What is the secret of your success?
I think it’s probably an odd combination of factors. Tenacity, a little talent, the need to put food on the table. It’s amazing how motivating the need to put food on the table is. Beyond all that, I think I’ve been very good at figuring out where I fit in the world of illustration and design and then always being able to adapt as an artist to the shifts and changes within the market.
If I gave you $50 for every drawing you’ve ever drawn how much money would you have?
$12,500,000. Easily. If you throw in doodles, I gotta top $32,600,000.
Apart from illustration what other things are you into?
I’m always working and on a very wide array of projects. When I’m not, I like to cook, read, travel, walk, watch movies and fix things. I live in a 200-year-old house on Cape Cod so I always seem to be fixing something.
Who are your favourite artists/illustrators alive today?
Man, this is a loaded question. Too many illustrators are my friends and I wouldn’t want to leave any of them out! Lemme answer your question this way by telling you what illustration I can’t stand: 80% of the picture books being published today, 98% of all cereal box illustration, 52% of animation design, 81% of all political cartooning. Open any illustration directory and I can promise you 90% of it will either bore me to tears or make me want to puke.
What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Never submit a rough sketch to an art director that you wouldn’t want to take to final art. Actually, that’s MY piece of advice, and I give it out to anyone who will listen.
Have you ever or have you thought about animating your work?
I did quite a bit of animation design, storyboarding and direction a few years ago. I designed fake commercials for ‘The Ren and Stimpy Show’, designed maybe 8 episodes of ‘Dexter’s Laboratory’ and created the characters for ‘PowerPuff Girls’. I also designed the ‘Aku’s Fairy Tales’ episode of ‘Samurai Jack’. I don’t do as much animation design as I have in the past, but when it comes along I usually take it on because I really enjoy those projects and animators today are better able to match my aesthetic vision than they have in the past.
Are you involved in any collaborative projects at the moment and is there anyone you would like to work with?
I have always enjoyed collaborating with writers, creators and visual artists because it always brings out something new and fresh. Right now I’m working on a children’s picture book with Exene Cervenka, the lead singer from the punk band ‘X’. I’m also illustrating a picture book by Jack Lechner, a film producer who wrote a terrific rhyme-based book called ‘Mary Had A Little Lamp’. Actually, ANY project I’m working on seems like it is collaborative because you’re working with editors, art directors and other creative people. In a perfect world, they contribute to the overall aesthetic vision — by sitting back and letting me do what I do best.
On your site is says “Bob will be happy to sign any book you forward onto him (provided it’s a book that he authored and/or illustrated!)”. Have you been sent books that weren't authored or illustrated by you before? :)
Ewwww, that would be very odd. People send me books all the time to sign, but happily I’ve never been sent another author’s work.
What’s next in the pipeline for Bob Staake?
I’m working on six new children’s books right now, two of them being pop-up books which should be real fun. I’ve also designed a line of coffee and tea products that will be released in the fall of 2007. I’ve got a couple upcoming ‘New Yorker’ covers. A word game of mine will be on the market soon. I’m probably forgetting another 12 projects.
Political cartoons or non-political cartoons?
Maybe I’m getting old but to me all cartooning these days comes off as sad and the product of formulaic creation that was inventive in the 1970s but today is nothing more than lazy, shallow and as interesting as a loaf of white bread. Newspapers are dropping their political cartoonists like flies and filling the space with middle-of-the-road syndicated fare, the magazine gag cartoon simply doesn’t exist anymore, there isn’t a single comic strip being created today that I have any interest in reading. Cartoonists on the whole have been frightfully bad at anticipating changes within the publishing market and aren’t nimble enough to respond and evolve in a way that insures their work remains important and viable. Other cartoonists will find this comment and blog on and on and on about what an asshole I am for saying it — INSTEAD of spending time figuring out why cartoons and comics continue their slide into the wastebin of cultural obscurity. Sorry guys, it’s the truth.
Bob Monkhouse or Bob the Builder?
Heads it’s Monkhouse, tails it’s Builder. It’s Monkhouse.
Boiled, poached or scrambled?
Over-easy with salsa and cheese on a flour tortilla. With lots and LOTS of coffee.
You can see more of Bob Staake’s work at