Jon Klassen is an incredibly talented author and illustrator from the US. He writes and illustrates his own books, as well as illustrating others’ books. The first book he wrote and illustrated, I Want My Hat Back, has won many awards, including a Theodor Seuss Geisel Honour Award. His latest book, This is Not My Hat, is one of my favourite picture books of the year (you can read my review here). Today I’m joined by Jon Klassen on his This is Not My Hat Blog Tour. I asked Jon about his illustrations, his obsession with hats, and humour in his books.
How do you create your illustrations?
For I Want My Hat Back and This Is Not My Hat, I made the shapes of the plants and animals with black chinese ink and cut them out and scanned them into the computer and added color and detail to them afterwards. It’s a nice process because it lets you be loose and try a lot of things out and then choose your favorites and put them together in one illustration later.
Your illustrations have a very limited colour palette. Why do you choose these colours?
I don’t think I choose a limited palette on purpose, it’s just what I like, but for these stories it is useful because there are things that can get emphasized by strong color when it’s needed. Also I just like things to feel a little calm. I think you can get interesting stories that still feel like the colors aren’t firing on all cylinders all the time.
Both of your own stories (I Want My Hat Back and This Is Not My Hat) have focused on hats. What is your fascination with hats?
I try not to tie too much of myself into the books, but I do wear a hat a lot of the time. But I think, for these stories, hats are great because they are kind of unnecessary. The stories are about characters that want the hats badly, but not for any practical reason, so it becomes really emotional. Also, for younger readers, they are an easy thing to spot and a fun thing to see on a character who wants to put it on.
Your books feature subtle humour that children and adults love. How important is humour in picture books?
Thank you! I don’t think humor is totally necessary, but I think it’s hard to find a good picture book without it because the format sets up jokes so nicely with turning the page. It’s a great way to time a joke. Plus it’s hard to keep younger kids’ attention without either making them laugh or scaring them. I also think it’s a good sign when a story makes you laugh because it means other things are working well too, most of the time.
As well as an author and illustrator of picture books, what other hats do you wear?
I work on animated projects sometimes, though mostly as a concept or background illustrator, and sometimes I do editorial illustrations for newspapers and things. Last year I taught a class at Calarts, but those kids are too good.
Do you prefer writing and illustrating your own books or illustrating others’ books?
I like both. I think if you get an idea you like on your own, doing it all yourself is more exciting because you can really fine tune both sides of it, but I always really enjoy seeing the stuff that comes out of illustrating other people’s stories. Getting an assignment is always a different sort of challenge than just coming up with whatever you want, and you can dive into the illustrating right away.
It depends on the day, I guess, but if I’m honest, there are probably more small fish days than big fish days.
Thanks for joining me Jon! Make sure you join Elizabeth O. Dulemba on her blog tomorrow for the next stop on Jon’s blog tour.