Join Ed Emberley for an in-depth discussion in this video Ed Emberley, Children's Book Illustrator, part of Creative Inspirations: Ed Emberley, Children's Book Illustrator.
(music playing) Ed Emberley: Not everybody has to be an artist. The big thing is feeling good about yourself. That's more important than the art part. I have made lions and chickens out of thumbprints. I have cut circles in pieces and put them back together to make pictures of birds and flowers and things like that. I have made a little red bird.
You make a half circle for the body, put a triangle at one end, a circle at the other end, another triangle for the beak sticking out front, a little dot for an eye, and two little spindly legs. I can make a bird that way and probably so can lots of people, including children. Everyone who likes my books is like me in some way. If you like my books, you've never met me? There is something about you that's just like me, and that's the person I can speak to.
If I try to speak to everybody, I speak to nobody. I only can speak to the Ed Emberleys there are in the world. Whether they are girls or boys, whether they are grown up or small, my duty is to present me out to the other me's in the world, and that's what I do. (music playing) My name is Ed Emberley.
Both my work and my fun are combined in one. I write and illustrate books for children. And I have illustrated, over the past number of years, about a hundred books. The reason I do children's books, when I started working, I decided that I would do something to please me, and at the same time would not try to analyze why it pleased me. Does it please me because it brings me memories of child? Perhaps.
Mostly it's a visceral, inside reaction. When I look through the children's books, I just listen to this voice, and the voice said, "I would like to do that," and that was the end of the conversation. I don't like to work the same way all the time. I would prefer to experiment with different materials. I find that when I'm challenged the challenge brings me energy and fun. I am determined to have fun doing my work, primarily because it's fun, but the second reason is if I'm enjoying myself then that feeling is passed on to the reader.
If I have fun, I can pass the fun on. That's what I'm always searching for. (music playing) Welcome to Ipswich, forty-five minutes north of Boston, on the coast of Massachusetts.
This is the Emberley home. We've lived here since our children were in preschool. The house was built around 1690. The Ipswich River, it's a tidal river. That means that twice a day we have ten feet of water in front of the house and then twice a day we have no water in front of the house. So be very careful where you park your car. They call this the keeping room, the main living room. This cupboard that's between the two windows, it is a good metaphor for our life, which is a jumble of this and that.
There are little things, big things, colorful things, not-so-colorful things. Most of them are old. Most of the houses in this area were disassembled. They are all pegged and put together. There are large beams like this, and you can take them all apart like a Lego, like a little toy, like Lincoln Logs or a Lego. In the early 1700s, this house was an antique when George Washington--if George Washington were to come to this house at the Battle of Bunker Hill, this would've already been an antique. So this is an old house.
(music playing) This is the art studio. This is where I do all the artwork by hand. You see all the markers standing around. On the shelves all around here are all different tools. On the right-hand side are all the books--the books that I do, not the books that every artist does.
You notice there is a Big Orange Drawing Book, so inside there are all the orange drawing book thing. So what I have to do is if I am going to make a book with the color orange and the color black, two drawings have to be made. So see all the pumpkins, see those basically right there? Well, they are the pumpkins. The orange thing that you see on the top would go like this. We often make pumpkins like that. They call these overlays. It's the solid print plus the overlay. And each one of these books requires a different number of pieces, but there is no picture; there is no picture that exists of the book.
Only the book is our method. The book is our medium. Only the book is our final printed book. This is Michael's original room--it has been converted into a computer workroom--and some of the work that we have been working on with Rebecca, which is where a lot of the work from Rebecca is done. This wall is used to lay out a whole book. The size of these, there's a piece of wire, and there are pieces of paper that get hung up like this. This is a double-page spread, and it's necessary for us to print something to make absolutely sure that this line is exactly where we want it.
