最早注意到 Jon Klassen 的作品，是他為動畫長片 Coraline（第十四道門）繪製的腳本，混合了陰鬱與黑色幽默的畫風，讓他的作品有極高的辨識度。他一手包辦故事與插畫的繪本 I Want My Hat Back (2011) 和續集 This Is Not My Hat (2012)，曾盤踞在紐約時報暢銷書榜 (The New York Times Best Seller list) 長達40週。適逢Jon Klassen的新作《一直一直往下挖》在台灣出版中文版，插畫生活很榮幸可以專訪到Jon Klassen，跟他談談關於創作的心得。以下是Jon的訪問內容。
How did you become an illustrator?
I started out in animation. I went to school to be an animator, but quickly realised I didn’t like animating very much, at least not the way you have to do for big films. I did like designing for them, though, so i focused on that and storyboarding, which is a nice combo for breeding an interest in illustration. I hadn’t really thought about my own way of making pictures or illustrations until I did a lot of work for the films and began to pick out things that I liked and sensibilities I have. These became such a big part of how I worked that it seemed wise to go out on my own as an illustrator before I got fired for not being as stylistically flexible as the other guys.
Besides your picture books, I also love your work in “Coraline”. Do you still do animations?
I do still try and work in animation a little bit. I enjoy working collaboratively and there are stories that film can do that books can’t. I worked with a team at Google/Motorola art directing some animation on a project called “Windy Day” last year and it was so nice to stretch my head in that direction again.
How do you come up with the stories for your picture books?
I have to feel my way in the dark for a long time before something clicks and it all makes sense. Everything until the click is kind of disastrous, but it’s usually a decision about who is telling the story, or how it’s going to be told. I don’t have a lot of experience writing, and one thing animation taught me is not to get into the “making things pretty” stage until the story is working, so I wander around in that stage for a while. But once I find a conceit in the writing, it often suggests plot opportunities and those suggest illustration direction and the whole thing (hopefully) comes together.
Where do you find inspirations? How do you overcome the artist block (if you ever have one)?
Blocks are so tough because I don’t think you ever get the same block twice. Anything you learn in fighting through a block is only really applicable to those circumstances, so the next time you get one you try all the old tricks and you’re still stuck. I don’t find I lack for ideas as much as whole complete things. I have lots of ideas for endings of stories, or beginnings of stories, or a set of three pages together, or something like that, but it’s so rare that a thing comes out that has an ending that you just know how to build towards and it fits your format and everything. I think that’s a big part of where I like to start, is asking what is the format good at. Books are good at certain kind of stories and moments, film has it’s own tools. Sometimes the qualities these things have inherently, like a page turn or a cover, or the gutter between pages, can suggest a story, or at least how one might be constructed.
You write and illustrate your own books, but also illustrate for other authors. What’s the difference between these two, in terms of the way you work? For instance, do you enjoy more freedom of creativity when doing both writing and illustrating on your own?
When you have an idea that you like, getting to see it through is the greatest thing. There’s nothing like it, and I’ve been really lucky to get to do it. But when you don’t have an idea, it’s such a huge load off to get someone else’s thing that you can connect to and find ideas in and there’s known quantities already and your job is to kind of solve the problem rather than conjure something out of nothing. I’ve been really pleasantly surprised how much of myself I can find in doing other people’s stories — it’s a really enjoyable process.
Can you describe your work process of creating picture books?
I always start just writing. I might have a few visuals in mind, but it has to work in the writing stage before i feel good about drawing anything. You break your own heart too often otherwise by drawings things that won’t ultimately have a home. I don’t find I can work on a story for a long time, either. If it’s not working pretty well from the outset, I have a hard time opening the hood and figuring out what the problem is. I love sharpening up an already sharp idea, when there’s reasons for things and an ending that you are building to, but if a story is just sort of flopping around for a few days, i usually just let it go and start fresh. Once there is a good sharp one, I get into the roughs pretty quickly, because that can change your thinking on a lot of things. The roughs stage usually goes through 3 or 4 drafts before it’s close to done, and the finals take about the same amount of time. I usually pick a spread that has a lot going on and try and figure out what the rules for making the pictures are going to be, and this can take a long time. It might take just as long to figure out that first spread as the rest of the pages take altogether. The medium for the pictures I try and keep relatively simple, and tied to whatever the tone of the book is going to be, and I always try and have a very clear plan for how the text is going to be laid out. I don’t like it when the text looks like it’s just forced itself into a little corner somewhere. I have an easier time relaxing in making the picture if I know the text has a home already.
What is your usual/favorite art medium?
Lately it’s graphite. I haven’t made a book with it yet, but I have an idea for one. I just really like how simple it is, and it’s dry and not very messy and you get a ton of control, and there’s so many nice soft things that happen.
Do you have a favorite spread form “Sam and Dave Dig a Hole”?
Probably my favorite is when they are sleeping and the dog has poked out the bottom. It’s about 3/4 just dirt and it’s a full spread and I really liked making it, and I like how the boys look and how dark they are, and that all we see of the dog is his back legs and tail.
Do you have creative rituals?
Not really. I drink a lot of tea. When I’m into final artwork and the work isn’t so heady I like to put on movies while I do it. I toggle between really bad action movies to ones I really love. It’s neat because you remember what you watched while you were making certain pages.
我喜歡創作故事性的繪本，但是我非常欣賞那些比較夢幻卻仍然結構緊密的作品。我不認為做一個很會說故事的人是最重要的事。我想所有我喜歡的繪本都有個共同的特質，就是你可以感受到作者對這個故事的熱情。我認為讀者 — 尤其是小孩子們 — 可以感受到這點，並且對其產生共鳴。這不表示每本書的作者只要有熱情就會是好書，但是所有的好繪本都有這個特質。
What is the most important skill(s) a picture book illustrator should have?
I like to make picture books with a story or a plot, but I admire so much when I see ones are a little dreamier and still hold together. I can’t say that being a really technically good storyteller is THE most important thing. I think the common quality to all the picture books I’ve liked is that you can tell whoever made it had a crush on the idea. I think audiences — especially kids — can sense that and respond to that. It doesn’t mean that every book the author had an affection for is going to be good, but I think all the good ones are like that.
目前我正在進行第三本自己圖文包辦的繪本，風格跟前兩本一樣。我也正在幫一本很酷的小說繪製插畫，書名是 The Nest (巢)，作者是 Kenneth Oppel (加拿大名作家) ，這本書會在今年秋天出版。
Any new projects you are working on now that you can tell us about?
I’m working on a third picture book of my own that is in the same vein as the first two, and I’m doing some illustration work for a really cool novel called The Nest written by Ken Oppel that will be out in the fall.
Any advice you’d like to share with emerging illustrators?
I’d say just follow the story. Make your decisions for things based on what’s going to service and strengthen the information you want to get across. Your style and your mediums and your colors and all of that will come through regardless because it’s built into you and it’s not really your job to keep track of what it’s doing. There’s nothing worse than having to defend a decision you made just on stylistic grounds, but if you base decisions on what needs to be communicated, you usually get your way, and the story will hold water long after the trends have changed.