I said in my previous 'Heroes' blog that I wasn't going to put them into any particular order and I'm sticking by that but I just couldn't resist putting the great (and sadly late) Maurice Sendak here.
I suppose it's safe to say that the work of Maurice Sendak and Raymond Briggs has been the biggest influence on my own. As I mentioned in my first blog, it was those trips to the local library way back in the 70's that ignited my passion for picture books and illustration. Harking back to my early childhood in that 'brown' decade of flares, bowlcuts and chunky jumpers it's easy to see why picture books had such a profound effect on me, especially Where The Wild Things Are and In The Night Kitchen.
Those two books were so different, so unusual and so scary! Even now I get a peculiar feeling when I look through them. Everything about them made them stand out from other books, the colour palette was quite subdued and sophisticated for children's books and the characters were from a different world entirely! Those 'Wild Things' are so strange, a bit like the pictures you make in the drawing game where somebody draws the head and then folds the paper and the next person draws the body and so on until you end up with a dog-robot in slippers or some such, perhaps that's how Maurice Sendak came up with the Wild Things? how else would he have come up with a horned monster in stripes with feather legs?...called Carol!
In the Night Kitchen has equally strange elements, including multiple Oliver Hardys (from Laurel and Hardy) and Aeroplanes made out of dough. The illustrations are beautiful in both books ( indeed in all of his books) and Maurice's use of cross-hatch was a revelation for me!
Ten years ago I was fortunate enough to meet the great man in person. I was on holiday in New York and having purchased a copy of the New York edition of Time Out magazine to plan my week ahead I was overjoyed to see that Maurice Sendak was to give a talk at Barnes & Noble to promote his new book Brundibar along with the playwright Tony Kushner , that very week!
I went along to the bookstore on that chilly November evening and sat with my mouth agape as Maurice talked about his life and career and then signed copies of Brundibar, Maurice Sendak, there, in front of me! When it was my turn to meet him and have my book signed I simply shook his hand and thanked him and then scarpered off into the wintery streets of Manhattan, happy as larry! It still seems a bit unreal but it's a moment I'll always treasure, after all, it isn't everyday you get to meet one of your heroes.
The Time Out cutting and my treasured signed book!