And also, the printer uses this as a guide to actually print the color. The wall that you see here is a small part of the collection of books we just happen to own. We don't--we have been keeping books over the years. There are drawing books in here. There are books done the woodcuts. There are picture books in here. There are flipbooks in here. There is The Wing on a Flea, which is the first book. There are books that have been recently done on the computer. This one was absolutely done by hand because it was done with my thumbprint, which is pretty simple.
And it's a book that shows people how to draw things using their thumbprints and the word ivy lou. So there is step-by-step illustrations that tell you how to make people's faces, how to make different kinds of hats, how to make action, how to make animals. That was very successful, used a lot in classrooms. There are also books that were done specifically with what the computer is able to do, which is the computer is able to make ovals and circles and rectangles and triangles.
So I thought maybe I could use them and if I put them together in a clever enough way then the pictures wouldn't look too static, but you would be able to get some action out of it. The total number of picture books I have done are about a hundred, one hundred titles, and more, I hope, in the future. (music playing) Well, I had an interesting experience in high school. I was not a very good student.
I was taken away from mathematics, transferred to a special class where they taught art all afternoon. They had a professional watercolorist. He taught boxing and watercolor painting. I worked at least for two years with this teacher, maybe three years. He talked to my parents, said, you know, "He really should go to arts school." My parents said, "Yes, it's a right idea. We can't afford it." He said, "You can afford this art school. It's a very good art school. It's the Massachusetts College of Art. They will charge you a hundred dollars a year, and you can pay fifty dollars in the fall and another fifty dollars at Christmas time." In arts school, at the end of the four-year period, I met Barbara and went in the army rather than put it off, and because I had a Bachelor's Degree in Fine Arts, they thought what I would be good at is digging ditches for the engineers.
So I was a ditch digger. I used to dig targets. So they thought a BFA would be terrific for that. Luckily, sometime around half way through, they discovered I could paint signs. I could actually twirl a brush and paint a sign, so I became a sign painter. When I got out of the army, I went to Rhode Island School of Design. So you had to take something new, so what I took was a post in advertising design. So I had a chance to work with type for a year. For the first time, I was handling blocks of color, thinking about type, type size and type faces. Get out and walked around Boston, went down by Fenway Park, and there was a little building right at Kenmore Square, and there was a place in there that was looking for paste-up artist. That was an artist who pastes type down.
So I brought my portfolio from arts school, which happened to have a lot of silly cartoons in it. They said, "We want someone to order type and glue it down," and they said, "You do these drawings too?" I said yeah. "Well, okay, then we are going to hire you to do the drawings," and so they started immediately, that day, and started doing small drawings, of which not much was expected of me, but I did even better because I enjoyed doing it.
A year and a half later, I had published for them, for this company, two of these books that are called clip books, and they were books that were made for small companies and businesses, and they can go through and cut the pictures out. They had permission to cut these pictures out and use them, just as they today on the computer, but this was an actual paper thing. Now the tools that I were using were the oil painting brush or watercolor brush, which was a red sable, or a little, fine mapping pen called a Crow Quill pen. And I use the techniques that were a hundred years old, some of them two hundred, three hundred years old.
I had no new materials whatsoever, certainly no computers, but not even a felt-tip marker. In fact, I still remember somebody coming into the school with a felt-tip marker, it was only a hundred dollars, and the felt went in one end then they mixed color and put it in the other end. And they said, "This is the latest thing. This is the fine artist's great pen." So this one was done with--which is interesting. Here's a good example, here you can see the thick and thin of the brush, learning to take the brush and go down and make it thicker and thinner at just the right time, and then a few lines with a pen, but mostly with a brush, where the brush was done like that.
You get used of doing this. But of course, the Crow Quill pen had the same problem. A Crow Quill pen is very, very fine; it's finer than any pen point you have seen on a fountain pen or anything, about half the size of that. And the pressure is exact. If you press too hard, you splutter. The pen digs into the paper and it splashes. And if you don't do it heavy enough, it doesn't make a mark on the paper. I was not headed deliberately to be a children's book illustrator. I wanted to be a person who drew pictures.
