Artist Interview - Goosebumps Illustrator Tim Jacobus

Who are you and what do you do?

Tim Jacobus. I am the original Goosebumps Illustrator.  I am an artist, illustrator, art director, and dad.


What inspires your art?

Illustration is much less about being “inspired” and more about conveying another person’s ideas and concepts


How and when did you get into art?

I liked to draw as a kid. I did think of it as a possible career until I was a senior in high school. I took a commercial art class at a local vocational school. It was the first time I was exposed to production art. I was hooked.


What was it like creating the Goosebumps covers?

Goosebumps was a blast. It was the gift that keeps on giving. 25+ years later and we are still talking about it


What was your process for creating the Goosebumps cover illustrations?
RL Stine was always writing the book at the same time I was I was doing the cover, so I never got a full book to read.  I got a synopsis - 1 sentence - a paragraph - and that's all that I needed to get started. The next step was to do thumbnail sketches. These are tiny rough sketches just to get your ideas down on paper. Once my ideas came together, I would pick two or three and draw them up - 8 x 10 tight sketches. I would submit them to Scholastic and they would choose the sketch they liked.  Next - a color comp. This is a mini painting to get the colors worked out. Then on to the final art. All the original covers were traditional art - acrylic paint on illustration board, using a sable brush and an airbrush to smooth things out.


How long did each cover illustration take you to create?

About a week


Which Goosebumps cover is your favorite and why?

It changes often. Today it’s Curse of Camp Cold Lake


Which Goosebumps cover was the biggest challenge and why?

Invasion of the Body Squeezers - It was a single image that was split into 2 covers. Tough composition to lay out… Really hard to ship - It was a 40”x30”



Do you have any unique stories about being the Goosebumps Illustrator you’d like to tell?

In 1991, there was no internet and I had no kids who were Goosebumps age. I was just making cool images, alone, in my house. I’m pretty sure I was one of the last people to know that Goosebumps was a phenomenon.


How has your practice changed over time?

Many thousands of hours later, I don’t freak out that I won’t be able to figure out how to make an illustration look “right”.


What’s your favorite piece of art that you’ve created? Why?

It’s called Sea Flight. It’s a piece I did for me – not a commission. It was three separate concepts that I merged into a single image. The results were unique.


What’s the best piece of art advice you’ve been given?

“Just finish it”… Don’t leave a piece of art incomplete – no matter how much you dislike it. Finish – learn from it – move on to the next piece. Quitting on a piece is not an option.


What’s one art tip/technique you can share with us that you find really helpful?

Keep your hands clean. Sounds silly. The natural dirt and oils from your hands change the working surface drastically. It’s an easy one and will save you hours.


Do you have any secret tips or techniques you use to salvage a piece when you make a mistake?

I work digitally a lot, now. There are many fewer salvaging operations. When I chose to work with acrylics, it was for a reason. Acrylics are very “forgivable”. Any color will cover any other color. It dries fast and permanent. Not easily damaged. These facts kept me out of trouble before I could get into it.


What is your favorite Strathmore paper? Why?

Right now, I use a lot of Strathmore drawing paper – medium surface. Even though I do a lot of digital work, I sketch all the time.


What art materials could you not live without?

Acrylics and Sable brushes


Who are your biggest influences (or who were when you started doing art)?

Roger Dean – Album artist for the band Yes. He changed the way I looked at art.


What’s the most common art-related question you get? And how do you answer it?

Q: “How did you draw that?”

A: “I’m not really sure”.


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