Thursday, July 5, 2012

Steven James Petruccio on buildings, tonka and bananas

I love the fact that we are interviewing one of my son's favourite artists - Steven James Petruccio. We've been in love with Steven's work since we found our first Tonka book, and, I think he's inspired Mo with his love of buildings and vehicles. Steven has take some time to share some info on what he loved doing when he was a kid, some of his drawings, and the best parts of being an illustrator. I have also discovered, looking at the photos he sent along - that he also likes cowboy hats.
A young Steven - with an
affinity for cowboy hats already.

Steven has illustrated tonnes of books, ranging from historical, to vehicles to marine life and more - so without further ado, here we go!

MO: Wow, your art is so realistic. I love to draw buildings too. Have you always liked to draw architecture?

SJP: Yes, I’ve always loved looking at different architectural styles from classic Greek buildings to Frank Lloyd Wright and Frank Gehrybuildings, so I enjoy getting the chance to paint buildings in my work.  In fact, I’m working on a series of paintings which are only the top portions of local buildings.

MO: Do you research your buildings online or at the library - or do you go and see them in real life before you draw them?

SJP: I research everything and I use whatever resources are available.  I’ve used all of the ways you mention, online, library and actual visiting and drawing buildings on site.  The internet is usually my first resource now, since it’s so easy to get many images  quickly.

MO: The Tonka trucks in your books look just like the ones in our sandbox! Did you have a set of trucks you use to look at when you draw or do you use pictures?

SJP: The TONKA books were really fun to work on.  Scholastic Publishing sent me all of the trucks I needed for each book, at my request, since I wanted the paintings to look like the real thing.  I photographed them and also drew and painted them as they sat on my drawing board.  My son would play with them in the sandbox and I took many pictures of him doing so.  He is the main character in the backhoe book!

MO: Were you excited when you got the job to do the Tonka books? What was your favourite part? I love to draw a lot of things like that too - but sometimes there are really hard parts that are a bit frustrating. Does that ever happen to you?

SJP: I was very excited to illustrate the TONKA books because I had many of them when I was a young boy, the dump truck was my favorite.  My favorite part of illustrating the books was that I actually got to show people how these trucks really worked and that’s what I always imagined when I played with them.  I went to a local construction equipment company and the owner let me climb into the real trucks and also go to construction sites where the trucks were at work.  Everything I show in the books is the way things  really look and work. Oh, talk about frustrating, I’m glad someone invented the eraser because there re times when I just can’t get parts of a drawing right.  I keep trying until I get it the way I want it and that doesn’t mean it’s perfect but it looks good to me and other people who see it will understand what I’ve drawn or painted.  Don’t give up!

BEN (grade 1): What types of stories do you prefer to illustrate?

SJP: I really don’t have a particular type of story that I prefer.  For me, as long as it’s a good story and I can “see” the characters and places in my mind as I read the manuscript, then I know I’ll be able to do a good job making the pictures.  If I’m not interested or excited about a story then I don’t expect my readers to be either so I always try to illustrate good stories.

Peggy: If you could suddenly change careers... would you try something else? Is there a career path you've always wondered 'what if?'about?

SJP: I always wanted to be an artist.  I didn’t know what kind of artist but I knew I wanted to draw pictures.  I always loved comic books and the exciting, dynamic way they were illustrated so I really wanted to be a comic book artist.  Once I was in college I discovered and learned about other illustrators, N.C. Wyeth is my favorite, and then I decided not to limit what I drew to only super heroes.  The other thing that I’m good at and enjoy doing is playing the guitar and singing…If I were younger I would definitely try out for American Idol!

Peggy: I still get amped by a brand new package of crayons (so much so I don't want my kids to open them!)... with the even tips and shiny finish... is there any supply you LOVED when you were little that you still have great affection for?

SJP: I really loved getting the big box of Crayola crayons with the sharpener in the back and I tried to keep all of my crayons sharp.  My favorite artist tool though is a #2 pencil.  When I visited my grandparents I was always  handed a pencil and a small pad of light-green paper  to keep busy.   A good drawing is more important to me than anything…and that doesn’t mean a drawing that looks “real”, I love good abstract drawings too.  Pencils give you thin lines and thick lines as well as light and dark areas.  You can make textures with them and even get messy with them.  So a #2 is #1 for me!

Peggy: Did you have a special place where you did your art when you were a kid - or were you a dining room table artist?

SJP: I shared a small bedroom with my two brothers.  We had a bunk bed (I had the top bunk) and a pullout bed underneath.  There was just enough room for a long bureau and a narrow desk that my dad built, at the end of it.  I used that desk to draw at.  There was enough  room for my pad, pencils and inks.  I spent many days  sitting on the stoop in front of my home in Brooklyn, with a drawing pad on my lap just drawing pictures of anything.

MO: What is your favourite knock-knock joke?

SJP: I’ll have to go with the popular…

Knock, Knock!
Who's there?
Banana who?
Knock, Knock!
Who's there?
Banana who?
Knock, Knock!
Who's there?
Orange who?
Orange you glad I didn't say banana?

Thank you Steven!

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