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New Illustrator to the OUaS Family

Here at Once Upon a Sketch, we are delighted to welcome our new contributor, the super talented Macky Pamintuan to the family. Along with multiple picture books, you might be familiar with his work such as the Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew and the Flat Stanley series. I had the pleasure of interviewing Macky and he offered some insight into his career and background.

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Can you tell us a bit about your background? School?

I’m originally from the Philippines and moved to San Francisco when I turned 21. There, I studied at the Academy of Art University and initially majored in 2D animation but soon switched to Traditional Illustration after realizing that I enjoyed that craft more.

I’m glad I did. I was always that one kid in class who did nothing but draw, but the 5 years learning the proper discipline of approaching an illustration (photo refs! thumbnails! commitment!)really helped me.

Shortly after graduating, I was at a fork on the road career wise. Not sure whether to seek stable employment under an art related company or try to go on my own and freelance. I gave myself 6 months to see if I could do the latter. Luckily, it all panned out and here I am.

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How long have you been illustrating?

As a working (translation: starving) art student, I’d pick up freelancing projects like an illustrated poetry book, theater posters, logos and even as a caricaturist for private parties. Around 2004, a few months after signing with my rep, I quit my job as an after school art teacher and began illustrating full time.

I’m still amazed that I’ve been doing this professionally for over decade now.

What do you consider was your big break?

That’s a tough question. I think my opportunities came in increments, most of them unexpected. For example, a small baseball portfolio piece that I did opened doors for me to do a lot of baseball artwork including three picture books (one of them for my beloved SF Giants).

NBB cover

Come to think of it, there was no singular “big break” for me. Slowly building working relationships with publishers and art directors no matter how big or small the project may be helped me get considered for future work.

Sometimes, It’s hard to tell which piece leads you to more projects. One of my earliest picture books, “I Saw an Ant on the Railroad Track” (2006), still gets me work inquiries to this day. And sometimes, it’s hard to tell when it will happen. I was backpacking in Europe when I got offered to do the relaunched “Nancy Drew & The Clue Crew” series.

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We are both represented by MBArtists, can you tell us how you came to sign with them?

Yes, we are! In 2004, when I resolved to see if I can pursue a career as a freelance illustrator, I contacted a long list of art reps to inquire if they’d be interested in representing me.

After more than a few “No’s,” I found two reps who were interested. A Chicago based advertising rep and Mela Bolinao from MB Artists. The Chicago guy was talking big numbers, but I went with my gut and signed with Mela. I enjoyed the energy she brought and I foresaw a valuable partnership and friendship in the years to come. Easily one of the best decisions I’ve made.

Has your style change much through the years? If so, do you think your style will continue to evolve or do you feel like you have found a style you are happy with?

Oh, most definitely it’s changed and still changing. When I started out, I had just made the decision to switch from traditional mediums (mostly acrylic) to digital illustration. It was new territory for me.

It’s a cliche, but I am my own worst critic. I don’t have any of my work on my walls because I know I’ll be looking at ways to fix them… forever. I guess, that’s a good thing. It drives me to constantly find new ways to improve.

There will also always be the curiosity to mix things up, but that can apply with every artist. I still enjoy the characters that I create and every project I start is still a fun challenge for me.

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If you ever find yourself in a creative funk, what do you do to try and get out of it?

As an illustrator juggling multiple projects, that can happen a lot. I usually like to leave my usual workspace and just sketch for fun at a cafe. I sometimes don’t realize that the pressure was getting to me until that robot fish doodle at the cafe happens. It’s good to sometimes shut things down and remind yourself that what I do was once just a hobby and not a job. You’ll be surprised how re-energizing it can be.

I also run a lot. Working at home is great, but it can be constricting. It’s good to switch gears, go outside and get away from the drawing table. It allows you to be more creative and, as a bonus, it helps illustrators like us, the type who sits all day to draw or paint, to consider our health. Yeah, I’m talking about that sore back we all feel, guys.

You have a very impressive resume of projects to your credit, do you have a favorite?

Thanks. I have been fortunate with the projects I’ve done. I’ve been asked this question a few times and the answer keeps changing.

At the moment, I have three favorites and they are books that I’m currently doing.

One is the “Flat Stanley’s Worldwide Adventures” chapter book series because the character and the stories have been great. For example, I’ve drawn Flat Stanley foiling a theft in Paris, as a parachute in Africa and as a ninja in Japan. This month, he’s trying to escape from Alcatraz. Meaning, after 12 books, I finally get to draw him in San Francisco.

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The second one is my newest chapter book series, “Alien in My Pocket.” Amp, a little blue alien who crash lands on earth befriends Zack, a kid who fumbles his way into science experiments. It also helps that I’ve based Zack’s best friend, Olivia, on my daughter. I may be bit biased on this one.

AMP 1-3 covers

Lastly, every latest picture book I am doing always ends up being my new favorite one. This time, I am doing a picture book about a group of zoo animals going into space. Still a long way to go, but I’m enjoying it.

If someone came to you with your dream project, what would that project be?

I’m a huge basketball fan. A lifelong Boston Celtics fan to be specific. Doing an illustration project for them would amazing.

I’d also love to do illustrated profiles of musicians or current newsmakers for a magazine. It’s not exactly a dream project, but editorial art is something I’ve enjoyed doing since I was a teenager. The genre is not in my current work portfolio though and I may have to work on that.

What’s your favorite part of the job? What’s your least favorite?

Character design is easily my favorite part. I’ve always loved sketching and making up characters even as a kid.

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My least favorite would be the initial prepping of the book like collecting photo references, doing the proper story research and figuring out layouts on thumbnails. All those are very important parts of my process, but it can also be difficult when momentum hasn’t been built yet.

And finally, do you have any words of wisdom for our readers?

Know your strength and build around that. If you like doing portraits, go for it. Your enjoyment will show in the finished work, but don’t neglect your weaknesses. I’ve seen many great illustrations ruined by a badly drawn hand or a lazy background. It’s unfortunate because it takes the viewer out of what would otherwise be a great piece.

Be competitive. Not just among your select peers but also among professionals and favorite artists. Even the great ones. Maybe you won’t match their output, but setting a high bar for yourself will only raise the quality of your work.

And yet, remember the value of accepting criticism. There is always something to be learned from others. With an open mind, you’ll know which advice you can use to improve your craft.

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Thank you Macky for sharing your work and time with us. We are looking forward to your contributions to Once Upon a Sketch!

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