Have you ever felt like you had a weird way of looking at things? Michael Austin first remembered feeling that way with coloring books. "Stay inside the lines," his Mom suggested. "Why?" He wondered. He thought he was being daring, wild and expressive; all those lines just slowed him down! What he created may have been a nightmarish mess, but it was in fact, his beginning in art.
He eventually grew up enough to discover "technique" and "control" with crayons but his "strange point of view" had grown with him. He realized this during the newspaper's Annual Thanksgiving Giant Turkey Coloring Contest. Armed with a freshly sharpened box of colors, he created a giant turkey complete with pointed fangs and multicolored feathers. When he handed his entry, he noticed that his turkey definitely did not look like any of the others. Unfortunately, that was where the story ended. After that disappointment, he was certain he would leave art behind and become a football player.
Then his dad introduced him to drawing and he discovered art once again! He realized he could draw things his own way, strange or not. As his greatest artistic influence, his dad always drew pictures that he would recreate. This helped him practice and sharpen his skills. TV also began to make its mark on his life. Characters from shows like "The Addams Family" and "Scooby Doo" appeared in his drawings. Then, in the third grade, he had to write and illustrate a story every day as part of his schoolwork. Most of his stories involved pretty much anything creepy, gross, or just plain weird (usually his family was the source of inspiration for those things, especially his little brother). He still puts his family in his illustrations. You’ll find his wife, Kim, in 13 Monsters Who Should Be Avoided and The Horned Toad Prince.
Throughout his life, Michael Austin continued to draw. His illustrations appeared in Highlights, Cricket, and Spider. One day his stepmom met children's book author Carmen Deedy. She "presented" Ms. Deedy with a copy of one of her own story ideas that he had illustrated many years ago. Ms. Deedy encouraged him to send samples of his art to the editors of Peachtree Publishers. As a result, he landed his first picture book projects. This was a new adventure in art for a former kid who still loves anything weird.
Books Illustrated by Michael Austin
- Shortsleeve, Kevin. 13 Monsters Who Should Be Avoided. Peachtree, 1998.
- Levin, Amy. Bats, Bats, Bats! Scholastic, 2000.
- Hopkins, Jackie M. The Horned Toad Prince. Peachtree, 2000.
- Reiss, Mike. Late for School. Peachtree, 2003. (Children’s Choice for 2004)
- Crunk, Tony. Railroad John and the Red Rock Run. Peachtree, to be published in 2005.