And I would say after about a month of reveling in the fifty-dollar checks at the end of the week, I started looking for freelance work by mail and started getting magazine illustrations for children's magazines, greeting cards, stuff like that. In fact, that's what precipitated my leaving of the direct mail advertising firm, because I was working nights and working weekends. So I went to Boston, those people who know about Boston, on to Prudential Center, and got an office with three other artists, shared the rent, went inside, and for a year I said, "I will do anything anybody asks me to do for one year.
At the end of the year, we will stop and we will think about the facts about the future and the past and figure out what's going on, make some decisions about what to do in the future." And the first day--this is rather interesting--I just felt like doing a children's book, and the first four days that I was freelancing on my own and not salaried, I did the sketches for The Wing on a Flea. What I did was, I said, "Well, I will do something really nice and arty." This is a nice arty page. There is nothing on it except some little scratchy lines that indicate the marshes like that, a little tiny triangle, a little tiny--so that was easy.
Again, Crow Quill pen, (mimicking sound of pen scratches) hundreds of Crow Quill lines, (mimicking sound of pen scratches) like that and some shapes like that, and it looked good. And it was chosen that particular year by the New York Times. It was a very important, prestigious award. It was one of the ten best illustrated books of the year, it was chosen. So that was the start of it. The thing that was presented to me then is if I work for Little Brown and did a book a year and I made fifty dollars every time a book came out and I started getting royalties at so many pennies a book, I was never going to be able to make a living because not every one of those books was going to sell.
Well, I said, "Well, there is one solution, and that is I will start illustrating other books." I said, "Well, what I will do is I will do a woodcut book. I will do something that's entirely different, absolutely entirely different, so it looks like another artist did it," which makes me happy. So I started to say, "Well, the thing that's the furthest from a pen line, the furthest from this line, is a woodcut." It has a lot of solid blacks and mostly solid blacks with very few thin lines. So at a certain point, I decided what I am going to do is I will make a woodcut.
This is the wooden drawing that I made just to make the inquiry to the publishers. So you can see the chisel marks in there, like that. So you chisel out, you rub ink on the surface, and pull the print off. And when you get through, you get a picture that looks like this. You can see all of the solids. Compared to this, that's quite different. It looked like two different artists did it, but it's the same artist. Now, I had fun doing this. This has a lot of accidentals in it, things, little pieces that stick out like that. This is extremely neat, with no accidentals.
I just loved it to pieces. We have another Paul Bunyan that's a little bit closer to the real Paul Bunyan, that's bigger than I am anyway, and taller. And it was done for--to promote the Paul Bunyan book. Now for some reason or other, I thought it would be a good idea to make a giant woodcut. This would actually be printed. So the drawing was roughed out, as I do with all the woodcut books. Most of the work is done with the knife and with the gouging. You can see here how the knife cuts are here and large pieces of wood are chipped out.
So these are pine. These are 12-inch pine boards that are put together. And poured ink over the surface like this, black ink, then a piece of rice paper, which is a nice transparent paper, like that, and you rub it and you rub the surface, and when you do, you get the print that looks like that. (music playing) One thing you should know is that I draw many different ways, and the most usual way of starting a career as an illustrator is to develop a single technique in which you draw the same face the same way with the same brushes and the same ink and the same paint over and over again, which is fine.
That's a good way to do things. However, even at that time, I worked in many different ways, and I had been working on a series of books and had bogged down with one book that had taken two years to do. So my publisher walked up to me and said, "You know, you haven't published for two years. You really should get something out." So I said, "But I have this little thing, which is not a masterwork of an illustrator with wonderful illustration, but is a way of drawing that I ran into when I was a child." I still remembered how to draw the little figure that I was taught how to draw from the Sunday paper.
