The award-winning author and illustrator shares a peek into his fantastic workspace inspired by objects from childhood
To understand me as an author, artist and creative spirit I offer you this glimpse into my studio – my innermost sanctum. All the raw elements that ignite my imagination are found here, as are many of my well-kept treasures and secrets.
My studio is nestled in the basement of our home. The creative work done here, by all members of our family, serves as the foundation for all that we have. Although I mostly work during the day, I love the luxury of popping down to the studio any time that inspiration strikes. Sliding doors and spacious windows face east, welcoming warm sunlight each morning. The view outside looks out upon fields, farms, forest preserves and hills. When I work during the day, I often hear the cry of red-tailed hawks; and the hoot of great horned owls calling at night. This close proximity to the natural world keeps me connected to my greatest inspiration.
Old books, toys and games clutter the shelves and nooks of my workspace. It’s dusty but comfy. These nostalgic artefacts remind me of what it was like to be a kid. Each dingy toy takes me back to a specific time in my life. Each dog-eared book reminds me of my own artistic journey and the many visionaries who shaped it.
The walls leading down to my studio are covered with original paintings, drawings and sketches by those I admire – both past and present. I thrive on visual inspiration,
and so my studio is decorated with stuff that stimulates my eyes and mind. Characters, creatures and books forged from my imagination intermingle with children’s classics and masters of illustration. It’s the dream version of my childhood bedroom.
New York Times bestselling author and illustrator Tony imbues all his books with a rich imagination. You can see his work on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or at www.diterlizzi.com.
An original watercolour by my hero, Brian Froud, peeks out from behind an old Spiderwick bookstore display. As you can see, I collect a lot of old toys. I often use their vintage packaging as inspiration for fonts, typesetting and design. My executive producer’s chair from The Spiderwick Chronicles is kept warm by Kermit the Frog. The shooting script lies next to him. Behind him are compact discs forming part of my music collection. Jim Bissell, the production designer for The Spiderwick Chronicles film, gifted me a clear resin mushroom prop from his first film, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. A life-sized goblin rehearsal puppet from The Spiderwick Chronicles film stands guard. It was incredible to see my illustrations and designs brought to life by visual FX pioneers Phil Tippett and Industrial Light and Magic.
My drawing table looks out to the fields and farms. The changing light, colour and seasons provides endless inspiration. I’m sketching out my next picture book – the loose paper is easier for me to scan when it comes to creating the book dummy. An oversized cork bulletin board dominates the far wall of the studio. The board reflects projects I’m working on. Here, it displays early designs and inspirations for the Christmas-themed picture book I’m writing and illustrating. A 25th anniversary arcade edition of Pac Man is perfect for blowing off steam after an intense deadline. Having started my illustration career in the early 1990s working on roleplaying games like Dungeons & Dragons, I’ve collected many vintage items from the early days of gaming. Only gamers of a certain generation know what’s in the Crown Royal bag. I own a ridiculous supply cabinet, which was custom made by Richard Dunbrack. Tiny drawers hold my pens, inks, nibs and tubes of Holbein Acryla Gouache – my preferred medium. That’s an authentic iron-cast Naughty Nellie boot jack mounted near the cabinet doorjamb. Tiers of wooden flat files run along the length of my studio. Each drawer is labelled for a particular project. A peek inside offers not only a glimpse into my imagination, but my life’s work.