Eric Orchard is an award-winning Canadian illustrator/cartoonist whose art I am blown away by. Eric has illustrated critically acclaimed children’s books and been nominated twice for the Atlantic Book Awards’ Lillian Shepherd Memorial Award. He has done work for Top Shelf, Oni, Tor, and Scholastic, to name a few. He has also won the Silver Spectrum award for his Comic Book Art, and been featured in the Society of Illustrators Annual Exhibition. Eric has a new children’s book called “Marrowbones” about a little girl named Nora who befriends some cool ghouls at her Uncle Barnaby’sInn, which is a fantastic read for both children and adults a like. It was my pleasure to speak with Eric about his work and also have him answer some questions for me and I’m happy to share that with you at “Don’t Pick the Flowers”.
David: Hello Eric, I’m really thrilled to be featuring you here at “Don’t Pick the Flowers”. I love your artwork and style, to set the stage, when did you become interested in becoming an artist and decide this was the chosen path for you?
Eric: Thanks so much David! I really appreciate the opportunity. I love chatting about comics.
I always loved visual story telling, especially comics and illustration and from a very young age I was emulating my favorite cartoonists and illustrators. I just wanted to do what they were doing because I loved any kind of visual story telling and I still do. Early on I started copying comics like Star Wars and later I started turning my favorite prose stories into comics or illustrations. My first finished comic was a version of Mark Twain’s Canibalism In The Cars which I did in my sketchbook at about 14 or 15 years old I started publishing mini comics in high school and fell in love with the whole process of making comics and even the business of getting the comics out there.
David: With that in mind, who are your artistic “heroes” and what are the things that inspire your work?
Eric: I think I’m as influenced by illustration, movies and fine art as comics. There are so many artists I love and have had an impact in my work any list I make is bound to leave out some important names.
But my biggest heroes are Arthur Rackham, Edward Gorey, Mike Mignola,Marice Sendak,AB Frost, the German Expressionists, the Romantic era of fine art, the Provensens, Brian Froud,George Herriman, Moebius, Tony Diterlizzi, I could go on and on….
David: You have an excellent new digital book called “Marrowbones”. Where did the idea for the story and characters come from?
It’s funny, I was actually traveling through Quebec during a huge thunderstorm when Marrowbones came together. My family was traveling fromToronto to visit my hometown of Halifaxand we decided to stop and stay in a place called Rivière Du Loup for the night. Rivière Du Loup means Wolf River, so while we were looking for an inn to stay at I couldn’t help but imagine that this place was run by werewolfs and that the clerk at the inn would be one. I did a sketch of Barnaby right there. A few days later I drew Ravensbeard Inn for the first time. After that I realized this would be a great place to tie together all the supernatural stories I’d been writing for years. It took me almost oaths to be able to get to it, though.
Eric: I’m not sure! I can’t seem to stop telling stories about Marrowbones; it seems an inexhaustible well of stories. I have another 5 or 6 books written, so hopefully lots. I have other books too that need to be done.
David: This is your first digital book. What can we expect in the future with you and your work?
Eric: Well, next year my first print comic will appear, Maddy Kettle from Top Shelf. So, my plan is to keep producing self published work as well as working with publishers. It’s really hard to predict how things will unfold. Just about everything I suspected about publishing has turned out to be wrong and just different from how it seemed from the outside. It’s an unpredictable industry and you have to do your best in it. Just keep telling stories and looking for an audience.
Eric: That’s a tough one! I love them all. I really love the qualities that Nora has. And I love Ollie. Visually I love drawing the ghosts. Mrs. Strumm is really fun to draw and Sally who is in the second book more. I think Barnaby is really cool. A lot of people like the Gord Brothers who are barely in it. Can’t wait to tell more stories about them.
David: You have also started an on-line community called “Springwinder”. Can you tell me more about this website?
Eric: Springwinder is new collective of cartoonists and writers who banded together to help edit each others work, either in a forum or one on one. It’s turned into an imprint as well, with myself publishing under it and others preparing books for it. We’re still figuring out where to take things but there is an enormous amount of talent behind it.
David: Eric everything you are doing is fantastic, from the new “Marrowbones” story to Springwinder. I truly wish you continued success and absolutely love your work.