Illustrator Interview: Eric Orchard Can Eat a Metric Ton of JellyBellies

The Davis Girl (TDG): Everyone, I am overjoyed to welcome illustrator and author Eric Orchard. Hello, and good day sir. 

Eric Orchard (EO): Good morning!

TDG: Yes. Good morning. Are you ready for this, Eric Orchard?

“Inky from Maddy Kettle.” Original artwork courtesy of Eric Orchard

EO: Yep!

TDG: First, who is the awesome cat in your profile picture? It has a pipe and there’s a moon and it’s awesome. 

EO: Ohhhh! That’s a bat often mistaken for a cat! It’s Inky from Maddy Kettle. In the book he’s a bat who guides Maddy through the ancient bat kingdom under the Arizona desert to the Thimble Witch’s house on a Mesa.

TDG: Bat! Of course! That is a dapper bat. How long have you been drawing?

EO: I’ve been drawing as long as I can remember. I remember telling stories with pictures very early on. My mom would give me scrap paper from envelopes or stocking packaging and I’d elaborate on the stories I was telling with my toys. I had very extensive stories involving my action figures which boiled over into words and pictures. I was an only child with a single mom and had a lot of time to myself.

TDG: Any artist inspirations?

EO: It’s really hard to pinpoint which artists have inspired me most, it’s a constantly changing list so long I can’t name every name. I think the biggest influences are Arthur Rackham, Tony Diterlizzi, Mike Mignola, Maurice Sendak, Brian Froud, Wendy Froud, and Lisbeth Zwerger. I’m sure if I scoured my bookshelves I could name many, many more.

TDG: Oh, the Frouds! Chris Van Allsburg too! The crosshatching on the header in your Patreon reminds me of Chris Van Allsburg’s work. 

EO: For sure. Also Yoshitaka Amano, Hayao Miyazaki and the Provensens. It’s a dangerous question! I could go on.

TDG: Is it flattering or frustrating to be compared to others?

EO: I personally prefer not to be compared to other artists but the reality is all visual artists come from a tradition and there are going to be hints of other creators there even if we don’t see it ourselves.

Screenshot of Eric Orchard’s tweets

TDG: Do you work on one thing through to the end? A few things? Many?

EO: My preference is to work on a single project right through to completion but I never get to do that. Mainly for financial reasons. I’m currently working on a picture book pitch; TURNIP, but a role playing game (RPG) job came along and I had to stop working on TURNIP to work on the game.

TDG: That is awesome. Congratulations!

EO: Thank you! The game is amazing and I couldn’t turn it down. It’s called Under Hollow Hills. But that’s been the pattern through my career. If a single job paid enough to live on I would definitely focus entirely on that project. But it hasn’t happened yet. I’ve always wanted to work in games but my style wasn’t dark enough. Now games are becoming more diverse in their aesthetic and I fit in better.

TDG: When you are working on your own WIP, what comes first: words or images?

EO: That’s hard to untangle. I’m going to say it’s images but things come together from many different threads and sometimes over a very long time. For example Maddy Kettle was the combination of two story ideas I did almost ten years apart. I can’t remember where or how it started.

TDG: Where do you prefer to draw? 

EO: I’ve always been very happy working right in my house or home. I’ve often had a specific studio room but I tend to sprawl all over the house. I’m very flexible. My current “studio” is my living room.

Original artwork courtesy of Eric Orchard

TDG: What’s your favorite medium right now?

EO: Definitely either pencils or watercolours. I enjoy the simplicity of the mediums but also love how “finished” they can look. They’re also versatile, you can sketch with them or do very finished looking work.

TDG: How do you sharpen your pencils?

EO: Just a sharpener. In school they told us to use a utility knife but a sharpener is so convenient. Just a little hand held sharpener. Simple, simple. I use my pencils until they are little pencil nubs and then I use an extender.

TDG: An extender?

EO: Yeah! Pencil extenders! Great tool. Easy to find.

TDG: How long does a pencil last for you?

EO: I’m not sure because I have a pile of stubby pencils I use forever. I’ve never picked up the best art supply habits. I tend to put off art supply store trips and try and make things last.

Screenshot of Eric Orchard’s tweets

TDG: Smart.

EO: Lazy.

TDG: Accurate. That’s a thing. Laziness is the sign of genius.  

EO: Yes.

TDG: What MUST you have while working?

EO: I listen to a lot of podcasts and audiobooks and music. I don’t work well in silence, I start thinking too much. Probably why I don’t do a lot of prose. I really want some kind of sound filling the air. I get lonely easily too and the sound of talking really helps.

TDG: That’s an awesome point.

EO: I drink a lot of tea while I work and tell myself it’s keeping me hydrated.

