Hervé Tullet – Illustrator Interview

Spread the love
Photo credit ©Jake Green

Photo credit ©Jake Green

What do you do when you are at a posh reception at the French embassy to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of one of the top French Children’s publishing houses, ”Ecole des Loisirs, and you spot one of your favorite author/illustrators of all time? One who doesn’t just think outside the box, he lives and creates outside the box! You drink a couple of glasses of Sauvignon Blanc, a little too quickly, in order to work up the courage to say hello. Then you feel a bit of a twit that it took you so long as he is charming, and funny and so easy to talk to. Then you discover he has just moved to Harlem, a couple of streets away from where you live!

[JM] Illustrator or author/illustrator? If the latter, do you begin with words or pictures?

[ht] definitely i’m an author, a kind of visual author, an author that express himself with concepts and signs more than real elaborate illustrations. i m more into dots or scribbles instead of little tiny rabbits ( probably because i don t know how to draw a rabbit).

[JM] Where are you from/have you lived and how has that influenced your work?

[ht] i am French and i use to live in Paris all my life long; I just moved to New York very recently. Did Paris influenced my work ? i guess yes but i feel more energized, than influenced, not especially by the city, more by encounters, spaces, architectures, writers, dancers, music, art, museums, travels, people, smiles and so on.

all these energies i m looking for give me desire to go on working and finding new ideas.

[JM] Tell us a little of your beginnings and journey as an artist.

[ht] there are very different periods all through the year. some of my time is dedicated to draw books , or paint ( music, solitude and calm, let’s say the shadow.) at other times I am traveling and giving workshops (hectic, crowded, funny, tiring , let’s say the light .) and at least some periods where i don t know what i ll do when i ll wake up.

each period gets its own beginnings and different rhythm but each of them begin with a squeeze lemon and strong coffee

[JM] What is your preferred medium to work in?

[ht] brain and plane or train, note book

the boredom in a long flight travel is a good driving force

boredom gives to me motivation, it is a good friend who always say, “there is nothing to do around here what could we dream up today”

[JM] Do you have themes or characters you return to in your art?

[ht] i love to put somewhere some blue and yellow as a sign, a “hello” to the  “leo leoni’s   little blue and yellow”

dots, scribbles, lines, stains, splotches are my friends. i feel that they express what a want to express even better than bears or rabbits or princesses could


[JM] Many of your books have an invitation to interact or a tactile component, how did you develop this almost signature style?

[ht] probably because of all my encounters with children, i experiment a lot, leading by improvisation and that’s a way to feel how far i can go with them. it helps a lot to overtake the frontiers. i also understood quite quickly that i needed to involve the reader in the reading of the book i was creating. the reading as a part of the creation of the book; the reader as an actor, a player of the book

Photo Credit ©Jake Green

Photo Credit ©Jake Green

[JM] Can you share a piece or two with us, maybe of a WIP or a recently published book, and the process of creating them?

[ht] my next book coming out in March is a travel of a dot from the beginning to the end of the book, a lot of adventure and even more play with the reader

"Let's Play?" "On joue?"

“Let’s Play?” “On joue?”

the one i m working on will be very noisy

and the last paintings are big stains




Photo Credit ©Jake Green

Photo Credit ©Jake Green

[JM] You have recently moved to New York (a couple of streets away from me!) What brought that about? And have you had books that have been very successful in the USA but not so much in Europe or vice versa?

[ht] a lot of things brought me to NY; i hope that New York and the States will bring me opportunities to meet people that will help me to go further, with bigger means to create more big stuff for children ( exhibitions, workshops etc …. ) and why not to create a space dedicated to children and experimentation, like a laboratory or maybe more a factory

i also wanted to experience life in NY, i love the city. i hope i will travel all through the states.

i hope i will improve my english

[JM] What does your workspace look like? 

[JM] What artwork do you have hanging in your house?

[ht] i hate to hang stuff on the walls ( my wife is desperate !) i brought some drawings and if a gallery or a library want to put them on their wall, it could be possible to talk about that but not on mine!

[JM] You do readings/performances for groups of up to 250 students! As a teacher I want to know how you maintain the focus of such a large group and what do you hope children will get out of these sessions?

[ht] the workshop is a gift: i give space, colors, brushes, music, dance. it s so different than usual, that it’s easy and funny and sweet without being a big challenge. that helps a lot to make the people free and confident, so even with one thousand people, as i did in a factory with adults, it works out very very well

i think that everybody understands that it is a gift, a very special and collective experience that does not happen everyday


Workshop in Mexico

Workshop in Mexico


Workshop in China

Workshop in China



Five Fun Ones to Finish?                                                                                                   [JM] What’s your favorite park (state/urban..) in the world?

[ht] naoshima ( a park of museums and art in Japan

[JM] Cats or dogs?

[ht] cat cat cat ( i noticed that dogs like me too)

[JM] Fact that most people don’t know about you?

[ht] i want to be an old blue man

[JM] What word best sums you up?

[ht] idea and experimentation

[JM] Go to snack/drink to sustain your creative juices?

[ht] my home in normandy, with my friends sharing an old champagne on the beach


Santé! Et merci infiniment d’avoir partagé ta créativité avec nous, Hervé. Bonne continuation et à bientôt dans le quartier j’espère.


This entry was posted in Illustrators, Interview and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Hervé Tullet – Illustrator Interview

  1. Toni Yuly says:

    Fabulous interview with a wonderful artist!

  2. This brings me right back to the mind-bending workshop he lead at the 2015 NYC SCBWI conference! Herve is full of life and fun and is truly brilliant. Thanks for interviewing him, Joanna, and sharing with us!

  3. Erik - TKRB says:

    That’s a great interview! LOVE his books! It’s pretty cool that he lives close by you! 😀

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.