Robert Scully is a professional artist who lives to create. When he is not at his job as SVP Design Director for a design firm, you will find him working, creating ,and exploring the creative universe through his children’s books. He works in close collaboration with his wife, Anne Scully as they live and create in New York with their two young children.
S&A: Your story is interesting, how does one go from standout graphic artist to childrens storybook writer?
RS: For me, it started back in College at Parsons New School for Design where I received my BFA in Illustration. I have always had a passion for childrens books and knew i wanted to create my own. In the mean time, I had to pay the bills so I started to work in the design field concentrating on Web Design & Animation as well as Package and Brand Design, which is what I do now. I enjoy both Design and Illustration and I see them as interconnected fields. My background in Design compliments my illustrations and allows me more independence designing, promoting and publishing my work.
S&A: Describe the moment leading up to your decision to write the 1st book
RS: The desire to illustrate a book has been with me since college. The driving force that made me stick to my idea and see it through to completion, was the pending birth of my son 6 years ago. My wife had written a story for me many years ago “Jack and the Lost Tooth” and I worked on it sporadically. But it was when i found out we were expecting my son, i knew i needed to buckle down and I stuck to his due date as my due date for our first book. The book was an experiment and learning experience. And, like parenting for the first time, you learn quickly and make adjustments and power through. I learned a lot which helped pave the way for future work.
We had started a second book ”Practice Pet” but I took a detour from that briefly and that’s when “Stumble Trip Fall” was created. It was my first attempt at writing and illustrating. The story is very personal to me as it mirrors my own journey with creating childrens books; finding my way and never giving up.
S&A: Now that your second childrens book is out, prior to its acclaim, what was it that kept you coming back for more?
RS: I have to say, I would be doing this even if I didnt make a dime or if no one read them (and i havent made a dime yet). I just love childrens book, especially picture books, since I was a young child. I have such great memories of my parents reading them to me. Like most children , I enjoyed drawing, but at the age of six, I realized that I wanted to draw when I grew up. Incorporating storytelling into my art-making wasn’t something I realized I enjoyed until I was in college and I have been working towards my goal ever since.
S&A: What obstacles have you faced breaking into the world of childrens books?
RS: That is a great question. It is a very tough and highly competitive field to break into. Its more than just having a great portfolio, luck and perseve
rance help a lot too. It’s a challenge to try to make yourself stand out among all the other talented artists. Getting your name and your work out there is one of the most important pieces of advice I can share as well as honing your craft. I am still trying to figure out the lay of the land, how to open doors, and making the right connections. There are no guarantees but at the end I know I will be able to look back and say I gave it my all with no regrets. Go for your dreams and not “making it” is better than not going for anything and always wondering if you could have made it.
S&A: Have you thought of dabbling in animation?
RS: I started my career in the animation field working on stop-motion TV commercials for Chex Mix, internet flash animations and also in-betweening on a Marvel Comic project — which was a dream come true. I recently had our book “Practice Pet” made into a interactive iPad book that was published by Storypanda. I added simple animation to the pages. It was a lot of fun it was great to go back to my roots where It all started.
S&A: What other skills & talents do you have?
RS: I am an excellent Salsa Dancer, I have a degree in quantum physics, and I am a great liar. No, but seriously, Art has been and is who I am and what defines me. It is the one and only thing that I have been put here to do. Well, that and also take out the trash, and put the kids to bed.
S&A: As FB friends, I enjoy your side-by-side art session posts with your son. In hopes of inspiring others,
please tell our audience a bit of what thats about.
RS: I am always drawing or on the computer working and my son, who had just turned 5, asked me if I could draw teenage mutant ninja turtles. I told him, Sure! Lets draw him together! So that is how it began. The way it works is every Saturday my wife goes to work in the morning, which gives me and the kids some “play time”. My son picks a character he wants to draw. We both get some paper and pencils out and I show him the shapes that make up the characters and what it takes to make a sketch to a finish colored piece. It’s been a great way to expose him to all the old classic cartoons and for me to become acquainted with all the new ones. We have had a blast with it. We both get so much out of it. We have just completed our 50th side by side drawing together. My daughter, who is 2, will hopefully join us soon if she wants to. She has already begun to draw faces on her own and is very picky about her drawing supplies.
S&A: Whats next for you both personally & professionally?
RS: Well I read something recently from a friend of mine that really hit home and something that I hope I can aspire to. I do more than make art. Im a Family Man that makes art on the side. I find myself trying to balance personal life and my professional life. They definitely crossover especially since me and Anne collaborate so closely on projects. Personally I am looking forward to the holidays and spending time with the family. Professionally I am back to working on another story with Anne about a squirrel . We should be rapping it up mid 2014. We are very excited about this story. I am really starting to find my groove and hope to continue tell the stories we want to tell and just have a lot of fun doing it.
My personal life and professional life coincide closely. My personal identity and my identity as a childrens book illustrator are so enmeshed with my family that they seem to ebb and flow together, which i like. Its nice to mix business and pleasure. My plan is to continue to put out stories with my wife as long as I remember to take out the trash and continue to draw with my children as long as Im a cool dad. Anne and I have already begun a severely new story, “Squirrel Goes Nuts! should be out in 2014.
S&A: Would you like to offer any advice or inspiration for those readers considering your line of work?
RS: Make your dreams come true! Sounds cliche’, but it can happen if you work hard enough, want it enough and also have some talent and luck on your side. The best piece of advice I could give is try and find your authentic self; the thing that make you unique, the the thing that make you, You! Its not easy and can change over time. Im still searching. We are all capable of doing amazing things. Determining what that is and what feels right for you is part of life’s journey. Whether it is through art, dance, music, writing or drawing from personal experience and using it in a way that helps express thoughts, ideas and feelings. Choosing a career in the arts should be made for the love of art not for thoughts of fame and fortune.