On Friday I will be reviewing the most recent picture book released last week by author-poet Donna Marie Merritt. You know me, where possible with new releases if I have the chance to interview the illustrator, I’ll take it. I am thrilled Ed Heck found time to sit and chat with me about his work and life.
[JM] Illustrator or author/illustrator? If the latter, do you begin with words or pictures?
[EH] As an author /illustrator I most often will write about things I want to draw. When I begin a book, I start with an idea and I have pictures in mind as I write. I will make rough page layouts with both words and pictures at the same time, each one feeds the other.
[JM] Where are you from/have you lived and how has that influenced your work?
[EH] I grew up and still live and have my studio in Brooklyn, New York. Living in New York city provides an endless source of inspiration. You cannot help but be influenced by all the things a great city provides. I love to walk around the city and when I do I find inspiration in so many things I see and hear. I carry a sketch pad with me at all times for when these moments of inspiration strike to put them down. A lot of these ideas are seeds for stories that I will grow into books at some point.
[JM] Tell us a little of your beginnings and journey as an artist.
[EH] I have always loved to draw as far back as I can remember and art was and is what fuels me. I went to the High School of Art & Design and then onto collage at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) where I got my BFA.
I then went on to secure a position at the American Museum of Natural History as Senior Principal Artist in the Department of Vertebrate Paleontology. There I would draw detailed renderings of bones and fossils of prehistoric creatures used for scientific study and research publications.
This kind of detailed realistic work would certainly seem at odds with my current work as a pop artist. I would not have imagined when I was in school the turn my work would take in the future.
My current Pop art style, which has found its way into my children’s books, was born out of my love and fascination with children’s drawings. I love how very small children draw with such innocence and freedom. They draw without concern for what anyone else will think about the end result, they are just in the moment. My work is an attempt to tap back into that innocence and try to create in the moment.
[JM] What is your preferred medium to work in?
[EH] I enjoy working in many mediums. Whether I am working on a gallery painting or a children’s book all of my images begin with an ink drawing in my sketch books. I then scan these drawings into the computer and work on the color in Photoshop. I enjoy mixing the digital world with the hand drawn original sketches.
These digital images become the final art for books and the guides for the paintings I do for galleries, which are created with acrylic paint on canvas.
[JM] Can you share your favorite piece from Teensy Meensy Mice and what makes it special to you?
[EH] One of my favorite images from Teensy Meensy Mice would be the image of the mice dancing in a circle which, is from the second spread in the book. It was influenced by a beautiful painting hanging in the MoMA “La Danse” by Henri Matisse. I tried to have the mice dancing in the same way the woman are in the painting as kind of an Easter egg. Hopefully some people will recognize this image and perhaps it will also encourage kids to go and look at some paintings at museums.
[JM] I loved finding out about your inspiration for that spread. I lived in walking distance of the Matisse Museum in Nice for years, and frequented it regularly. I hope it is okay, but I added an image of La Danse for readers. Which book do you remember buying with your own money as a kid?
[EH] One of the first books I remember buying on my own was a short chapter book “The Secret Hide-Out” written and illustrated by John Peterson. I think I ordered it from the Scholastic Book club in school. I was attracted by the cover image of kids wearing masks and carrying handmade spears and shields. I not only enjoyed the story but as an artist I was really into the craft pages at the end of the book. There were instructions on making your own mask and shields.
[JM] What does your workspace look like?
[JM] Do you have themes or characters that you keep returning to?
[EH] As I mentioned I like to create books about things I enjoy drawing. So, images of animals like dogs, penguins, mice, fish, etc. always show up in my books and paintings. Also, my absolute favorite thing since I was a child is drawing monsters real or imagined. I guess that is part of why I ended up at the museum drawing dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures.
[JM] What artwork do you have hanging in your home?
[JM] At what part in the process do you create the end papers?
[EH] The end papers of picture books are one of my favorite parts of books. I am always happy when end pages are able to be included in the overall theme of the book and not just there to secure the interior pages to the book cover. They allow you the opportunity to add an additional creative and playful element to the book.
Each book its different, I usually don’t think about the end papers until the interior art is complete. Although with some books I have in mind what I would like to do for the end pages from the start.
Five Fun Ones to Finish?
[JM] What’s your favorite park (state/urban..) in the world?
[EH] My favorite park by far is Central Park in NYC. There are so many beautiful spots in the park from the expansive meadows, the boat lake to the Belvedere Castle. I have visited the park so many times in my life and I still continue to find new places and spots I have not discovered before.
[JM] Have to agree with you about Central Park. I lived 2.5 years very near by and it never got old. Cats or dogs?
[EH] I have had many pets throughout my life. Most recently our family pets include 2 dogs, a Corgi named “Chewie” and a Puggle named “Max”. We have just added a new member, for my son’s birthday and we welcomed a Dachshund puppy named “Franklin” who is the cutest thing ever.
[EH] Please recommend a coffee shop or restaurant for me to visit in your city/town!
My favorite places to eat are Diners. I like any place I can order breakfast all day. In my neighborhood there is a place I frequent named “3 Decker Restaurant “. It’s been around since I was young and they serve great bacon and eggs and let me replace the home fries with the best steak fries ever.
[EH] Great. Brunch is my favorite meal! What was your first paid job out of high school?
I had several jobs throughout my High School years including a local gas station and car wash where I got to work with many of my friends. But my favorite job I had before I started collage would have to be working in a toy store. I literally got to be a big kid in a toy shop.
[EH] Go to snack/drink to sustain your creative juices?
Cheese and crackers and lots of Diet Coke keeps me going .
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