Award winning author and illustrator Dan Yaccarino is inspired by his family. He also loves robots and octopuses. Read this charming interview Audra Rundle did with Dan about what motivates him to write and illustrate a wide variety of products for children.
Audra Rundle (AR): Your artwork has appeared in The New York Times, Business Week, and New York Magazine as well as advertising campaigns for large companies such as Target. How does illustrating children’s books compare?
Dan Yaccarino (DY): I love doing both! Of course I love creating my books because for me, it’s a pure expression of a deeply personal idea. The assignment work challenges me to distill my ideas down to their essence and make them accessible. I use different parts of my brain to do each of these things. One is an expression and the other is a challenge.
(AR): Where do you obtain inspiration for your artwork?
(DY): Everywhere! Everything I see, hear, taste and touch. I read A LOT and that inspires me to do better work. I get some inspiration from other people’s art, but I’m more inspired by the experiences I have every day with my family, friends and people I meet. I listen to what people say and I (hopefully) listen more than I speak because you can learn a lot more with your mouth shut than with it open.
(AR): You both write and illustrate your books. Do you prefer one over the other?
(DY): No, I don’t prefer one over the other. I love doing both. I enjoy working with other people. I prefer to work with writers I think are better than me (or at least different) because it challenges me to either raise the quality of my work or in the least change it a bit. I try to bring this to my own books to create the best books possible. I’m constantly trying to outdo myself.
(AR): What is your favorite subject to write about? How about your favorite subject to illustrate?
(DY): I have no favorite subjects per se. For me, the subjects of my books are vehicles for stories about basic human emotions like love, fear, sadness, etc. However, I think I may have a slight penchant for robots. I’ve created several books with or about robots in the past and have several coming up that are about robots. I also love octopuses, but I guess you may have figured that out from my show Oswald.
(AR): What are your best reactions that children have had to your work?
(DY): I’ve gotten hugs, letters and once, a cookie.
Dan Yaccarino is not only known for his children’s books, but also his Parent’s Choice Award-winning animated TV series Oswald and Emmy-winning Willa’s Wild Life, character designs for The Backyardigans as well as his many illustrated toys, games, and other children’s products. His bold, stylized illustrations have added wit and energy to the work of such prestigious authors as Margaret Wise Brown, Jack Prelutsky, Kevin Henkes and Patricia MacLachlan.
Dan’s internationally recognized art style has earned him a large following in Japan, exhibits in New York, Los Angeles, Tokyo, and Rome, and a visit to the White House. Dan’s books have been translated into many languages and have inspired ebooks, children’s musicals and video adaptations. People all over the world enjoy Oswald, Dan’s animated television series about the wonderfully whimsical world of a lovable octopus, which Time magazine chose as one of the top six shows to watch on cable. Animation Magazine hails him as “an American original.” Dan’s work has been recognized with a host of prestigious awards including the Bologna Ragazzi, The New York Time 10 Best Illustrated, ALA Notable and the Parents Choice Award.
Dan lives with his wife and their two children in New York City and creates his quirky characters in his studio full of vintage toys.