Illustration by Kris Black of a stack of books with a pen at the top

I’m writing a series of articles about children’s book authors and illustrators. These articles are a collection of my thoughts and observations about the artists. By no means do I consider myself a critic with any clout within the children’s literature industry. I’m doing this merely to study other creators of children’s books for my betterment.

In these articles, I’ll share insights I observe of the artist’s writing, illustration style, and overall storytelling. You may disagree with some of my observations which is fine and expected. You may also have some views of your own, and if you wish to share them, please do so in the comments.First up on my list of creators:

  • David Wiesner
  • Mo Willems
  • Eric Carle
  • Shel Silverstein
  • David Shannon
  • Jon Klassen

I’ll be adding to this list over time, as I discover writers and illustrators whose work I admire and respect. I’m also compiling lists of creators from the comic book industry whom I want to research and write about as well. I’m mainly looking for storytellers that create stories that resonate with me, and have a style I want to consume, and, in some fashion, incorporate into my own work.If there are creators in children’s books or comics you admire, please let me know in the comments.

Illustration by Kris Black of a ringing alarm clock

My phone’s alarm clock goes off at 4:30 a.m. every work day. I tiptoe through the house desperately hoping the creaky hardwood floors do not disturb my family.

I’ve been getting up this early for years. I find that I’m most creative at the start of my day. With a full-time job as a web designer and developer, I spend my entire day being creative, so it’s essential to have a couple hours to myself each morning.

But before I tell you about my mornings, let me take you back in time and share a little personal history.

A Creative Breakdown

In the early years of my career, I worked as a graphic designer and then an art and photography director. I was always (and still am) a bit restless, wanting to pursue new things.

This restlessness led me to shift my focus to the web. I taught myself how to write code and design websites. In 2006, I got my first freelance project building an e-commerce website. I was able to scale my freelance web design over the years. Around 2011, I pursued starting up a small agency, creating sites for small businesses and other creative professionals.

The constant situation in my career is having a day job and doing freelance projects on the side. I’ve been continuously working for others. Currently, I enjoy my day job as a web designer and developer. I am fortunate to have a career where I’m respected in my local community of creatives. My path has provided my family and me a positive work-life balance.

However, in 2017, I experienced what I can only describe as a creative breakdown. I felt lost and confused. I was struggling to understand why I felt this way. I have a supportive wife and kids whom I love and adore. I enjoy where I work and the people I work with. By all accounts, I should be 100% happy and satisfied.

The Real Wake-up Call

My wife, Stacey, suggested that I talk to a professional that could help sort out my confusion. Stacey and I discussed some options, and I decided to ask a life coach for help.

My life coach listened to my concerns. She asked questions about what I want from myself and my career. Then she provided honest, unbiased feedback. She was a metaphorical alarm clock. She sounded the alarm to my creative wake-up call.

Waking Up

It’s been a year since I saw my life coach. I got the direction and push I needed, and I’ve been moving in a direction that doesn’t lead me to feel lost and confused anymore.

I enjoy the stability of my day job, and the financial freedom it allows for me to pursue a passion I’ve had since middle school. I want to create stories for others to enjoy through my skills as an illustrator and cartoonist.

Some people might think I’ve wasted nearly 20 years not working as an illustrator. However, the last 20 years have given me the opportunity to grow as a graphic and web designer. Skills I’m going to need to propel myself as an illustrator, a storyteller, and an independent worker.

Moving Forward

I arrive at work between 5:30 to 5:45 a.m. As I enter the building, I turn off the alarm, flip on the lights, and walk to my desk. It’s eerily quiet for this building which typically has more than 20 creative professionals busily working, but they won’t start trickling in until about 8:00 a.m.

After I prepare a hot cup of tea, I settle down at my desk. Until the summer of 2017, I would typically work on someone else’s dream. Now I’m working toward my own goals. I built my website, and it’s ready to show the world what I can do.

I’m going to be a successful storyteller and illustrator of children’s books and comics. I hope you’ll join me and follow along on my quest by becoming a patron.

Self-Portrait of Kris Black

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