Not long ago I was fortunate enough be contacted by an old friend who happened to have a friend who had written a book and was looking for an Illustrator. This, however well intentioned, usually does not bode well for us who have ever pushed a pencil around. We all have stories of friends of friends or friends of family who fancy themselves as Writers and our good natured relations have decided to play matchmaker. They mean well but 98% of the time they never work out but this time I met Chautona Havig. Wife, Mother and one of the most driven Artists I've had the pleasure to get to know, (she, I'm sure is reading this and making a "driven, yeah driven insane," type comment but that's one of the many reasons I like her!) Chautona has written, produced, published and marketed more books than some people have ever read. After one conversation with her I knew she was, as the great Stan Lee calls a True Believer. She cares about characters and where they come from, she is true to them so of course I had to work with her.
Between the second and third book Chautona decided that it was about time her readers got to know me a little better and so decided to conduct a proper interview. Chautona has graciously allowed me to include it here but if you would like to see it in it's original form please check it out at her site, here . Please, while you are there check out her work and check back regularly, there is plenty more to come!
Chautona Havig April 2010
Last September, I got a phone call. Now, anyone who knows me knows how much I love the phone. *cough* Picture it. Ethan is trying to convince me he’s paying close attention to his math book while Wall-E plays in the background. Andra is STILL clearing the counters from lunch, and Lorna is… well I am afraid to try to remember what Lorna was doing. Roast simmers in a crock pot, the air is a balmy 99 degrees, and I’m sitting on my bed talking to a stranger about a strange creature in a strange place.
Now, I have to confess something. I loved the conversation. It didn’t feel like I was jabbering away at the guy for an hour and a half… but I did. I’ve often wondered if he got off the phone, turned to his wife, and said, “What on earth did I just agree to do? This woman’s a freak!” I thought about asking… but I really don’t want to know. Just sayin’.
Now, I’ll confess, I was nervous. I had a mental picture of Wynnewood, complete with East and West being reversed in my mind… weird when you consider I have an excellent sense of direction every other time… apparently they were reversed in Medieval times. It was a backward time in history, so that shouldn’t surprise us. Back to nervous– I was convinced that no one could put what was in my head on paper. How could they? I drew an amazingly pathetic map. I mean. P.A.T.H.E.T.I.C. Just sayin’. I told him about Dove, about Philip, I gave away plot… the works. He asked questions like
“What kind of soundtrack fits Wynnewood?”
“I was thinking about using Kells for the font, what do you think?” (Like I knew what that meant)
He was AMAZING when it came to pointing out flaws or giving me little tidbits that I could use in the story. “Well, the Druids feared hemlock…” Oh yeah??? YIPPEE! Down with the Druids I always say. Gimme some hemlock baby! (Ok, that’s just so not me!) We discussed the difference between wooden castles and stone, being up above a moat… the works. I left that conversation with all kinds of amazing information that weeks of research hadn’t uncovered. I’m sure he’s sick of my constant facebook questions like, “What can you tell me about dwarves…”
So, with the impending release of Cloaked in Secrets, the sequel to Shadows & Secrets, I thought it might be fun to interview Craig. And, because I’m cruel, mean, nasty, and socially unacceptable (and those are my virtues), I thought I’d break the interview up into five parts. Just to keep things lively don’tcha know. I give you… “The Interview” *insert impressive and slightly ominous music here*
(parts combined here)
Well, Craig, we want to know more about you. First, will you tell us a little about your family?
Most of mine and my wife’s family are back in West Virginia so here in Ohio there’s just the three of us. My lovely and talented, celebrity Pharmacist wife Mandi, our lovely and talented Beagle/ German shepherd dog, Zoe and I.
Michele “introduced us.” What kind of dirt on her would you like to share with 200 of her closest friends?
One time in band camp……. seriously though I never went to band camp but Michele and I did first meet in Junior High Band, fast friends then and friends we have been ever since. She showed me the ropes of the ever intimate world of marching and concert band in Junior High and when I followed her into High School she was gracious enough to do the same. LOW BRASS FOR LIFE!
