Join Ed Emberley for an in-depth discussion in this video Collaborating and the future of publishing, part of Creative Inspirations: Ed Emberley, Children's Book Illustrator.
(music playing) Up here is Make a World, which is the book that came on after the animal drawing book. But all the artwork that was used to make Make a World is inside here. I keep it. When I find a stray piece, I pop it in this box, so it's a little bit disheveled, but there are pieces in here that might interest or amuse you.
And so this is what I would present to the publisher. The publisher would be presented with these sketches. These are all written in pencil. All the text is down here like that. And then the finished art is made. If you look very carefully at everything you're looking at, you can look--have a game if you like--which is look for all the triangles, the rectangles, the circles, and those six shapes and look for them over and over again, and you will see that oh, that's a truck, but what it really is is two rectangles and a slanting line that goes like that and two circles and that becomes a truck.
They're all based on that little rectangle. So you can see that to master this doesn't take years and years, especially since you're free to do what you please. You can make a car upside down. You can make a car crashing into the woods. Whereas if you take a model car, a model your father buys you, or a train, and you find out that the most exciting thing you can do with that train is have a crash with another train, you don't get many more solid gifts anymore. But if somebody gives you a couple of markers, gives you four markers, and say you can have trains crash, you can have trains flying in the sky, you can have a train going underwater, you can have a train in outer space, it's your train, you can do what you want and exercise your imagination that way.
My prime experience was being in the second grade, or third grade, I guess. I go in the third grade, and I am sitting in the third grade, and the teacher comes up and at Thanksgiving time says, "Okay, I want you to draw a fruit bowl." So this came as a shock because I had drawn a lot, but I just--draw a fruit bowl, today? Now? Right now, you want me to draw a fruit bowl? So I was a little lost and kind of embarrassed, and all of a sudden Antonio, the guy called Tony next to me, sitting next to me, Antonio, sits down. He started drawing this bowl of fruit, and I should have caught it as of the orange, which is almost an oval, he made, which is pretty easy.
And I was just saying to myself, "I could do it, I could do this." But nobody showed me how. Nobody showed me how. And Tony made a banana like that, made a shape like that. And maybe I remember that. Maybe I'm still trying to work out that embarrassment when I said, "I'll show you how. You want to make a bowl of fruit? I can show you how to make a bowl of fruit," or a world or a greenhouse or a church. And the interesting thing is once you give them some of these, they can make their own, but they needed that first boost.
We just finished a show in Los Angeles, and the show was for adults who had had the books when they were children some twenty years ago, in some cases thirty years ago, who ended up being artists. We were surprised. The show looked terrific, the stuff was on the wall, but we had anticipated meeting a bunch of children and parents with children would come in and have their books signed and go away, which we're used to that kind of book signing. And we were surprised, there were only two families and all the rest were adults. They were adults who'd use the books themselves and come in with the book and came in with their tattoos, and the biggest thing that surprised me was when we asked, "What's your favorite animal?" or, "What's your favorite car," the most universal answer, the answer that most people gave, was that they took it in their room at night, the book was their companion, and it made them feel good.
So, whatever that is, that when they're doing art, they felt good, for whatever reason it was, which is why they contribute to the fact that they decided to go into art, because when they started doing art on their own in their own style that made them feel good after, and they were after that feel-good feeling. (music playing) There were a bunch of things about the computer that worked for me.
I was having so much fun being able to make the picture larger so I could see it. For instance, I was working on the little--a dog's nose. I could blow the nose up big on the computer, instantly, without going down and adjusting my magnet glasses. And of course, the colors. I mean the colors are fantastic, and the use of the mouse was no more complicated than learning--in fact, less complicated than learning how to use a Crow Quill pen or a brush or a magic marker or things like that. So it allowed me to be more productive, and it allowed me to move more quickly, to be able to make many figures and many characters, move them around, put them behind each other, make then bigger, make them smaller.
It was play for me. Then along came a day when I was sitting in my studio, feeling I'd done it. I'd done five books this way, I'd solved the problems. I'm a problem solver. I'd solved all the problems and I solved them well enough. I was sitting in my studio, feeling tired about starting a book because of the ennui that comes on sometimes when you're not excited by the project ahead of time. I suddenly looked up on the wall and there was a painting by my daughter, Rebecca, a monster that she had.
I looked up at the monster and I said, "That's what I want to do." That's what should be done. The looseness and the excitement that I saw in looking at her drawing, I said, "There is something there that I want." Rebecca Emberley: Working with my father came as a surprise, and we had never worked together before and didn't think that we would work together, didn't think it was possible. We're both impatient and stubborn and very, very opinionated. Ed: I mentioned it to Rebecca, and I said, "You know what would be great? If I sat down with you and I forgot all about Ed Emberley, the famous Ed Emberley.
