Below are some frequently asked questions (FAQ’s). Some may help you understand Myke and others may help you confirm some things with regards to the Wildfire Workshops. Wildfire hopes you find these useful and will try to update them in the future.
If you’d like to ask Myke Mollard a question use this online contact form provided here. Otherwise feel free to look through Myke’s monster list of FAQ’s.
Why so many workshops?
Myke’s skills in creating his books and teaching kids to draw and use their imaginations is just the start. Myke has had such a fascinating professional career with such varied creative positions, he can draw upon personal experience as well. It would be a shame not to offer that knowledge and pass on such strong, positive stories to the next generation. If you think about it, the world we live in today has moved into the digital age. 20 years working as a creative in advertising is really working at the cold face of these sweeping changes.
How does Myke know so much about Bush Creatures?
Myke has been passionate about the bush from an early age. Harry Butler was a childhood hero. Living on the land, sketching in the wild, farming, snorkelling, skiing, horse riding, camping and hiking gave Myke real love for nature and an appreciation for our Australian bush. Along the way he has seen and studied many native creatures that rely on the bush for their survival.
As Myke points out, it is just hours of time spent in the bush observing nature. “Once you spend enough time on the land or in the bush it reveals itself to you. You earn its trust. Only then, do you begin to know its true nature. Only then, do you start to see its true wealth. Although, you still have to research books, research more books and go the internet. Constantly learning, collecting stories and adapting all that knowledge to what you know from the land and those wild chance encounters.”
Through his art, Myke wishes to highlight the plight of native Australian animals and that’s why his website is called “Bush Creatures”.
What will I expect from a Wildfire Workshop?
A passionate and professional presentation. A mix of conversation and skill building art eductation. Using his talents as an illustrator and his passionate storytelling style, Myke delivers facts and figures, a wealth of knowledge, first hand experiences from his time in the bush, shares inspirational perspectives and engages kids of all ages. There is plenty of time for kids to ask questions and Myke is generous with his answers. If you need to know more go to Wildfire Workshops “Testimonial” page and read for yourself what teachers and students say about their workshop experience.
Are there other forms of illustration that Myke does?
Most of Myke’s illustrations are pencil and ink then digitally scanned in and finally colour rendered or digitally enhanced in the computer in Adobe Photoshop. Myke loves detail and line work. Although when he gets into other mediums like watercolour (in the case of Mal the Lion) he really enjoys exploring what he can do. Myke trys to tweak and experiment, as much as he can, to find the depth and quality of his skill. He prepers this approach, rather than just doing the same old boring thing. This approach has a higher risk and keeps Myke out of his comfort zone, making every task an enjoyable one.
Who are Myke’s favourite illustrators or who has influenced him as an illustrator?
Robert Ingpen has always inspired Myke to draw. Robert came to his school to do a talk and Myke knew that day one of his dreams at least was to illustrate kids books. Robert’s work is so unique and his style and approach, well Myke really admires these qualities.
Greame Base (Animalia) would have to be up there with Bruce Whatley and Shaun Tan (The Arrival). Alan Lee (J.R.R.Tolkien fantasy illustrator), Nicola Bayley (The patchwork Cat and The Tyger Voyage), Helen Ward, Ron Brooks (The Bunyip of Berkeley’s Creek, Aranea, and John Brown, Rose and the Midnight Cat) and Kim Gamble (Tashi and Bunyips Don’t) they are all great Australian illustrators.
One of Myke’s all time favourite inspirations is the great anime animator, Hayao Miyazaki (Nausicaá of the Valley of Wind, Laputa: The Castle in the Sky, My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Porco Rosso, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, and Howl’s Moving Castle. Ponyo).
Hayao’s storytelling and imagination is truly magical.
Who are Myke’s favourite writers or who has influenced him as an writer?
Myke often prefers to read National Geographic, Australian Geographic and boring non fictional stuff like encyclopedias. But when he picks up a good book Myke has been blown away by many. Patricia Wrightson (The Nargun and the Stars, Behind the Wind) has always inspired him to write. The way she describes and captures the magic of ancient myths and gives a modern telling of Australian dreamtime creatures and Australian aboriginal themes in her work is unique. Myke really admires her work to lift our Australian culture and identity. Her style and approach stands out to Myke.
