Spotlight on Lee Edward Fodi

Lee Edward Fodi will be speaking and demonstrating his craft at the Annual 2018 Illustrator’s Breakfast on October 13. We asked him a few questions to get to know him better. Here’s what he had to say . . .

Is there an art medium you have never tried but always wanted to? If you could, what would you do with it?

I think it would be collage. One of my favorite picture books as a child is Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears; I still adore that book, especially the artwork. I would probably take my cue from that book and do something with collage that involved a folktale or an artsy picture book with a poetic narrative.

Do you have a special place that you go to for inspiration? Tell us about it and why it works?

For me, inspiration is everywhere, but sometimes I do travel to specific places. For example, at the beginning of this year I specifically went to Halong Bay in Vietnam because I knew it would be key to developing a world in a book I’m working on. When I’m at home, however, and feeling a little stuck, I take my notebook and go for a walk along the seawall.

What other jobs have you done besides children’s book illustrator?

Author and educator—I teach creative writing and deliver art therapy programming to at-risk teens. I used to work full time as a graphic designer and now I still do a bit of that work for some of my author friends and for my students. I used to wonder if I was an illustrator who writes or a writer who illustrates, but now I define myself as a writer whose process involves drawing, doodling, and propbuilding. For me, the boundaries between illustration and writing keep getting blurred.

Is there a children’s book illustrator whose artwork you absolutely adore and why?

I can’t name just one! Skottie Young, Tony DiTerlizzi, and Chris Ridell are some of my favourites. I was really excited to see that Neil Gaiman’s book Fortunately, the Milk was illustrated by Chris Ridell for the UK edition and Skottie Young for the North American version. In particular I love Skottie Young’s style because it is mischievously whimsical, cartoonish, and detailed all at the same time.

Tell us about a museum or art gallery that you have visited that you really enjoyed and would recommend to others.

I have gone to many museums and galleries specifically as part of research for my books. Two specific galleries stick with me; one is the Musee d’Orsay in Paris because it is in an old converted train station and really reminded me of Hugo Cabret. So, the setting itself is beautiful, but it is also just one of the art galleries that is manageable and you can do it in a day. The other art gallery that I have a vivid memory of is the Chicago Art Institute. In addition to seeing many classic works such as Seurat’s Sunday at La Grande Jatte, there was also an excellent children’s illustration exhibit featuring original works by Eric Carle.

What was your favourite book as a child?

I already mentioned Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears, but when people ask me this question I inevitably think of the Oz series, partly because of the bizarre characters and settings, but also largely because of the design and illustration of those books, which is very art deco in their inflection. All but the first book in the series were illustrated by John R. Neill and I really loved how the illustration, typography, and design were combined to help invite readers into Baum’s worlds.