NAM: Teachers love your works as much as children because of the learning tools they provide. How are you able to embrace educational topics and keep your stories fun and exciting?
EC: Creating books for children who are transitioning from home to school has been especially meaningful because that was a difficult transition in my own life. My books are attempts to help make this transition easier. I’ve done this by making books that you can play with and toys that you can read; books that have holes in the pages and make sounds. Also, my background is in design and as a designer I am always thinking about how to make each book unique. What will be the detail that will make it special, that will add an element of surprise to the book. It may be lights or sound, or die-cut pages. But it will capture the reader.
NAM: What is your advice to young children who want to pursue art?
EC: Just do it! Draw, paint, dance, play, act, sing!
NAM: How do you stay inspired to create?
EC: Well, after most of my books, when I am finished I think it may be the last. And then it all starts up again. But this is a bigger question about where ideas comes from. A child once told me that ideas come from both your outside and your inside. That struck me as a perceptive and accurate response. It seems to me that what is outside and what is inside are the basic elements in constructing a story, creating a painting or composing a piece of music. Some ideas for my books have been there, inside me, in my unconscious perhaps, for a long time and others just come to me quickly. I’ll think about a design concept and I’ll get a spark or the beginning of an idea that way. Usually it’s a combination of things: memory, design, dreams, experiences, things I’ve seen or heard.
NAM: Your stories incorporate geometric shapes, literary themes and art. Do you think it is important to combine art and other subjects in education?
EC: My background is in design, not education, but I feel strongly that children should be encouraged to learn in their own particular way and it always means a great deal to me when an educator finds my work valuable in the classroom.
My new book The Artist who Painted a Blue Horse encourages the imagination. Children can make up their own animals like the animals in the book in whatever color they would like to dream up.
When you are making art, you are meant to be free and open to paint whatever you like. And it doesn’t have to be animals. Some children like to paint cars or houses. There’s no wrong way, no wrong color or rule you might break. Encouraging this kind of expression and integrating art with other subjects makes sense to me because it encourages all kinds of learning.