Gryphons, Explorers, Monkey Barbers, and Santa: A Busy Year for Cale Atkinson!

Hey Cale! Thanks for joining me here to talk about your upcoming 2016 titles!

Thanks for having me over Dylan! I love what you’ve done with the place. How about I put the kettle on, make some tea, and try not to ramble too much.

Tell us a little bit about the title that came out just a while ago that you illustrated, If I Had a Gryphon.

‘If I had a Gryphon’ is a super fun book written by the awesomely talented Vikki Vansickle! It follows a girl named Sam, as she imagines how fun (or not fun) it would be to have different mythological creatures as pets, instead of her boring Hamster. The instant I read the manuscript I knew I had to illustrate this book and gripped onto it like a Hippogriff! In many ways it was really a dream project for myself. I mean what’s not to love about getting to draw all sorts of fantastic beasts in a fun silly way! Krakens, Unicorns and Sasquatches, oh my! I couldn’t be more proud of how it turned out.61sCaN30xfL.jpg

Tell us a little bit more about Explorers of the Wild, which will hit shelves very soon!

Explorers of the Wild is the 2nd book I wrote (following To the Sea) and ohhhhhh my gosh am I EXCITED about it! The story follows a boy and a bear who both LOVE exploring, adventuring, and discovering all the amazing things around the outdoors. They are prepared for anything and everything, well everything, except discovering each other. While the story is about getting outside and exploring, there is a underlining theme of openness and realizing that no matter how different you look on the outside, you may easily be the exact same on the inside.


I really wanted to create full lush illustrations for this story to try and capture the feel of being in the outdoors, including all sorts of little hidden creatures to discover throughout! Be sure to hunt out the snails!



Explorers of the Wild comes out April 26 through Disney Hyperion and I really can’t wait for everyone to see it! I hope it urges readers to go out and explore the wild, as well as be a little more open to others, no matter how different they look.

And then you also have a summer title, Maxwell the Monkey Barber coming in a few months. What’s that about?

Yes! Maxwell is my 3rd written book, though the idea for the story has been floating around my head for a long time! Maxwell the Monkey Barber follows a monkey named Maxwell, who is a barber. (Didn’t see that coming did you!) Ok aside from what you probably already guessed, the book is a rhyming format story. It takes place at Maxwell’s Barbershop, where he effortlessly gives all the hairy and overgrown jungle beasts stylish trims and chops. Each animal leaves Maxwell’s shop feeling great, excited to show off their new look. Everything is going smooth, that is until Elephant slumps into the shop. With no hairs on his head, Elephant is feeling left out, he wishes he could look as stylish as all the other animals. What is Maxwell to do?!


Maxwell the Monkey Barber if full of all sorts of animals, bright jungle backgrounds, and of course, lots of HAIR! It’s a light, fun tale, but still takes the time to make sure everyone leaves the shop feeling great!

Maxwell comes out August 15 through Owl kids!

2016 is a busy year for you, as this fall, another title you illustrated, The Day Santa Stopped Believing in Harold, will be released! How about that title?

Haha yes non-stop books this year! I hope everyone doesn’t get sick of me! O_O The Day Santa Stopped Believing in Harold is my 2nd book working with Tundra books (the first being Gryphon). Get yourselves ready for one grumpy and pouty Santa! Up at the North Pole the big man in the red suit can’t shake one thought running through his mind, What if Harold isn’t real? All the evidence is piling up, and Santa can’t ignore it any longer, he just didn’t believe in Harold anymore. No matter what Mrs. Clause, the elves, or reindeer say, Santa wasn’t having it! He needed to find out, is Harold real?! Meanwhile way down south, Harold was unable to shake his own thought, what if Santa isn’t real?


I had a blast illustrating Maureen Fergus’ wonderful story and love her new fun take on the Christmas theme! I hope everyone enjoys joining Santa as he investigates, questions and journeys to find Harold!



The Day Santa Stopped Believing in Harold comes out October 11th through Tundra Books.

What do you use to illustrate your books? Can you tell us about your process?

Absolutely! How are you doing on tea? Here, let me get that kettle back on.

All my final artwork for books is done digitally on the computer using the program Photoshop. I own a screen called a Wacom Cintiq which allows me to draw and paint directly on top of the screen. I do some early sketching and planning on paper, but once I get into really sketching out the pages and coloring, it’s all on the computer.

A quick run down of my process for illustrating would be:

1) Read the manuscript of the book
2) Look up and research any reference I may need (like if it’s a book about cars, I’ll look up photos of cars, or if It’s a book about dogs, I’ll look up a bunch of photos of dogs.)
3) Sketch out some ideas on how the main characters could look and start thinking about the style of the book.
4) Sketch out the whole book in tiny little rough drawings called ‘thumbnails’.
5) Do the same thing as above but with colors to figure out the main mood and colors that will work to tell the story. These would be called ‘color thumbnails’ or a ‘color script’.
6) Using those really rough and messy thumbnail drawings as a guide, I’ll sketch out each one of the book’s pages on the computer.
7) Once all the sketches are done and good to go, I’ll start painting and coloring all the pages on the computer.
8) Celebrate finishing the book with a victory dance and a tasty cookie or other treat of equal deliciousness.


Have you always been into writing and illustrating?

I actually really have, pretty much ever since I can remember I’ve been drawing and writing in various forms. In elementary school I was writing, drawing and even selling my own comics to classmates (though I don’t know if they were the best deal!) Soon after that I was working on my own picture book ideas, comic strips, movies, cartoons, you name it! I think I’ve just always been in love with storytelling, being able to come up with ideas, create them (in one form or another) and then share them!

What’s the most exciting part of your job?

There are many exciting things about my job! Being able to tell my own stories is amazing. Being able to work with awesome writers and help bring their stories to life through my art is also amazing! Then being able to share those stories with the world and see that others connect with them is CRAZY AMAZING!

What inspires your creativity?

Inspiration is a tricky beast, sometimes it just comes to you eazy peezy, and other times you really have to search for it, which can feel as hard as spotting a Unicorn eating a taco. I personally get inspired from all sorts of things! Things that happen in my life, from small every day things, to super big once-in-a-lifetime things.  Things that I love to do, like travelling to different parts of the world, always fill me with inspiration. Things I see, such as movies, books, people, and animals. Inspiration really can lurk around every corner!


What is one thing that readers don’t know about you, that only you could tell us?

Hmmm well I’ve always been a big animal lover and grew up in a house always full of pets, including many dogs, cats, hamsters, rats, hedgehogs, fish, budgies, parrots, and even an iguana that grew to be a couple feet in size!

If you weren’t writing and illustrating books, what do you think you’d be doing?

I think I’d still be telling stories in some way or another, maybe telling them in cartoons, comic strips or movies. Otherwise I will always fancy the idea of being an archeologist like Indiana Jones, discovering ancient artifacts and going on wild adventures!

What can readers expect from you in the future?

MORE BOOKS! I’m working hard to get more stories out of my head and hopefully into reader’s hands! 🙂 I think I’m more excited than anyone else to find out what’s next!

Anything else you’d like to share with readers of this blog?

Thanks so much to all of you for reading my books! You all make me so happy! *u*

I also want to remind anyone out there, if you have a passion or a dream, go after it! Go try stuff, go make stuff, and don’t be afraid of not being good at it, just have fun doing it!

Thanks for interview Dylan!

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