Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Don't go Chasing Bob McMahon's Waterfall Rainbow

Bob McMahon does just a little bit of everything. The one thing that Bob does best is creating vivid and humorous characters in his illustrations. I first saw Bob's work when I was making my way towards Oz. I got lost and ended up near a waterfall (it made a rainbow after all). I entered the waterfall and was hoping to find the wizard, but instead I found a bear. The bear told me all about Bob and his work, and then mauled me horribly. Now I am dead, but Bob McMahon is alive and will tell you all about being a professional illustrator.

You can buy prints of Bob's work here!


Dani: Who is your favorite illustrator?

Bob: What week is it? My favorite illustrator changes so often that I can’t keep up. Growing up it was Mad Magazine illustrators like Will Elder, Mort Drucker, Jack Davis and Al Jaffee. Later I moved on to New Yorker illustrators/cartoonists like George Booth and Roz Chast. When I got into picture books I tended to like U.K. illustrators a lot like Colin McNaughton, Simon James, Ronald Searle and Jez Alborough. But honestly it changes every week it seems when I look through the bookstore or browse Instagram. And then there are the jaw dropping illustrators like Mattias Adolfsson and Kim Jung Gi who make you want to give up drawing and go work at Starbucks.

Dani: What is the hardest project you ever worked on?

Bob: Years and years ago I did 750+ full color illustrations for a Spanish English middle school textbook. I had six months to complete the job and each illustration had a really complicated file name like ASG_49079-98742_LG Span_590A-K that I had to keep straight. Between keeping the reference photos, changes, revisions and mix-ups organized, I almost had a nervous breakdown toward the end of that job.  I still have PTSD just thinking about it, but it paid almost 6 figures so afterward I had time to recover.

Dani: Can you give some pointers for adding humor into illustration?

Bob: I think just by looking at the artwork and thinking about what’s the craziest thing that could happen to the person in the drawing. I’m always thinking that way. I think more like a gag cartoonist than a children’s book illustrator most of the time. I think humor is very important for children’s book illustrations.

Dani: How did you get started in illustration?

Bob: Actually I started out as a political cartoonist for my college newspaper then went on to work for a local newspaper but unfortunately they couldn’t pay much for that so I went into advertising illustration and had fun with that for many years and then found children’s books and my tribe with the SCBWI where I’ve been ever since.

Dani: What's one thing that Smart Dummies participants should remember when working on their dummies?

Bob: Finished is better than perfect. That’s the mantra from illustrator Jake Parker and it is so true! If you try to make your dummy absolutely perfect it may never see the light of day because you will be revising it for years. Make it as good as you can because once it gets in the hands of the editor it’s going to change substantially. I hear this all the time from author illustrators that they say the dummy that they turned in gets changed completely most of the time so just get it done and turned in knowing that there will be lots of changes as it goes through the publishing process.


Follow Bob:

Website: http://www.bobmcmahon.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bob.mcmahon.98?sw_fnr_id=612400715&fnr_t=0
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Bobtoons
Pinterest: https://www.instagram.com/bobmcmahonart/


  1. Fiished is better than perfect.
    Awesome advise.

  2. Love the humor aspect in your art and your mantra is perfect for helping us to stay on target! Thanks for sharing...

  3. Mauled by a bear and now dead? Oh my, Dani! What a way to introduce Bob. Bob, your art is amazing and your quirky humor is so fun. Thanks for sharing your story and offering great advice. Please continue to chase rainbows but don't stop and talk to strange bears.

  4. Thank you for the great advice Bob, and for the reminder that finished is better than perfect. :)

  5. I could use some more humor in my manuscripts... thank you for the post and the list of illustrators that I had to look up because I'm bad at remembering names 😂

  6. Love the humor and fun in your artwork, Bob! Great advice about just getting those dummies done.

  7. It's fun to make the character's life as crazy as possible.

  8. I'm making a list of your favorite illustrators to check them out. Love your expressive work. I'll be following you in all the best ways! ha.