Other writers Myke has enjoyed reading over the years are: J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, David Eddings, John Marsden, Homer, Dumas, Tim Winton, Wilbur Smith and stacks more.
Do you choose what to draw, or are you told?
Myke has a publisher, so the work is always looked at from the publishers perspective. Myke chooses the final look and feel and creates all his own work, but the publisher guides his theme and is involved in title creation, editing, planning, marketing and other stuff related to the books. A publisher is a very important part of the creative process and even though Myke doesn’t get told what to do, as such, he does have support to keep things commercial as well as highly artistic.
As Myke atests, “It’s always good to have a second set of eyes. Someone to cast an eye over something. Especially a seasoned publisher with loads of experience in bringing books to market. It brings depth and confidence to the final work. Because there are several complex markets you have to address, the trade, the critics and the target audience. That can make a book hard or easy to sell so you have to know what you are doing and do it well.”
Does Myke ever copy?
Myke doesn’t mind “tracing” as an exercise – It’s good training. Myke doesn’t mind copying for practice and training only to develop your style or technique. But to be a finished piece is not good. Copying for a “comic spin on an original piece” that you are making entirely your own work Myke sees as “OK”. But what Myke always trys to aspire to is originality, finding an individual style and/or trail-blazing a technique. So there is a place for copying – but not as a commercial end.
Does Myke like talking to kids?
Myke really does enjoy talking to kids. They have so many questions and Myke has an encyclopedic brain of trivial knowledge and is bursting with exciting tales of adventure. This all brings wisdom, wonder and fun to a class full of imaginative kids. As a friend just recently pointed out, when it comes to an audience Myke has “Rock Star” quality when talking to kids. He leaves them excited about learning and keen to draw.
If you are an author do you decide which illustrator is used?
If you are Mem Fox or are seeking to self-publish you can probably decide. But normally the publisher, the man with the money and experience in publishing decides. Myke is both so he either gets asked to illustrate for an author or he does the whole book himself. After consulting with his publisher.
How did Myke get his first job in publishing?
Myke had this idea of becoming a children’s book writer and illustrator since he was quite young. He got caught up pursuing advertising as a creative, for it seemed the right thing to do. Personally, Myke felt he lacked confidence in his abilities to be a story writer and illustrator for childish reasons of unique style and poor spelling.
A friend and original mentor in advertising heard he wanted to be a writer/illustrator and introduced him to his current publisher. Myke impressed this publisher and the long process of bringing a book to market began.
How did Myke become an illustrator? Did he train for it, or is it in his blood?
It’s a mixture of things. Myke believes he has always been driven towards illustration by something inside him. But when he looks back over old art projects and art assignments they look like other kids of the same age. So there is an element of training and an element of being in your blood.
Myke’s best suggestion to become great at anything is “practice, practice and more practice. Draw until your fingers bleed (figure of of speech).”
How do you make your illustrations appeal to children?
Look and listen.
Look firstly at all the great artists work before your time. Then Listen to kids not adults first and foremost. Then secondly, Listen to the big kid inside yourself. You can’t fail on that advice.
What are eBooks and what are Apps? Are they the future of publishing?
Well there are many eBooks now that are coming onto the market. Everyone has also heard of the smart phone and applications or “Apps”. They have definitely impacted on the publishing world to date and they are definitely going to further reduce the amount of books published each year.
EBooks are written books or novels digitally presented with some cool features and are commmonly read on a tablet or electronic reader or pad. Whereas an App is a game or program that does handy little things on computers or smart phones or digital devices.
The problem with the children’s picture books Myke creates is that they are not scalable or as robust as just simple text books. They are best read as a book from a store and if digitally created they would be more like an App then an eBook. So to republish these books in this fashion is costly and time consuming and not really publishing at all – it’s more like creating an animated game.
So ePublishing may be a very big part of our publishing future, but there is a place for books; on the shelf, in schools, as well as in our hearts.
Is Myke bad at anything?
Well Myke is still pretty bad at spelling, although this has greatly improved with spell check and practicing what he does. By the way “reading more” helps kids with spelling.
