Mike is Winner of the Oklahoma Book Award for Best Illustrated Children's Book in 1995
One Giant Leap is a second collaboration with Mike's old friend Robert Burliegh. It's the bookend of their first book together, Flight. The Story of Charles Lindbergh. It's amazing to think that only 42 years separated the two events that these two books remember; Lindberg's first flight across the Atlantic and Armstrong's first step on the moon. On July 20, 1969, as Americans sat glued to their televisions and radios, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin did the seemingly impossible- something humans had dreamed of doing for centuries: They traveled 240,000 miles through space and set foot on the moon. One small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.
Mike Wimmer was born in Muskogee, Oklahoma, where he grew up like most boys: playing hard, fighting sleep, reading comic books, and dreaming. Dreams that included one day winning a bodybuilding championship, being a football star, and living the adventures of his favorite literary characters, King Arthur, Robin Hood, and a salty high seas pirateer. His art developmentwith the help of his comic books and boys’ adventure stories, was well nourished and supplied by his parents who themselves had no knowledge or understanding of such talents. But, in their own words, "It kept him active, out of trouble and above all, quiet."
Mike started visiting schools after one of his neighbors, who had modeled for a book cover, took the book to school and showed his teacher. The teacher at first did not believe that he was on the cover of such a renowned author's book. She asked how he was picked to be on the cover and he replied that he lives next door to the artist. The teacher asked if the artist would be interested in coming to visit their school and talk about his work as an artist. That was in 1990 and Mike has been traveling all around the United States visiting schools ever since. He has visited small country schools in the Appalachians to the large inner city schools of major metropolitan areas. From elementary schools to major universities, his workshops have been a rewarding and a deeply personal experience for the artist and the audience.
Mike’s book awards and nominations are many, including: a NCSS/CBC Notable Children’s Trade Book in the field of Social Studies and a Redbook Best Book.His books have won the Oklahoma Book Award and the Spur Award from the Western Writers Association of America and has received numerous starred reviews and nominations for children’s choice awards in many states.His titles include Train Song by Diane Siebert; Flight:The Journey of Charles Lindbergh by Robert Burliegh; All the Places to Love by Patricia MacLachlan; Homerun:The Story of Babe Ruth by Bob Burliegh; Summertime from Porgy and Bess by George and Ira Gershwin with Dubose and Dorothy Hayward; Will Rogers and Theodore by Frank Keating; Stealing Home, Jackie Robinson Against the Odds; and his newest release, One Giant Leap, just out this spring 2009.
Art & Advertising
From creating the new “Mr. Clean” to the colorful and proud “Simba” on Pride Rock for the Lion King soundtrack packaging, or the large historic murals commissioned to hang in the Oklahoma Capitol Building, Mike has worked for some of the largest corporations in the world, including: American Airlines, Procter & Gamble, Reader's Digest, Disney, Kimberly Clark, Southwestern Bell, AT&T, and just about every major publisher in the United States. He finds his greatest artistic pleasure, however, in creating images for his many children's books and fine art prints. "They allow me to have the final say so in the creative process. It is still very much like being that little boy lying on the floor with an empty drawing pad and a full box of crayons."
Mike's school programs are appropriate for all ages from kindergarten through the university level. Each is directed to the appropriate age level for time and content. He schedules one school per day and gives two one-hour presentations for third through sixth grades, and two half-hour presentations for kindergarten through second grade. Another option is three one-hour presentations for third through sixth grades, if the school would prefer that he only speak to the older kids. For the schools who want to share Mike's time and his expenses, he can break up the visits into: three different schools for a one-hour presentation each; or two schools for a one and a half-hour presentation each, with each school sharing the daily expenses equally. When Mike talks to middle school and high school students, he wishes to speak only to those students who are truly interested or who would be greatly influenced by his presentation, such as the writing or art students, and those who may seem like problem students but show a knack or interest in drawing or art. These presentations last for approximately one and a half hours and are more in depth about illustration as a career.
OCAI: Hey Mike! Welcome to our site! Tell us, do you have a strict daily schedule you go by for your illustrating or is each day, each illustration different? What's a typical day like in the life of Mike Wimmer?
Mike:I don’t have a strict work schedule but I do try and make myself stick to a pretty regular schedule. I’m usually up by 5, do a bit of reading and correspondence then off to the gym. I’m back in the studio and working by 9 and work pretty much straight through till dark. My new studio doesn’t have great lighting for working into the night but I will work on sketches and other computer stuff during the evening.
OCAI: What's involved in the 'behind-the-scene' process before you begin a children's book? (ie: hiring models, taking photos, sketches, drawing, painting, etc.) Then once you actually begin painting, how long does it usually take to illustrate a picture book or a book cover?
Mike:The hardest part of any book is deciding the best solution for the story. Each book has it’s own voice and demands its own approach. Once I have a dummy to work from, I start gathering models, props, etc. Then I set up the photo shoots and model sittings. Or tracking down the best locations. I don’t just make stuff up because I want every detail to have authenticity. I want the story to be believable, even if it is pure fantasy. I’m trying to bring the reader/viewer into a separate reality, apart from the one they live in. I want them to become part of my reality at that moment. I’m always looking for the right model for the right archetype of my character. You never know where you are going to find them. I once found Moses drinking coffee at a sidewalk café in Norman. Turned out his name was Samson Seibert
If you are having trouble viewing the YouTube Version try here.
and he worked for the Norman Street Department. Who knew? It usually takes me from one to two years to finish a children’s book. That’s because I’m working on so many projects all the time. But if worked straight through, it would probably only take me about 6-8 months of sketching, research, modeling and painting time. A cover can take about 1-2 weeks, depending on the complexity of the painting.
OCAI: There's certainly a lot to love about your beautiful art, but what do you love about creating it? How do you put so much heart and soul into your work?
Mike:First and foremost, I try and put myself into the painting, the story or situation it is depicting. In many ways I become a character actor and completely immerse myself in to my part. Secondly, it's almost a religious experience. I’m not trying to sound sacrilegious but it is almost like being God. I take an idea that didn’t exist before and using my imagination, my talent, the materials around me and I create something real, something alive that takes on a life all its own. It's probably the single most exhilarating and completely soul-satisfying aspect of being alive. It brings me such “PURE JOY” and I guess that love is reflected in my work. OCAI: Any tips or advice for wanna-be illustrators out there? (both adults and kids)
Mike: The best advice I can give any aspiring artist or illustrator is to DRAW! Draw every day, every where you are or can draw, DRAW! Open your eyes and your soul to those things around you, be aware, take it in, listen, look, touch, feel, experience all you can, both the good and bad of life. Each experience is like a drop of water in a reservoir. You will only be able to drink from that reservoir what was put into it.
OCAI: We really appreciate you, Mike, for sharing your beautiful art and talent with us. Thanks!
For those of you who have NOT been to the Will Rogers Museum in Claremore, OK, lately, be sure to visit the museum's "MIKE WIMMER" room --yes, he has his OWN room!--where the actual paintings of Mike's picture book biography on Will Rogers are on display. You can also see video interviews of Mike sharing about his childhood and how he illustrates his books. Mike's art is also on display in the state capitol and various locations throughout the state!