Rob McClurkan is a friend from Atlanta and I've watched his picture book career launch and flourish - so fun! So, I'm thrilled to have him here to share his latest book with you!
e: What is your creative process/medium, can you walk us through it?
In many ways, I am still refining my process. For this particular book, I created a dummy book fairly quickly but realized I had jumped ahead of myself and went back and started over. When I have an idea for a story, I start by sketching out my characters. While drawing, it helps me think about who they are, their personality. My initial images are not set in stone but just give me a general idea as to how I want the characters to look. It’s then onto the thumbnails and writing. I do most of this in my sketchbook. Once I am happy with the story I go back to my computer to create digital thumbnails. I have found it particularly helpful to create a layout where you can see the book in its entirety. Once I'm pleased with the thumbnail, I start working on a dummy book.
      I digitally paint my final art in photoshop.

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?
When you lose yourself in the artwork, that is when the magic starts. You aren’t overthinking, you are just laying down paint or pixels. You are in the zone. At times this happens even when I didn’t feel like working, at some point I lose myself and what comes out is special. For me, the magic starts when I don’t overthink it.

e: Is there a unique or funny story behind the creation of this story?
Playdates Rule! was inspired by a childhood memory. One summer day, my best neighborhood friend and I were running and jumping into a kiddie pool. I got a good running start, and the momentum I had generated propelled me straight through the swimming pool. I have always been amazed that I was able to bust a giant hole in one of those things. That’s some thick, hard plastic. That didn’t stop us, though. I’m sure we just found a tree to climb or bikes to ride. We were two good friends, and a little mishap didn’t stop us from having a blast.

e: How do you advertise yourself?
I have an agent that keeps my work in front of potential clients, but I also use social media, some portfolio websites like the ispot and behance and direct mail postcards.
      The challenge comes in showing new work. Many times illustrators work on projects that we are not allowed to show off until the project is published, so it's important to keep working on personal art that you can show right away.
e: What is your favorite or most challenging part of being a creator?
The most challenging part is writing. Sometimes a story makes perfect sense to me, but it is not until others read it that I start to see the problems. That’s why it is so important to have critique partners.
      My favorite part is being able to create fun and engaging characters, story and art for children.
e: Is there something in particular about this story you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
This book is pretty straightforward it's about how excited children get when a friend comes over to play. Suddenly all the rules are thrown out the window, and it’s just about fun. When I write I am thinking about my kids and how story time right before bed was so special. I hope that my books will bring fun, laughter, and enjoyment to children and their parents.

e: What are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
I am working on a graphic novel idea as well as pitching a new picture book that I am very excited about.
      I am grateful for every project I do and in a way they are all dream projects, but I do think it would be crazy fun to be on the concept side of an animation feature when all the characters are being developed.

e: Thanks, Rob!

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