Drop everything! Paul Gravett has interviewed Shaun Tan! The Oscar winning artist of The Arrival, The Lost Thing and many other picture books is one of the most admired illustrators working today, and although Tan’s work often ends up being “comics” in that it is sequential, pictorial storytelling, as this interview makes clear, doing anything like comics is only something he backed into:
I think you’re building a mature relationship with comics without too many preconceived ideas. I think if you’d been immersed in them since childhood, perhaps you’d have had a system in place that would have been difficult to escape from?
Yeah I would have taken them for granted. But as it is, comics seemed quite a strange way of telling a story which is what intrigues me. My attraction to picture books was word-picture relationships and how pared down they can be and still make sense and also have these big gaps in between. The best comics maximise this relationship between language and image that’s not explanatory. They’re both doing different functions. It’s quite a natural extension, but that said I don’t feel like a comics artist.
Tan also talks about his inspirations:
This guy called Aki, an IT specialist from Helsinki, came to stay with us for two weeks. We set up a bedroom for him. In the Eric story, the exchange student prefers to sleep in the kitchen pantry, which is tolerated because the family want him to be comfortable. When Aki was staying with us, he would get on with his studies, bent over a book, reading intently, I could see him through the gap in the door. Whenever I am doing an illustration, no matter how fanciful it is, there is always some reference to something in my own life. Not to be autobiographical but because it helps me draw the picture. It helps you project emotion into the picture. It’s very difficult to just draw things without feeling.
Much much more insight into Tan’s works and his method in the link.