Ed Young's SMILE

I've had Gary Golio visit my blog before along with Ed Young. Well, here's a treat for you. This time, Ed delved deep into his philosophy behind his process in the making of their latest collaboration, SMILE - the story of Charlie Chaplin.
An Essay on Making the Picture Book SMILE
by Ed Young

      Even born and raised in war-torn China as I was, my suffering was nowhere near Chaplin’s, earning pennies and sleeping in doorways of London ghettos.
That said, those early days having to live with a constant shortage of goods had influenced me in saving discarded materials for use in my art. Though I had no forethought to portray things this way for Charlie’s hardships in early 20th- century England.
In fact, when I agreed to do SMILE, I somehow expected to depict a colorful, whimsical clown with funny baggy attire and huge turned-out shoes;
little did I know that it wasn't until the end of the book that he finally becomes the tramp we all know so well.
      My question then was how could I entice a child to find the Darkness of Charlie's life (poverty, sadness) inviting?
Once that challenge put me to the test, I was hooked. Making a book is like making conversation with someone at the other end by finding a common bridge.
Then, how to have a solo conversation, as the artist, from both ends throughout a 32-page book? This act must continue to trigger an interest, like playing a fisherman. Once engaged, the fish will pull away while the man lets out the line; as soon it slacks, he reels it in, creating a game. Once the reader is hooked, his fish will want to come back, only this time it’s not for the bait but for the game.
As to Elizabeth Dulemba's idea of Heart Art: The heart turns a mundane illustrated-telling into extraordinary poetry, intended to fill the reader with imaginings far beyond a series of pictures that reach his physical eye. When his looking turns into seeing, the mind lingers and the fish will return for more. That’s a HEART BOOK. I own many of those treasures done by my own illustrator-heroes.
     What’s difficult for me, in most cases, is to accept an offer to do a book. In such a case, I become the fish that teases the fisherman’s hook to see if the bait is worth a bite. A skillful fisherman must convince me to play this push-and-pull game (but not Gary, who is already a playmate). Once begun, it is just as difficult to stop - like raising a child; one could never tell if the child is really full-grown. The parent—and the artist—must find himself no longer needed for an incubation period after the child decides to go public. At least a month from the request; then he is free to venture out on his own.
      My dream project is the next one that defies my ability to put “improbable” into pictures. On hearing “I bet you can’t. It’s humanly impossible!” Guess what? I am born in the Year of the Goat, so I usually am dumb enough to take on the challenge and often wonder later why I got myself into it! Now I know: It has made me a better artist.
Ed Young

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