Children's Literature @ NYPL, Biblio File
Hug Machine Comes to KidsLIVE! Author Series
When and where do you like to read?
I like to stroll to the local coffee shop first thing in the morning and relax with a coffee and read a bit of my book before starting any sort of work. It’s a good way to relax my mind and level myself out, so that my brainstorming and doodling will be looser and more effective! It works for me.
What was the last book you read?
I am almost done reading The Goldfinch by Donna Tart. I am very much enjoying it. It does take me quite a while to read a book though.
A lot of your artwork seems inspired by popular culture, including many book and comic characters. How do you decide which subjects to include in your art?
I like to paint the things that have inspired me in some way in my life. Things from when I was young or things that inspire me today. Many of the pop culture inspired paintings I paint for gallery shows that have already chosen particular themes, such as art inspired by cult films or art inspired by Batman. But I usually don't sign up to do a show unless the subject matter really speaks to me. I will be in an upcoming show inspired by the films of Guillermo del Toro this spring. I love his films, so I’m excited to explore those worlds and create something new with it.
You’ve done illustrations for a number of books, what led to the decision to write your own children’s book?
I have always wanted to write and create my own books. I went to art school to create picture books, so it has been in my game plan forever. I made video games and comic books for many years leading up to the picture books, so that was good training I feel. Simplifying ideas for picture books is a very enjoyable thing for me.
Is there a real life Hug Machine that inspired the book?
Well, I would say that the Hug Machine is a combination of me and many of the kids that I know. Me -- in the sense that I love hugging people and the children in the sense that children love doing things and having adults watch them do those things. "Hey, mom! Watch me knock these blocks down!" "Hey, Dad! Watch me jump over this puddle!" Things that they feel they are very good at. I love when kids do this.
What authors and/or illustrators inspired your art style the most growing up?
I was very into cartoons and comic books. I loved to draw super heroes and battle scenes. Richard Scarry and Arnold Lobel, Shel Silverstein and Maurice Sendak, these were all influences on what I create now. I love worlds with lots of things going on in each illustration. Things for kids to discover on their own. It was Lane Smith and Jon Sciezka that truly inspired me to become a children's book creator though.
If you could hug any author or artist, who would it be and why?
Ed Emberley. He seems like the most lovable dude. I love how he gets kids to participate and create their own worlds. He is a big influence on me as well.
Is your approach to writing different or similar to the approach you take to illustrate? Is one more or less difficult than the other for you?
They go hand in hand actually. I make lists and write words alongside my doodles. The way I brainstorm is very freeform and loose. Sometimes I write dialog between characters and then draw one of them. Sometimes I draw some characters and then write a bit of dialog between them. I list out concepts and draw some of them and sometimes drawings inspire lists on directions for that idea to expand and grow. Does that make sense?
What's your favorite aspect of living in New York City? Has it inspired your art or writing in any way?
New York City is a wonderful place. I love the old buildings and parks and the smell of the air. I love the hustle and bustle of people doing things. I love how active it is and I love the history here. I also love discovering new things, so while New York provides me with plenty of things to discover I long for new places to explore. So I won’t be here forever most likely.
If you were a children’s book character, which one would you be?
Well, Hug Machine is probably the closest to me that there is. I hug like that and I talk like that. And I sometimes wear suspenders like that. But my head is not as big as the Hug Machine's head.
Which author or artist do you admire that you wish more people knew about?
I used to say Jon Klassen, but now I don't think that one counts! My friend Graham Annable co-directed the stop motion film Boxtrolls. He is the most amazing, funny dude ever. His stuff is so charming and funny while at the same time very melancholy and dark. It’s a very unique combination. I hope he makes more books and shorts! His channel on YouTube is Grickle Channel.