I will make pictures in complete abandon. I will just make what pleases me at the moment. I won't think about my editors, I won't think about the reviewers. I will just play and do things." Rebecca: I had my doubts, that my father and I would be able to get through a project together, but I think the difference was that we weren't thinking of it as a project. I mean, we were just, both of us, looking to shake things up. Ed: No, didn't you? Ed: I don't want to do that monster. Rebecca: I don't know. But I said, Rebecca: "So give me some paper." I know said that. Ed: Yeah, "Stop talking and give me some paper." Ed: So she decided to get some paper. Rebecca: You gave me this.
Ed: I don't know what the first character was. Rebecca: So, he gave me this, and I didn't really know what to do with it, because I was used to using colored paper, like this, and textured paper. He said he wanted birds. This is before we decided to do Chicken Little. Rebecca: So I said, "I can do birds." Ed: Any bird, any bird. Rebecca: And he said, "Don't you want to draw it out?" And I said, "I don't draw anything out first." Ed: So I said, "Oh, you don't make a hundred sketches, oh?" Rebecca: No, no. So no, I'll make an ostrich, so an ostrich has--sometimes I can't remember what something looks like.
He is much better at saying well, this doesn't look like an ostrich because the tail feathers go that way and not this way. Ed: We had no expectations when we went into this. There was no fail or succeed. We just said, "Let's play around for a few hours in the afternoon and if it works, it works. If it doesn't, we walk away from it. It's better that our relationship remain reasonable than we turn out a beautiful piece of artwork and then we're both miserable at each other." So there was no expectation that this would work.
Rebecca: And I really didn't have the financial freedom to fool around with something new that wasn't going to pay, but we did it anyway. It was like we did this without the consequence of worrying whether someone else Rebecca: would like it or not. Ed: I used to get exhausted Ed: at the end of the first day, when I am working on my own books, because the pressure was too dull. I had to get through the dull period to get to the exciting period. With Rebecca, it was exciting from the first minute because things were going like this. (Ed tapping) Rebecca: I like to get things-- Ed: With me working and starting, I thought everybody was having this experience.
Ed: Oh, I can write a book. Rebecca: Me too. Ed: Okay, let's go in the room and we'll be quiet while Daddy writes a book. And then you sit in front of the page, page 1, and page 1 is the hard page. Page 1, 2, 3, and 4 are the hard pages, and most people don't get over that. They might make really good writers, but getting over the barrier, that slow ennui, that tremendous pressure that makes you tired and it makes exhausted, and it used make me. It had gotten to the point when getting started on a job took two or three days. It took me two or three days to get warmed up.
There was no warm-up period with this. And a lot of the decisions that I would normally have to make and fuss over and grind over, Rebecca took away. So all I had to do was really move the stuff around that she had. Most of the vision is Rebecca's. Rebecca: This is the head, this is the body. The feet are easy. The beak. Oh, I didn't know that's the side-beak, that's here. That's the side-beak.
This was too much for him in the beginning. And you've seen some of his earlier work, the woodcuts, nothing is-- Ed: I was thinking of a little black dot. Rebecca: Nothing is to size. Rebecca: When I first cut these out and we put them up on the screen, you said, "Why are the eyes two different sizes?" And I said, "What?" He said, "Well, why are the eyes two different sizes? That doesn't make sense." I said, "Just because they are." And then I came back the next morning and you'd taken everything and doubled it so the everything was symmetrical. So the two eyes, he just duplicated this one, Rebecca: so the two eyes were the same, the two Ed: Mistake, mistake. Rebecca: wings were the same, the two feet were the same and I said, "No, put it back.
Put it back the way it was." This book was very well received. I was speaking with a friend of mine on the phone who is a children's lit professor and I said, "I love the quality of Roaring Brook books. The production quality is really great. I'd love to work for them someday." And she said, "Well, if you want to work with them, the guy you need to talk to is Neal Porter." And it turned out, in the serendipitous way that things do, that in all of Manhattan, he was giving a speech in a hotel across the street from the hotel that I was staying in. So we met at the Polish Tea Room in Times Square, and he opened them up and looked at them and started laughing and I knew we were good to go.
He started laughing, he looked at them, and he sat them down, and this has never happened to me before and he said "Well, I want them, I want to buy them both." And I said nothing. I was like, really? I'm thinking in my head, does it work that way, what am I supposed to do now? And then I looked at my watch and I said, "Oh God, I have to be--I have an appointment with so-and-so, at so-and-so." And he said, "Well, I don't want you to do that. So what do I need to do?" So in the space of five minutes, I had to say what I really wanted. I said, "I want a multi-book contract. I want this amount of money for an advance for each of them," and we have since sold eight books to that publisher and a couple to another and a couple to another.
Ed: But I enjoy the hell out of them. I look forward more to doing another book with Rebecca than I would doing one on my own. Rebecca: And my sense was that we had fun doing it; therefore, other people would respond that way, and they did. (music playing) [00:11:52.0] Ed: A short history of publishing, from the time I started.
