SPINNING A THRILLING YARN
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.