Myke only vice or weak spot is talking too much. He is very bad at not knowing when to stop. Myke, you’d say, is a compulsive talker, storyteller and yarn spinner. Which is beneficial in this line of work – is it not?
What is the hardest thing Myke has ever done?
Maybe, completing the book An A-Z of Australian Bush Creatures. Then on second thoughts, Maybe “the hardest thing” Myke is yet to do.
Myke’s greatest fear?
Myke had a fear of seaweed, but he snorkels all day long spearfishing. Sometimes heights (Myke get’s vertigo at times), but mainly that fear everyone gets of being disliked, judged and/or being boring.
What thing is Myke always being asked?
Can Myke draw a picture [for that person].
What was Myke’s hardest job?
Writing and illustrating the book An A-Z of Australian Bush Creatures.
What was Myke’s school education like?
Pretty tough. Lots of work. Myke loved school and did very well at all his subjects. He worked extremely hard at being the best he could be. Myke just hated bullies and lazy people who didn’t like the fact that he enjoyed working at things. The great thing about school is it’s only one part of your life, it’s only the start. So it’s what you do after school or in your own time that counts.
When does anyone discover their talent for illustrating?
With art and drawing you never can tell. It’s about drive, passion and enthusiasm. You have to have at least two of the three. Then practice, confidence and time will tell. Style is up to the drawer or the illustrator, confidence is the key factor here – yet as Myke aptly points out, “Practice Makes Permanent.”
Where do sudden brilliant ideas come from?
Years ago people said talent was a gift from ‘god.’ The whole meaning and origins of even the word ‘idea’ is derived from old terms that stem from either divine or mortal genius. Myke likes to think that life is brimming over with ideas and we as artists seek or hunt down these brilliant ideas in our work or thoughts. Yet another way to look at this is a more passive process of developing one’s hand so that ideas are drawn to the artist. Like if Myke was an “IDEA” then who would he go to to be drawn into exisitance. Well he’d go to the best artist or the most passionate or the most clever at watercolour.
As Myke suggests, “Either way, ideas come to those that search or strive. Little can be done by an unpracticed hand.”
Can anyone illustrate until they are really old?
Unless you lose your hands or arms, your marbles or your sight. You can take art, craft and drawing into your golden years. Myke believes, the actual act of drawing can be a pass time enjoyed at any age, even in retirement when some people get lost with what they are going to do beyond work. It’s something for young and old!
Are awards important?
“No. Not really.”
Myke’s greatest reward is the smile from kids or that uncontained excitement when kids either love a Wildfire Workshop or finish reading one of Myke’s books.
When kids get how fun and exciting drawing is and find that they can communicate effectively through illustrating. This is far more important.
Broadly speaking, why do illustrators draw the way they do?
Personal taste, style, perception, teaching, handwriting. Illustrators enjoy a certain style and stick with that style. It’s normally one that has great appeal or one that they feel most comfortable doing. It’s great if that style comes into favour or is highly marketable, but art isn’t always about the commercial value. Art’s about the concepts, ideologies and the message or communication aspect more than the dollar value.
Bottom line, illustration like art is self expression.
Does Myke base his characters on real people, friends or family?
Well in some cases, Myke uses family and friends to photograph to create better reference pictures. Myke bases stories off ideas and adventures he enjoys going on. “Stories are in someways reflections of ourselves, but wrapped up in fantasy and things that are so far from reality they seem strange and alien to us.”
Truth is import in your characters and stories. People love truth and honesty and real things that bring meaning to the real world. So Myke seeks truth in his pictures and truth in his stories. It’s a reflection or image of nature it’s a portrait of life. So in all drawings there is some element of truth even when drawing fantasy art or optical tricks.
Does Myke have a real job?
Myke has had 20 years in advertising as a creative. he still freelances regularly, But feels “Children’s book illustration” is a real job – actually it’s the hardest job in the world writing and drawing great stories.
It looks easy, but actually It’s harder than advertising. It’s harder than most jobs because there is no right or wrong way to go. You have to come up with a winning, original idea that will make an impact over thousands of other titles. Cracking a bestselling book is hard. It takes years of thought, years of drawing, years or research, years of planning and creating your characters, themes and often years perfecting a brilliant idea. That’s why there are truly very little memorable artists that make it to the big time. That’s why so many people say “get a real job.” Because to actually make it as an artist, you have to be dreaming to start with or in some fantasy land to achieve such heights.
