The China Notebooks + An Interview with Henrik Drescher

So after posting many books of Henrik’s which you can see here, here, here and here, I composed some questions I was interested in hearing the answers to. Henrik graciously agreed to be interviewed and here are the results–

I guess we will start at the beginning. What and when was your first ever illustration job?

i did the cover for my annual high school football tournament…a cartoon. it caused an uproar, seems that parents and the school board saw subliminal erect penis action in the picture…i searched but could never find it. after that my first paying work came from the real paper in boston. back in 1976.

Have you had any other jobs to supplement your artistic career or have you always been able to fully support yourself artistically?

I’ve worked as a waiter. and deli guy. but that ended shortly after i moved to new york in ’81…i remember serving lunch to Milton Glaser once, when i first came to NYC… which as you can imagine was very inspiring.

You have illustrated so many kid’s books. Do you have any ideas or rules you keep in mind when illustrating for children as opposed to an adult audience or just doing your own work?

the books are hard. i feel that the central idea needs to be really strong. the story line is central. once the story is there then i want to invent a picture approach which can keep me engaged. sometimes it hinges on found objects ( runaway opposites) sometimes on a specific technique such as back-painting acetate, which i did in my upcoming book ” Mcfig & Mcfly ”

You make tons of artist books. What about the book form attracts you so much?

its a mirror of the mind. a file cabinet. and being a traveller, i need to keep my things small much of the time. but i don’t only want to sketch, so the books are finished self contained works, i see the books as a kind of sculptural animation.

How do you make your work? Is there a process involved or do you just sit down and go? Do you do a drawing all at once or do you come back to it multiple times with different media?

i work with layers of stuff. figuratively and literally, i keep lots of things at arms reach and in notebooks , i dont have a problem cannibalizing my note books for use in other work. i also keep ideas written down . my process is one of cobbling together more than planning and executing.
I’m not art schooled. so my classical technique is lacking and i make it up as i go along. i switch between mediums often, and make lots of mistakes.

What are all the countries you’ve lived in? Can you see changes, stylistically or conceptually in your work living one place to the next?

i’ve traveled all over the place but lived in…i suppose the states, mexico, italy, new zealand , indonesia, denmark, china and canada. I’m currently in toronto with my wife Wu Wing Yee who is also an artist. We have a house in western china north of burma. we’re in canada because we need to reconnect with north america, and its a good place to be. this continent is where i’m known (in a small way) , i want to begin exhibiting and will use toronto as a springboard to New York, China is a cool place we love it there, we know good people, we travel a lot between Hong Kong, Guangzhou and our place in Dali, Yunnan province. which is a small mountain town next to a lake. its right next to Tibet, the culture is very Tibetan. and its a hop from Thailand , Laos, Vietnam and Burma.

How did your decision to make the China Notebooks come about?

I’ve been keeping these small notebooks for 5 years. and wanted to share them with others, last year i was artist in residence at the Danish Design School. i had access to output facilities, and took the opportunity to print them knowing that i probably wouldn’t be able to afford to do so after my residency. i edited the books down, basically I made 25 books while in China, i edited the contents down to what amounts to one book ( broken into 10 smaller booklets )

What are you working on next? What project have you not done yet that you would love to work on?

Mainly I’m making pictures, large drawings and other picture objects, i’ll be having an exhibition at UMASS in september of this year.
I’m also trying to pull together the series of small books that i did in Denmark including some of the china books, for publication hopefully by Chronicle books.

The pictures below are from the China Notebooks as mentioned above. It comes as either ten separate booklets like this one or bound as a limited edition with special inserts and original drawings. You can buy a copy by contacting Henrik from his website here. Check out all of his work via his website- there’s tons and tons to look through. Henrik- your work has been so inspiring to me over the years and I am continually impressed with the quantity of books and art you produce. Thanks you so much for being so open to sharing and we look forward to seeing more from you.

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