Joseph Kelly - Illustrator

Joseph Kelly

Joseph Kelly is the illustrator of the popular Kids Can Press Martin Bridge book series. He came to children's illustration along a roundabout route that threaded through industrial design and concept animation.

He has always drawn, and in high school he used charcoal and brown paper to people the walls of his room with life-sized portraits of characters from The Lord of the Rings, something he would certainly do again if he were sure his wife wouldn't mind living with a houseful of goblins. Though his drawings for the Martin Bridge books are somewhat smaller than life-sized, the number of shaded graphite drawings and acrylic paintings comes to over 650 pieces of art.

When he isn't illustrating, Joseph uses a homemade lens and plumber's pipe viewer to explore tide pools at the shore near his home in Sonoma, California, and is known for painting very large portraits of very small beach puddle residents.

The United States. I spent two weeks at my actual birthplace and have never been back.

Spring, early Space Age.

Where do you live?
Currently I reside in northern California. I have passed through Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Saharan Africa and sundry locales in the States.

Who is in your family?
One lovely wife and two perfect kids.

Do you have any pets?
We have a cat. My daughter called her Byron, but everyone else calls her Devil Cat.

What is your favorite book?
My current favorites list is quite long. Some of them are as follows: Powers of Ten by Philip and Phylis Morrison; Project Orion, The True Story of the Atomic Spaceship by George Dyson; Beowulf, A New Verse Translation, by Seamus Heaney; Envisioning Information by Edward R. Tufte; After Man, A Zoology of the Future by Dougal Dixon.

What is your favorite movie?
The classic choices --- the cinema of Lumet, Hitchcock, Wilder, Vidor, Godard, Kubrick, Capra, Cukor, Resnais, Kazan, Ford, et al.
The shameful truth --- cheesy John Agar 1950s and 1960s horror flicks and anything Samurai.

What are your hobbies?
Collecting pulp magazine stories of the 1920s and 1930s and early to mid-20th-century illustration.

When did you start drawing?
One of my earliest memories is drawing robots (ludicrously large ones, stomping on houses) in a first grade classroom in Bristol, Tennessee.

What was your schooling or training?
Industrial design and then film.

How did you get involved with children's books?
A whole lot of pleading, cajoling and wheedling for the chance.

What is the thing that you like the most about creating children's books?
For Martin Bridge, the research, building his world, designing the characters and letting them interact with each other. I especially enjoy drawing the comedy, exaggeration and pathos. The most fun is holding the finished book and imagining kids opening it for the first time and wondering which drawings they'll like and turn to again.

Where do you work?

How do you create your artwork?
Graphite, pencil, eraser (very important!) and computer.

Do you have any tips for young creators?
Trust your pencil and paper. Drawing will never crash, break or go off if the power fails!
Enjoy and learn from other people's work, but let your own style grow.
If your art isn't working, don't be afraid to erase, or start over, or even chuck the whole idea and do something different.
Go for a lot of walks.

What is your favorite childhood memory?
A fox peeping at me through a rusted wire fence on a white sand cliff above the beach at Rota, Spain.

A Paddling of Ducks

2011 - Best Books for Kids & Teens, Canadian Children's Book Centre, Winner

Martin Bridge: Blazing Ahead!

2007 - Hackmatack Children's Choice Book Award, Short-listed

Martin Bridge: In High Gear!

2009 - Hackmatack Children's Choice Book Award, Short-listed
2009 - Best Books for Kids and Teens, Canadian Children's Book Centre, Winner
2007 - Junior Library Guild Premier Selection, Winner

Martin Bridge: Onwards and Upwards!

2010 - Best Books for Kids & Teens, Starred Selection, Canadian Children's Book Centre, Winner

Martin Bridge: Ready for Takeoff!

2007 - Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Award, Short-listed
2006 - Notable Children's Book, American Library Association, Winner

Martin Bridge: The Sky's the Limit!

2009 - Best Books for Kids and Teens, Canadian Children's Book Centre, Winner