Children's author and Iowa State University professor Chuck Richards started his career the same way as a lot of other writers and artists - just by playing around.
Richards Friday offered Demoney students a personal - and inspiring - view of how he developed his career writing and illustrating children's books.
Even at the tender age of five or six, Richards did a lot of drawing.
Children’s author and Iowa State University professor Chuck Richards found an enthusiastic crowd when he met with Demoney Elementary students Friday. Richards told how he developed his interest in art and telling stories into a career.
EDN photo by Michael Tidemann
"Popeye the Sailor was one of my favorite characters," he said, recalling how his father built him a light box - a wooden box with a piece of glass on the top and lightbulb inside - so Chuck could trace his own drawings rather than have his father draw them.
As he practiced tracing, he got more hand control and started putting different characters together into various situations.
It was when he was in third grade that his fascination with monsters began, and he spent his entire allowance on everything monster - monster comics, monster models, monster trading cards - monster everything. He liked monsters so much he started making his own comic books about monsters.
When he reached high school, he took his artwork a step further and began doing storyboards - just like professional artists - and even made four or five movies.
In college he decided he wanted to be an artist so he studied art history, drawing and painting.
After teaching art in college, with Olympic Gold Medalist Cael Sanderson as one of his students, Richards decided at age 45 he wanted to start writing children's books.
He sent 50 packages of his drawings to publishers, and with no luck, decided to write his own stories.
Richards said he gets his ideas by starting with "what-ifs". After he develops his story ideas he thinks about how he could illustrate them.
He starts with gesture drawings, drawing light lines and erasing as he goes and working toward finished drawings. He'll also make sculptures of his characters so he can draw them three-dimensionally. And sometimes he'll play with combining humans and animals.
He draws backgrounds, characters and props on separate sheets of paper and eventually puts them together. The very last drawing he does for a book is the cover.
Richards' books include Jungle Jim Jitters, Critter Sitter and Lulu's Magic Wand. He also illustrated Another Day for Room 37 and is at work on another book.
Richards said he usually takes two years to finish a book, with illustrations taking most of the time.
He said he likes writing his own stories and doing his own illustrations.
"Drawing for me is play. It's my work but it's also fun," he said.