Each month, we ask one distinguished author or illustrator to write an original post that reveals insights about their process and craft. Enjoy!
Creative Exploration with Hervé Tullet
By Hervé Tullet
My work often asks, “What is a book?” First came the interactive Press Here, which was radical in its simplicity. For Mix It Up!, I painted with my bare hands—a “no-illustration” illustration. Let’s Play! (2016; all Chronicle) is the return to expressing something with drawing, composition, proportion, and feelings.
My driving desire was to create a simple book that had a big impact, such as Leo Lionni’s Little Blue and Little Yellow (McDowell,1959). My challenge? To work within the page, while at the same time, to burst beyond it—to jump out and engage directly with readers.
I was prompted to try making books for children for several reasons:
- The freedom—there is so much children have yet to learn, so everything is possible. Creativity at its height.
- The sadness—the discovery that there are so many children underprivileged in circumstance and experience.
- The revolt—the need to do something.
- The joy—to create ambitious projects with children in schools, libraries, and museums.
- The smiles—all the moments with children that I’ve had the privilege to experience.
- The belief—that books can change lives.
I know that there will be series of steps back and forth, in order to see the concept with new eyes. I must feel fresh, full of energy and sincerity, and be ready to capture the unexpected while I draw.
So, I wait. And I read. And I go to a museum. I cook. I walk. I listen to music. I play piano (badly). Whatever I do, I am on alert for inspiration.
When I work with a group of students, I tell them, “Focus on what you want to say rather than how beautiful a drawing is.” “We are going to find ideas, but it could take a while.” We do not draw. We think, we search, we talk, and we wonder. I say, “Open your eyes! Inspiration is nearby, watch for it!” And, “Feed your brain, be curious, expose yourself to a variety of cultures.”
Discovering an idea is not always easy. The process can be difficult and long, but when we happen upon it, a beautiful energy opens up, which is expressed in our drawings.
When I learned that I could be useful in schools and libraries, it gave meaning to my life, and it encouraged me to continue to create books. I now work with children all over the world. I want to say thank you, deeply and sincerely, to teachers, librarians, and all the people who are engaged with the care of children.
All text and images are courtesy of Hervé Tullet and may not be reproduced without his express written consent.
Hervé Tullet teaches us how to pronounce his name.
Hervé Tullet shares a bit about the process of creating Let’s Play!