A Look Inside the Mind of De Pere Children’s Book Illustrator Nick Patton

Nick Patton and Steve the Muse

As an up-and-coming artist specializing in the illustration of children’s stories, Nick Patton has plenty of favorite illustrators. But that’s not who he really wants to work with.

Patton would prefer partnering with some even more imaginative minds. He says the most creative people in the world have very distinct characteristics.

“They live in the moment. They have no fear. Nothing is wrong. Anything is possible. And they are young…usually around four or five years old,” Patton says.

Nick’s first published book, a story about the St. Norbert College mascot, comes out this summer.

Nick Patton, Illustrator

Nick Patton, Illustrator

Nick Patton and I graduated from De Pere high school together.

He was a standout pitcher on the baseball diamond as well as a star in the art room. Our freshman year, I actually sat behind him in Art class. Each project seemed to come easy for Nick.

I stopped taking art after I got a ‘B’ one quarter from an over-zealous student teacher. (Art was supposed to be my easy-A, so I switched to band instead.) However, Nick continued pursuing his passion for artistic expression. He says he chose the path of a children’s book illustrator because it is the “ultimate creative project.”

“I love  the play between words and images,” he explains. “I love that the end product is something to be read, shared and played with. I love the freedom it offers the artist to create the stories they want. You don’t get that level of control in advertising or in the entertainment industry.”

Bringing a Noble Knight to Life

Nick Patton's Norby Mascot

Cover art for “Norby the College Mascot”

Nick also works as a graphic designer for his alma mater, St. Norbert College in De Pere. A few years ago, he was given the job of designing and developing a new mascot for the Green Knights.

The result was Sir Norbert the Knight – better known as “Norby.”

“Last year we designed a Norby doll and this fall we will publish a Norby picture book,” Patton says.

The release of Norby the College Mascot will come on June 24th and there will be a special book signing that coincides with St. Norbert College Day on September 21st. The book will be available at the college campus bookstore as well as the school’s online store.

“This story takes us all over St. Norbert’s campus, and my hope is that the book will give parents, grandparents and students who love the college an opportunity to introduce this special place to the young members of their families,” Patton says.

Upcoming Events for Norby the College Mascot

  • CLICK HERE to Order the Book Online
  • Reading at “Knights on the Fox” summer concert series: Tuesday, July 9 St. Norbert College, Campus Center Readings with author-illustrator Patton and Norby at 6 p.m. and 7:15 p.m.
  • Coloring activity at “Knights on the Fox” summer concert series: Tuesday, July 23, 6-7:15 p.m St. Norbert College, Campus Center

Even if you aren’t connected to St. Norbert, Patton thinks the storybook is a fun way to explain the concept of college to kids so they start thinking about the question, ‘What do I want to be when I grow up?’

There are many other ideas spinning around inside Nick Patton’s brain – but one is extra special to him. For the last nine years, he’s been perfecting a story about a giraffe who loves to draw. There have been several versions, and Nick plans to finalize the book as his next project.

“They all feature a tall, funny-looking animal who struggles to be accepted as an artist. I’m sure a therapist would have a field day…’Nick you are the giraffe,'” he imagines.

The hope is to find a publisher interested in the book. If not – Patton may try to create some buzz and gain support through a Kickstarter campaign.


Concept art for Nick Patton’s next children’s book project

An Illustrator’s Thoughts on Creativity

When it comes to the creative process, Patton believes it’s easier to explain what it is not. He says it isn’t his job to judge, but simply to bring his ideas to life, because perfectionism can be any artist’s worst enemy.

“The opposite of a creative person is a critic,” he says. “I work hard at keeping all my energy on creating the art and the story and ignoring the little voice that asks, ‘Is this good?'”

However, there is a little voice Nick does listen to – that would be his muse, Steve. Nick says he “hired” the slightly-overweight fairy (see featured image) to help him come up with new ideas.

“It’s been a great working relationship, because if things bomb, I’ll just blame Steve!” Patton jokes.

Like many other artists, Nick can find inspiration anywhere at any time. He thinks the trick is knowing when to quiet down, absorb and observe what’s happening in the world around us.

“I’m a big believer in being quiet,” he says. “I like the thought that ideas are not generated from within the self, but from outside the self.”

One idea that gets Patton particularly excited is the concept of creating children’s stories with the help of kids. He’s started experimenting with online storytelling activities in which he asks young readers to help him write the ending (see video below).

Nick says he’s looking forward to seeing what kids will come up with, and hopes the activities will encourage them to explore art and storytelling.

“Wouldn’t it be cool to do a little video story with kids’ drawings?” He asks. “Or for some kid’s art to be incorporated in a picture book story? Who knows what we could come up with!”

Nick’s services as an illustrator are also available to people and businesses in Northeast Wisconsin. Visit his website nickpatton.com and Contact Nick Patton today to get more information, see more of his work, and read his blog.

Teaser Trailer for “Norby the College Mascot”

Help Finish Nick’s Story…

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