Today’s Meet the Illustrator features Hudson Talbott, author and illustrator of It’s All About Me-Ow, River of Dreams, United Tweets of America, From Wolf to Woof!, and his most recent book, Picturing America: Thomas Cole and the Birth of American Art. He is also the illustrator of other beautiful picture books including Jacqueline Woodson’s Show Way, and Leonardo’s Horse by Jean Fritz. Brightly chatted with Hudson about his creative process, the importance of sharing humor through art, and why he still uses encyclopedias.
What first made you interested in writing and illustrating children’s books?
As a kid I always loved drawing pictures that told stories. Even in art school my paintings always had a narrative quality. So when the opportunity came along to write and illustrate a children’s book, it felt like a natural fit. When I do school visits I always tell kids that I’m doing exactly what they are doing, but now they pay me for it!
Where do you find artistic inspiration?
The stimulation of the city and the contrasting tranquility of the country are wonderfully supportive for my general well-being, but my greatest source of inspiration for my work always comes from my apparently insatiable curiosity. How did we get here? What is that cat really thinking? Why does that dog want to adopt me?
I have an endless fascination with how the world works and how can I share it. It makes me a bit restless, but it also pays the bills.
What inspired you to write From Wolf to Woof!?
My inspiration came from the wonder and awe I have for the exquisiteness of evolution and the hand of God working through the laws of nature — our nature, animals’ nature, and Nature’s nature.
Why do you incorporate humor into many of your illustrations?
Like beauty, humor is its own excuse for being. If I stumble onto something in my work that makes me smile or even laugh, then I want to share it. It’s like making a cake — more fun to share it than to eat it by yourself.
What materials do you most like to use?
I like to use mostly watercolors, colored pencil, and some chalks for certain things. I also love to draw with just a plain, old No.2 pencil.
What does your workspace look like?
I’m very fortunate to have a beautiful big studio in my house — I took out four bedrooms (it’s an old farmhouse), so it has windows on three sides letting in light all day. It also faces a panorama of the Catskill Mountains.
One of the areas in my studio is for art, another is for writing, and another has a cast-iron stove to heat the room. In the middle is a unit with deep shelves holding very active bins of stuff for each of the projects I’m working on. It looks more chaotic than it really is.
What design resources would you recommend to young artists?
Of course, everything is available on the internet. It’s more convenient but not as much fun as using the old encyclopedias. I found the set of World Book Encyclopedias I had growing up and remembered leafing through them for hours discovering new things.
What have kids taught you about books and reading?
Like all of us, they just want to be respected. No child has ever said that to me but it’s quite evident by the change in their behavior when they understand that you’re giving them respect.
What’s the best name for a color that you’ve ever heard?
“Grumble.” Actually, I just made that up, but I’m pretty sure I know what the color would look like.
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