Interview: Jules Faber

Jules Faber illustrates children’s books for some of Australia’s biggest publishers, including Anh Do’s ‘WeirDo’ series for Scholastic and David Warner’s ‘Kaboom Kid’ series for Simon & Schuster. Back in 2004 he had a book of short fiction published making him an author as well!

Jules is a trained animator and has worked on an animated show for Disney, drawn editorial cartoons for numerous newspapers, drawn tens of thousands of caricatures at live events and won multiple awards for his comic strips and book illustration, including the Rotary Cartoon Awards ‘Best Comic Strip’ and the Australian Book Industry Awards ‘Book of the Year for Older Children’ for ‘WeirDo’. Jules is also the current President of the Australian Cartoonists Association, the world’s oldest cartoonist’s organisation at 92.

He is married and the father of an 8 year old devil-may-care daughter.

This interview with Jules is the last in our series exploring the way creative people glean inspiration.

TRM: What were your favourite texts growing up?
JF: I taught myself to read at age 4 and I was voracious with reading. I would pick up any thing I could get my hands on. One text that stands out was Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Things Are. The artwork, to me, was so alive and Max was so vibrant. He was a wild boy but also an imaginative one. I wasn’t so wild, but I was imaginative. I think I loved the idea of sailing away from what I knew into a world of adventure and monsters that were completely under my control. I grew up in a big family and I was very low down in the pecking order. Everyone, to me, was taller, older and enjoyed more privileges. So I guess the appeal is apparent, when framed like that.
What texts do you keep coming back to and why?
I love comics and graphic novels. But I also love good, hard fiction. Sometimes there are stories which resonate for a given reason and other times, they resonate for a completely unknown or even no reason.
I am often reminded of Thomas Harris’ Hannibal series. The writing is so perfect, the tension so well timed and the characters so richly developed it’s hard not to return to them every so often.
Graphic novels helped shape my love of illustrating and I frequently reread Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, Maus by Art Spiegelman and Frank Miller’s Sin City. All are genius graphic novels.
Are there texts that relate to your life?
Hard to say. I think having read so much for so much of my life that every book I ever read has contributed to who I am today, even in a small way, while I can see parts of myself in many, many characters in books. I like that there’s a blur in the reality there, that the fiction builds me whilst I’m a part of the fiction.
But I can’t think of a single definitive text that relates to my life. Certainly pieces of very many books but nothing singularly comprehensive.
Are there any artists and texts that influence you creatively?
Hundreds. I’ve been a fanboy since I can remember and having explored so much over the years has created a wealth of inspiration. In my job as an illustrator and as President of the Australian Cartoonists Association, I have actually got to meet many of my artistic heroes, which is a real perk of the business.
But of all, I think the most influential has to be Norman Hetherington. When I was a little boy I would see his work on the TV and it showed me a whole world of possibility andopened the doors to my imagination.
Not many people know his name, but they know his work. Norman created Mr Squiggle and I would watch, mesmerised as he made formless lines and shapes into actual real drawings.
Years later, I had the opportunity to visit Norman’s studio and he took me downstairs to his basement, where Squiggle and his friends lived. In a wonderfully timeless moment I will never forget, I met my childhood inspiration, the actual Mr Squiggle. Norman told me it was the very same marionette as ever, he’d had maybe a few touchups over the years but he’d never been replaced. I reached out and held Squiggle’s hand and in that moment I was transported back into the wonder of my childhood, the world falling away and for just that moment, everything was gone and there was just me and Squiggle. I’ve never experienced a moment like it. It was one of those all-too-rare times where all is right with the world, if only for an instant.

So Norman, and his small alter-ego from the moon, Mr Squiggle, deserve the highest place on that long list.

Are there any quotes or other words of wisdom you find helpful for your practice?
When the student is ready, the teacher appears

This comes up time and again in my career. At any given point when I want to learn something new, sure enough providence puts the means to learn in my path. It has happened so frequently on both large and small scale, that I don’t question it any more. I simply accept that when I need to know something, the way will appear.
What is a text that every developing artist should read/watch/listen to?
Scott McCloud has created a perfect series of graphic novels that go into minute detail about how comics work. Starting with Understanding Comics, this is an essential read (and re-read and re-read) for anyone interested in writing and illustrating comics and graphic novels.

Aside from that, there are enormous numbers of collected works books out there. If any particular illustrator interests or inspires, fish around a bit and you’re sure to unearth a collected works volume on their art. These are excellent volumes to pore over and study. There are so many great illustrators and artists out there and there is much to learn just studying their works in detail.

You can follow Jules on Twitter and Facebook or visit his website.

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