Children’s Book Author & Illustrator Michael Hall

– [Michael] We are
going to read a book that you’ve probably
never seen before called My Heart is Like a
Zoo, My Heart is Like a Zoo Eager as a beaver,
steady as a yak, Hopeful as a hungry heron
fishing for a snack. When I was thinking
about being a writer, I loved children’s books,
I loved picture books and I think picture books have
a place, have sort of a place in art world but I didn’t
think I had a voice for children’s books
and a lot of my books they may have looked childish but they were fairly
sophisticated in concept. Who knows what a
seal sounds like? (seal barking) Okay, let’s all do it, ready? (seal barking) Good. It’s one of the special
things I noticed about being an author that all
my books have meaning for me that’s different than
what it means for other people. And it’s sort of nice,
it’s sort of a happy thing. And often I don’t know
what the meaning is until I’m almost
done with the book. Cool as a penguin,
crafty as a fox. For me it was always
important to do both writing and illustrating because
I’m really interested in the relationship between
the words and the images and the way they
play off each other, sometimes they
contradict each other. And it allows in the
illustrations, for example, for me to do illustrations
that are very abstract. The first book was My
Heart is Like a Zoo, it’s the first book I published
and it’s the first one I sent to my agent, and
I sent her this copy which a lot of it is similar, it’s got some of the same pages, I actually started off as a
child wanting to be a writer of some kind but I am
dyslexic so by the time I got to college I just
couldn’t keep up enough with the english classes
that I wanted to take so I went into the sciences
and when I was getting ready for graduate school, I
discovered this thing called graphic design and
started to do design work. My wife and I had a graphic
design firm for 30 years, specializing in visual identity, which is basically logos and
all sorts of other aspects that come with that. I think that I learned
80% of what I know as an author-illustrator
through my work as a designer. As a designer I was very
interested in just beautiful, flat color so when I started
doing children’s books I felt that look was
sort of corporate and I wanted to get
texture into my work, and yet the textures
are not real busy. It’s really important to
me that you see the shape before you start looking at
the intricacies of the texture. They just add depth but they
don’t become front and center. And so if I draw a frog, I
would like someone to see that it’s also a square
and a rectangle and a dot. So I like things that
are just the materials, the colors, the
lines and the shapes. So for Frankencrayon, I cut
the shapes out of black paper, and scanned them into the
computer and colored them in the computer and then I
would build the characters, so this is his long
coat, this is royal blue, and his tall hat. I find myself playing
with shapes, for example. I have a lot of cut paper
and a lot of painted paper and I just enjoy playing
with those things and seeing what they
look like to me. With perfect square, I would
start with a painted piece of paper, and then either cut
it or tear it or do whatever I need to do to make it
work within the story. I always try to put all
of my spreads of a book up so I can see them all at once
cause it’s so hard to see how they relate to each other
and that’s part of finding the rhythm of the book. I can really start to
tell just by looking at the whole thing spread
out if there’s something that’s not going right, just
having that tactile part of the experience gives you
more information about it. What are you doing? I’m making a hole in our stump
so we can see what’s outside like a window.
Sweet! Wait, what if there’s
an aardvark out there? Aardvarks are grey and sneaky. So I didn’t want to be a
dyslexic author-illustrator. It doesn’t seem to influence
my books except that I am an introspective person
and I like to share that with kids and I think there’s
something very special about processing things
internally and you come up with things that maybe other
people wouldn’t come up with. Aardvarks turn orange
when they’re hungry for carpenter ants, you know. Goodness! Well I keep doing this because
I just think it’s the best possible thing you could do
when you have an imagination you have all these things
you would like to share. And to be able to do that is
very special gift I think. Grape juice tastes good
with ants, you know. And the other ones says
“ark!”, and that’s the end of The Orange Ardvark,
thank you, hat wearers you did a great job. (applause)


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