In the third grade, Kyle Beckett sold a drawing of a bluebird wearing sunglasses to his friend for a chocolate chip cookie at lunch. From that first commission on, he knew he wanted to be an illustrator. Through his adventures in Rockford, Illinois and at Ringling College of Art and Design, Kyle found his passion in children’s illustration. Inspired by the old and working with the new, he uses Photoshop to aid in the telling of his quirky and outlandish stories. Today, we had the opportunity to speak with Kyle about his inspiration for books as well as receive a preview of his new picture book THE DOG ATE MY HOMEWORK. It’ll be published in simplified Chinese in Mainland China, by Yeehoo Press.
- When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer/illustrator?
I realized that I wanted to be an illustrator when I was 8 years old. I had drawn a picture of a bluebird wearing sunglasses at school and a classmate of mine asked to have it. I said ‘no’, but then he offered me a chocolate chip cookie and we traded. I realized then that I could make something from my art!
- How many books have you created? Which is your favorite and why?
I’ve illustrated nine books so far. Some have been promotional or charitable, others have been small educational books, and a few of them have been children’s books.
I usually think of the book I’m currently working on as my favorite. Whatever I’m making at the time is what sticks in my head.
- How do you start a book project? When do you know it is ready and finished?
I always start with doodling. I think of doodling as a way to let my brain make decisions before I can overthink them. From there, I start sketching characters and scenes until I really understand the story.
As far as knowing when a book is finished, I think that moment always changes. It’s a feeling you get, like a breath of fresh air.
- What is your work schedule like when you’re creating a book?
My work schedule can be tricky. Some weeks I only have a few drawings to finish, while other weeks I have too much. It can be really hot and cold, but whether I am working on a book or not, every day starts with sketching and reading, and all I do after that is start checking things off of my to-do list.
I don’t have traditional work hours, so sometimes if I feel like I’m not working well I take a break and work late into the night. Other times I can’t wait to get to it and wake up super early. I follow the inspiration and try not to overthink it!
- What comes first, the story or artworks?
The stories I write always come from a drawing I’ve made. It’s hard for me to make an illustration without asking questions and turning it into a whole story. Right now, I probably have about eleven drawings that I want to turn into some sort of story.
- How do you develop your plot and characters?
Usually, I annoy my fiancée and ask her what she thinks of a story or a drawing. She always tells me she likes it because she’s too nice, but just saying the idea out loud to another person can help me realize just what a story needs.
- What do you like most about being a writer and/or an artist?
I love the stories! I see children’s books as a perfect form of storytelling. I think I would happy making movies or doing a podcast, too, because all I want to do in the end is tell a great story. It just so happens that my stories tend to be well-suited for children’s books.
- Where do you get your inspiration or ideas for your books?
I get a lot of my inspiration from other books, children’s or otherwise. Reading as many books as possible can fill your head with lots of ideas and then all you have to do is swirl them around until they turn into something new.
- What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
I am always surprised at just how collaborative this industry is. Back when I was in school, I would work alone and ask my teachers for advice. Now that I am in this industry, I have loads of people who will help me edit my work and make it as good as it can be!
- As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
At one point I wanted to a firefighter, like lots of kids. But after that, I really only wanted to draw. Nowadays, I think being a historian or an archaeologist would be incredible, too! I love history and learning about new cultures.
- What does your family think of your writing/illustrating career?
My family is what keeps me going! They are the best, most supportive family. My parents were never anything but positive about my career choice. They would let me draw on my bedroom wall at home, and even laminate my drawings for me so they wouldn’t get ripped up. I don’t think I would be an illustrator if it wasn’t for my family.
- What inspires you to create THE DOG ATE MY HOMEWORK?
Lots of things! First and foremost is my dog. His name is Goose, and he was big on chewing up books when he was a puppy. That is what got this idea into my head.
- How is the creative process of THE DOG ATE MY HOMEWORK? Are there any difficulties you met and how did you overcome them during the process?
The process for this book was interesting. I use flashbacks in this story, which isn’t very common in children’s books because it can get confusing. I had to play around with a lot of different ideas to make it as simple as possible. Ultimately, I think it is what makes this story so unique and fun to read.
- Do you have multiple books you’re working on at the same time? If so, how do you handle different projects simultaneously?
There have been a few times that I’ve worked on multiple projects. What I like to do is compartmentalize them by day. I’ll have a calendar and I’ll work for a day or two on one book before switching to another one.
I found it very difficult to try and work on two different stories on the same day, so I decided it would be easier to simplify it!
- Do you have any suggestions to help fellow artists become better writer-illustrators? If so, what are they?
Absolutely! My first piece of advice is always the same, read! I think that reading books is what fills your head with unique ideas. It’s important to actively read and ask yourself questions along the way.
Also, draw when you don’t want to. A lot of people like to draw when they’re inspired and excited, but if you want to be an illustrator you need to be able to draw every day no matter what. So draw when you’re excited, and especially when you’re not.
Kyle Beckett is represented by The Bright Agency
Visit Kyle at https://www.instagram.com/kylebeckett/