TDG: Any favorite snacks during work?

EO: No snacking usually. Though right now I’m eating nachos.

TDG: Yessss.

EO: I find I actually put off eating when I work. I go too long not eating.

TDG: Oh, yeah, I do not have that problem. Are you agented?

EO: I am. I work with Howard Morhaim in Brooklyn.

TDG: How did you find him?

EO: I collaborated with writer Jeff Vandermeer and his agent took me on. I find all my own contracts and Howard does the legal stuff.

TDG: What are you working on now?

EO: I’m working on the TURNIP pitch. Here’s a sketch:

Original artwork of TURNIP courtesy of Eric Orchard

Turnip is a little flute-playing fox who lives in a goblin woods and tries to join a parade.

TDG: Ohhhhhh my goodness…

EO: And here’s Under Hollow Hills RPG:

Original artwork for Under Hollow Hills RPG courtesy of Eric Orchard.

TDG: Oh, my giddy aunt. Where can we see more of your work?

EO: I update almost every day on my Patreon and on Twitter. I try and respond to questions as quick as I can!

TDG: When you’ve done a drawing but it needs to be in color, how does that happen?

EO: I either paint it or colour it in Photoshop. Those are my main methods.

TDG: Ahh, and I’ve always wanted to know: What is gouache? 

EO: I use gouache a lot! It’s essentially a thicker watercolour. You can get incredibly rich and detailed work from it. I kind of lump it in with watercolour. It’s finicky but very worth exploring. If anyone wants to try it out I would recommend buying white gouache and adding it to your watercolours.

Original artwork courtesy of Eric Orchard

TDG: How do you find your clients?

EO: I seem to get all my work online now. Social media like Twitter and Instagram are where I find almost all of my work these days.

Screen shot of Eric Orchard’s Instagram

TDG: Ok, ready?

EO: Yep.

TDG: When did you know you were an artist?

EO: I knew early on and only doubted it later. My mom has always been very supportive. It’s only when I got out in the world and people were dismissive of creative work did I have any doubts.

TDG: What is your FAVORITE thing you’ve ever drawn and/or written?

EO: This is high up on my list!:

Original comission artwork courtesy of Eric Orchard

TDG: Oh mylskfj;alkdjf;aldkj–What? What? 

EO: It was a commission! It’s a witch and her dragon friend who just stole a magic book.

TDG: I can’t even–oh my goodness. How?

EO: Someone on Facebook wanted a piece and let me do what I want. First, we just discuss the drawing a little, what it should be, and then I disappear and do it.

TDG: How did they respond when they saw this?

EO: They loved it!

TDG: Do you have rules when drawing?

EO: Just not to be boring.

Original artwork courtesy of Eric Orchard

Original artwork courtesy of Eric Orchard

TDG: How do you know when you are being boring?

EO: If I’m relying too much on clichés or I’m not challenging myself enough. Or, if the narrative portrayed doesn’t grab me.

TDG: Is there a time of day you are most productive?

EO: Definitely the morning. I rarely do great work after 5pm.

TDG: Any advice for creatives just starting out?

EO: Just put your work out there. Don’t wait to be perfect because it never happens. Be visible.

Screenshot of Eric Orchard’s Twitter posts. “…put your work out there…be visible.”

TDG: How long does a one-page sketch take you?

EO: It really depends. Anywhere from an hour to a day. The sketches (above) were done over two days.

TDG: When will your website be up again?

EO: Hopefully next month!

TDG: And now the Rapid Fire Round.  DON’T THINK JUST ANSWER!

EO: Ok!

TDG: Favorite color?

EO: Green.

TDG: Favorite movie?

EO: Labyrinth.

TDG: Favorite tea?

EO: Earl Grey. Hot.

TDG: Favorite TV show?

EO: The Muppet Show.

TDG: How many jelly beans can you eat?

EO: A metric ton of Jelly Bellies.

TDG: Worst food ever?

EO: I had snake on a cracker. Not great. Oh! Shark actually!

TDG: Gross. What project do you want to get full funding for RIGHT NOW?

EO: An illustrated fantasy book slash role playing game!

TDG: What didn’t I ask that you want to say?

EO: That’s it. I’m out of good answers.

TDG: Yeah, I don’t think we can top ‘a metric ton of Jelly Bellies’.

EO: No way.

Eric Orchard welcomes connections on Twitter via @Inkybat and at Patreon. See more of his work on Instagram.

Self portrait courtesy of Eric Orchard.

  • Jamie @ Books and Ladders
    March 10, 2019

    This was so interesting! It was really cool to see things from the perspective of an illustrator. Thanks for sharing!

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