Keith Negley came on my radar with his first book, TOUGH GUYS HAVE FEELINGS TOO. So I'm thrilled to have him on to talk about his method with that and his latest book, MY DAD USED TO BE SO COOL.

e: What is your medium?
I’m always changing this up and tend to use whatever works for me in that moment. The end result is typically a combination of charcoal, tempura paint, pencil, cut paper, and then collage and manipulation in photoshop. It all ends up as a digital file when it’s done but has lots of hand made elements.
e: What do you think makes an illustration magical, what I call "Heart Art” - the sort that makes a reader want to come back to look again and again?
Heart Art, I like that! I think the viewer needs to see themselves in the piece. It needs to be relatable somehow. When the viewer can see themselves in the art that’s when they can feel empathy for the characters and create an emotional connection. I think how an image makes us feel makes a much longer lasting impression than how impressive the technique is (though technique is extremely important). The best way to create relatable work is to draw what you know, and work from your own personal story. Deep down we’re all dealing with the same joys, and insecurities.
e: Is there a unique or funny story behind the creation of this story?
Before I became a dad I played in rock bands and toured the country playing dive bars and house shows. I spent my money on tattoos and vintage scooters and skateboards. Then I became a dad and all that went on the back burner. Now my son is at the age where he’s becoming his own little rebel and really into things like music and motorcycles and skateboarding. For Father’s Day one year my wife got me a reissued vintage skateboard framed in a glass case to hang on my wall. My son saw it and was genuinely confused why I would want a skateboard in a glass frame. To him it was useless if he couldn’t ride it. I tried to explain to him that I used to skateboard a lot and I still love skateboards, but that I don’t ride them any more… and getting to see myself through his eyes was fascinating. To him skateboarding is really cool, and his dad used to do it, but doesn’t anymore and that means his dad used to be really cool. Hanging a skateboard on a wall and not riding is definitely not cool.
e: What was your path to publication?
I created a rough outline for the book with all the copy and art and sent it to a few publishers I knew. It’s not your traditional children’s book and I knew it might be difficult to sell it to publishers, but Flying Eye saw my vision for what it was and didn’t want to change it, so I was grateful to jump on board with them.
e: What is your favorite or most challenging part of being a creator?
Balancing life with work. Making a book takes an incredible amount of time and effort and writing in particular is time consuming even though when you’re doing it it doesn’t actually look like you’re doing anything. So it’s very hard to explain to my wife and son that I can’t hang out with them night after night because I’d rather sit in front my computer and stare at it. Creating something from nothing is my passion, I think I would shrivel up and die if I couldn’t create, whether that’s a kid’s book, a painting or a song. It’s almost not like work because I get so much pleasure out of it, but it can also be like heroin in the sense that I can loose track of everything else that’s important to me, including the people who are closest in my life. I have to be very careful not to lose site of what’s most important, my family… and that means putting projects down and taking breaks even when I don’t want to.
e: Is there something in particular about this story you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
Truth be told this book is just as much for dads as it is for kids. I want parents and dad’s especially to feel acknowledged for the sacrifices they made to be awesome parents. People think when you become a parent your priorities shift overnight, and maybe that’s true for some, but there are others who, while willingly, struggle to give up large parts of their identity in order to be the best parents they can… and that’s not easy. I wanted to make a book that gave a nod to those parents, and also had fun with the situation as well.
e: What are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
I’m going to start working on my third book that’s going to be a little different from the first two, I don’t want to give anything away but I’m really excited about it. It will be a kind of picture book that doesn’t really exist yet but desperately needs to. Wish me luck!

Good luck, Keith! And thanks for stopping by!

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