Kevin Sabino: The Story Behind the Art

If you’ve ever looked for an illustrator, you know it can be a daunting process. Can they do the job? Are they trustworthy? Are they going to be reliable? Will we get along? These are all very important questions. I was very fortunate and found Kevin through a referral — a lovely Art Director I worked with named Perla. She told me Kevin would be perfect for my new book ventures — and he was.

The first book I asked Kevin to illustrate was “What If”. It was my first children’s book and I only “sort of” knew what I was doing — ok, that’s a lie, I didn’t know what I was doing at all. As far as direction, all Kevin got was “Make it colorful, imaginative and make sure the characters reflect a lot of diversity so all kids feel represented.” Then, I sent him the story, a few visual ideas and let him run with it. And, despite my inexperience, he did a wonderful job. I even got my rainbow gun and rocket booster shoes.

Next up were the “Iggy the Introverted Inkapus” books. Building on the “nothing” I knew before, I asked him to bring my new character, Iggy, to life. Because I wanted to eventually make book apps with the books and other things, I asked Kevin to take a different approach. Instead of giving me spreads, I asked him give me pieces — the characters from different angles and a series of backgrounds and scenes I could layer over each other and eventually animate. I had a general idea of what I wanted the characters to be –obviously an octopus-like creature, and then I sent him a few samples of some interesting fishes I’d found. I also sent him a few pieces of artwork I liked to give him a sense of the style I was looking for. What did I get? Kevin made Iggy better than I could have imagined — he was everything I had hoped for and more.

The Quiet Adventures of Iggy the Inkapus

I later found out that Kevin, too, considered himself introverted, but had a lot to say — just like Iggy. He really was the perfect artist for the job.

“I know I don’t talk a lot, but I do have a lot to say”
“Iggy’s approach is like Matisse paper cutouts, only less abstract. I used colors that echo the underwater world, almost luminous, especially when diving at night.” -Kevin Sabino on “Iggy the Introverted Inkapus”

Most recently, Kevin helped me with “Come Be Wild With Me”. I felt the message was important and wanted it to be told in a unique and beautiful way. And, I not only wanted to expose families to this beautiful message, but to beautiful art. I saw Kevin’s extraordinary ink paintings on Facebook one day and thought something like them would be a wonderful visual expression of my story.

So far, reviewers have given the art a lot of mixed reviews — some love it, and others have complained the illustrations are a poor representation of nature, which is colorful. Color was something I too considered early on — so I get where they are coming from. But ultimately, my love of the ink art and the way it allowed the reader to focus in on the small, beautiful details found in nature (represented by the little pops of color) won out. That, and I felt children could benefit from exposure to alternate art forms. I wanted them to have something interesting that they could explore. As a child, I loved to look at Dr. Seuss illustrations for hours — this is something I wanted for my readers too.

Come Be Wild With Me” is based on the way I paint with ink. Ink is very hard to control, harder than watercolor. It is unpredictable and wild, also very organic. Each page is a painting. The contrast between the black and white with color accents makes the “look” interesting and compelling.” -Kevin Sabino on “Come Be Wild With Me”

I have been in the creative business for a long time now. I’ve worked with a number of talented art directors and artists over the years. And, like in many competitive industries, there can be a lot of ego — making some talented people difficult to work with. Not so with Kevin — he is an absolute pleasure to collaborate with — and SO talented. He beautifully expresses ideas through his art like no one else I’ve worked with.

So, to Kevin, thank you. You have been a huge part of bringing my stories to life and helping fulfill a few of my dreams. I consider you a brilliant artist and a friend.