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Right Here
on This Spot

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John Clapp Illustration

About The Artist

Right Here on This Spot
Written By Sharon Hart Addy
Illustrated By John Clapp


Since I'm the artist, this page is about me.   Most of the factual information is available here in a more resume like format.  This page is of a more general nature.  The text is an abridged version of the text that is going to be included in an upcoming edition of Something About the Author, a reference series aimed at young people. 

How I Got Started
I was born in Santa Clara, California on August 20th, 1968, in what is now known as Silicon Valley.  I grew up near the San Francisco Bay in a town called Fremont and still live in the Bay Area.

According to my parents, I was drawing while still in a highchair. In nursery school, I was the one kid who didn’t want to go around to all the different "activity stations" and do anything else; I just wanted to stay at the easels and draw. This was not a popular decision.  Thankfully, my mother supported my decision and ignored the other parents, and their desire to see me do what all the other kids were doing.

Growing up I was drawing all the time. My dad worked in real estate in the 70’s and used to bring home the old listings which had been primitively photocopied on one side but were blank on the other side. I used the white side for my drawings and would go through reams and reams of these old listings. For the longest time I could never understand why they put all that other garbage on the "back" of MY paper. Looking back on my childhood drawings now can get me really depressed, especially when I see what kind of house you could buy in 1975 with $60,000! 

My First Book
My first recorded children’s book, "The Fishing Trip" starring my dad, was dictated to my mother, who carefully printed the text underneath each of my drawings. (I was not writing at this point) When the judge puts him in jail because he’s caught fish over the legal limit, he is forced to eat all the fish and ends up as "one fat fisherman." Readers who didn’t like the story could always turn the book over and find choice real estate in the mid-$50,000's.

I was an avid fan of comic books and cartooning in general as a kid. I’d copy the characters from the newspaper strips (Hagar the Horrible, Family Circus, Beetle Bailey) and write and draw original comic books with my friends. During high school I set out to get a job in comics and through many critiques and talking to many professionals I slowly began to learn about drawing. This in turn led to learning about painting, and then illustration during a brief year at San Jose State University.

Later, at Art Center College of Design, I was fortunate to have David Shannon as an instructor for a children’s book illustration class. Over the years he’s been an invaluable resource for information about the industry. While at the time, I didn’t plan on pursuing children’s books full time, being able to call Dave when I had a question has been a tremendous help.

After graduating from Art Center College of Design, I began illustrating book jackets, several of which were for the Young Adult genre. The art directors for those books, and other art directors in the industry saw those jackets and began to offer me my first manuscripts.

Book Illustration
When illustrating a book, my first concern is just to communicate the story in a compelling way, while keeping myself entertained and challenged. Ultimately of course, I have to pay my bills, so I hope I do a good job, and people like the books, buy the books, and keep me from having to get a real job!

My books tend to take a while to complete. Thumbnailing out the manuscript or story is probably the part I enjoy the most. That’s where the "flashes of inspiration" and such occur for me. The actual production of the finished artwork is more of a mechanical process and can be frustrating at times because you want sixteen perfect paintings at the end of it all which is never going to happen. In your head, the pictures are always perfect, but you do the best you can and resolve to make your next book absolutely perfect. It’s a useful and marvelous self-deception.

I like to "putter" through my books, letting the ideas come to the surface in their own time, letting the book "grow" very naturally. I’m convinced that my brain works on the book subconsciously all the time, and passes good ideas along when it has one ready.

Specific Books
With Right Here On This Spot, I was trying to create a book where the visuals echoed the feeling I get from archaeology. Layers and layers of information, some of it barely discernible or only partially visible. Clues, juxtapositions, the context of the information, all communicate and clarify your understanding, but in a very subtle way. I wanted my book to convey the narrative in a similarly indirect way.

For The Stone Fey, a storybook, I felt the illustrations functioned more to illuminate the text rather than explain it. The information was already there, my illustrations were more of a "soundtrack" to accompany the story. It was still enjoyable, but because it didn’t need to be sequential, it wasn’t as interesting a challenge as a picture book.

In On Christmas Eve, (to be released Fall 2002) the challenge was to accurately reflect the mood of the story, visually, as the boy’s hopes ride the emotional roller-coaster that is his Christmas Eve.

Major Influences
My major influences are hard to pin down. My early training was very traditional, which provided technical skills, and my later training was very contemporary, which had a major influence on my thinking process. I don’t feel that technically, I’ve been very influenced at all by any one artist. I can’t point to any artist and say "He was the one!" Where I can spot major influences are in less obvious areas. I’ve always been inspired, and tried to emulate the behavior of artists I respect. Michelangelo, Rodin, Rembrandt, Mucha, and several others; even contemporary musicians like Lyle Lovett and Peter Gabriel. I’m impressed by how they think, how they work with metaphors, their discipline, and their honest pursuit of their respective crafts. That’s how I’ve been influenced the most. One of my favorite things to do is to hear artists or scientists or creative individuals of any kind talk about their work. It never fails to fascinate and inspire me.

My Peers
The contemporaries whose work I love to look at are the late Shel Silverstein, Kevin Henke, and the late Crockett Johnson. Despite the appearance of my work, the children’s books I like the best are the simpler humorous ones. Again, it’s how they think that gets me. How a phrase will have a double meaning or how the simplest addition to the illustration will foreshadow another event on the next page. I think too often, people are "seduced" by a complicated illustrations, and ignore or overlook the clumsiness with which they work within a given story. That’s not to say that I believe complicated or realistic illustrations are inappropriate for children’s books, not at all; but the illustrations need to serve the story in the way that the authors mentioned above manage to, when they’re doing their best work. A pretty picture just isn’t good enough by itself.

Advice to aspiring authors/artists
I believe the most influential factor on a person’s career is their education. Nothing else even comes close. I don’t necessarily mean formal education. I mean looking at people who are doing something at a very high level, and studying what they do. As important as Art Center was to my education, I still believe my earlier self-directed studies were what made Art Center as worthwhile as it was for me, and laid the groundwork for my career. I would tell a prospective artist/author to find people whose work you believe is truly amazing; then learn all you can about it by studying it.