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Technology and Art Blends Traditional and Digital for Bob Staake

Ken Kaplan Executive Editor, iQ by Intel
Bob Staake

A popular illustrator blends tenets of old-school illustration and new-school tech tools to create colorful, quirky and quintessential drawings.

You’ve seen Bob Staake’s art on the cover of the New Yorker (where it’s appeared 17 times and counting), the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the New York Times or in any of his over 60 children’s books. His crisp lines and illustrations have been praised by Publisher’s Weekly and AdAge and lauded for their clever and innovative use of technology.

Born in the land of California sunshine, Staake currently resides in Chatham, Massachusetts where iQ caught up with him to talk about what inspires him, the dance between technology, his use of a 2 in 1 tablet along with more traditional forms of artistry, and how he comes up with ideas.

What is your creative process?

Well, I don’t have a set creative process. I’m very fortunate that I walk out of my home in the morning and, 45 feet later, I’m in my studio, and I know that my creative process is simply to create. A lot of times — what excites me most about creativity is the fact that I never really know at the beginning of the day what I’m going to have to create. So it’s always that challenge of having to do something that I haven’t done before.

Being an illustrator and author, is it challenging to do both?

I think that the illustration informs the writing, and writing informs the illustration. I like to have a balance in place between the two because it makes them both breathe and live in a happier place, to be able to have the art and the words married together.

drawing on a tablet

If you could, tell us where new ideas come from?

That’s the million-dollar question. If I knew the answer to that, I’d do it every time. You open up your mind to your muse. You never know when your muse is going to come along and bite you, and you have to seize the moment when it happens. It comes out of the blue like a bolt of lightning.

As an artist, what is something you love about technology?

I like to blend traditional art techniques with digital art techniques because I think they go well together. I’ve never felt that you had to focus simply on traditional or simply digital. By blending them together, it creates a really fun ballet. I love going back and forth, it keeps my work exciting, it keeps it viable, and hopefully, it keeps it interesting.

Digital technology to me, it’s the greatest thing ever. It changed the way I think. It changed the way I create.

How could a device like a 2 in 1, which is both laptop and tablet, help an artist like you?

I think a 2 in 1 would help any open-minded artist who wants to try a different tool and have a different experience with a tool. A 2 in 1 absolutely can open up new horizons for any creator. It is a different technology. It’s a new technology. And it’s up to the artist to go ahead and say, yeah, I’ll take a chance on this. I’ll dive in, and let’s see what this thing can do for me.

What was the transition like for you, as you started to use technology and get into creating digital illustrations?

I knew I wouldn’t be able to go ahead and just kind of tiptoe into it, so I decided one day to go ahead and just say, OK, now everything I do is going to be digital. It took me three hours to create an illustration that would take me 10 minutes on a piece of paper, but I knew that was part of the drawing curve — the learning curve. Once you get comfortable with the technology and how to create in this new environment, well, gee, then it just opens up doors. I mean, then you can find time saving ways to create and new and different ways to create and just allow your creativity to soar in ways that you can’t simply do with traditional means of creating art.

How has technology changed or influenced your drawing style?

It’s taken me down different paths that I would’ve never explored before. It’s made me a better designer. It’s made me have a better sense of color and light and staging and composition, because it enables me to go ahead and explore different options at literally the click of a button. And all of that enables me to see more options in front of my eyes.

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