What are your 5 favorite kids’ books?
I was a reluctant reader as a youth, however, I enjoyed how-to books with plans for building, tinkering, and making stuff. Later, I liked Mark Twain and Lewis Carroll. Today I admire many of the classic picture books that I did not know as a child: The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg, Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. I also greatly admire Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg. It is a different, yet a similar I Spy kind of book (which pre-dates our series) and is as perfect as a kids book can get.
How important is reading in your life?
I am still a slow reader! so when I choose a book, I choose carefully. I still prefer non-fiction books. It's really important to read if one wants to grow and mature as an artist.
How did your early education lead to your success in life?
I credit my parents and certain teachers for recognizing and encouraging my artistic talents. This was important for my confidence and self-esteem because my grades in other areas were poor. Without that encouragement, and without those authority figures willing to clear a path that I could freely follow, I would not be here today.
How did you come up with the ideas for your I SPY sets? How do you develop the visuals?
In the beginning, with the very first I Spy book, I worked spontaneously without any sketches or written plans. I started by re-working a few pictures I had done for Jean Marzollo's "Lets Find Out" magazine. I then made up and invented sets based on props I had around the studio. Later in the series, I discussed concepts with Jean more thoroughly, but almost always deviated from our original plans. It was important to have that freedom, because photographic illustration is restricted by what physical objects I have available. What is often achieved by hand-drawn illustration, I cannot necessarily easily illustrate photographically – like a duck riding a bike.
Of all the different I SPY books, which is your favorite? Why?
While I am extremely fond of the simplicity of the very first I Spy book, School Days, Fantasy, and Treasure Hunt are my favorites in the series because they all accomplish perfectly what is promised in their titles. In addition, they employ diverse photographic techniques and inspire creative thinking for imaginative play. For those reasons and more, they are unique in children's publishing.
What are you currently reading?
I just finished a book called The Stealing of the Mystic Lamb, a true story about a famous painting that has been stolen many times over the past five centuries. Miraculously, the painting has always made it's way back to the Belgian church where it was commissioned in 1432.