07 May R. W. Alley
Why did you become a children’s illustrator?
I wanted to tell stories with pictures. Had I grown up in Europe, I would certainly have gravitated to the comic panel format of storytelling following the lead of TinTin, among so many others. As it was, that format in the US was filled with different content. I found superheroes boring. Mass market children’s books (the US publishing handle for inexpensive, but widely published, character-driven, non-dust-jacketed books) caught my eye. So, I went there. Parenthetically, I didn’t go to art school (the parents would not fund that sort of silliness). Sometimes I wish I had; art school leads to dust-jacketed books which get reviewed. Sometimes I’m glad I didn’t; continuing a character over a series of titles is very appealing. Mostly, I think it didn’t matter. Finding inspiration to make something new every day (not necessarily good, just new) cannot be taught.
What project are you most proud of? What do children learn or understand from it? Why is that important?
That’s very hard to answer. I’ll say this; I’m proud to have illustrated all the original Michael Bond authored Paddington Bear books in all formats since 1998. I have enormous respect for Paddington and his view of the world. Equally, I had enormous respect for Mr Bond’s ability to keep Paddington’s adventures contemporary. Although neither the bear nor his human companions age, the impetus and details of most adventures derive from current events. I am especially pleased that my Paddington drawings appear in support of immigration and equality rights. All in all, he’s a good bear with whom to be associated. Children benefit from his worldly, yet charmingly naive wisdom in every story. Adults could learn a thing or two as well.
What are you itching to draw or illustrate next?
I am at work on several new self-authored stories. Some are taking a comic panel approach. Others, more picture-bookish. There’s outer-space, inner-space and book-space all in play in various manuscripts. My main problem is to organize my brain to fully attack and complete (finish, button-up, set in stone, move on from) a project. Maybe others have encountered this difficulty? I have it on good authority that this is a thing.
Tell us about your latest project. Where can it be purchased?
So, the latest book is a Paddington book: Paddington’s Post from HarperCollins. That came out last fall. Envelopes are sewn into the binding; various interesting things within each. In addition, two currently out-of-print books are returning. Their author – Zoë B. Alley, excellent writer and coincidentally excellent spouse – and I, their illustrator, are reviving these titles via the print-on-demand/self-publishing option of a local bookstore/ publisher, Stillwater River Publications. The books are There’s a Wolf at the Door and There’s a Princess in the Palace. Both originally published by Neal Porter/Roaring Brook Press. The formats are comic panels. Both got awards and decent sales. Now they will appear in paperback. We’d planned to debut them in person at the KidsConNewEngland in NH in June, but, you know, virus. So, via the magic of the interwebs and the cheerful folks at the KidsConNE, we’re doing a virtual kickoff. Then books will be available for purchase and signings directly from my website.
R.W. Alley is a children’s book artist/author of over 200 titles (including 10 self-authored), the on-going Paddington Bear illustrator, recipient of a Geisel Honor, sometime editorial cartoonist and hopeful landscape painter.
Images © R. W. Alley. Used with permission.