An interview with “Christmas Carol” cover artist David Miles, along with a few early sketches he did for the cover.
Many, many years ago when I was in fourth or fifth grade, there was a boy in my class named Chris who drew the best ninjas. How could he draw so well?! Seeing those ninjas dance across the page opened my eyes to the potential that was there if I just worked harder. So began my art quest! In high school I started drawing realistic portraits, and my art teacher suggested attending an art college. While I had other career ideas at the time, dolphin trainer and firefighter just didn’t measure up when compared with the life of adventure offered by art! So I ventured forth into a land of creativity and imagination. I knew then as I know now that training and practice would be important if I was going to survive. I began my adventure by going to art school, and I continue to learn through classes online. That may be the reason I love illustrating so much. The land of creativity is vast and I don’t think I will ever explore it entirely.
Talk about how you created the cover for “Christmas Carol & the Defenders of Claus.”
This cover was a fun challenge indeed! When the art brief said that the cover would include a man in black on a flying machine battling a red-headed girl on a flying reindeer, I was super excited! Who wouldn’t be? I always begin by gathering reference photos of the things I am about to draw. Once I’m armed with my references, I began a rough plan of attack for taking on the cover. I like to work on several options in a very rough format called a thumbnail drawing. I usually develop a few of these further and send them off for the art director to select a favorite. Once we figure out the final composition for the cover, I am free to lay down some color (often the most difficult part for me). This phase also requires several rough sketches, just to get the color right before tackling the final painting.
What advice would you give to kids who want to become an artist?
The only way to make great art is to make a lot of bad art first … I mean a LOT of bad art. So if you want to be a great artist, just spend a lot of time drawing, painting or whatever you would like to do. You might have to spend less time playing video games or watching cartoons, of course. But if you want to be the one who makes those cartoons, you need to practice, practice, practice.
What other kind of artwork do you do?
I enjoy all kids of art! I have made some great pottery in the past. I have a sculpture of a spaceman running from an alien in the works. I painted a portrait of Abraham Lincoln in oils a few years ago. I also love to bake!
I grew up in Saint Joseph, Michigan. Our house was in a subdivision right across the street from a huge park called Eaton Park. My brother and sister and I spent a lot of time roaming out there building forts under pine trees and exploring culverts looking for frogs. My favorite thing to do was to create far-reaching treasure hunts with clues that told the story of pirate treasure or lost adventurers. We also had a robot named “Hero 1,” a photo lab for developing pictures, a chemistry set with real chemicals, and a crawlspace. We had so much fun!
What were your favorite children’s books growing up and why? And your favorite children’s book artists?
I cannot remember any specific picture books I enjoyed growing up. Maybe that’s why I have so many now! I did enjoy comic books and own an old copy of How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way. I loved reading“Danny Dunn,” a series about a boy who befriended a scientist and solved problems with science … also “Mishmash,” “The Trumpet of the Swan,” “The Indian in the Cupboard,” “The Mouse and the Motorcycle,” “The Cricket in Times Square” … I could go on! If you want to read some other great children’s books, I currently LOVE books by Chris Van Dusen. Tony DiTerlizzi, David Small, Adam Rex, James Gurney are great artists / authors as well.