Thursday, September 5, 2013

Mr. Pig Visits . . . R. W. Alley

Hello! You've caught me on my way to visit the amazingly talented illustrator R.W. Alley

He's the illustrator of many books, including the Pearl and Wagner series, There's a Wolf at the Door, and the popular series starring this little guy:

Paddington Bear by Michael Bond, HarperCollins, UK

Today he's giving me a tour of his studio today. Very exciting!

Here we are. Oh dear--I can't reach the doorbell. Perhaps I should knock. Better yet, I'll just let myself in...

Hi, Bob! (May I call you Bob?) Okay, you're busy. Pretend I'm not here... 

I'll just poke around...

Oh, look! A ladder! Do you go up there to take naps?

Only ocassionally. Mostly it's so I can reach the far-up books, and the loft, which is full of old drawings and stored artwork.
Ingenious! Tell us how you came up with this fascinating studio-ladder contraption?

Well, I've always wanted a studio with floor-to-ceiling bookcases and a rolling library ladder. Legos were employed to explain the plan to our builder. In the end, he suggested that Zoë and I leave the house for the afternoon while the ladder was installed. Apparently, the process was not intuitive, unlike Legos. However, all worked out fine. 
I love Legos. Hey, what's this?

This was a present to the third grade Bobby Alley from its sculptor, Anna Hyatt Huntington. We were living in South Carolina at the time. Ms. Huntington had a studio just north of Charleston. In that era of letter writing, one letter from a third-grader was all it took to receive multiple invitations to her studio. Ms. Huntington couldn’t have been kinder. She gave me how-to-draw books on animals and particularly horses. Sadly, the how-to-draw horses proved ineffective. Mrs. Huntington also gave me this small bear. I never mounted it on a fancy base. I like being able to pick it up and imagine her hands shaping the clay.
Oh, that's lovely. I have a favorite bear, too. His name is Teddy. (But please keep that between us.) Tell me about these feathered friends...

This is my favorite Christmas ornament. When it’s not on the seasonal conifer, it decorates the drawing board lamp reminding me of a favorite, old-school, quiet children’s book: The Wheel on the Chimney by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated brilliantly by Tibor Gergely.

Let's see if I can find it... here it is.

Good thing you have that ladder. Aha, a first edition... very rare and valuable! I'll just set it down... Oops! Er... that's washable paint, right? Ahem, anyway...who are these little fellows?

I’ve always made small, painted clay figures of characters from books--my own and other folks’. Our son, Max, seems to have inherited this hobby, too. The studio is full of lots of these guys. These are some of our combined efforts.

What is it they say about the family that sculpts clay figures together? 

I'm pretty sure no one says anything about that. 

Right. Do you think you could make me a Mr. Pig?

I think that could be arranged. 

R.W. Alley has illustrated more than one hundred books for children, including the popular Paddington Bear books by Michael Bond. The newest are Paddington Goes for Gold, a picture book, and Paddington Races Ahead, a novel, both published to coincide with 2012 London Olympics. In 2010, he received a Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Award for Pearl and Wagner One Funny Day by Kate McMullan. He is also the illustrator of two, large comic panel formatted books: There’s a Wolf at the Door, a Washington Post Best Book of the Year, and There’s a Princess in the Palace, written by his wife, the talented Zoë B. Alley.

For more about R.W. Alley, visit his website and his very fun and fabulous blog.

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