Ken_Bio_Pic_sepia_v02What I do

I am an illustrator, author, and automotive engineer.

A picture book maker and an engineer may sound quite different, but they have many similarities. Both require writing and pictures to communicate ideas. 

You can email me at

   Ken [at] BigTallKen [dot] com 

A Brief Biography

I grew up in the suburbs of Akron, Ohio and graduated from the University of Toledo with a mechanical engineering degree. Then I moved to the metro-Detroit area to work as an engineer in the automotive industry, where I still reside today.

Drawing was always something I enjoyed and was fortunate to have encouragement growing up. Cartoons and the fantastical were my favorite subjects to draw, but I also enjoyed handwriting, drafting, geometry and anything else that involved a drawing instrument and paper.

My formal art training was K-12 school. Later, I attended some art classes at community colleges, local art centers and the College for Creative Studies in Detroit. But I was always reading books on drawing and trying to imitate artists that inspired me. I kept finding ways to make use of my drawing skills in whatever class, organization, or job I had, which continues to this day.

I tried my hand at comic books and submitting comic strips for syndication. At comic book conventions professional artists gave me good critiques, which led me to take evening classes in graphic design and figure drawing.

Later, I joined the Ann Arbor Ad Club to learn about the use of illustration in marketing and made some connections that led to commercial illustration work.  Because everyone wanted scalable vector art, I learned Adobe Illustrator, as well as Photoshop.

Through book collecting, I discovered (or rediscovered, I’m not sure) Edward Gorey. He opened my eyes to how many ways words and pictures can be combined and how many story genres can be made from them: humor, mystery, suspense, nonsense, drama, abecadrians, etc. This led me to Edward Lear and allowing myself to play with words and making nonsense.

Since then, I have been learning the picture book craft, joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), and participate in two writers’ groups. It has been a great experience so far.

There is always something to learn, and I look forward to what comes next!

  • SCBWI Michigan
  • Thomson-Shore Publishing
  • University of Michigan - Spanish Department
  • Latino Health Communications
  • Beaumont Foundation
  • Global Design
  • Inner Circle Media 
  • Color Hive
  • Huron Pet Supply, Inc.
  • Biker Bob's Motown Harley-Davidson
  • Powerhaus Creative
  • Eventures - Adventures In Advertising
  • The Ann Arbor Ad Club
  • The Big Idea Magazine


Q: What's with the "Big Tall" thing?
I'm 6'6" tall. Big Tall Ken was a fun nickname from a friend of mine.

How can I make your webpage bigger on my smartphone or tablet?
I am working on making the website responsive. In the meantime, you will need to use finger gestures or your browser to zoom in.

You’re an engineer? You should make a Dilbert comic strip! You can draw better than him!
Yes, I am an engineer and could create more dynamic or detailed artwork, but any attempt to do so on my part would come across as a pale imitation of Scott Adams’s work. He has a very specific world view, and his art complements it well.

I did try my hand at comic stripping by submitting a comic strip called “Arctic Circle” three times back in the mid to late ‘90’s and learned just how hard it is to write humor. To do so consistently daily for years on end is quite a feat, and it gave me an appreciation of the art form. If you’re interested in the comic strips, check out the documentary, “Stripped: A Revealing Look At the World's Greatest Comic Strips.”

 I don’t see you on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. Why?
As I wrote earlier, I only have so much time in the day. I blog sporadically and have recently created an Instagram account.

Q: What materials do you use?
Whatever works for the job, or in some cases the client dictates it. A lot of the commercial work I did was with Adobe Illustrator because the clients wanted scalable vector artwork. In some cases, I would hand draw inked artwork. Then I would scan it and covert the pixel art to vector art.  

For personal work I love black India ink, brush, and dip pens. I’m becoming more confident with watercolors (especially once I started using 100% cotton paper!).  Graphite and colored pencils are something else I’m comfortable with. 

I’ve been having fun with simple colored ballpoint pens after reading the amazing “My Favorite Thing is Monsters” by Emil Ferris. Charcoal and pastels can be fun but are messy. Someday I’ll try gouache and oil pastels.

I’m good with a Wacom Intuos digital drawing tablet and with Photoshop as tool for editing, coloring and some drawing. The clone tool is one of my best friends!  The new Photoshop brushes are amazing but selecting the right ones to use is a whole other language. 

I have found ArtRage to be much friendlier to use for my digital drawing needs.  Thanks to ArtRage users on YouTube, I have unlocked much more of its potential. I use it to digitally color scanned in pencil or ink linework or create 100% digital art.

There are posts on my blog with more details about my process.  


SCBWI Profile Page:

Zazzle Store:

Recommended Books and DVD's:

Recommended Sites:

Open Source Software:

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  © 2023 Ken Eaton ~ All rights reserved