It was still stuck in my memory. So then I said, "There must be something there." And as I had thought back, I thought well, this picture was really made of shapes that I could remember, like rectangles, triangles, circles, and that sort of thing. You're all familiar, I'm assuming most of the people who are watching me now are familiar with the ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ alphabet. Well, this is the drawing alphabet. We can also draw, I can show you how to draw using a picture alphabet. And these are the letters you have to know.
You do have to know how to make a shape that looks like this, that's round. It doesn't have to be perfect, but it must be round, just the same way you make the letter O, which is why even young children can do this. In fact, preschoolers, actually, it's very successful with preschoolers who haven't been introduced to the alphabet. In fact, some schools use this as an introduction to the more complicated alphabet of ABCDEFG. The second letter in my drawing alphabet I figured was going to be a rectangle. One, two, three, four. It doesn't have to be perfect, it doesn't have to be straight, but it must have four sides.
So it's a shape that has four sides, like that. The third letter in the drawing alphabet is the third shape, which is like this. One, two, three, it goes across like that. Then we can make the other, the one, two, three, the fourth shape is a half circle. Flat on one side, round on the other side. See, it's only half as big as the circle, so it should be half as hard to make. So we have one, two, three, four. The letter U that you see, so it's a line that goes down and back up again. And the last letter, the last letter in the drawing alphabet is a reverse curve, which sounds hard when you first hear it, so be careful of the thing that sounds hard and isn't always hard.
Sometimes a thing that sounds hard isn't hard once you see it, because the reverse curve is easy to draw, because you probably already know how to make it because it's the letter S, just like the letter S. It's a line that curves like this and back up and double like that. You have to know how to make a dot like that. You have to know how to make a larger dot like this. You have to know how to make a few straight lines like that, and you have to know how to scribble. Scribble, scribble, scribble, scribble, up and down, back and forth, every which way, scribble. And the book, the first book, looked a lot like this.
What it was is a book of assorted animals that can be drawn, limiting it to, if you have three markers, if you have an orange marker, a green marker, and a brown marker, and a black marker, that's four markers. So you don't have to have every color in the rainbow. And as you see the step-by-step illustration. Start with a pollywog, for instance. You draw that, you succeed, a little zing of success. You take the letter S and make a tail out it, the zing of success. You take a dot and put it up here, it becomes an eye. You take a line and put it up there, it becomes a mouth.
And then it goes on. If you keep doing and following the same system, you can use the same limited number of shapes and make a dragon that looks like that, and a whole bunch of other animals that go in between. I don't want the children to fail. The most important thing is that they are amused. The second most important thing is they do not fail. I didn't want to put a book up that made Ed Emberley a fancy guy. Oh boy! Can he draw a pictures! No, I wanted something they can succeed at. (music playing) (music playing) (crosstalk) People look at the drawings and they take them apart in their mind and they say, "Well, I never noticed that before, that this fox is made of a triangle, a rectangle, or another half circle." That kind of analysis helps them make their own animals, so it helps your brain work and problem-solve and puzzle-solve.
How many think you could make a triangle flat on the top, pointed on the bottom? How many think you could make a triangle flat on the top? Excellent! Very good! How many think they could make a little beetle here like this? There we go! But I wouldn't ask you to make a lion, no siree. I was having fun doing it this way, and the pages are made to be fun. And I think if I have fun, the fun is transferred to my listener.
If I'm bored, that boredom is going to transfer to somebody. So, am I an educator? I do not pretend to be an early learning specialist. I do not pretend to be an educator. I'm an entertainer. You could make a picture of a baby mouse and a mama mouse. All you have to do is make one mouse small, make the other mouse big. You could easily draw a picture of a short mouse and a tall mouse, just like that. You could make a picture of a great big Arnold Schwarzenegger mouse.
(singing) (children laughing) You could do one about the purple mice from outer space coming to attack planet Earth. (singing) (children laughing) I am being taught about my own drawing system, and what I've found is from local people in Ipswich and across the country--but this is all anecdotal, nobody writes to me about that--is that the kids with dyslexia, when there is a school that specializes in educating--and they're mostly boys--with dyslexia, found these books extremely useful, because after all, children in the first grade are memorizing their twenty-six-letter alphabet, and I can give them a six-letter alphabet.
