A Conversation With Children’s Book Author and Illustrator Jesse Gidcumb

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Our Electric World, written and illustrated by Jesse Gidcumb

Author and illustrator Jesse Gidcumb grew up in Southern Illinois with a pencil in hand. He now lives in San Francisco, where he graduated in 2008 with a degree in 3D animation from the Academy of Art University. He spent 10 years developing his eye while working in SF art galleries, practicing as a painter himself. He is now focused on bringing to life his own unique story ideas. He is the illustrator of A Trapeze with Cheese Please, a story of circus mishaps. Our Electric World is his first self-authored and illustrated book. We took a minute to sit down with Jesse to learn more about the inspiration behind his creative kids’ books. You can check out more of Jesse’s work and purchase his book on his website.

Tell us a little bit about your two books!
A Trapeze with Cheese Please, the first book that I worked on, was a really fun project that I did with Bradley James. She had the start of the story written and then I kind of jumped in on it, showing her some drawings that I did of the main character. It just kept evolving from there. She was hugely helpful on the layouts and everything, which I’ve heard isn’t that common in the creation of children’s books. Often, the author will write the story and give it to the publisher. Then the publisher will hand it over the illustrator, with the author having very little input on the visuals. Bradley and I worked together the whole way through. She was writing while I worked on the illustrations. We were communicating constantly and we had a great time collaborating on the book.  
A Trapeze with Cheese Please, illustrated by Jesse Gidcumb

A Trapeze with Cheese Please, illustrated by Jesse Gidcumb

What inspired you to write your new book, Our Electric World?
Our Electric World
came to me while I was standing on a San Francisco street corner one night waiting for the lights to change. I was captivated by the bright haze of the traffic lights and began tracing the electrical wires streaming down the city streets. It made me think of the large network that connects us all.
Our Electric World, written and illustrated by Jesse Gidcumb

Our Electric World, written and illustrated by Jesse Gidcumb

It is also a very personal book that captures many of the memories of my childhood, from evening walks to the local cinema with my parents, to the bedroom chaos I experienced as one of three boys sharing a single room, my Siamese cat peering out the window, my sister ever-so-diligently reading in her room and one of my favorite games as a kid in rural Illinois: flashlight tag. The book is a blend of my rural upbringing with the city atmosphere that surrounds me now.
Our Electric World, written and illustrated by Jesse Gidcumb

Our Electric World, written and illustrated by Jesse Gidcumb

What was your favorite book when you were a kid? 
Dr. Suess’s Green Eggs and Ham. I love all of his books, but that is the one that helped me learn to read and I have read it hundreds of times. His illustrations and stories are just so imaginative and fun. To this day, I still really enjoy reading his books and looking at his illustrations. 
Our Electric World, written and illustrated by Jesse Gidcumb

Our Electric World, written and illustrated by Jesse Gidcumb

Do you have any advice for aspiring artists? What do you wish a grownup had told you when you were a kid? 
Stay dedicated to your craft. Regardless of what some people think, being an artist requires a lot of hard work, focus, dedication and determination. There isn’t someone standing over your shoulder telling you how to be creative, so trust your instincts. There will always be distractions and times that you don’t feel super motivated too, but try to see the long road. Know that most of the fulfillment comes from finishing what you started and giving it your best shot.
Our Electric World, written and illustrated by Jesse Gidcumb

Our Electric World, written and illustrated by Jesse Gidcumb

What childhood idol would you want to have dinner with as an adult? 
My biggest idol growing up was Michael Jordan. I have always been a huge basketball fan. He always amazed me with his singular focus and determination. Hearing about his everyday training and work ethic made an impression on me.
But If he were still alive, I would like to have dinner with Dr. Suess. I went to an exhibit a few years ago in San Francisco and saw his personal artwork on display. They had a collection of his unique hats and there were all sort of wacky things going on. So I think he would be a fun guy to hang out with. Of course, I would like to pick his brain and see what inspired all the fantastic characters and wonderful worlds that are in his books.
Our Electric World, written and illustrated by Jesse Gidcumb.

Our Electric World, written and illustrated by Jesse Gidcumb.

Any other words of wisdom?
I’ve been lucky to have many supportive people in my life that have encouraged me along the way and made my life easier. So I would say, encourage others as much as you can. I think it’s important that we motivate each other.

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