Monday, April 26, 2021

A Conversation with Wayne Anthony Still, Illustrator of Papa's Free Day Party

Wayne Anthony Still, illustrator of the new picture book Papa’s Free Day Party, talks about his creative process, artistic inspirations, and his connection to abolitionist William Still.

Headshot of artist Wayne Anthony Still

How did you get into book illustration?

Like most illustrators, I've submitted sample images in the form of mailers to book publishers, ad agencies, art directors, design studios, galleries and artist's representatives to acquire freelance assignments. Having a website and being active on social media are must have vehicles to showcase my full range of abilities and get my work seen by thousands. 

Can you describe your creative process? Once you get a manuscript, how do you get started?

My creative process involves critical thinking and problem solving. For example, with Papa's Free Day Party, I had to read the manuscript and decide which areas of the story stood out to me from a visual perspective  and (would) help convey the writer's point of view in that moment in time. It is the inspiration of the story that brings my ideas to life -- with a collaboration between writer, publisher and artist.

Cover of Papa's Free Day Party, showing a Black family of 5 celebrating, smiling at each other, with a red balloon in the background
Do you have a favorite medium to work in?

I believe nothing compares to the strength, drama and power that can be achieved through oil paints. The blending of colors is second to none with slow drying times enabling the artist to achieve depth and range of finishes and effects. Secondly would be acrylics. This is the medium most used by me due to fact that most illustrations have tight deadlines and this medium dries quickly and has properties similar to oils in range of depth and impact. Third and certainly not least would be watercolors. There is a natural softness to this medium and blending can be magical. Effects can be achieved with simple washes and blending is effortless. I have found that being able to adapt to various mediums equates to the possibility to work on more projects and not be typecast as only able to do one thing well. After all, if you look at history, the greatest artists lived during the Renaissance in my opinion, and they were skilled in many mediums and excelled in them all. 

Spread from Papa's Free Day Party showing a young Black boy in a garden holding a carrot with a white man's hand on his shoulder

Which artists have inspired you?

Like most artists I have a love of art as well as the creators behind the images. Honestly the list would be too long to cover but if I had to single out a few it would be artists like: Albrecht Durer, Leonardo DaVinci, Howard Pyle, J.C. Leyendecker, Charles Santore, Jerry Pinkney, Leo & Diane Dillon, Tom Blackshear, Ezra Tucker, and Kadir Nelson.

This story is based on Marilyn’s family and her grandfather’s journey to freedom. You also have a family connection to freedom fighters. Can you share more about that?

I am a proud descendent of William Still who was an African-American abolitionist based in Philadelphia PA. He was a conductor on the Underground Railroad, a business man, writer, historian, and civil rights activist.

Are you working on any new projects you want to share?

I am presently working on some private commission works as well as designing new collectable giftware items to be sold worldwide.


Abolitionist William Still

Wayne Anthony Still is an award-winning illustrator, painter, designer and sculptor. He holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in illustration and graphic design from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His work includes exquisitely designed figurines, collector’s stamps for international governments and masterful plates as well as paintings and illustrations. He lives in Pennsylvania near the city of Philadelphia.