Eric Rohmann believes that each story needs illustrations that match its tone, content, and sensibility. As a children's book illustrator, this means knowing how and when to use different media and techniques. For The Cinder-Eyed Cats Rohmann painted with oils. For his Caldecott Medal book, My Friend Rabbit, he used wood cuts. For his 2008 picture book, A Kitten's Tale, Rohmann spent two months experimenting with a watercolor ink he had never used before. Trying new media can be scary, Rohmann admits, but it also keeps his artwork fresh. "Anxiety's a good thing," he says with a smile, "even for a children's book illustrator."
You can watch the interview below, view the interview transcript, read a short biography of Eric Rohmann, or see a selected list of his children's books. (This video is also available on YouTube and iTunes.)
Eric Rohmann was born in Riverside, Illinois in 1957. Growing up with woods and a creek near his house, Eric spent countless hours exploring, discovering, and collecting rocks, leaves, minerals, and insects. At school Eric was an unmotivated student who would rather be drawing than reading and writing. Fortunately, throughout his school years, Eric always seemed to have a teacher or two who recognized and encouraged his artistic abilities.
After high school Eric Rohmann dedicated himself to art. At Illinois State University he earned a bachelor's degree in art and then a master's degree in studio art. At Arizona State University he earned a master's degree in printmaking and fine bookmaking. Before becoming a children's book illustrator, Rohmann worked at a zoo, as a waiter, and as a teacher of visual arts. During one stretch of unemployment, Rohmann developed a wordless picture book about the mysterious journey of bird that flies back to the time of the dinosaurs. After receiving numerous rejection letters, Rohmann finally traveled to New York and sold his idea to a publisher. This first book, Time Flies, won a Caldecott Honor in 1995.
Since his initial success, Eric Rohmann has written and illustrated a wide variety of picture books, such as The Cinder-Eyed Cats, Pumpkinhead, and A Kitten's Tale. He has also illustrated books written by other authors, including the book jackets for Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. In 2003 Rohmann's bold, relief-print illustrations for My Friend Rabbit earned him the Caldecott Medal. My Friend Rabbit later became an animated television series on NBC.
Today Eric Rohmann lives just outside of Chicago. When he is not writing and illustrating, he enjoys traveling, presenting in classrooms, and visiting museums.