I am very pleased to present to you, an interview with former Give Yourself Goosebumps artist Mark Nagata. Mr. Nagata was kind enough to provide answers and some never-before-seen concept art!
1. If you can remember, how did you become interested in art? Can you recall your first paid commission?
I've been drawing since about the age of 3. My mother was a big influence as she did art as a hobby, so I grew up seeing her draw or make clay vases. I guess my first paid art was not till early college: a pen and ink shark for a sales presentation about not taking "No' for an answer! I think I was paid $25 for it!
I had an artists representative in New York called George & Peter Lott. A father and son team that would take my portfolio around and get me commercial work from advertising, design, and publishing agencies. Goosebumps was already a popular series, so this spin off series was to expand the series. I actually had to paint a sample cover to audition for the assignment. Luckily, it was good enough to get the job. I started on the cover for issue 2 of Give Yourself Goosebumps.
3. What was your process for creating each cover? How long did it take to create each cover?
I would get a fax (yes, a fax before email!) with an outline of what the book was about. Sometimes, the art director would have a general idea or direction they wanted me to go in. Like 'we want a vampire woman' or 'we want ghosts on a roller coaster'... Towards the end of my run on the series, they let me come up with more of my own ideas. I would submit 3 sketches, and from there they would pick one to go to the final painting.
4. Which of your Give Yourself Goosebumps covers is your favorite?
5. Which of your Give Yourself Goosebumps covers is your least favorite?
Ah! I think my least favorite were the ones where too many people added their opinions or ideas into it. The Granny one is one i didn't care for. The over all layout is very boring (to me), and I think my painting is pretty poor now that I look at it!
6. Did you ever run into any trouble while creating a cover? (As an example: Did you ever have a super short period of time to create a cover? Did Scholastic ever request changes after the cover was finished?)
The turn around times were usually a week for sketches and 2 weeks for the finished painting. Usually, there weren't any changes... or, if any, very minor ones. You have to remember we had no email and faxes did not show photos very well, so basically I had to send the painting to New York (from San Francisco where I live) and wait a few days to get any reaction (good or bad) from a phone call. If any changes were needed they would send it back to me and I'd have one day to fix it, then send it back. This was typical of all my jobs back in those days.
7. Did any of your covers for this series take inspiration from other artists or other pieces of media?
Of course, Scholastic wanted the feel to be like Tim Jacobus, since his art set the tone of the series. But, I would try to slowly tweek the covers to fit my style as well. It was a balancing act to keep it in the same feel, but also not just having me replicate his style fully. Later, I was able to use my style on the Graveyard School book covers, so it was nice to be able to do both series at the same time.
8. Have you ever read any of the "Goosebumps" or "Give Yourself Goosebumps" books? If so, did you enjoy them?
Many years ago, I read them to get a feel of what they were about, but I was older and not the target audience so to be honest I didn't read them after that!
OH! I didn't see the film sorry to say... But ya', that scene looks pretty close to the book cover.
9. Do you still own the original paintings from this series?
Yes, I was able to keep all of the paintings I did for that and other series. Unlike digital art nowadays, I have the original and only paintings for these covers. To be honest, I have no plans to ever sell them. They will all go to my son (who's in art college now!), he can do with them what he likes... Haha ...
10. What kind of art have you been creating lately?
After about 13 years of being a freelance artist, slowly digital art & Photoshop took my work away from me, so at that point I had to decide to convert to 100% digital or find a new direction to go in. As you know, I was replaced by a digital artist on the series who, by the way, did a great job on those covers. But you know digital is just not something that interests me. I prefer to put a real pencil or paint to paper. Anyways, I've collected Japanese toys pretty much my whole life, so I decided to turn that interest into my next venture. I published a magazine about vintage Japanese monster toys and from there started to design and make my own toy figures. The last 13 years I've owned and run Max Toy Company (named after my son, Max). In a way, it's perfect because not only do I make my own toys in Japan, but I can make my own art for the packaging. So, I'm still painting and drawing, plus I've also expanded to painting on toys (called customs). I'll have a museum exhibit in September 2018 at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, that will be about my Japanese toy collection and my art that I'm prepping for now. It will be a nice over view of art and toys that have influenced my whole life really.
11. Any words of advice to aspiring artists?
If you chose to do art as a career, it's really one of the hardest roads to follow. You have to be all in and keep creating even if others are against you. You have to create your own destiny and not wait around for something to happen or someone to help you. I've been fortunate to have had a few people (like my family or my agents) help, but I had to make the trip to New York and knock on their door to show them my portfolio. Even in art school, I had some teachers say my use of the airbrush was too commercial and would give me a lower grade for using it in my assignments. I knew better, haha, so i persisted and just followed my own path. Be flexible; when one door closes be able and willing to adjust and move forward in a new direction. But remember to have fun along the way!
I would like to see more of the art concept from other books like Attack of the Beastly Babysitter, Toy Terror: Batteries Included, Scream of the Evil Genie, and Welcome to the Wicked Wax Museum because its seeing them is very intresting.