Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Q&A - Mike Ciccotello


Hi, I'm Mike Ciccotello.

Dad, Husband, Art Director by day... Illustrator by night... 


1. What are you working on?

Currently, I’m working on two picture book manuscripts, developing characters, creating new portfolio work, and illustrating regularly for 

All the Wonders – Storytime: Wishes!

2. Any Good news?

I was hired at the end of last year to create illustrations for a picture book published by Room to Read. I had the opportunity to work with freelance editor, Tamra Tuller, and Room to Read’s Associate Director of Global Book Publishing, Alisha Berger. It was my first picture book and the project wrapped up at the end of December 2015. The book will help educate children in low income African countries.
Elephant Runs, Room to Read, 2016

3. What attracted you to the field of kidlit?

I am new to the world of children’s literature. I always wanted to be in this space, I just never knew how to get here. (Thanks for the map I have always been keen on creating art for children, whether it be cartoons, comic strips, or murals. Also, as an ex-mime and devil-stick juggler, I enjoy entertaining children. In January of 2015, I took a class from, they spoke about SCBWI. In February 2015, I became a member. I attended the NJSCBWI 2015 Summer Conference and I knew I was exactly where I needed to be. A cosmic force came up, smacked me in the head, and said, 
I have so much to learn, and I look forward to it every day.

The Carrot Thief

4. What inspires you?

This list is much longer, but here are some.
Wonder in a child’s eyes, cookies, children in general, animals, cookies, sunrise and sunsets, wonky butterflies, clouds of any type, drippy ice cream cones, cookies, a blank canvas, talented artists and writers, engineers and technology, telephone poles, people, my wife and kids, love, cookies, and coffee… lots of coffee.

Once Upon a Time

5. Your Picture book process: Do the words come first or the images or both?

Well, as I mentioned, I’m very new to the world of children’s literature. I don’t think I have been doing this long enough to have a process. I’m sure I will go through many phases until I find something that works. This is how I’m currently working. I get my initial idea as a glimpse of a scene, from a story. I sketch the idea and work out any issues I have with it. Then I start daydreaming and let the idea gel into something that can be written into a manuscript. When that manuscript is submission ready, I will start adding in some character designs and sketches. That’s were I’m at right now. Check back in two months. It will probably be a little different.  

Miss Penelope

6. What's your illustration process?

I have three different styles that I’m comfortable creating consistently. Each require a slightly different process. I have been known to do work completely digital in Photoshop, or traditional, using artist markers, colored pencil, pen and ink, and acrylic paint. For the purpose of this post, I’ll outline the style I’m working on more these days. It’s a little traditional, a little digital, and requires a whole lot of love. 

Rainbow Tongue, process illustrations

I sketch ideas either on paper or digitally on a tablet. Once I have a sketch that I’m happy with I’ll transfer that, using a light board, into pen and ink on paper. I scan the pen and ink illustration then start working in black and white values in Photoshop if I’m on my desktop or ProCreate if I’m on my iPad. Once the values are set, I start working in layered color, also in Photoshop/Procreate. Above, you see the four step breakdown. Sketch, Ink, Value, and Color. Here's a movie clip showing the digital value painting.

Twitter: @ciccotello
Instagram: @ciccotello


  1. HI Mike - Great illustration process video! I want to see more of the Carrot Thief - looks very dramatic!

  2. Congratulations on your book for ROOM TO READ. It's beautiful! Thanks for sharing your video. So cool to see your work happen!

  3. Love the dog and the bird, my absolute favorite of all your work I've seen!