Days on the family farm beneath the Collegiate Peaks could grow long for a second-grader, so Luke Flowers would free his imagination. Reading and drawing became his escapes—and then they became his future.
“Growing up in Buena Vista offered lots of outdoor adventures,” he says. “In those early days, it was the adventures found in reading books that truly inspired me and took me to places far beyond the small town.”
Flowers’ path was set with little-boy dreams. He would be an artist, an illustrator and storyteller. Creating children’s books became his goal and his passion. And in December 2016, the first of his four-book Moby Shinobi series, Ninja On The Farm, was published by Scholastic.
“It’s about a ninja who goes to the job site and messes everything up until he gets it right,” Flowers says.
A soft-spoken man of 38, Flowers and his wife, Tessa, are raising three children at their home in Rockrimmon. When we meet in his office there, he leans back in his chair and talks about living life creatively. The walls are lined with a banjo, guitars, an old turntable and a collection of vinyl records. He dabbled in music as a member of the band Mighty Quinn, a group that once played small gigs around Colorado Springs.
Artists aren’t necessarily born to create art—they’re shaped by life’s events. Several moments helped Flowers find his way.
First, he chose art over basketball. Flowers played on Buena Vista High School’s state champion basketball team in 1995, and he considered a college hoops career. His imagination pulled him in another direction, however. He landed a scholarship to attend the Rocky Mountain College of Art. From there he secured a design job at Young Life in Colorado Springs, and his career blossomed
He began moonlighting as an illustrator, and quickly gained attention. He created album covers and T-shirt designs. Working night and day at an unsustainable pace, he left Young Life and started Luke Flowers Creative. In the past three years, his work has appeared in 27 kids books.
“Illustrate means to illuminate, and Luke also means light,” he says. “I have always clung to the idea of illumination of the imagination, and that has become my mission statement for my company.”
Then came the call from Scholastic. They wanted Moby Shinobi, written and illustrated by Flowers. It was a big moment. Scholastic books had stirred him as a child; he learned from their how-to-draw books.
“The dream of illustrating a children’s book started in second grade,” he says. “I thought then, Man, I would love to hold a Scholastic book with my name on it.”
Colorado Springs residents who enjoy a good beer also may recognize his work from the Bristol Brewing bottles, including the “Beer with Character” line. “A clever name and image, like Laughing Lab, makes a good beer label,” he says. Flowers recently finished a rebranding project that included 10 beer labels. Always drawn to unconventional thinkers, he’s proud of his Nikola Tesla theme that appears on the four Bristol labels of the “Forgotten Genius” series.
When he talks of those who influenced him, Flowers is quick to mention friend and mentor Ron Adair, a local illustrator who also worked in Buena Vista. “He convinced me that maybe I could make a job out of it,” Flowers says.
He also praises the work of Muppets creator Jim Henson, as well as Walt Disney and Shel Silverstein.
“Growing up, Jim Henson was my hero,” Flowers says. “He and Walt Disney were my two biggest influences.”
His imagination was illuminated long ago; now Luke Flowers is lighting the way for many more.