When I first started publishing, eighty percent of the books that were sold were sold to libraries. The government used to give money to libraries, so the libraries would buy the books. And then all of a sudden, the government decided not to give the libraries any books anymore. So instead of eighty percent in this--so the eighty percent that were buying the books, they were buying the books, this the public buying books. This is the libraries buying books, so the public is buying books. That's all who is buying books. All of a sudden, they're gone. All of a sudden, your market is gone. You're sitting down and all of a sudden the market is down to ten percent of what it was.
I don't know these numbers. You have to talk to somebody who knows more about business. I'm speaking metaphorically as a general idea. And that's happened twice within my lifetime, in which the market has changed completely. Now there are two ways of reacting to it. You're working as an illustrator. All of a sudden this happens and you either go in your bedroom and cry and say, "I'm used to working with librarians; therefore I'll never do another children book. I don't know how to change," or you find out how, where the market is going.
Along comes ebooks. Now this has been here before. Along comes ebooks. What do you do? "Oh, God, ebooks, there are less books going to be sold. Children buy ebooks. Why are they ever going to buy a picture book? Why are they ever going to read a book?" Me, myself, I haven't done it yet, but I do have an iPad and iPod and an iPhone, and I look forward to having a novel on an airplane. I can go in and get it on the airplane and read a novel, and I bet it's going to be great. But even if you scanned your artwork, you did some artwork and just scanned it and scanned the thirty-two pages and send it out and send it out to the audience, you're not--I don't think you're going to kill the audience.
You're not going to kill the audience with a book. I think you're going to find the audience. (music playing) Ed: Ta-da! (Music playing) Female speaker: Here we go! Nat Sims: Hi, nice to see you! Jen: Hi Ed, I'm Jen. I'm the graphic designer. Yeah! (crosstalk) It's a great time for us to think about and to see that there's something about the interaction of children with the pages of a book that is good and valid and will last and there's something, of course, that's yet to be discovered, I believe, that's yet to be discovered about children interacting with an app or a small tablet.
It would be a lot of fun. I can see a lot of fun in trying to solve the problem of what do you do with this, what exciting thing can you do with this? Nat: I was a big fan of Ed Emberley's when I was a kid, and when we were looking for content that we could bring into our apps, we were looking for things that worked--that was already two-dimensional, that was modular, that we could have fun with, because we knew that we are going to be breaking things apart and putting them back together. It was such a natural leap from the page to the app so that the kind of things that were built into the book design translated very well into iPad design.
So he made our lives easier and there was the same situation with Eric Carle, where both of them are making books that were already very interactive and kind of pushing the technology of what a book could do. (music playing) Erin Rackelman: Instead of creating new content, we were interested in taking stuff that already existed, that we loved, that we respected, and bringing that into the digital age. So we were looking for authors and illustrators that we'd loved as children.
In this case, Nat had loved Ed's work as a child. We have been so excited to work with authors, but they're very scared of moving into this new medium, and he has no fear. He is just ready to jump in. He has already jumped in. It's been really refreshing to work with someone who isn't resentful of the medium coming out there. He has adapted every time to the way the industry has curved in different directions. So he, by far, is the most open artist we are working with.
Ed: We want to find out if there are people within the field who have credentials, who are going to be able to say something, this is an entertainment, yes. And of course, it has to be entertaining, of course. If you're lucky, you get both. I mean it just helps you to think in a certain way. One of the things, very careful, very important when the first drawing book came out was that people succeed doing it. (music playing) We are excited to take Ed Emberley's books to a whole new generation, partly because I love the way that they demystify what is almost like a priesthood.
The ability to draw is something that every kid has when they're little and then one day, around second or third grade, you know, "Billy is good at drawing and Johnny is not." And the only difference between them is that Billy kept drawing and Johnny stopped. To you crack that open, that mystery, and say it's just practice and it's just paying attention and it's just thinking through. So we are really excited to share that with kids. Anytime you open up a problem that seems so mysterious and so difficult and you let people see inside it and say, it's actually no big deal.
It might be some hard work. And it's not saying that anybody can write their own book right off the bat, but there is a way to get there. That's really exciting. (music playing) Ed: Just as I thought of ideas, the ways to use printed pages on books that people will want to come to, I think I could devise ways of communicating through an app that aren't used on apps right now, and that are better--and some of the things that I've wanted to do, like certain books, had ideas for books, and said, gee, that's a great book, but it really needs motion.
If I describe this as one thing, I can do 1, 2, 3, but if I design an app, I can actually have this happen. I can design books in which movement is the book. To do a movie is so expensive. Say, well, I am not going to do a movie. It costs millions of dollars to do a really great movie, but an app? Hmm, not bad. (music playing)