Kaz Cooke is a cartoonist and illustrator. His latest, The Amazing Monster Detectoscope, is as intricate as any beforehand. Graeme, welcome to The Garret. Graeme Base: Lovely to be here, thanks. Nic: So what came first for you, was it a love of words and stories, or of drawing and visual creativity? Graeme: First came getting sacked.
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Kaz Cooke is a cartoonist and illustrator. His latest, The Amazing Monster Detectoscope, is as intricate as any beforehand. Graeme, welcome to The Garret. Graeme Base: Lovely to be here, thanks.
Nic: So what came first for you, was it a love of words and stories, or of drawing and visual creativity? Graeme: First came getting sacked. And so, for me it was colouring in and within a couple of years I was the kid in class who was good at art. And it went on from there. Graeme: No, but if they were doing a project and they needed a sort of really good heading done for it, then they would get me… Nic: Really?
Graeme: … because I could stay within the lines. That was how I carved my niche in the playground. Nic: And in return you got credibility and friends. Nic: [Laughter] Did you grow up in a house with a love of stories and books? I grew up with his love of that which made me even weirder at school.
Nic: Sure. Graeme: I was the kid who knew about classical music. And for me reading was a slow and fairly hard sort of grind. I was initially bought up on all the classic English fare, all the Wind in the Willows, all the A.
Milne stuff, Pooh Bear and so forth, but really after I came to Australia it was much later that I found a book that jut did it for me. I thought there was no way I was going to read this, it was all three books in one big whopping paperback, like a loaf of bread, and I started it and was totally hooked, and that was the book that for me broke it open.
Nic: And what was it that hooked you, the world, the characters, the imagination? Graeme: Yeah, the world, the characters, I just believed in it, I just invested myself in that world. As an artist, when I was doing my little drawings as a youngster, it was always fantasy stuff.
Drawing monsters and dragons and made up animals, and so this just fed into that, perfectly. A no brainer really.
Nic: Right. When you were just talking about when you used to draw the monsters when you were a child, I just see that so much in your adult world. Nic: From the Lord of the Rings, did that then introduce you to other books, were you then interested in other authors and readers? I loved that and again, high fantasy. So those two books I would actually put down as the most profound things that I read as a youngster. I suppose even now my books derive from a vision, a picture, rather than an idea for a story.
Nic: So were you the type of kid who loved going to art galleries. Were there particular artists that took your fancy? So those were the most obvious influences when I was a kid. Nic: And when you were at school, were you considering a career in art?
Graeme: Oh nothing but. That was it. Nic: So how did you… What did you foresee for yourself? What were you thinking? Graeme: I think I was pretty ambitious. I remember — actually this is almost a horror story — when I was in Grade 6 and still fresh from England, wanting to be the artist in the classroom. There was a teacher I had, Mr Fisher was his name. Horrible thing was, it meant something to me, and that was, I had arrived. I then started going home and drawing.
Nic: What did you hate about it? Graeme: Being told what to do. So I found myself drawing a tyre tread pattern one day, or a golf shoe. Seriously, the classic toothpaste packet sort of stuff, bits of furniture for a company called Saba who was out there for a while, doing newspaper ads. It was horrible, and it showed. Basically, incompetence, because I was messing up, I was doing work and I was forgetting measurements or just not doing what he needed me to be doing.
So, I was ejected from that industry. Graeme: Yes. There was no dragons, no monsters, no fantasy… Nic: Another damn toothpaste box, and this one two millimetres different to the one you did before. Graeme: Pretty much. Nic: Brain destroying. It was meaningless, I think, in a creative sense, but my own work which was done for my own satisfaction… I then got together a folio and I started just going around to local publishers in Melbourne, trying to get work.
Nic: So what made you decide to go to publishers? And I did a few of those and you know what, that came from earlier. At college, I had always wanted to be the guy who did the record covers and in fact I missed out on a job.
Mushroom Records was hiring and it came down to me and another kid from my class at Swinburne, but this other guy got it. But that other guy got the job and I really felt, no, that was my job, darn it. Graeme: I think it was there but for the grace of god, because it was a very weird, druggy kind of environment then and I might have gone down the wrong road. Also because I was really into music, it was a big part of my life back then and it really just felt perfect.
It may well have been too perfect, if you know what I mean. Nic: What type of music were you into? Graeme: The covers Roger Dean, I would have just lapped that stuff up, that was me, that was what I wanted to do. So, when I went around to publishers, doing book jackets was kind of a version of that in my mind. And I figured if I was to write one of these things, and I was ok at English at school, that was the other thing that pressed my buttons was grammar and spelling and stuff and the classical music — as I say, weird kid — and I wrote one.
I wrote a story, a poem called My Grandma Lived in Gooligulch, and that found a publisher. That easy. Nic: Do you remember what it was he said he liked about it?
Or what do you think he liked about it? Graeme: I think part of what he liked about it was I bought him a package. You give them the whole thing. Actually, we might embark on that, what I did then, would it get a market now? Especially something like Animalia. What made you embark on another, Animalia?
And did you think foresee its success? Graeme: No, no, no. Nic: Exactly. He liked the idea. It was a simpler day and age. I just think that the tiers of decision making now would probably have suppressed that. And all that study, focus groups Nic: It appealed like few other picture books, so totally appealed to adults and to kids.
Well actually to tell you the truth, in one of those classic cases of parallel creativity, there was a guy in England who was doing exactly that at the same time. I found out about it about a year into the project because Animalia was a three-year project for me.
Nic: Who, do you remember who wrote it? Nic: It is very modest. And I was, actually if Bob had not said keep going, I probably would have abandoned it. Well he got England, I got America. Graeme: Evil wicked smile. I have fun with that, I tell a lot of people that story and then I say has anyone here heard of The Ultimate Alphabet?
And nobody puts their hand up. I mean you could have twenty different successful alphabet books twenty different people. Graeme: Yes, and it happens with movies too, the meteor movies, the volcano movies and so forth.
Exactly right. Graeme: Yeah ok. Do I do market research?
Reading Animalia by Graaeme Base is a great way to begin. Even though it is a picture book, it can be used for older elementary students because of the sophisticated writing and colorful illustrations. It drives home the meaning of alliteration quickly. Make sure, as you are reading, that you allow students to savor the elaborate words used to form the alliteration in each sentence, phrase or description.
Alliteration Activities With Animalia & Other Ideas
And really, the sheer amount of objects playing hide and seek within the illustrations is rather majorly daunting to say the least, especially since one is not even sure exactly how many hidden images there are in each section, in each given picture spread which is why I most certainly would really have appreciated and actually required a list of hidden objects included, either at the back of the book, with corresponding page numbers, or preferably, underneath each of the illustrations. Now I do believe and even realise that Animalia has a lot of what I would label "kid appeal" but for someone like me, with less than stellar eyesight, the sheer masses of hidden objects can easily prove to be a bit massively overwhelming at best. But that being said and even though I have only rated Animalia with a high two star ranking , aside from the book teaching and practicing the alphabet, alliteration, rhyming and the like, the hidden images might also be a useful tool for working on pattern recognition with children as well as adults who have focusing and visual tracking issues the latter factoid being yet another reason why a list of the specific hidden objects to be located in Animalia would have been a welcome and much useful addition.
List of everything in Animalea by Graeme Base?
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