graphicheadstonebanner copy                      TIM  JACOBUS, Goosebumps cover artist

jacobusheadshot2Deadwest: Howdy there, Scream Freaks! Woowee, did you just miss all the excitement! Few minutes ago, this here graveyard was jump’n with all kinds of crazy critters from maniacal dummies to egg monsters from mars and even a freak’n bee with a little boy’s face! They were tearing through the Crosslands like a stampede of newly castrated bulls until this Aaah!rtist popped up, telling us we needed to wrangle them back into his paintings where they came from.

Tim Jacobus: Thanks for that. I couldn’t have done it alone.

DW: You know, that creature feature parade looked awfully familiar, and I can’t help but think I’ve seen you before.

Calling_All_CreepsTJ: You may know my work. I was the cover artist for the majority of the Goosebumps books.

DW: If it were a polecat, it would’ve gassed me! You’re THE Tim Jacobus?! Hot fang! Didn’t you used to have long hair?

TJ: (laughing) Yeah, long time ago.

DW: Well, fancy that. We got a celebrity in our presence! Mind if I bug ya with an interview for the Scream Freaks?

TJ: Sure. My love for Roger Dean’s surreal album covers inspired me to paint, Scholastic chose me as the regular Goosebumps artist after auditioning against the artist of the original Stay Out of the Basement cover, my favorite Goosebumps cover changes from time to time, the toughest cover to paint was A Night in Terror Tower, R. L. Stine’s a nice guy who I’ve only met a few times, I don’t sweat when I paint, and I did not get rich off Goosebumps.

DW: Whoa there, partner! Ease off the gas.

TJ: Sorry, those are just the typical questions I’m use to fans asking.

51CKYX4GBKLDW: Then we need to dig deeper. I remember reading your autobiography back in the day, It Came From New Jersey! My Life As an Artist. You give a little bit of background on your upbring’n, and go into some insightful detail regard’n your work schedule and painting process. You wrote a typical Goosebumps cover was a combination of paint, airbrush, and frisket paper that would take 30-40 hours a week to complete. With all the advances in art programs like Photoshop since then, has that time been reduced any?

TJ: Somewhat. My work still starts as a pencil drawing on tracing paper. Then I scan that image into the computer and begin the render there. Most of my illustrations are digital using Photoshop. It still has an organic feel, however, because I use the Wacom pen and tablet, and my hand movements are the same. The only real difference is nothing is wet. Creating the illustration takes about the same amount of time. Making changes is where I save the most time. In a traditional painting, if the client wanted a change to the background color, it could take 8 hours to fix. Same scenario with a digital illustration, that change is measured in minutes.

gnomeDW: Was Scholastic ever on yer ass to make changes or corrections to Goosebumps covers?

TJ: It was rare to get requests for changes after a thumbnail sketch for a cover was approved. When I first turned in Revenge of the Lawn Gnomes, Scholastic didn’t want one of the gnomes picking his nose, so I repainted him scratching his head. Other times, they’d have someone else add things like the spider and cobwebs on the cover of Let’s Get Invisible!

c1d935b1-1a43-4688-8e00-c55860bee546DW: You mentioned A Night in Terror Tower as your toughest cover, because you had to paint overnight what normally takes you a week to complete. Why the crazy deadline for that one?

TJ: Ha! I would love to blame the tight deadline on Scholastic – but it wasn’t their fault. They gave me 4 weeks. I tried to squeeze 5 jobs in that month and overbooked myself. I used up all my time on the other 4 jobs and Terror Tower was the one left with the 24 hour deadline. It was no one’s fault but mine!

DW: You’re primarily known for your horror themed art, but did you always like painting spooks and monsters or was horror themed art something you just so happened to be good at once you were hired to make it?

TJ: Not always. My art was always a little “off” but not scary. I morphed!

DW: So, I read nobody expected Goosebumps to blow up into this pop culture phenomenon the way it did. When did you realize how popular it had become?

TJ: One day I got a visit from some friends. Their kids were in middle school, and we got talking about what we’d been up to. I said, “Oh, I’m working on a series called Goosebumps.” And they were like, “No, seriously? We buy tons of them. This is a really big deal!” Not long after that I started seeing them everywhere.

DW: No joke! TV shows, video games, action figures, clotheslines! And most those characters were based on what you envisioned on the covers. Was there ever a character of yours you felt was just horribly translated to either TV or toys?

TJ: I was never critical of that. I made 2 dimensional images for book covers. The idea of them becoming 3 dimensional or live-action was never considered. That’s a difficult task – taking my flat art and breathing life into it. I liked all the interpretations. Did any bother you?

horrorDW: I get there wasn’t a ton of money in the TV show, and this particular monster was only half conceived in your cover, but I thought the Horrors in the One Day At Horrorland episode was embarrassing. The actors were just wearing Halloween masks with mouths that barely moved and the areas around the eyes didn’t look glued down or painted.

TJ: I liked the TV series alright from what few episodes I’ve seen.

DW: For me, your art was an essential cornerstone to the success of Goosebumps with its warped glistening imagery of bright colors accented by a running theme of Converse sneakers. Can I ask why you didn’t make bank like Stine and Scholastic did?

TJ: My style was part of the Goosebumps brand, but my contributions were strictly work-for-hire, meaning Scholastic always owned the intellectual property. They paid me fine, but my payment wasn’t attached to sales. It didn’t make any difference whether they sold a million copies or ten. I don’t live in a mansion.

51S47DKMMXLDW: Do you remember the day Goosebumps got canceled?

