Tom Sawyer & Heidi Book Designs by Jason Buhagiar

Tom Sawyer & Heidi Book Designs by Jason Buhagiar


This is the second and final part of a two part interview with award winning digital illustrator Jason Buhagiar, one of the greatest living artists of our time.

To read part one of this interview, please click the link below:

In this interview Jason shares some interesting information including discussions on the various stages of the design process for his characters and his philosophy on a successful work/life balance.

Jason has an incredible ability to illustrate his characters with so much energy, colour and life that they literally jump off the pages before our eyes. It gives me great pleasure to share this interview with you and in the process bring even more awareness to his great art.

Interview Cont’d with Jason Buhagiar by Cindy Wider:

Q: Jason, when you create your cartoons, do you use reference photos? In other words, how did you come up with the original characters for Salty Splashes ™? Did you base each character upon photographs of animals?

Image of "Stump" by Jason Buhagiar - Salty Splashes™ Collection - © Copyright Balcony 7

“Stump” by Jason Buhagiar – Salty Splashes™ Collection – © Copyright Balcony 7

If so, tell us where you obtain your reference materials from.

A: First of all the client will send me a brief write up about the character, so I will have a rough idea what the client is really looking for. As soon I have this info in hand I start doing my research.

There are different stages; Let say I have to create a cartoon of animal with a human body. The first stage of research will be about the animal in question so I will do search for  photos of the animal in different positions, colors, shape, movement and even the characteristic environment of animal. Then during the second stage of research I will investigate the human body for a particular cartoon character. For example if the animal I have chosen is a hippo then I will do specific research of  the human body shape that can be related to a hippo figure like an overweight figure. So I will do another stage of research for an overweight body in different positions. As soon as I am happy with the research done I have what I need to move into the next stage which is my favorite part.

Creating Illustrated Characters

I will start combining the Animal with the human body by sketching the character using my own imagination making sure that the animal remains identifiable. The final stage is where I am concentrating more on the funny features of the cartoons which I believe is a very important stage. It’s this stage that makes the cartoon unique. For example making a hippo with a goofy teeth look,  so that the teeth are outstanding.


Q: Could you tell us three of the most memorable moments in your artistic career so far?

Image of "Kat" by Jason Buhagiar - Salty Splashes™ Collection - © Copyright Balcony 7

“Kat” by Jason Buhagiar – Salty Splashes™ Collection – © Copyright Balcony 7

A: My First memorable moment was in between 1986 and 1988 when I was just a student and I came first in a national art competition from all the Maltese art students for 3 consecutive years and my name was all over the Local Newspapers.

A Change in Perspective

My second was in 2001 while I was living in the UK and I had decided to do some volunteering work in GAMBIA which is situated in the west coast of Africa, teaching Art to African Kids for the Guidance and Counseling in Banjul. Before I went to Africa I took everything for granted especially education. I never thought about how lucky I was to be educated till I faced all this poverty. I experienced 3 amazing months that I will never forget because this experience taught me how to appreciate everything I have in my life.

The third moment was this year i.e. 2013 when a Local journalist Mr. Natalino Fenech had discovered my Digital illustration work and invited me to do an interview. This interview was shown on TVM Prime Time News on the main local channel.  (See interview below.) I was also invited by another Local TV stations ONE for a talent talk show by a Local popular TV presenter Norman Hamilton (trained at BBC in London in 1968).


TVM News Interview Feature – Jason Buhagiar Digital Artist


Q: Please tell us about any significant awards you have won or special projects that have made an impact on your life.

Image of "Peter & Katie" by Jason Buhagiar - Salty Splashes™ Collection - © Copyright Balcony 7

“Peter & Katie” by Jason Buhagiar – Salty Splashes™ Collection – © Copyright Balcony 7

A: Back in 1993 I won the Best cover award that had been used for the careers Convention that had been organized by The Malta Career Guidance Association. The Malta Career Guidance Association aims to promote the delivery of high quality career guidance services, set up ethical standards, stimulate and debate on issues, concerning educational and career guidance. In 2012 I together with another Local Artist were chosen among all Local Publishers to illustrate 2 Junior Classics children’s books each. Each book contained 52 illustrations.

In summer of the same year, I illustrated the first classic children book Tom Sawyer adapted from the original text by Mark Twain and in the mid of year  2013 I illustrated another classic children’s book Heidi adapted from the original text by Johanna Spyri. These are a set of junior classics collection of tales and stories, suitable for boys and girls from six to sixteen.


Opportunities for Illustration

Q: What do you aspire to achieve next in your already prolific career? Do you have any significant goals that you aim to achieve?

A: That Salty Splashes ™ characters go into animation film. This will be a big stepping-stone in my career and it will mean a lot to me, especially because I come from Malta, a lovely little country but, unfortunately opportunities like this don’t happen often.


Image of "Salty Splashes Collection" by Jason Buhagiar - Salty Splashes™ Collection - © Copyright Balcony 7

Salty Splashes ™ Collection” by Jason Buhagiar – Salty Splashes™ Collection – © Copyright Balcony 7


Click to Visit Salty Splashes™ Cartoon Bios

Image of Jason spending time with family

Jason spends time with family

Q: How do you maintain a successful work/life balance?

A: I had been trained to work hard.  If  I don’t not work hard I will feel guilty about not working hard. Did you ever hear someone called lazy because they weren’t working hard enough? Hard work has held the promise of success and reward, but there is a downside if I find myself not enjoying the living of it all. If  the balance between my work and my life outside of work is not maintained, I could suffer, harming my mind, physical health, and my relationships. My relationships need attention, my spirit needs nurturing, my body needs care, and my mind needs some time off.

I think it is very important to work at something you love, or at least you like. I believe it is important to pay attention to my inner world. My opinion of this way of thinking helps me maintain balance between my social life and my successful work.


Advice for Illustrators

Image of Jason taking time out

Jason taking time out

Q: Do you have any suggestions to help other artists to make a successful career in illustration?

A: First of all I always believe that you have to truly love what you’ve been doing. If not that means it’s a false start. Being greedy you won’t achieve anything. Everyone makes mistakes in life. It is very important that you won’t repeat the same mistakes but learn from your own mistakes. Dedication, quality and unique creativity are what make you an artist. But at the end the most important things are a positive attitude and kindness along with passion is the winning combinations for success.


This brings us to the end of the second and final part of our interview with Jason. I hope you have enjoyed this interview as much as I have. Thank you so much Jason for your generosity of time and for so openly sharing your knowledge with us all. I look forward to witnessing your continual soar to stardom as Salty Splashes ™ moves into film and animated cartoon television series.


Contact Details for Jason Buhagiar: