I grew up behind the Iron Curtain. There was a shortage of everything (freedom most of all) — and only one kind of paper, one kind of ink, one kind of paint. I was one happy artist when I became an illustrator in the U.S.A. So many materials! I settled on oil pastels, which I scratched into. That created lots of residue, tiny pieces of paint everywhere. It didn’t matter as long as I was single. It started to matter a bit when I met my wife-to-be and we lived in a loft. It mattered a lot when we had our first baby. It mattered even more when Madeleine began to crawl. We built a wall, but I had nightmares about her getting into my paint thinner and X-Acto blades. I switched to watercolors, but I still wasn’t sure how safe they were. On the other hand, I found out that baby formula dissolves aquarelle. Madeleine loved it. I had to look for a studio outside the house. No more paints at home. I found myself a studio — a little apartment, really — with a kitchen.
I have to fix dinner every day at six p.m. Watercolors dry too slowly, but I can dry them in front of the oven, and bake while I’m drying my pictures. I notice people’s surprise when they meet me in the street carrying a bag smelling like a roast or a chicken. Some of the shapes on my pictures just might be sauce. Now that I have gotten used to watercolors, Madeleine paints at home (with oil).
This article is part of our Picture Book Month 2012 coverage.