Friday, January 23, 2009

Questions and Answers

I've been super busy juggling two and sometimes three jobs as of late. So, there just hasn't been much time for blogging. Sorry about that.

I did just finish filling out a questionnaire for Stone Arch books about myself. It's full of questions all the young readers want the answer to. I figure it'd make for an interesting blog read and let me get back to work. Enjoy!

Name: Sean Tiffany

Illustrated a LOT of the Jake Maddox Books. At the end of this current batch, the count will be up to 42!

How did you become an illustrator?:

Art was always something I did as a kid. If I had the free time, you'd find me drawing. When I was 18, I went to art school in New Jersey at the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art. I loved the assignments and loved to be able to draw all day for school and homework.

Once I graduated, I became an assistant artist at a studio that did a lot of production work for comic book merchandise. I learned a lot there with a ton of on the job training. I left when I started to work for Marvel Comics, doing a lot of airbrush painting and inking work. I finally got sick of New Jersey and moved to Colorado.

Don't ask me seemed like a good idea at the time.

In Colorado, I finally broke down and bought a computer and learned to use all the fancy art programs like Photoshop and Illustrator. Once the web and computers caught up to what I wanted to do, I posted some of my work online at a few art sites like and Once I did that new clients found me and I've been busy drawing for a living ever since.

Just do your best, have fun, keep learning, and keep at it. It seems to have worked well for me.

What’s your illustrating process?

I get the newest Jake Maddox manuscript from my art director and read through it, taking notes as I go and doing little sketches.

Then, usually during lunch at my favorite bagel shop, I draw out little thumbnail sketches of each illustration so I can give myself a blueprint of what I am going to draw and show my art director what my ideas are. I also do little head shots of each of the main characters to make sure everything looks OK.

Once everything is approved I pencil out each illustration for the book using both non repo-blue pencils and regular graphite pencils. I send those off to my art director and await approval.

Once those are OK'ed I go to inking each piece, usually with a brush and ink as well as micron markers (for all those straight lines).

When everything is inked I scan my finished pieces into the computer and add grays to the interior pieces and color to the covers using Adobe Photoshop. I also use Adobe Illustrator sometimes to add numbers to jerseys or logos to t-shirts. Anything to add those little details.

When all is done and looks good, I upload the finished art to Stone Arch's website and await my paycheck! Hooray art!

What were you like as a kid?

I was quiet and a bit shy. I also think I was very very focused on art to the point where it's all I cared about. Getting older, I've learned to open up a bit more to new things and have found new loves for sports, like hockey and football, and playing music. All these things I wish I had loved and tried when I was younger. Ah well, better late than never.

When you were a kid (the age of your readers) what did you want to be when you grew up?

An artist...always an artist. For me, there really wasn't any other choice.

What’s your favorite book?

L. Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz. I absolutely love the arch types of all the various characters and always find myself drawn back to this story. The fact that it's survived so long in so many forms proves it's a classic story able to stand the test of times. But, even with all the various interpretations, it's hard to beat the original book.

What do you eat/drink as you’re illustrating?

I'm not a big snacker. I eat my regular meals during the day but never nibble on anything when I work. As for drinks, it's usually Diet Coke left over from lunch or dinner or just plain old water. I know...boring.

If you could have written or illustrated any book, what book would it be and why?

Most books that I enjoy are because I really love the people doing them and their work on them. So, because of that, there aren't any books that I wish I'd worked on because then I'd be missing out on some great work someone else had done.

The one book I want to work more on in the future is my own project called OilCan Drive. It mixes my love of art and music. It's the story of four kids, on their own, out in the desert wastelands, flying airships, trying to survive, and playing rock and roll. The lead singer is an ex-hockey player, the lead guitarist used to be a soldier, the drummer is a runaway girl, and the bass player is a giant gorilla named Henry.

If I go through life and DON'T get to work on OilCan Drive, that will be the story and book I wished I had worked on.

Now, back to the drawing board...

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


Well, the holidays have come and gone and I actually even took a few days off. When I knew I had some free time I made big plans to do some personal art, record some songs, maybe even actually breath for a change.

Well, I got to breath, at least.

No new recorded songs, no new personal works of art.

The day after Christmas I was back at the drawing board doing the covers for the newest Jake Maddox books- four stories featuring Nascar Racing.

Now, I'm not a car guy by any means. I've had the same Jeep Wrangler for twelve years and if I was ever hit by a sedan in the street I'd be hard pressed to give the cops a decent description of what kind of car hit me. I might be able to sputter out the color though. Maybe...

So, doing a four book series about cars has been a real challenge for me. But, you know what they say, what doesn't drive you to pull all of your hair out just might make you stronger.

So, with hope in my heart, I started doing the covers for the four books.

This was my initial attempt at the first story's cover. I thought it came out decent and sent it off to my art director. She was positive, said some nice things even, but had just enough comments to send me all the way back to square one. And that is never a good feeling. It feels like failure. It feels like you just didn't give it your best shot. It digs at that "why am I an artist in the first place" feeling you have down in the depths of your body. But, honestly, after I went back to the board and took her suggestions to heart, I am glad she didn't accept this piece.

The newer covers are more colorful, more detailed, and all around better than this attempt. About three days into the new covers I finally figured out some tricks to make the cars shine like they had just come off the assembly line. I made over two dozen fake sponsor logos and plastered them all over the cars. I made the wheels spin and the smoke fly.

So, now I can look at the new pieces and tell that little "why am I an artist in the first place" feeling to go take a hike because, hell, I did some kick ass covers!

I'll post the new covers in the future but, for now, enjoy the first attempt. Remember, you have to start somewhere...