Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Loaded Questions: Interview with Prolific Children's author Ed Emberley

Here's a something a little different. A few months ago my dear friend Blake from The Bit Malestrom (click the link, visit the site) mentioned wanting to interview one of his favorite childhood authors Ed Emberley. I sent out a few email and, much to our surprise, was able to set up an interview. The result is the first ever guest post on this site -- a nostalgic conversation between a wonderful children's author and one of his biggest fans.


with Ed Emberley
author of: Ed Emberley's Drawing Book of Animals, Ed Emberley's Drawing Book, Ed Emberley's Complete Funprint Drawing Book, Ed Emberley's Drawing Book of Weirdos, Ed Emberley's Drawing Book of Faces,Go Away Big Green Monster!, The Wing on a Flee, and many more!

Caldecott Medal winner Ed Emberley has written or contributed to dozens of children's books, text books and instruction books over the past four-and-a-half decades. If you search him out on the Internet, you'll find that there are many (former) children whose consciousnesses have been imprinted with his how-to-draw books, which break drawings down in the simplest terms possible, and provide an inroad for the youngest and most intimidated child to the world of drawing. As one of those children, I was thrilled to have a chance offer to interview Mr. Emberley through e-mail, and thrilled to put the results here for your enjoyment.

Blake: You
r "Drawing Book of Animals" contains the dedication "For the boy I was, the book I could not find," which made me (as a seven-year-old) appreciative for having your book. What was available to you back then?

Ed Emberley: I had an orange crate containing 20 or so "Funny Books" which I "read" over and over again. No TV, very few if any books.

Blake: Obviously, your drawing books were effective with your own children, as your son Michael is also an illustrator and author.

EE: Neither Michael nor Rebecca remembers using my drawing books. They both are illustrators and authors of books for children. Michael went to art school for one semester. Rebecca did not go to art school. They received no instruction from me in drawing. They both worked for me on the BIG DRAWING BOOK series doing the technical work. They basically taught themselves. I went to art school for 6 years!

Blake: When you're preparing a picture for a how-to-draw book, do you start with the final product and work your way backwards, or do you actually build it step-by-step as ultimately described in the book?

EE: Build is a very good choice of words. I decide what I would like to draw, then I build each drawing using the basic building blocks, the graphic alphabet introduced in the Drawing Book of Animals; that is, rectangles, triangles, circle, half circles and a few squiggles dots and lines.

Blake: Have you ever used this approach for a very complex drawing? I ask because I noticed that in the Big Red Book some of Michael's drawings are quite elaborate (and fun!) and geared toward older kids.

EE: Occasionally. See the Pirate ship in the Big Purple Drawing Book.

Blake: You've written or contributed to some eighty books or more: Do you have a favorite among the fiction books? Do you have a favorite instructional book?

EE: No favorites, they are all my children and I would not favor one over the othe

: How did you come to illustrate text books? (I can't remember ever having a school book with anything creatively illustrated.

EE: It's too bad that you did not run across some interesting art in your text books. I have had the opposite experience. I was given great freedom and had a lot of fun illustrating text books.

: An Internet search of you turns up lots of former kids (now my age) who are fans, and who refer to you using terms like "inspiration" and "hero". Did you think, 35 odd years ago, that these books would make such a lasting impression?

EE: No. The DRAWING BOOK OF ANIMALS was created as "filler" that came between my "more serious picture books". It was meant to be a one of a kind novelty with a short life. It has grown into a series of 15 books that have continued to sell well for more than 20 years.

: Do you have any other stories of young readers who grew up to become professional artists?

EE: No specific stories but I have been running into more and more as the years go by.

Blake: Has technology changed your way of working at all?

EE: Yes. Felt tip pens (markers) were introduced to the art world during my senior year in art school. It was exotic new technology. $100.00 a pen if you could get one. Etc. etc.

: On that same topic, your website features Flash "movies" of how to do certain drawings: Have you ever been approached to make an interactive book? Or to provide illustrations for a computer program?

EE: No, but it would be fun. I purchased an Apple computer for my 60th birthday. The love affair was instantaneous. I now use my Apple computer in one way or another to
create all my books.

: Do you still jog three times a week?

EE: Yes, but more slowly.

: I wanted to close with questions from children, but they almost all amounted to requests for more books. One suggested a holiday book, for example, while another wanted to know how to give his drawings more depth.

EE: Yes, I plan to create at least two new drawing books: one for beginning artists and one for more advanced artist that will, among other things, explore ways to "give drawings
more depth".

: Let me close by asking: What books do you have planned for the future?

EE: Picture books for the future, I am very busy working on a series of books with my daughter Rebecca. as well as 4 new books for myself...and my computer.

: Thank you so much for your time!

You are entirely welcome, any time. Ed


Kiirsi said...

Thanks so much for this. I ran across your website doing a search for Ed Emberley, one of mine (and my kids') favorite drawing-book people. He's great!

Unknown said...

I am so glad that you found what you are looking for Kiirsi! My good friend, Blake is just crazy about Ed Emberley and I am just happy to offer the perspective of a different and yet entirely meaningful author.


Tina in Boston said...

O..M..G! I stumbled upon an Ed Emberley book while blog-surfing. As soon as I saw the name, I was taken back to my neighborhood library in Sacramento. I used to love his books! I checked them out every week. Many years later, I now live in Boston. How happy am I to know that he was born in Malden (where I used to live) and that he currently lives in Ipswich (home of my favorite clambake company). Please tell Mr. Emberley his biggest fan says "Hello!" and "Thank you!"

Soozcat said...

How I would love to see a reissue of Mr. Emberley's black-and-white op-art picture book, "The Wizard of Op." It is a favorite in our family and I've hunted down used copies on the Internet for siblings.

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