Matt Furie has fathered a legion of beguiling beasts in his rainbow-hued drawings, expanding his own personal zoology each time he confronts the infinite emptiness of a blank page. Even while they approach the mind-boggling biodiversity of those interminable Pokémon, Furie’s characters manage to convey an emotional depth that approaches Jim Henson levels. Depicting moments of sensuality, rage, despair and intense lethargy, the artist approaches his work with a deadpan sense of humor that often comes wrapped in a burrito of delicious sincerity. Here are his thoughts on children’s literature.
Did you have any favorite picture books as a child?
Where’s Waldo series, The Far Side Galleries, Richard Scarry’s Best Storybook Ever, The first book I could ever remember reading was about a yellow bear-like animal that had colored spots. This animal felt bad because he didn’t fit in at the zoo. He could use his spots like frisbees and make them bigger, smaller, etc. It seemed like a Dr. Seuss book but different. I also remember really liking this book called This is Weird about some kids on a boat that end up on an abandoned and haunted island full of weird trapdoors and tunnels and old houses and paths and ladders.
What are your childhood recollections of Maurice Sendak’s work? Are you influenced by his visual language?
I liked the Wild Things book when I was little but it wasn’t until I started researching children’s books in college that I came to appreciate it. I like that book a lot but I’m a bit unfamiliar with his other stuff. I read the book The Art of Maurice Sendak and remember him saying that the monsters in the book were based on his relatives and his experience with them being too scary and all in his face at family dinners when he was a kid. I also remember him saying that a lot of his ideas involve eating/the fear of being eaten. As for his visual language, I thinks its a perfect balance of skill, childishness, flatness, and light.
Do you think you’ll ever make a children’s book of your own? What would it be about?
That would make my mom really happy. I’m not sure what it would be about but I know it would be a fantasy. It would start off in the real world of a kid (like Alice in Wonderland, Wizard of Oz, Neverending Story, Princess Bride, Where the Wild Things Are, Harry Potter, Labyrinth, and pretty much every good children’s fantasy plot). There would definitely be lots of wacky and magical creatures.
Were you prone to retreating into imaginary worlds, growing up? If so, please describe!
I used toys, video games, t.v., movies, and drawing to retreat into imaginary worlds. I remember being in the backseat of the car and looking out of the window and pretending that I was a creature running and hopping along the trees. I think every kid is prone to retreat into imaginary worlds.
Like Sendak’s Wild Things, the creatures in your work often defy biological classification. Is it a challenge to come up with such alien forms?
Nothing I could ever come up with could ever be stranger or more fascinating than what’s out there.