Bob Staake

Things people know about me:
. I'm the author and/or illustrator of over 50 books for kids
. I do work for The New Yorker, The Washington Post, The New York Times, MAD, TIME, MTV/Nickelodeon, Little Golden Books, Random House, Cartoon Network and Hallmark Cards
. I rarely pencil out an illustration before going straight to the final, color artwork
. I've designed, written and co-directed numerous episodes of Ren + Stimpy, Dexter's Laboratory, Powerpuff Girls and Samurai Jack
. I still create all my work using Photoshop 3.0

Things people don't know about me:
. I was busted for climbing the Lincoln Memorial
. ID magazine named my studio one of 'The 40 Most Amazing Design Offices' in the world
. I've written stand-up material for Jay Leno, Rodney Dangerfield and Joan Rivers
. I have one of the most extensive private collections of Heywood-Wakefield Mid-Century Modern furniture from the 40's and 50's
. I bake some pretty incredible double-fudge chocolate chip cookies

Scene from 'The Donut Chef' (2009, Random House and Golden Books)
Book reviewers always point out that my work has both a retro and contemporary feel. If I can have a lot of stuff going on in a scene, it keeps the book fresh the next time a kid (or parent) reads it.

The Transcontinental Welt (character study)
Most of my picture books begin with me envisioning a certain character, which I render, and then see if I can build a story around it. I'll bet that for every book I always have published, I write an additional 15 to 20 stories that I abandon for one reason or another.

Midnight Prom (Rejected cover idea for 'The New Yorker')
This is how I work when I submit a cover idea to the magazine. I try and give the magazine a solid idea of where I intend to go with color, composition and concept, but I may deviate from the sketch when going to final.

Read (poster designed to encourage reading by kids)
It's really a very simple image. I've always enjoyed drawing dinosaurs and the Empire State Building, so combining the two seemed to make perfect sense.

Reflection (The New Yorker - November 17, 2008)
My best-known cover for the magazine. The reflection in the water symbolizes the bars of slavery, leading up to Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, and finally culminating with the ubiquitous 'O' of the Obama presidential campaign. Prints of this cover continue to sell incredibly well - and two years after Obama's victory. I rarely do a hyper-realistic image like this, but when I need to do so to make a certain idea work, I won't hesitate to alter my style.

We Planted A Tree by Diane Muldrow (2010, Random House and Golden Books)
My picture books are noted for their endpapers, and while I typically create them using a geometric repeat design of some sort, for this book I thought it would be best to take a more abstract and colorful view of what appear to be candy-like lollipop trees.

Releasing The Vapor - 2008
This was actually a piece I did for BLAB (Fantagraphics), and while I like the image, I wound up doing something else for the anthology. I didn't sketch anything here first, just started playing with the shapes that I saw in my head -- and then laid them all down in the scene. I create all my work in Photoshop 3.0 using a mouse (I've never even tried a Wacom), and the older I get, the more I seem to be using dramatic lighting to really set a mood.

The Ships Arrive (scene from 'The Red Lemon', 2006 - Random House and Golden Books)
I probably have more fun when I get to use impossible angles, exaggerated lines and abstracted forms in a scene like this. If I can make all the elements sort of "lock" together visually like a jigsaw puzzle, it forces the reader's eye to always scan for new little graphic surprises.

Escape From The Museum ('Look! A Book!' 2011, Little Brown)
This is a scene from a very, very elaborate book of mine that comes out next Fall. You can't see it here, but there are all sorts of weird die-cuts on each page that reveal hidden surprises. When I work on a picture book, I also go to that little "inner child" in my head and try to create imagery that I would have found mesmerizing as a little boy growing up in Southern California in the 1960s.

FEZ (Poster Design - 2009)
I have always been inspired by european poster art of the Mid-20th Century, and this image proves it. It's one of the "faux-poster" images I create for non-existent products, just images I do for myself. I've been trying this year to create unique posters like this, and my fans just love purchasing them -- because they're honest and unique.

Deep Dish Pizza (personal piece, 2010)
I really like clean, graphic design, so when I need to make a simple statement or allusion to a metaphor, I try to keep things uncluttered. Here a simmering red body accentuates the slice of pizza, a restrained glow of lighting and shadows creating a stark aura.

And Sap For Our Syrup (scene from We Planted A Tree by Diane Muldrow - 2010 by Random House and Golden Books)
Composition is very important to me, and I always try to bring heightened visual drama into each book spread. The village buildings in background are god examples of the decorative elements that I incorporate into my scenes.

The Line Snakes (scene from 'The Donut Chef' - 2010 by Random House /
Golden Books)
I always try to mix up my characters graphically -- some fat, some skinny, some short, some tall -- because I think it makes things more interesting for kids. I also thing there's no reason why characters can't be black and white and red and green and blue.

Petzoopolis (poster that accompanies 'Pets Go Pop' - 2009, Little Brown)
I love graphic simplicity, but sometimes I need to get chaotic - like in this zoo poster. While this image appears small, the actual poster measures 4 feet by 2 feet, so I had plenty of real estate to work with -- and all sorts of goofy things hide among the animals and kids.

Interlocking Robots (BLAB, Fantagraphics 2009)
I love creating very meticulous, geometric images and have always been inspired by negative spaces. By using positive and negative space, this robotic optical illusion came to be.

99 Cats (poster, 2010)
I love cats, so will jump at any chance to draw 99 of them (I also did a version of 99 dogs) The posters are available to buy.

Contact Bob Staake

My website is

People can see videos of how I work by going here.

My Facebook page.

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