那個決定讓我走上四十年的廣告事業生涯，我加入了Young and Rubicam廣告公司，擔任助理藝術指導，並且在接下來的十三年，都在麥迪遜大道285號度過。是的，那是《廣告狂人》的年代，但正如我的一位朋友所說：「我一定是走錯樓層了。」後來我加入了該公司的國際分部擔任創意總監，工作的地點包括了法蘭克福、巴黎、墨西哥市、布魯塞爾、多倫多。在退休前，又再度到巴黎待了五年。我幾乎在歐洲每個城市都工作過，和數百位有趣的人相遇和共事，這是獲益良多的經驗。
我倒是寫出興趣來了，於是又寫了另一個故事《Cookie Plays Hooky》，這回我完成了所有的插圖之後才做成書樣，並且因此簽下了一位經紀人。 這個故事雖然還是沒有得到出版機會，但是卻有一件奇妙的事發生。有天一隻瘦骨如柴的貓咪跑來我家，而且堅持留下來跟我們一起生活。她領養了我們。在Cookie書中我曾畫了一隻貓，我跟我的經紀人說，現在我可以把貓畫得更好了，因為我養貓了。她說：「何不寫一個跟貓有關的故事呢？」
我從未養過貓，也沒想過要養貓，因此我對貓所知道的，只有這隻走失的貓的故事。於是我寫了”Lost Cat”，並製作成書樣。我的經紀人幫我提案給Kate O’Sullivan，結果她買下了這個故事。我的童年夢想實現了，我成了一位插畫家。
Please tell us about yourself. How did you come to where you are as a picture book author and illustrator? Have you had any art training? What did you do before you became an illustrator?
That’s a very interesting question. When I was a child I was drawing all the time, I loved to draw. By the time I got to high school I was considered the school artist and my dream was to someday become an illustrator. I was fortunate enough to go to Pratt Institute one of the best art schools in the country. After the first foundation year we were to choose a speciality for the remaining three years of study. I was of course going to select illustration but my advisor told me that illustration was a dying field because in the future everything would be done with photography. So I specialized in advertising design.
That decision led to a forty year career in advertising. I joined Young and Rubicam Advertising as an assistant art director and worked at 285 Madison Avenue for the next thirteen years. Yes, they were the years of “Mad Men” but as a friend of mine said, “I must have been on the wrong floor.” I then joined the international wing of the company and served as creative director in Frankfurt, Paris, Mexico City, Brussels, Toronto and then a second five years stint in Paris before retiring. I have worked in almost every country in Europe and met and worked with hundreds of interesting people, a very rewarding experience.
During these years I became a weekend painter and since I missed out on the painting training at Pratt, I taught myself to paint.
When I retired I thought I would finally have time to paint but through friends I got interested in etching. So I went to a school in Paris for two years and learned to be an etcher. I loved it, bought a professional press and I made etchings for about six years. I never did try to find a gallery to represent my work, I just gave my etchings to friends.
About five years ago I had knee replacement surgery and my surgeon wanted me to do the rehab in Paris. We live in Normandy so my wife and I rented an apartment in Paris for six weeks. The rehab was only three days a week so I had a lot of time on my hands. To fill the time, I sat down and wrote a children’s book, “Accidental Christmas.” When I returned home I made a rough dummy of it and tried without success to get it published.
I had been bitten by the bug and wrote another story, “Cookie Plays Hooky.” This time I made the dummy with finished illustrations and it led to getting an agent.
Cookie was never sold to a publisher but an interesting thing happened. A little scrawny cat came to our door and insisted on living with us. She adopted us. In Cookie there was a scene with a cat and I told my agent that I could now make a better illustration of a cat because we had a cat at home. She said, “Why not write a story about a cat?”
I had never had a cat and never had an interest having one so the only thing I knew about cats was this story of a cat that got lost. So I wrote and made a dummy for “Lost Cat” My agent sent it to Kate O’Sullivan who bought it and that’s when my childhood dream came true. I became an illustrator.
Your illustrations are so beautiful. What is your creative process like? What is your medium?
When I was a weekend painter my medium was oil paint. As it was the only medium I was comfortable with I used oil to make the dummy for “Cookie.”
There was something I didn’t like but I could not put my finger on it. When I made the dummy for “Lost Cat” I made the jacket illustration in oil but after it was bought by HMH I did it again in pastels and I much preferred the results. It was the first time I used pastels and it turned out to be softer and friendlier. So pastels became my medium from then on.
When approaching a finished illustration, I try to change from the person who made the dummy to see if I can look at the task with a fresh point of view. Perhaps I can find an angle or composition that will be better than that of the dummy.
Then the final illustration starts to form in my mind and my task is to create that image on paper. I spend a lot of time on the composition and the drawing because if the drawing is not sound the painting will be a failure. After that I transfer the drawing to the paper and with pastel sticks block in the major areas of the painting. The drawing shows through these large areas of color. I then switch to pastel pencils because as my style is rather realistic I can delineate the details better.
When the illustration is completely covered, I go back over it adjusting the colors by glazing color over color.
Can you also show us some of your sketches and art tools? What does your studio look like?
I had the top floor of an old barn rebuilt as a studio with lots of light and two sinks. It is heated half by electricity and half by circulating hot water. The style of architecture is called colombage. It’s a half-timbered look that is found in some parts of Europe. In France it is only found in Normandy.
The layout and perspective in “Tiptop Cat” are very interesting. What is the concept behind it?
I cannot tell you why I did what I did, it just happened. I knew the story I wanted to tell and I felt the best way to tell it was with many small pictures broken up by some shocking big ones. I know I could not have done it without my many years making storyboards that plan for a commercial to be shot. I have made hundreds of storyboards so that kind of story telling is very easy for me. To tell the story of Tiptop I wanted the reader to experience the action through the storyboard form.
Do you have any tips on how to catch a cat’s expression and movement in drawings?
I use a lot of photography as a guide for the correct anatomy and attitude of the cat but I take great liberties with the expression. This is where my ability as a cartoonist helps. I often make the eyes a bit rounder than a cat’s eyes. One little trick I used in the books featuring Slipper is adjusting the markings on the forehead of the cat to create the expression. I hope is to end up with a slightly cartoon-like realism.
I heard that you also have a dog in your family. Are you planning to make a dog book in the future?
I’m sorry I do not have a dog. I have done one story with a dog, a Jack Russell, but it was not bought. I am now working on another one.
If readers would like to know more about you, where can they find you online?
I am way behind the times and am not online. One of my daughters recently said she was going to make a Facebook page for me but it has not yet happened. When I was etching I did put some etchings on a site called artID.