John Rocco, Roccoart, was kind enough to sit down and answer a few questions about his experience as an artist, creating the illustrations for The New York Times bestselling series, “Percy Jackson and the Olympians,” by Rick Riordan (now a major motion picture), and his love of Zazzle. Check out the interview below and don’t forget to check out his Zazzle store Roccoart!
Bio: John Rocco is the illustrator on The New York Times bestselling series “Percy Jackson and the Olympians,” by Rick Riordan as well as the author and illustrator of several picture books including “WOLF! WOLF!,” “Moonpowder,” and “Fu Finds the Way.” Prior to his publishing career, John worked in animation as an art director on a variety of projects including the top-grossing animated film “Shrek,” and several attractions at Walt Disney’s EPCOT.
Zazzle: What is it like working on the illustrations for the Percy Jackson & The Olympians series? What is your inspiration behind those designs?
John: Working on the Percy Jackson books has been a complete joy. The Lightning Thief was actual the first cover I ever created and it was so thrilling to see it go on to sell millions of copies. Who knew? With every book I try to capture the feeling or the essence of the book in a single illustration. For instance with The Lightning Thief cover I felt like Percy was a character that was “stuck” in the middle of a battle between Zeus (sky, thunder, lightning) and Poseidon (water, waves) and he was just trying to figure it all out. I always try to create something that is easily readable from a distance, and says “Hey, if you read the words inside this book you are in for an adventure.”
Zazzle: What inspires the books you have authored? Do your illustrations often inspire parts of the story?
John: Inspiration comes to me in the strangest ways. For my picture book “Fu Finds the Way” it was a trip to Hong Kong and a teapot that I purchased in a little shop there. For “Moonpowder” the inspiration came from my Belgian wife. In Belgium they don’t have the sandman to help you sleep at night, but instead they have the Moon who sprinkles moon powder. I thought, “Where does this moon powder come from? What if they ran out?”
When I am working on a book I am usually starting with the words, and then I begin to draw. As the drawings develop it tends to impact the story and the writing. I remember working on a spread in the book “Moonpowder” and I had written about sixty words describing the scene, but after I finished the final art I realized I didn’t need any of those words and was able to just have five words on the page.
Zazzle: What medium to do you work in the most?
John: Lately all of my work has been created in a similar process; first I draw everything in pencil and then I scan it into the computer and paint the colors digitally using Photoshop. Here is an example:
Zazzle: What has been your favorite design you’ve created on Zazzle, and why?
John: I think of the Percy Jackson covers, the one I am most proud of is the final cover, The Last Olympian Poster mainly because when I described to the publishers what I wanted to do I wasn’t sure they would like it. I mean, to end the series with an almost black and white cover that featured Blackjack the Pegasus? I had already painted him on the Titan’s Curse cover. Needless to say everyone was a little nervous but I was able to forge ahead and when they saw the final painting everyone was thrilled.
Zazzle: What got you interested in selling your art on Zazzle?
John: A fellow artist, Adam Rex, had opened a store on Zazzle and I thought it looked really terrific. I think it’s ease of use and excellent tools were what attracted me the most to Zazzle. I have had great success with the Percy Jackson products on Zazzle, and I can’t wait to start creating some more products.
Zazzle: What is your favorite Zazzle feature? How do you use it?
John: My favorite Zazzle feature has to be the ability to instantly see how your designs will look on the different products. I am able to adjust the art on the fly and get it to look just the way I want it to. That has been great.