And you can get children with dyslexia and get them to draw a mouse or a skunk ten times, rather than write the word banana ten times. There's a lot of reward for them if they learn how to draw a monster or a skunk or a fox or a turtle or a spider or something like that. (music playing) Rebecca Emberley: I was huge into boutique when I was in high school, silversmithing, sold a lot of that stuff, did craft fairs.
For a while, I was selling T-shirts to stores. I definitely have early memories of putting things together, assembling things. I dug out my old collage stuff from high school and said, "Well, you know what? If I'm going to do books, this is how I would like to do it." Michael Emberley: They were encouraging, in the household, to do something if you said you wanted to do something. Halloween, we made some really nice costumes. My mother helped me make this elaborate Planet of the Apes costume. It had like an articulated jaw. We made it out of paper mache and molded it on my head, and we made a lining for it and molded it so it had the jaw that moved just--because I remember seeing the one in the movie, they were the first ones that had the jaws that moved.
And I can remember saying, "No, I want it to be like that," and so it was a collaborative--I remember my mother mostly working on that one. They both went to art school and even though my mother didn't work professionally, she had gone all the way through art school and was a gifted craftsperson. She studied design, fashion design, and she had done an extensive amount of sewing. Barbara Emberley: My mother always painted and sewed and did all kinds of things, and I grew up with that, and I did the same thing, and the kids just joined in and did everything we did.
Neither one of them was particularly interested in the typical job, pumping gas at the gas station or working in the grocery store. And they weren't brought up on a nine-to-five basis. I think when push comes to shove, they had to be creative about almost everything. Ed: Because my time wasn't set, you could make it flexible. If I decided that I want to take four days off and try to make sandals, leather sandals, at that time was a big craft thing. We'd take a month off to make Christmas.
Rebecca: There was a long time before I ever bought a Christmas present. I just didn't. We made them all. I carried over all of the stuff that I had learned into my parenting experience, which was, prepare her to be a lifelong learner. And my parents, I think, inadvertently prepared us to be lifelong learners. If there is something that you want to know, go find it out. Adrian Emberley: It was fun growing up in this family. I didn't really know any other way. As an only child, I kind of figured this is what everybody's family must be like. Like everybody makes puppets and clothing and goes to their grandfather's house and does a new craft every day or something.
It was definitely fun and colorful and lively. That's for sure. Michael: When I was working with my father upstairs, like a lot of us did, we were doing sections of the book. He was doing drawing books, and he did a series of books with a color theme. When people do ask me how you get into books, I mean, because it was so practical and such an extension of what we were already doing, there wasn't that much pressure on me. It was just something to do.
If you hit a stumbling block, you might think, I just don't have it, whereas I never had that. I always thought this doesn't look good because you didn't do it well enough. And if you don't know how to do it well enough, you better figure out because you are going to have to pay rent. Rebecca: There isn't any medium that I didn't cover at some point. I left home feeling like there was very little that I couldn't do. And I think the greatest gift that came from being in that family, from growing up in that family, was complete lack of understanding that I could totally fail, knowing that I would always be able to make a living, knowing that if I couldn't do that, I would be doing something else.
Ed: They are both freelance. Rebecca lives in Maine, Michael lives in Ireland, and they've both been doing freelance all their lives. Neither one of them--Michael had a job for about three weeks. Barbara: We weren't regulated the same way. The only thing that really regulated us was the schools. We had to be there at a certain time and you had to take a vacation at a certain time. With the summers we could do pretty much what we wanted. Ed: So we would work hard, but then we were able to take off the kid's school vacations and we'd just go some place, go do something. Instead of having them come home and letting them play with their friends, which probably would have been a good idea, we would say, "No, I don't want to hang around here.
