Thursday, September 13, 2012

Interview with Illustrator Gerry Rasmussen

You probably know illustrator Gerry Rasmussen's work from his comic strip, Betty. But did you also know that he's illustrated a book of soccer poems for us? Crazy About Soccer! came out this fall, and is bound to delight young soccer fans. I asked Gerry a few questions about his career as an illustrator--read on to find out the difference between comic illustration and picture book illustration, which sports Gerry enjoys, and his tips for young artists!

1. How is illustrating a children’s book different from illustrating comic strips?
Gerry: The two activities have very different purposes. In comic strips the goal is to simplify things so that the drawing can help get the ideas across in a brief, focused fashion. When it's done right this approach helps guide the reader's eye and lets the ideas come across without any visual obstacles. Comic strips are printed in different sizes, coloured or in black and white, so the writing and drawing have to be minimal to grab readers' attention.
     But picture book illustration has a different goal. You have to entice the reader's imagination into wanting to jump into the pool and go for a swim. Kids (young, old and ancient) will be poring over every inch of the pages for years, so the illustrations must have a timeless quality to be successful. I've heard that someone once did a survey and found that the average reader spends 2.5 seconds on a comic strip or panel. If it demands more time than that they move on. I don't know if that's correct but it does shed a bit of light on the difference between the two mediums.

2. Which poem was your favorite to illustrate, and why?
Gerry: Gee, that's a tough one. I had so much fun drawing each page in this book. For pure humour (I laughed the whole time I was drawing this one) I'd have to say page 44, with the pandas playing soccer in a checkered room. And any of the pages with dogs or the cat "Soccy" were so much fun. Since Loris's writing is so rich, visual and funny it called for so many different approaches. One of my favourites is the Moon Ball page because it ended up evoking so many great childhood feelings. Oh, wait, I'd have to say my favourite was drawing Humpty Dumpty getting a red card. Yes, Humpty Dumpty!

3. Do you play any sports, or follow any sports teams? Did you play sports as a kid?

Gerry: I've always loved sports. As a kid all of us used to play all the sports that were available (football, baseball, soccer...) but my favourite was football. I think it's because I was wasn't very good at soccer that I never played on a team but I have a lot of fond memories of playing soccer with a half deflated ball on packed down ice most of the winter. Good times. Now I follow pro sports when I can (football, soccer, hockey, basketball) but if I have a choice I prefer to just go for a run.

4. What was your first illustration job?

Gerry: In grade two I used to supplement my allowance by drawing pictures of Dennis the Menace and selling them to fellow students for 3 cents each. If any of those fellow students had kept their drawings they might even be worth more than that today.

5. What advice would you give to young artists?

Draw and paint as much as you can. Draw the people, animals, houses, trees, cars, toasters, shoes... anything around you, and do it for yourself. If you love drawing and painting you never know where it will take you.


Gillian O'Reilly said...

Oh my goodness! I love the Betty comic strip but I hadn't realized the illustrator was the same person as the illustrator of Crazy About Soccer! Loris's poetry is superb, of course. With this combination, no wonder Crazy About Soccer is such a great book.

Joanna K said...

Thanks, Gillian! Yes, we love how the illustrations complement the hilarious poems. Gerry's work was perfect for this book!