“I always think of illustration as a form of acting,” says Timothy Basil Ering. “Each time I approach a project I need to become the character I’m depicting. And then I have to choose the appropriate medium that will allow me to speak in that voice.”
Anyone who knows Tim Ering would agree that he himself is a character, as inimitable as any he might portray. Before landing at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena California, the author-illustrator-to-be indulged his longtime love of the sea as a boatswainsmate aboard the USS Kitty Hawk, sailing to points as far afield as Hawaii, Japan, the Philippines, Australia, Sri Lanka, and Africa. And since finishing art school—where he discovered influences as far removed as Michelangelo and Dr. Seuss—the artist has approached his work with a spirit of adventure and originality that reflect his singular approach to life.
Tim Ering’s first picture book with Candlewick had its beginnings in a silly string of words he thought up to amuse himself as he meandered to favorite fishing spots on Cape Cod. Years later, at an urban garden created by schoolchildren in Pasadena, he began sketching a scarecrow. “I knew at that moment,” he says, “that Frog Belly Rat Bone had found a home.” And so sprung up the tale of a boy who finds strange, specklike treasures, and the unforgettable creature who watches over them while they grow. With its surreal artwork full of subtle tones, bursts of color, fantastical figures, and a quirky, hand-lettered text, Tim Ering’s picture book debut exudes all the whimsy of an inspired imagination.
That imagination was put to a very different challenge with 33 Snowfish, a novel by Adam Rapp for which Tim Ering created not only the haunting cover image, but also interior drawings that represent notebook sketches of a troubled teenage character. “Whenever you receive a manuscript, you have to get into character,” he says. “In this case, I also had to imagine how this character would draw, and how his drawing might change or shrink on the page according to his changing state of mind.” Tim Ering steers his range in yet another direction to explore a more classical style—with a contemporary flair—in The Tale of Despereaux,Kate DiCamillo’s first Newbery Award–winning novel. Says the illustrator, “My mother may have been a mouse in her past life, as I watched her save and help so many mice in our house while I was growing up. The illustrations I’ve done of Despereaux Tilling are, in a way, my tribute to her.”
Tim Ering’s artwork has appeared in books, magazines, theater sets, private murals, and fine art galleries. The invariably paint-splattered artist lives and works in Somerville, Massachusetts.