But it’s doable and real.
What occupies Myke’s mind when he works?
Day dreams and more day dreams. Myke has always been a dreamer.
Does Myke think about the kids who’ll read his book when he’s working on it?
Yes, Myke always has ideas about who might read the book and will always write to a particular audience. The best stories come from years of telling his own kids stories and seeing their reaction. Myke has five kids and he often throws “plot lines” and “ideas” up or at his kids to see what flies or what crashes and burns.
How does anyone start an illustrated book?
Write, scribble, plan and draw. Write, scribble, sketch and draw. Jot notes, use sticky notes, write, plan, scribble, sketch and draw. Slowly the work will reveal itself. Slowly you build your book from the ground up.
How does Myke feel about people not liking his work?
It’s OK. But Myke is often disappointed and takes it personally. It’s just with time you get used to people not liking some things. You have to take it on board as constructive comments and not let it hold you back but take the comments and build a better design or draw a better drawing or just flat out prove them wrong.
How does anyone know when an illustration is finished?
In a way, the illustration talks to you. It tells you when it’s done. It may not come straight away, but after years of observation and drawing you just kind of know.
Is it important to be groovy or fun?
In some cases – Yes! But in other cases – No. But groovy and fun are always at the back of Mykes mind when he draws. It’s like the emotion you uses to fuel the fire and the drive to create something.
It’s in perception and in the illustrations. But Myke always tries to have fun with his craft or class or workshops.
What are the tricks Myke likes to use?
My only real trick is how I artfully cover mistakes. Good artists learn to be great by artfully covering their mistakes or learns how to make their mistakes, or slip ups, their unique handwriting or a wondrous stylisation that everyone loves.
All the other, so called tricks, are useful tools employed by learned craftsmen to demonstrate; depth of field, light, colour, expression, movement and life. They are very much taught skills and can be taught to anyone, through practice and patience they aren’t really tricks as such.
Myke seems to live the dream? Are there any unfulfilled ambitions?
Just wait and see. Myke’s not dead yet!
Is there any great magic process for illustrating a picture book?
Start with a brilliant idea – settle for nothing less. Then hard work, practice, lots of ceative thinking time, lots of time alone in thought and lots more hard work.
The golden rule since, Thomas Edison – “1% inspiration, 99% perspiration”.
What medium does Myke use for illustration? And why use a computer?
Myke likes to hand draw everything and then scan and colour or effect these hand drawn or painted elements in the computer using Adobe Photoshop. The simple reason for this is that inside the computer there is little mess and it’s fun exploring the digital effects.
What things did Myke’s parents tell him?
When Myke begged his father to buy the biggest ‘Spirex Sketchbook’ he’d ever seen aged roughly five. His father turned to him and said, “Make every drawing count!”
It’s the sand in the oyster that makes the pearls so Myke thanks his parents for the pushes not the praise. Comments like; “Get a real job. You can’t be a ‘starving artist’ all your life.”
“Don’t give up your day job.” Was another line, but that underlying insecurity in his parents tone, only drove Myke to better perfect his talent.
Myke knows they are proud parents.
What’s more important, the writing or the pictures?
Myke learnt this as an art director in advertising doing Television commercials. You turn the sound off to see if the visual works and you close your eyes and see if the soundtrack works. With books it very important to balance both well – “It’s the marriage between the two, writing and illustrations.”
When does Myke get his best ideas?
At the oddest times.
Driving a car, shaving, in the shower, while cooking dinner, on the toilet, just before bed, while snorkelling or just day dreaming in the park. On the train, definitely while zoned out on the train.
Will drawing as a job be taken over by computers?
You will always have artists. Always have writers. Computers may attempt to mimic life, but they will never replace an artisan. Why? because Myke believes “you need to fathom the soul of an artist and that’s something a computer can’t compute.”
This is the reason for diversity and the enduring place artists have in our culture and our future, as we all, search and strive in our human way to make this world better or more.