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So, this was supposed to be highlights from a panel discussion on children's books with Neil Gaiman, Mariken Jongman, and Shaun Tan. I knew it would be a bit Tan-centric, since I am most familiar with his work, but once I started writing it up, it quickly became all Tan.
The other panelists were charming and insightful and funny. (Like when Neil Gaiman remembered his school teachers telling him, "Neil, dear, before you can be eccentric, you really should know where the circle is.") But since this is the Art Department I have the perfect excuse to focus on the only illustrator on the panel.
Shaun Tan mentioned that he grew up in a suburban town that was the perfect blend of idyllic and boring to help foster a vivid imagination. And, that he used drawing as a way to compensate for being the shortest kid in the class.
Shaun mentioned Where the Wild Things Are, especially the forest growing in the bedroom scene. He talked about the "tipping point, where everything starts to change."
He started as a science fiction illustrator and moved into children's books as a means to broaden his client base.
Shaun talked about stripping stories and images down. Getting a everything down to it's bare bones and letting the child inhabit the story and fill in the details.
He seems to have very vivid memories of being a child and attribute his surrealism to remembering what it's like to live in a world were you can only understand 50% of what is going on.