What do you do for a living?
One summer during college I was introduced by my then boss thusly, “this is Craig he’s studyin’ to become an Illustrationist.” It stuck. Essentially I provide images when words won’t work. So web design, industrial design, package design, product conception, book illustration, game illustration, all of that fits in there.
Do you have any formal education/training in art? If so, how much and how did you choose your course of study?
Yup, AP Art pre college and a BFA from the Cleveland Institute of Art with a major in Illustration. AP Art was a year in High School where we had to produce 2 portfolios of work, one was a catch all with 2-D and 3-D work the other was a group of pieces all on one subject, aka a thesis. Mine was on brass instruments (go low brass!). College was a 5 year program, 2 years of foundation (painting, drawing, design, art history), 3 of a major with a thesis in the final year with a strenuous critique system throughout.
I chose Illustration because I love stories, always have and I love the idea of communicating ideas visually. How did I choose my course of study? I wanted a course that would give me a strong footing in the fundamentals that encouraged interaction within all the majors. Luckily a couple of friends had gone to CIA before me and I had a really good High School Art Teacher who gave me educated and honest counsel and CIA seemed like the place for me.
When did you start drawing/how long have you been drawing?
I guess ever since I could pick up something and make a mark. I really can’t remember not drawing.
Did you doodle all over your papers in school?
All the time, I actually found that doing that helped me retain and comprehend information better. I still do it at weddings, graduations, lectures etc.
Did anyone encourage you to pursue your drawing seriously?
Most definitely my Mom and Dad, Teachers, family, friends, I was very fortunate in that department.
When did you know that you were “good” at doing something many people can’t even hope to attempt?
Wow kinda sounds like I have super human abilities or something, I wish! A lot of art is about craft and anyone with a will to do so can learn, to be good at it, to paraphrase my painting professor from CIA, Jose Cintron, you have to have heart. I guess when I found out that I might have an aptitude was in Kindergarten. My first official commission was from the teacher’s assistant whose son was in the army. In exchange for being allowed to stay up during nap time I drew his portrait. Still one of the best likenesses I’ve produced
What kinds of things do you enjoy drawing most? (Portraits, cartoons, realistic still life, abstract, etc.)
My general answer I guess is things I can empathize with, humans, animals, monsters, robots, zombies, etc. I like looking at objects and landscapes, I love seeing other people draw them and kinda wish I drew them more but it’s hard to get to know a vase, car or a ray gun.
Do you prefer pen and ink, watercolor, oil, none of the above…
I like them all, never been able to really light on one specific medium guess that’s why I tend to go mixed most of the time. I guess though my least used media are pastel and watercolor. Don’t like how pastel feels in my hand and I can’t make watercolor behave.
How long does it take you to sketch something like the map you did of Wynnewood?
The sketches didn’t take too long but the final took a good part of a week to finish.
How are you inspired on your designs? (Other artists, periods, movies, authors, etc.)
I’m inspired by everything, movies, video games, music, books you name it! As you know when I am working on a large image I like to immerse myself film and music appropriate to the subject. For Wynnewood it was “Braveheart”, “Robin Hood”, “Labyrinth” anything with rolling countryside, swords, castles and broad, adventurous music. It’s all about creating a feeling that you can then put in the image.
Who is your favorite artist?
I keep collecting favorite artists, there’s really a lot of good ones out there so it depends on the time. Right now I really love looking at work from Charles Dana Gibson, Barry Moser, John Singer Sargent, Jean-Baptiste Monge, Stephen DeStefano, etc. The big Grandady of them all though, I love N.C. Wyeth, regardless of what I am into at the time I always love to see his work.
What kinds of art do you have in your home?
Right now we are finishing up taking down wall paper and putting up paint in our new house so we don’t have much on the walls but we do have a few things up. A couple Wyeth prints, a J.C. Leyendecker illustration of the Statue of Liberty, a couple of antique food ads and great illustration of Super Grover by Alex Ross. I’m trying to get some art from friends when we finally get our walls done.
