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Bob Staake: Read, Think, Draw

Award-winning illustrator Bob Staake appears in this month's Reader's Digest, and even with several new titles on the horizon, he took a moment to share art inspiration and wisdom with us.

“Ever since I was a little kid, I have been creating art.

As a child, it was apparent to all the adults around me that I would someday grow up to be an artist. The thing is, I never took an art class after high school and went to USC, where I double-majored in international relations and print journalism.”

“Read and think as much as you draw.

Illustration is about the communication of ideas, so the imagery really just becomes the thing that visually delivers the concept to a reader.”

“I’ve met way too many aspiring artists who seem to worry about nothing more than to ‘find their style.’

Style comes naturally over time, and your own visual identity will develop as you find yourself needing to make one deadline after another.”

“I’ve always felt that an illustration should be subservient to the source materials.

So, if I feel an image requires a very coarse, almost scratchy background, I have no problem cutting up a loofa sponge, dipping it in ink, and then spattering it against a piece of paper.”

“These images really reflect my interest in keeping my work visually eclectic—

From humorous and lighthearted to bold and graphic, simple and understated to complex and decorative. I get bored easily working alone in my studio, so if I can keep things mixed up, then those become the little daily surprises that (I hope) keep my illustration work surprising and fresh.”

“I designed and built my dream studio about five years ago on Cape Cod.

It’s really my own, private little world in which I can focus and create.”

“Honestly, I don’t need a lot of prodding, muses or ‘inspiration’ to motivate me.

I’ve always been a self-starter, and when you work alone as a freelance illustrator, you simply have to be to make your deadlines. If you’re an artist and you have to ‘force’ yourself to create, then you probably shouldn’t be an artist.”

“The thing I love best about being a freelance illustrator is that I never quite know what the next project will be.

Every day is sort of like Christmas in the studio—I unwrap the box and am surprised by the next creative challenge.”

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest