
|Who doesn't love hidden pictures?! Super fun!|
Q: Describe your MOST favorite project you have created: one in the past and one in the present.
My MOST favorite project to date would have to be “The Candy Caper” Halloween board game spread I created for the Sept/Oct 2014 issue of Jack & Jill magazine. Why? Well, for one, who doesn’t like to create Halloween art?! And two, it brought back childhood memories of the Halloween books I used to read. I enjoyed trying to create something that will give others a piece to look back on as a fun holiday memory as I do with so many entertaining Halloween books such as The Bernstein Bear’s The Spooky Old Tree or In a Dark, Dark Room. This spread gave me the opportunity to create that same imaginative excitement I had when I joined the Bears on their spooky adventure through each secret passage and corridor in that old tree, but this time for the Jack and Jill readers.
Red Beard the Pirate, was my first e-book project for Scholastic as well as a game changer in how I create my illustration work today. This project literally came a few days after I had thought to myself while walking my dogs, “Man it sure would be cool to add Scholastic to my client list.” In most cases, this project would have been a nightmare (having had all of my original sketches tossed out the door, and being asked to rework everything in a completely different style)! But it forced me to break out of my creative mold and start to build my current final art style. Plus, it didn’t hurt that the e-book was about pirates!
|Arrgh! Pirates are too cool, Matey!|
Q: You do a lot of artwork for children's magazines that are chock full of super fun details! Give us the scoop on what is awesome and what is challenging about creating illustrations for kids magazines.
A: I consider the challenges of creating work for kids’ magazine to also be what is awesome!!! I love the challenge of trying to out-do myself with each new piece, especially when it comes to Puzzle Pages! :-). When that fresh new assignment zooms into my inbox… I always ask myself, "If I were a kid what would I want to look at?" Or, "What would the activities be that would keep my interest?” I then start jotting down those thoughts and the rest is history!
I think the greatest thing about what I do, is being able to create those memorable reactions and emotions within kids that will stay with them forever.
|Octopus! Treasure! Adventure! Fantastic!|
Q: I love the friendly-action-oriented-saturday-morning-cartoon-comic-book feel to your artwork! Tell us all about who, what, where inspires it.
A: I am heavily influenced by the 80s Saturday morning cartoons. For a good chunk of my childhood, I would wake up early (like 5:30am) when only Looney Tunes would be on, and just watch till noon, flipping between ABC, NBC, and CBS to find the next show. (And parents don’t worry, I did get my exercise as I had to walk across the room to either adjust the TV antenna box or change the channel :-) ). But seriously, Saturday mornings were set aside for pure cartoon love; and cartoons then were all about having fun. Some might have had educational values, but what made them so great was how they made your childhood imagination work.
I am also influenced by the story telling and character designs of the Rankin & Bass era to other greats like Charles Schulz, Jim Henson, & Hank Ketcham.
Q: What would be your dream illustration gig?
A: This is hard to say as my mind flips from one idea to the next, but if I have to choose something, it would be either getting involved with a graphic novel, or chapter book series. My boyhood dreams of being able to create my own comic, or book never die. :-)
Q: Chat with us about your experience creating the "GraveYard Hop" app. What about the project was similar to working with traditional publishers? What was different?
A: Back in the mid 2000s when it was cool to customize your folder icons on the MAC. I had created a series of Halloween character icons for the Apple share/developers market called the Halloween Friends. They were a huge success and even were chosen as one of apples top downloads of the week/month. So for years I wondered what to do with them, and then finally, right before I left my full-time job to work for myself, I partnered with a past co-worker of mine to build the first Halloween Friends app. We both had high hopes that the game would sell well, but like most apps at the time, the market was just so flooded that things didn’t go as we had planned. Nonetheless, it was a great learning experience and it allowed the Halloween Friends another chance at success.
The execution of this work was very similar to what you would normally experience with traditional publishers. From character development, to story-boarding out each game screen/page, to executing the final art. The biggest difference here was we set our own timeline of when we needed to get things completed and launched.
Most of what I do runs the same gamut whether it be a game, a book, or a comic. It just all has different outcomes!
|I confess Halloween is my most FAVORITE holiday!|
Q: Describe your most perfect Sunday.
A: I’d wake up early and hunker down with a fire, a good book(s)/comic(s), and the snow falling outside. I’d then toss in some family time with the Mrs. and the kids, then finish off the day with biting into a nice juicy cheeseburger (with all the toppings) and a plate piled high of fresh-cut fries with ketchup to dip them in. It's the simple things in life that make it so great!