Illustrator Spotlight: Paul Hoppe

© Paul Hoppe

July 10, 2020

We are excited to feature illustrator Paul Hoppe and his recent picture book, GOOD VIBRATIONS, song lyrics by Mike Love and Brian Wilson (Akashic Books, June 2020).  Enter to win a copy!

Tell us about yourself and how you came to illustrate for children.

I grew up in Germany, where I studied Visual Communication, and afterwards I got my Master of Illustration from the School of Visual Arts in NYC. When starting to work professionally, I ventured into many different areas of illustration.  

My first love was comics, but what interests me the most in all creative areas is telling stories. I got a lot of encouragement from lovely people to try telling stories for children, and I realized it combined so many of my passions, including my background in design. And my own inner child seems to connect well with the book-loving kids hungry and excited for new stories.

I sent out some postcards which led to my first illustrated picture book, Metal Man. As it is in New York, one thing comes to another, and when things click, one book leads to more.

© Paul Hoppe
When my first couple of books came out, I couldn’t have been happier. When all comes together, they are beautiful objects that have so much love and magic in them.

You're an illustrator, designer, and author. How do your different ventures affect your children's illustration work?

My background in design informs how I approach a book, thinking about the project as a whole, but also loving the details like how the jacket works, hand-lettering of the title, frontmatter, end pages…I love end pages!

© Paul Hoppe

Illustrating other people’s stories really makes my own writing better and expands my horizon. And being an author myself, I hope makes me a better illustrator, too!

Congratulations on your recent picture book, GOOD VIBRATIONS. Tell us about this book and how you approached the illustrations for it.

Thank you! It’s very exciting.

Since I’m a bit of a music nerd, particular pop music history, and “Good Vibrations” is a landmark song, I literally jumped at the possibility to illustrate this song as a picture book.

The song has been called a “Pocket Symphony” because it has a lot of different parts, an ebb and flow of energy and melody that was groundbreaking. I also started looking more into the significance of the words, and what the writers intended to express.

© Paul Hoppe

Of course, I was listening to the song a lot, too. It gave me the high points and sad points of the story, and I tried to arrange the storyline accordingly. It's a bit of a music video.

One thing that Brian Wilson said about the initial spark for the song, he mentioned that people give off “vibes” and animals like dogs can feel them. So the thought of a protagonist with a dog friend came to mind. And it had to be about surfing, of course. It is a love song, but I made it about the dog's feelings towards his human—the words are basically sung from the dog’s perspective.

© Paul Hoppe

And I have them share all these good vibes throughout their journey to the beach.

What projects are you working on now?

I have a few other books in the pipeline, and I always do the odd editorial illustration assignment in-between, and some advertising projects if they materialize. My next picture book is about classical music—it’s different, but also about music, so I’m thrilled! A lot of instruments, though—they aren’t easy to figure out to draw! I’m also excited to be doing a picture book with John Marciano, who is an illustrator in his own right, and someone whose work I admire.

© Paul Hoppe

What advice would you give to aspiring illustrators?

Always draw, (or paint . . . whichever is your way to create pictures!) Thinking about projects is important, but doing them is much, much more important. Learn by doing.

© Paul Hoppe

Besides working hard, it is necessary to try to meet the right people, get your work seen. Network. Research business practices, art directors, and peers. Talk to others who do it. You have to have people.

If you can get a part-time job in publishing, that can be a good start (and helps paying the bills).

© Paul Hoppe

But also: Live! Your experiences inform your work, and you need to feed your inspiration and maintain body and soul, so don’t burn out early on. It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.

What is one thing most people don't know about you?

I was in a Black Sabbath cover band.

Where can people find you online?

Instagram and Twitter: @hoppeindustries  
Facebook: @PaulHoppeIllustration

PAUL HOPPE has illustrated various children’s books, including Good Vibrations by Mike Love and Brian Wilson (Akashic Books), Neymar: A Soccer Dream Come True and The Woods, which he also wrote. His work has appeared in publications such as the New Yorker, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times. During the summer, Hoppe teaches Sequential Art at the School of Visual Arts. His work has been honored by the Society of Illustrators, Communication Arts, and American Illustration, among others. Originally from Poland and raised in Germany, Hoppe works from a studio in Brooklyn, and lives in Queens.

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  1. Congratulations on your beautiful work! This book sounds fun and I love the idea of a picture book illustrating a pop song.

  2. I love the sunny colours on the cover.

    1. Thank you so much! It felt appropriate for the topic :-)

  3. Thanks for sharing, it looks cute!


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