In England, there is a dividing line between artists and illustrators, who are thought inferior to painters. Well, that's absolute rubbish. Some of the most creative work is being done in children's books. In Japan, everything is art. They don't say painting is better than ceramics or dress design.
Art is for the elite because it has a very high price-point of entry. And when one is in that social strata, they look down at illustrators because they just draw things directly for a few hundred dollars, and that's seen as being a bit grubby. Galleries allow artists to stay relatively divorced from the financial aspects of their trade.
I was influenced by Ray Harryhausen and Lotte Reiniger, with her twitchy, cutout animation, which I happened to see at a very young age, but also by the Warner Bros. cartoons, 'Tom and Jerry,' and of course Disney. And also by Fellini's 'Giulietta of the Spirits' and Kurosawa's 'Ran.' And by other American illustrators and painters.
There is a continual exchange of ideas between all minds of a generation. Journalists, popular novelists, illustrators, and cartoonists adapt the truths discovered by the powerful intellects for the multitude. It is like a spiritual flood, like a gush that pours into multiple cascades until it forms the great moving sheet of water that stands for the mentality of a period.
Photojournalist? With a few exceptions, those of us working as photojournalists might now more appropriately call ourselves illustrators. For, unlike real reporters, whose job it is to document what's going down, most of us go out in the world expecting to give form to the magazine, or to newspaper editor's ideas, using what's become over the years a pretty standardized visual language. So we search for what is instantly recognizable, supportive of the text, easiest to digest, or most marketable - more mundane realities be damned.
To my mind, the most successful and the best comic book illustrators are those who translate the real world into a consistent code. If you look at Jack Kirby or Steve Ditko, their drawings look nothing like the real world, but they are internally consistent. In terms of a comic book it can work just fine.
A lot of excellent illustrators are working at the moment-especially in fantasy and children's books. It is exciting also to see graphic artists such as Dave McKean, in his film Mirrormask, moving between different media. I also greatly admire the more traditional work of Gennady Spirin and Roberto Innocenti. Kinuko Craft, John Jude Palencar, John Howe, Charles Vess, Brian Froud... I'll stop there, as the list would get too long. But-in a fit of pride and justified nepotism-I'll add my daughter, Virginia Lee, to the list. Her first illustrated children's book, The Frog Bride [coming out in the U.K. in September, 2007], will be lovely.
Peter Pan has to be the book of my childhood. Come to think of it, it's the book of my adulthood too. It's a book which, in the reading of it, takes me back to editions that I've had and lost, with various illustrators' work in them. It brings back moments sitting reading it with my mother. It brings back my first contact with the Disney cartoon. It brings back standing in the play-yard when I was a kid, when the wind was really blowing, and closing my eyes, spreading my arms and pretending I could fly. It brings back childhood dreams of flying. It brings back the first encounter I ever had with an invented world... Never Never Land was really the first journey I took to an invented world which I believed in wholly and completely. I remember the immense solidarity that I felt with the Lost Boys, with Peter, with the Indians - how much I wanted to be a Red Indian - how much the saving of Tiger Lily meant to me as a kid, how much I wanted to one day wake up and save an Indian squaw from drowning.
I've been strongly influenced, in technique as well as subject matter, by some of the early 20th-century book illustrators - Arthur Rackham and Edmund Dulac in particular, Burne-Jones and other Pre-Raphaelites, and the Arts-&-Crafts movement they engendered. I'm continually inspired by Rembrandt, Breughel (I've wondered whether his brilliant "Tower of Babel" had inspired Tolkien's description of Minas Tyrith), Hieronymous Bosch, Albrecht Durer, and Turner; it's not necessarily that they influence my work in any particular direction, more that their example raises my spirits, re-affirms my belief in the power of images to move and delight us, and shows me how much further I have to go, how much is possible. Having visited Venice and Florence for the first time, I am besotted with the Italian Renaissance artists - Botticelli, Bellini, da Vinci and others. Their work is calm, controlled, and yet each face and landscape contains such passion. In Botticelli's paintings, every pebble and every leaf is rendered with a religious devotion; there is reverence inherent in paying such close attention to every stone, turning painting itself into a form of worship, an act of prayer.