Hervé Tullet ‘s journey through books, authors and artists who have influenced him

posted in: Herve Tullet | 2

Hervé Tullet is the creator of some of the most creative, fun picture books I know. Last year he received particular acclaim for Press Here (my review is here), but his activity books are also amazing (we’re particular fans of Doodle Cook). Earlier this week I got to chat with him over email about the writers and illustrators which, over the course of his life so far, have shaped him as an author, an artist and a book creator. Here’s what Hervé Tullet had to say…

Les Champs Magnétiques (The Magnetic Fields) by André Breton and Philippe Soupault. It is often cited as the first work of literary Surrealism.

The first literary shock was surrealism. I was 16 years old when i discovered through surrealism how deep, how spread out, how close, how much fun creativity and creative people could be.

Let us say my second choice would be Johannes Itten‘s L’Art de la Couleur (The art of colour). As a student and then art director in advertising I read a lot of books about creativity (for example about Marshall McLuhan, and David Ogilvy) but I still have L’Art de la Couleur in my workshop.

Right: Ma maîtresse a dit qu'il fallait bien posséder la langue française by Alain Le Saux, Left: L’Afrique de Zigomar by Phillipe Corentin

With Alain Le Saux and Philippe Corentin I discovered how much fun it could be to read a book with a child (when I got my own child). Unfortunately their books are not widely translated into English, which is such a shame. [Zoe adds: Splosh by Philippe Corentin and the Daddy King Books by Alain Le Saux are available in English translations, but they appear to be out of print.]

When I first came across Tomi Ungerer and Maurice Sendak I discovered how it was possible to take a fresh look at children’s literature; although their approach to drawing was quite classical, they created new ways to approach children’s books.

When I first read Little Blue and Little Yellow by Leo Lionni I discovered how far an author could go in imagination with so little material; how crazy that with just a small sheet of paper Lionni could make a flower, a father, a mother, a school, tears, and relief!

With my friend [former Children’s Laureate] Michael Rosen I discovered that I could work with an English fellow – indeed we made a book together called Alphabet Poem – and this was the beginning of my relationship with England, English publishers and English events.

I have to include Bruno Munari, Remy Charlip, Květa Pacovská, Paul Cox, Tana Hoban and Katsumi Komagata in my list of influences. I can’t pick out just one book by each… I’d much rather talk about them and all their work!

Thanks to Susan Barbour (a poet, my English teacher and a friend) and Valerie Rouzeau (a french poet and Sylvia Plath’s translator) I rediscovered poetry and what an important place it has in reader’s life


Thank you Hervé! It’s been fascinating to find out more about your influences – my to-read pile has certainly grown larger as a result!

This weekend (June 30 / July 1) Hervé Tullet will be mapping an imaginative route across a small part of North London as part of the Pop-Up Festival, a free 2 day event celebrating books, stories and imagination for children, teenagers and families.

Along with over 200 local children, parents and art students Hervé has created a series of play sculptures to be explored. When I asked him about this and his involvement with the Pop-Up Festival here’s what he had to say:

Herve Tullet recently working with kids in North London
I travel a lot and, usually, I travel through schools and children’s surroundings – it’s a very special and interesting way to travel! I discovered in these schools around St Pancras [the part of North London where the festival is taking place] glances, smiles, complicity, and I shared my energy with all these people. We didn’t really need verbal language, rather we found another way to communicate – through colour and gesture, sounds and movement. I believe we all had a great time together, sharing, swapping and turning our joint art into scuptures. This made me feel happy too: an accomplishment, an achievement, and I love this feeling … I do hope that whoever visits the sculptures will feel all this too as they discover and explore them.

So… if you’re near London this weekend I do hope you’ll find time to visit the Pop-Up Festival and play in Hervé Tullet‘s sculptures! Let me know if you do – I’d love to hear all about it.

2 Responses

  1. Elli

    Oh no – yet another brilliant person I’m going to miss by not going to the Pop-Up Festival! Boo hoo! Any other weekend and I probably could have made it.
    Elli recently posted..Plug Your Ears

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