Chances are you know who Ed Emberley is, even if you think you don’t. He’s an old guy from Massachusetts, but he’s also an illustrator and Caldecott Medal winner who’s worked on more than 50 children’s books since the 1960s.
Based on the philosophy that anyone can draw, his books give children, and people in general, the tools to illustrate what’s in their imagination. For example, his classics, Make a World and Ed Emberley’s Drawing Book of Animals, offer easy-to-follow instructions on how to draw “enough things to make a world of your own” by combining simple shapes and lines.
Local cartoonist Joe Kuth, one of the proprietors of performance space Art Damage Lodge, has decided it’s high time someone pay tribute to this influential illustrator, who’s inspired everyone from the common doodler to the Swiderski Institute, a Chicago-based design firm that’s done work for the likes of Obama for America and Kellogg’s. (The institute is currently working on a documentary about Emberley’s influence called Make a World: The Film, for which Kuth was interviewed).
Kuth’s latest book, Emberley Galaxy: A Tribute to Ed Emberley (published under the nomen Red Panda Comics), is 60 pages-worth of drawings and comics from local and national artists, including current CAC-exhibitor and avant-garde musician C. Spencer Yeh.
CityBeat recently sat down with Kuth to talk about drawing, Emberley Galaxy and Ed Emberley’s influence.
CityBeat: Who is Ed Emberely, in a larger sense, in relationship to comics and drawing?
Joe Kuth: I think he’s had a really major influence but I don’t think it’s been acknowledged, and I’m trying to make a case for that. I think (it was) really obvious when I started talking to a bunch of my favorite artists … they were all really excited about paying tribute to him. I don’t think (his influence) has been talked about a lot.
CB: Do you remember your first experience with Emberely’s books?
JK: It was really early so I can’t say I remember specifically the first time I saw them. I mean, vividly, what I remember is I grew up in Hamilton, I was at the Lane Public Library and I remember especially reading from the green book (Ed Emberley’s Big Green Drawing Book) and just kind of sitting at a table and drawing.
CB: What has the response been so far? Have kids been receptive to the book as well? I mean, historically, he draws for kids.
JK: I think most of the people that have bought it have been more comic fans but I intentionally did the book for all ages. I told people, ‘Nothing dirty.’ Weird is fine. I like weird. But it’s definitely appropriate for kids. My nephews are really into it. I was excited to have something I could share with them. Most of the other stuff I’ve done has had violence in it or cursing in it.
CB: Does Emberley know about your book?
JK: Yeah. He e-mailed me right before I published it and was really interested so he was one of the first people I sent copies to. I actually haven’t heard back from him yet. I don’t want to harass him about that but I’m dying to hear back.
CB: What did it feel like to have him want to see this book?
JK: It was thrilling. I just almost had tears in my eyes when I looked at the e-mail. It was amazing.
Pick up a copy of EMBERLEY GALAXY at Shake It Records in Northside or order it from redpandacomics.blogspot.com. Learn more about Make a World: The Film at makeaworldfilm.com.