Can we see a few of your favorite pieces?
Sure! Lady with the Rose by John Singer Sargent
Death of Robin Hood by N.C. Wyeth
“Accursed creator! Why did you form a monster so hideous that even you turn from me in disgust?” from Shelly’s “Frankenstein” illustration by Bernie Wrightson
Several ladies wanted to know if you “liked working with” me. You’re free to plead the fifth, be brutally honest and tell them I was a pest, or lavish the praise so we sell more books. All is good. Just sayin’.
I enjoy the heck out of it! It’s rare to be able to work with a “true believer” to use a title coined by Stan Lee. By that I mean there are so many people I’ve worked with that either don’t care too much for the subject or try to keep the subject at arm’s length for whatever reason, what sold me with you the first time we talked is I came from the conversation believing that there was actually a place called Wynnewood and such a person as Dove and Phillip and I wanted to go there and meet them.
What do you suggest to people who want to learn how to draw more accurately? Are there any books you recommend? Videos? Online classes? Correspondence courses?
The easy answers are keep a sketchbook and draw all the time and learn to see. 80% of drawing is seeing and not everything you see translates to the page so get out there and start drawing from life. You will learn something new nearly every time and usually more from your mistakes than anything.
As for books and stuff, for kids I can’t speak highly enough for “Commander” Mark Kistler. He had a show on PBS but I think you can find his stuff online. It’s drawing basics like perspective, foreshortening, shading, etc. and making it fun. For older students who are interested in figure drawing there is no reason to go any further than George B. Bridgeman. It’s volumetric anatomy for Artists and not Anatomists. His “Complete Guide to Drawing from Life” is probably the most used book on my shelf. It will change how you see.
What is your dream project? What would make you just go wild with excitement if you had the opportunity to do anything you wanted?
Ooooo that’s a rough one to nail down. I guess it would be the opportunity to get my hands on some of the iconic characters of literature. Someone like a Peter Pan, Long John Silver, Ebenezer Scrooge, Little John, Tin Woodsman, Pigsy, The Monkey King, etc would be a dream to tackle. I guess to be able to add something to that experience for a reader or a viewer would be amazing. To be able to really inhabit those characters in their worlds for a while is really why I prefer story related art.
What is the “downside” to art? Policemen hate paperwork… what do artists hate?
That’s kind of a small question with a big explanation; I’ll try to keep it brief. It’s the looks you and your family get sometime when someone either first meets you or asks about you and say, “ahh he/you is/are an artist.” It’s the same dismissive look people give when talking about the deranged or hard of thinking. Part of that is our fault really, Art has done more to talk to itself than it has to talk to others in the recent past and they just can’t relate.
The other thing that I am sure most everyone can relate to is when people disrespect your time, your talent and the difficulty of what you do. My theory as this relates to Art is: once upon a time everyone use to draw, and it was fun. Then at some point they stopped for lack of interest or discouragement or whatever but they retained the memory of drawing, coloring, painting, sculpting = play. So when they have to deal with those of us that kept “playing” they think most of what we do is easy and basic goof-offery which leads to 5PM on a Friday projects due at 6PM that same day, a client asking for the moon and expecting it and the dreaded work on speculation.
What is the best compliment you’ve ever received?
Well first two things that pop in my head are both from the same person my Mother-in-Law, Beverly. When I graduated college she gave me a business card case with “Illustrator” engraved on it, something about that meant a lot. The second comes from a conversation my wife told me about where Bev had come to the realization that I see things differently because I am an Artist. Her attempt to put herself in my shoes and that she was I guess impressed in some way I took as quite a compliment.
What question do most non-artistic types forget to ask in these kinds of interviews?
Seeing as how I don’t get interviewed, well ever, I guess the thing I hear the most is more of an observation than a question. “I can’t even draw a straight line.” To which I reply, “Neither can I that’s why I use a ruler.”