What's the first thing I tend to put on paper? I assume it's a person – adult or kid – or an animal. That's where I start. That's where stories start.

My approach to illustration was based on the kids book artists I loved the most: Jean de Brunhoff, Tomi Ungerer, Leo Lionni, early Sendak, and then all sorts of editorial illustrators, cartoonists and fine artists.

For Ellsworth, I looked a lot at Leo Lionni's books: the bright, textured shapes against the white page.


Clousseau has big influences from Edgar P. Jacobs, a Belgian comic book artist who was from the "Clear Line" school of Herge (Tintin).


Dmitri the Astronaut had a little Margot Zemach and also her idol, Andre Francois. Ludlow Laughs is a loving ripoff of the painting of Ferdinand Leger.


Milo's Hat Trick was strongly influenced by Saul Steinberg, or at least I hope so.


After a while, all the influences kind of meld together, and you become more this unique mutt of everything you've absorbed. And then it's easier to see a common thread...with my books it's a strong graphic quality; sharp lines and shapes, solid colors, stuff you find in a lot of the artists whose work I've followed.

I took an illustration course once, at Parsons, and I was not crazy about it. The advice was commercial and career-oriented: find a style, lock into it, and go make a lot of money with it. My advice would be to look at lots of art, all kinds of art: painting, illustration, comic books, tapestries, animation, decorative art, sculpture. Copy stuff you're attracted to. Be influenced by a variety of artists. Draw, draw, draw! Don't lock into a style. A style will make itself apparent after you've been doing pictures for a bunch of years.


Posted by michael at 09:11 AM Link to this post
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