TJ: It was sad. I don’t want to call it depressing, but I was very sad. I sensed it was coming but didn’t expect it to end as abruptly as it did. We were doing the Goosebumps 2000 series, and I was 95 percent of the way through a cover when they called me up and said, “Yeah, don’t turn it in.” It was the early 2000s, and Goosebumps was over.

DW: What happened to your art career after that?

TJ: When Goosebumps was cancelled, I had a hard time finding work. I had to do a little reinventing. That’s when I started taking the digital world seriously. Currently, I spend most of my time, freelancing as a Creative Director at a small studio. I work with great people, and we do really good work. But I don’t get to illustrate much while I’m there. I do all my illustrating after hours. I don’t do many book covers, but I do video game covers and quite a few album covers. Vinyl has become popular again.

DW: Back on the topic of your illustration process, I got one bone to pick with you from your It Came From New Jersey! book.

TJ: Oh?

jacobus1DW: Yessir, I need some clarification on what feels like a missing step when you’re walking us through your process for painting a Goosebumps cover. You say you blew up a cover sketch on a photocopier for painting, then it looks like you’re laying the photocopy down on the bristle board, and jump right into steps for painting. Are you painting over the photocopy paper?

TJ: Sorry, I’m not always clear. Just ask my ex-wife! You’re good up until I lay the photocopy on. I laid the photocopy on my #80 Bainbridge illustration board (nice tooth to the surface), then I would transfer a little of the drawing at a time using white transfer paper. For example: I would paint the background blue. Then I put down the photocopy and transfer the mountains. Take away the photocopy and the transfer lines are on the blue illustration board. Then I paint the mountains. Then I bring back the photocopy and transfer the monster. I’m not sure if that make sense. You just need to come and watch sometime.

jacobus2DW: That’s an invite I’d be crossed eyed dumb-ass to turn down! But is that skeleton mascot of Goosebumps, Curly, still in your art studio wearing the glow in the dark boxers? There might not be enough room for 2 skeletons in there!

TJ: No. The poor bastard lost his underwear.

DW: Then deal. Maybe while I’m there you can show me what else you’ve worked on. I’m curious to see what other book covers you’ve painted since Goosebumps.

TJ: I’ve done a lot of other book covers besides Goosebumps. Literally hundreds. There is one that does stand out. Along time ago, I did a cover for Stephen King’s The Shining. Don’t tell R. L. Stine!

DW: So, what are you painting when you’re not working on other people’s stuff?

TJ: I rarely get time to paint what I want. Wouldn’t it be nice to win the lottery and take that “make money” thing out of the equation? I started painting large black and white acrylic paintings 2’ x 7’. They are fun and black and white is amazing – absence of color is powerful.ee4963c7559d4756a24d5839290c60da_c71081abda0a46669f62d54dbe6c4b5a_1_original

DW: You’ve recently painted your first Goosebumps artwork since its cancelation thanks to the release of the new Goosebumps movie starring Jack Black. I saw it and thought it was pretty good, but the moment that actually got me excited was the end credit sequence where they animated your classic covers in a cool montage. I thought to myself at that moment, If I were Jacobus right now, I’d feel like a million bucks!

TJ: The cover animation in the credit sequence was really cool. Mike Wigart from MPC, only told me, “We did something really cool – what until you see.” I had no idea what they did. So when I saw the Abominable Snowman of Pasadena shake the light pole – I was blown away!

12191851_1632628783656828_3666841221970664108_nDW: So, R. L. Stine was played by Jack Black in the movie. If they had made it about you trying to keep the monsters trapped in the cover art like we did tonight, who would you like to play you?

TJ: Lewis Black – just so we stick with guys named Black.

DW: Sounds like you’re having one hell of a career as an artist! Your life story could probably fill more than 59 pages now.

TJ: Ha! I wrote It Came From New Jersey! for 10 year olds. All those fans are now 30. I have some really good stories I can tell you now. And we can do it at the Howl-Inn Grub and Spirits over a drink!

DW: Sounds good to me, but I gotta know something first . . . I’ve read other interviews with you, and you seem thankful for being part of Goosebumps and influencing countless childhoods, but never really embracing it as a pop culture phenomenon you were a BIG part of. Does this have anything to do with you simply seeing yourself as a work-for-hire artist with Scholastic as opposed to a creative partner who got royalties from all the merchandise you essentially influenced with your covers?

TJ: I was lucky to be part of Goosebumps, and thank you for saying I was a big part of it. Goosebumps has been a great ride, and the fact that we are still talking about it 25 years later says the ride isn’t quite over yet. Ha! I’m in a graveyard being interviewed by a dead man asking about Work for Hire and royalties . . . Are you going to give me some solid financial advice here?

DW: I’ll do you one better! Why don’t you tell the Scream Freaks where they can contact you for prints of your work or commission you for a piece of original art!

TJ: I love doing commission work. My prints are gone. I have way too many It Came From New Jersey! posters. or through Facebook.

DW: I’m sure those classic Goosebumps covers would sell for high dollar today.

TJ: You’ll have to talk to Scholastic about that. They have all the originals stored somewhere after I turned them in.

DW: Sounds to me like we got ourselves an art heist coming up, Scream Freaks! Well, it’s been fun, but me and my new partner in crime are gonna take this party back to the Howl-Inn where I’m sure Tim will get his fill of spooks and monsters. I’ll see ya later, Scream Freaks!



ethsanttitle copylast JASONCROSVBYttinext

TwitterFacebook Youtube
%d bloggers like this: