Personalized Custom Kids’ Illustrated Artwork by Chris Clarke of 12 for 12 Designs
I’ve known Chris Clarke for years and through his “day job” he’s even been a client of mine on more than one occasion. But until recently, I had no idea he was such a talented artist. And a generous one at that: This past spring he donated a personalized custom kids’ illustrated artwork to my son’s preschool auction and well, I couldn’t help but bid on it myself!
Waylon is OBSESSED with the custom poster Chris made for him. He calls it “my sign” and asks about all the characters every morning. He literally squeals with delight when he notices something new. I’m in awe the creativity and care Chris put into it—he incorporated all of Waylon’s favorite book characters, from Peter to Eloise, The Wild Things to The Wizard of Oz gang, Gerald to Corduroy, all surrounding his prized possession: his Janod guitar. Waylon and his microphone even made it into the mix and his name and birthday are hidden in the details. We’re all majorly in love with it!
This is maybe the best present I can imagine for any kid (or kid-at-heart), so I wanted to share it here along with a Q&A with the artist:
Thanks for the amazing work you did on Waylon’s piece and thank you for letting me feature you and your work on the blog. Can you tell us a bit about your artistic background?
Chris Clarke: I loved to draw from an early age. Most of my “training” was tracing comic books as a kid and doodling throughout my grammar school and High School years. When did you start illustrating? In college, I started drawing with more frequency, designing tee shirts and doing work for Student Activities while at LeMoyne College. That love of drawing also led to a summer internship at Marvel Comics. What has kept you going? I have always been one to draw during meetings, but there was no rhyme, reason or real productivity for years. I just have an inherent need to doodle…
How did 12 for 12 Designs come about?
CC: It’s funny, as my drawing was very minimal for a large number of years. Things started changing when my son, Ben was born. There were the late nights when he was first born and then I decided to maximize those late nights by creating something for his nursery. After folks saw that, I ended up doing it for my nieces and nephews, then friends inquired and the circle widened. The name “12 for 12” is actually based on my son’s birthday (December 4, 2012) and my favorite basketball player, John Stockton (#12). Since that first nursery piece I have been creating somewhat regularly and producing pieces for auctions, nurseries, anniversaries, Brooklyn art shows and even a ComicCon appearance.
If someone is interested in a custom piece like why you did for Waylon, what is that process like?
CC: Usually, I send a questionnaire with a helpful caveat that tells people to add everything and anything they want and I’ll do my best to incorporate those items. Folks also send photos for reference (people, homes, pets, etc.). The timeframe depends on what I have already committed to; I usually take about a month to deliver the piece. All of that depends on other orders, and the schedule of my full time “real” job and family life.
Tell me a bit about your process… Do you have an idea in your head about how it’s all going to fit together or do you just give it a go and see where it takes you?
CC: Usually the questionnaire is what guides me. Something will stand out as the lead influence and all the rest stems from there. Sometimes I will do a thumbnail sketch to get started, but the finished pieces seldom resemble what I started out with.
Besides the cool kiddo art you create, are there other types of projects you like to work on?
CC: I have always been a closeted “comic geek”, but nowadays it is in fashion, so more folks are asking for pieces based on comic books and I am happy to oblige. I have also been asked to create characters for animation and RPG pitches, so that adds a creative element which I enjoy.
What’s the oddest or funniest thing you’ve ever been asked to include in one of your illustrations?
CC: One piece requested a lacrosse game between the cast of Star Trek playing against Hercules, Janet Jackson and a team of random other characters… that was a bit on the odd side.
What do you love to draw that you don’t get to draw enough of and, what do you hate to draw that you get asked to draw all the time?
CC: I do not get to draw large (I mean really large) overwhelming pieces with hundreds and hundreds of details- that is something that I love, but do not get to do often. One of my favorite pieces was where I drew every G.I. Joe character in an American Flag- that kept me busy for weeks. As to what sometimes gets tough- it is where I am basically just copying art and arranging it into a piece, where there is minimal creativity and little of my “handprint” on the piece. I learn a lot from doing it, but always feel there could have been more to it.
And finally, can you tell everyone a little bit more about you and your sweet family?
CC: I can honestly say I am living my dream life. I have a beautiful and loving wife (who puts up with my nonsense) and two amazing kids, Ben and Paige. They are the reason behind everything I do and I could not ask for more. We live up in in Connecticut and have two crazy Beagles (Peanut and JJ) to keep things even more interesting! Drawing is just a rewarding hobby for me. It allows me time to be creative and hopefully make someone’s day a little better. Seeing kids (or adults) treasure what I have created is an amazing and rewarding feeling.
Interested in a custom piece for a little one in your life? Reach out to Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org.