Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Words From the Wise #9 -- Scott Teplin

I must begin this post by apologizing to all of you for the delay in getting it up.  I have had MAJOR computer problems over the last several days, and I am finally back up and running in the technical world again.  Glad to be back, I felt so detached from the world-- amazing how we get addicted to our computers.  

Today I introduce to you a lifelong friend, and I truly mean lifelong since we have known each other since birth, artist Scott Teplin.  Scott and I grew up together in Mequon, Wisconsin, went to college and even lived next door to each other in the dorms one year, and have kept in contact over the years as our lives have changed.  Scott's sense of humor truly comes through in his artwork.  I hope that you enjoy meeting Scott today.

1.  Can you please give a history of how you became an artist, and how you became involved with your book, The Clock Without A Face?
I decided that I wanted to make art while living abroad my junior year in college. I hadn’t taken any art classes in high school, so a few classes in college peaked my interest. Then while studying in London I started to fall in love with the Tate Gallery (the Tate Modern hadn’t been established yet). My second semester was spent in an 18th Century villa in small town outside of Florence. While there I took a studio watercolor class and fell in love with the process of painting on paper. After graduating from Madison with a BS in Art, I moved to a tenement building on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and tried to start my career as an artist. After a year of living very poor, I escaped to do a 2 year MFA program in Seattle, but promptly returned to New York as soon as I was finished. I’ve been here ever since, making art. 

I never even thought about illustrating a children’s book before an editor at McSweeney’s called me to see if I was interested. I had illustrated a couple covers for their books in the past - and I since I liked working with them, I thought it sounded like fun. 

2.  How was your experience working on a book for children different for you than the artwork that you typically do?
When I first moved to New York after college I fell in with a rebellious bunch of book artists and we collaborated often in our tiny cramped studio apartments late into the night. We started a book collective, still going strong called Booklyn. The books we made (I still do) were usually one-of-a-kind pieces of art. Anyway - that’s when I started working collaboratively. The Clock without a Face was a rewarding collaborative experience - mostly because Eli (Horowitz) and Mac (Barnett) are such smart cookies.

I had been trying to get away from the series of interior, or “room” drawings and move fully into my crash series - but this book was as good an excuse as any to come back to it again. After the book I just went with the crashes until I was asked to complete a commission for the new Johns Hopkins Children’s Hospital - another offer I couldn’t refuse! Needless to say, I’m back to the crash series. These days I’m still working on the crashes.  Addidtionally, my partner Adam Parker Smith  and I just released a series of humorous, adult themed trading cards called Randy Packs.

3.  As a father to 2 young boys, how do you share your love of art with them?
We draw together almost daily. I have a big drafting table in our family room where my 6 year-old does his homework and draws collaboratively with me. My two year-old is starting to scribble with me as well. I also try to take advantage of the fact that I live in New York City by going to art galleries and museums. My boys also visit me in my art studio where they are exposed to other professional artists.

4.  When you started your career as an artist technology was not what it is today.  How have all the recent changes effected the way that you do your work now?

I no longer have to shoot and develop 35mm slides! Those were the WORST. It’s also nice having an online presence with my web site that’s always there, easily accessible and current.

5.  Coming up next month the new Johns Hopkin's Children's Hospital will be opening.  You are one of the many artists who have contributed to making this building a comfortable and happy place for children.  Please describe your work that you are contributing .

This was a wonderful project to participate in.  The best way for you to get a feel for my work is to  watch the video.

6.  If you could be a character in any children's story, who would you be and why?
I’d be Old Sneelock in Dr. Seuss’s “If I Ran The Circus” because he seems like he has very low blood pressure, despite his hectic lifestyle.

Thank you so much Scott for joining us today!


  1. Great post! I always love learning about illustrators and how they work.

  2. I agree Julie. They look at the world from such a different perspective than we do as authors.

  3. It's great that you draw with your kids! I bet they learn a lot from you :)