July 16, 2019

Let's Talk Illustrators # 114: Hervé Tullet

Hervé Tullet's name has essentially become synonymous with interactive children's books. Each book he creates is more than a story between two boards: it's an experience to savor. His latest book I Have an Idea! is no exception, and I was thrilled to catch Hervé for a bit to talk to him about his career so far and how he comes up with his engaging books for children.

About the book:
From one of the true creative geniuses of this generation comes a unique meditation on and celebration of the magic of the birth of a simple idea. Sparkling with visual wit and bubbling with imagination, I Have an Idea! is a richly emotional exploration of the creative process: from an initial tentative inkling, to the frustration of chasing the wrong notion, to finally the exhilaration of capturing—and nurturing—just the right idea.

Let's talk Hervé Tullet!

LTPB: You really push for your books to be as dynamic and engaging as possible, almost like activity guides rather than narrative stories. How do you come up with your ideas? How do you keep each book feeling unique and special, like your latest book I Have an Idea!

HT: I conceive all my books like an experiment to be read, lived, shared, interpreted, invented. 

As I really feel that an idea must be unique to surprise you, I try to have new ideas for each book and adapt the drawing and illustration to each book and individual idea. It is the way I have found to always think out of the box in ways that nobody would expect me to, and, in that way, I avoid being systematic (and boring). 

LTPB: With such engaging books, what experiences are you hoping to foster? 

HT: It may surprise you but I think of my books as unfinished. I believe that they will be finished by how each reader, child, parent, and educator will interpret them, read them, and by all the activities that will be developed around each book after the reading. 

For instance, almost each day I still receive sculptures of Turlututu, a character I invented, pictures of Blops, or images of a classroom reinterpreting Press Here. In a way, I just hope that people will take over the books and play with them.

LTPB: Can you talk a little bit about how you created the custom fonts in this book?

HT: All my books are handmade. I even did one of them, Mix It Up, only using my hands and paint.

Font is also an important part of each book and they are all handmade, as a kind of voice maybe, to elicit a voice and to make sure there is a human looking for these ideas and make them with his hands.

As I told you, once I have found an idea, I work extremely fast. I fill one or two notepads and then I directly make the originals for the book. One, two, three tries. See it here.

LTPB: What did you use to create the illustrations in your books? Is this your preferred medium? How does your process change from book to book?

HT: For each book, I find the right medium to express the idea. I do not feel I have a specific style, as I adapt the art to each book in an effort to be as spontaneous as possible, allow for the possibility of an accident, and to make some room for improvisation. 

It is an experience to create books. I try to be in the book, to create, and then, with the help of my editor, select the right pieces to put everything together. 

Ultimately, I allow for play and joy to create the books that I make. I think that idea can really inspire others to create their own. 

LTPB: What are you working on now? Anything you can show us?

HT: The Ideal Exhibition! It is an art exhibition, inspired by my art and artistic process, that you can do without me! I have created a series of videos that you can find on the website. It is such an amazing feeling to finally be able to elicit people from all around the world (France, USA, Spain, South Korea, Cuba!) in any dimension (in a shoe box, in a child bedroom, in a classroom or in a museum) with all kind of goals (having two communities gathering, just having fun, create an exhibition to be visited…).

To create your own, you can visit our website and apply. There is only one rule, you have to create a genuine exhibition to contribute to the project!

An ideal exhibition that I participated in to create a GIANT ROOM in a gallery for a pop-up on the high line.

An incredible exhibition made by a teacher and her classroom in the south of France!!

LTPB: If you were to write your picture book autobiography, who (dead or alive!) would you want to illustrate it, and why?

HT: I try to create communication in between arts, and play with sounds, drawings, light, and space, so a way to express my life with music sounds ideal. It would consist of a soundtrack that would include Stravinsky, Debussy, Led Zeppelin, Salif Keita and some more to express different parts of my life. If I had to choose one, I would choose Miles Davis for that job! He was so incredibly talented, always finding new and innovative trails of music. To sum up, he is a master! 

A big thank you to Hervé for taking time to answers some questions! I Have an Idea! published earlier this year from Chronicle Books!

Special thanks to Hervé for use of these images!

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