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Tony DiTer­l­izzi, the artist be­hind The Spi­der­wick Chron­i­cles, re­veals how Arthur Rackham in­spired the leg­endary chil­dren’s books…

Early in your ca­reer you were il­lus­trat­ing for Dun­geons & Drag­ons. What made you de­cide to move into cre­at­ing chil­dren’s books?

De­spite get­ting my start il­lus­trat­ing for role-play­ing games, my dream since high school was to be­come a chil­dren’s book au­thor and il­lus­tra­tor. It started with a project as­signed dur­ing my se­nior year: rein­ter­pret a clas­sic story through il­lus­tra­tion. I chose Lewis Car­roll’s Alice’s Ad­ven­tures in Won­der­land, and my life changed. You see, I had al­ways en­joyed draw­ing, but af­ter com­plet­ing that as­sign­ment I had a di­rec­tion and a pur­pose – to one day cre­ate imag­i­na­tive books for young minds.

You’re most fa­mous for The Spi­der­wick Chron­i­cles. Can you tell us what they’re about?

The Spi­der­wick sto­ries fo­cus on a trio of sib­lings who dis­cover a lon­glost field guide de­tail­ing the nat­u­ral his­tory of fairy-folk and other mytho­log­i­cal crea­tures. It was launched as a se­ries of mid­dle­grade chap­ter books cul­mi­nat­ing with the pub­li­ca­tion of the field guide it­self – a lav­ish 100-plus page, heav­ily il­lus­trated tome of sprites, goblins, trolls and drag­ons. A se­ries of se­quel books fol­lowed shortly there­after.

Where did the idea come from?

I had been de­vel­op­ing the idea for many years and, with my edi­tor, formed the myth of Arthur Spi­der­wick – the man who wrote the field guide. Since I had con­ceived of this world and its back­story, I had in­sight into the vi­su­als – an un­usual role for an il­lus­tra­tor. When we brought Holly Black in to write the sto­ries, it was un­der­stood that she and I would be work­ing to­gether to craft these books. This ap­proach was much dif­fer­ent than the usual process. Typ­i­cally, the au­thor cre­ates the story through writ­ing and then the il­lus­tra­tor en­ters the project af­ter­ward to add vi­su­als, but Holly and I worked in col­lab­o­ra­tion.

Where did you find cre­ative in­spi­ra­tion?

For the chap­ter books, in­spi­ra­tion came from the Golden Age of Il­lus­tra­tion and turn-of-the-century masters such as Henry Jus­tice Ford, Arthur Bur­dett Frost and Arthur Rackham – whom Arthur Spi­der­wick was mod­elled af­ter and who I ded­i­cated my art to. I ren­dered pen and ink il­lus­tra­tions ev­ery cou­ple of page spreads so that the text would be bro­ken up for the younger read­ers.

For Spi­der­wick’s Field Guide to the Fan­tas­ti­cal World Around You, I stud­ied the work of John James Audubon and his con­tem­po­raries. An­tique books served as in­spi­ra­tion in de­sign and ap­pear­ance.

WONDLA The lat­est chil­dren’s se­ries

from Tony DiTer­l­izzi is WondLa, which he both

writes and il­lus­trates.

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