Let's go up to Trapp Family Lodge and go skiing. You've got a week off. Let's go skiing for a week." So we did a lot of, we called it adventuring. I remember skiing in Franconia at thirty-five below, thirty-five below, was it thirty-five below there? Barbara: It was forty below, and the car was frozen. Ed: Yeah, the car was frozen. Barbara: Solid, so we skied around while we were waiting for the tow track. Ed: We were skied around the lake. It hurt to breathe, so I said, "Maybe we could go back now." It hurt to breathe. I said, "If it hurts to breathe, maybe that's cold enough." (music playing) Ah, my first sail, but you have to know something about sailboats.
But it was twelve feet long, and I still remember the first day I got it. I bought it in Marblehead, a very famous, well-known yarding area. A friend of mine who was already an experienced sailor and my wife were at my house, and he was waiting to go with me in the morning. But what I did instead was I went way out where they could just barely see me on the morning, and I got a big bawling out, for I had left no note. I had just taken off and sailed out. So I think a lot of--it helps to be dumb.
It helps to be dumb because a smart person wouldn't have done that. Number one, they would have at least left a note and said, "If I don't come back, I went over there. Go look for me over there." But it was like me meeting my wife. My wife and I met, and then one day we went just okay, let's make a life together, just like that. And the same thing happened with sailing. Okay, we are going to sail the sailboat. We are going to get bigger ones and bigger ones and eventually we are going to teach ourselves how to sail to Nantucket, which is a four-day trip.
We are going to sail to Maine, which is a four-day trip, and we are going to take two little kids with us. Well, the interesting thing about the boat is I had no electronic equipment. In fact, there wasn't much that existed to help you navigate. When you go up the coast of New England there are no roads. There are a series of small buoys going up the coast, and there are entrances to harbors. And you have to learn two things: you have to learn seamanship, how to take care of a boat when the waves get big or when the waves get small, and the second thing you have to learn is how to navigate and work your way up the coast, which is all math. It's all math.
And you have to measure the distance between the two buoys. You have to know when you are going to hit it. You have to mathematically allow for the effects of the tide on you. And to my surprise, I found that I not only enjoyed it, I don't have much interest in sailing when it's too easy and I don't have to do that, when there isn't a danger. The two entrances here when the wind is blowing in the wrong direction are extremely dangerous. When the tide is coming out, when the water, that ten feet of water, is scooting out of Essex and it meets a wind coming from the opposite direction, then the waves pile up and they go like this, quite high, and they can turn your boat over and you can die.
So it's nice to know those things. And I've found to my--perhaps not to my surprise, but I've found that I like that. And I notice gradually that I was restless and needed the same challenge when I was drawing or doing anything else. I think it's electrochemical. I think that's why people are different than animals. We have given a little shot of pleasure when we solve a problem. For instance, we'll use riding a bicycle; a lot of us share that experience.
If you can remember back to that experience, one of the things you probably noticed was, as you came closer and closer to actually being able to ride a bicycle, the stress became worse and worse. It was like a tympan, it was like a rubber disc, and you are pushing your head, trying to push your head through the rubber disc and it gets harder and harder and harder. Now some people back away. It gets harder and harder, then they back away, and some people just keep pushing and they go, and they go through the other side. One minute you can't ride bikes, the next minute you can.
The ability is there. Your body already knows how to ride a bicycle and ski. What you have to have is someone who says yes, you can, yes, you can, yes, you can, keep trying, don't be bothered with it. And if a child goes through that once or twice then they can take it and apply it to learning new skills, like nowadays looking for a new job, oh, it's too hard to learn a new job. Well, repetition, repetition will do it. Something you didn't think you could do, you can do later on. (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 glass. 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: 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? I don't want to do that monster. Rebecca: I don't know.
Rebecca: But I said, "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. 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 now I am making 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 Rebecca: work, the woodcuts, nothing is-- Ed: I was thinking of a little black dot. Rebecca: Nothing is to size. 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) 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 scan 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. (music playing) 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) Nat: 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)