Mo Willems doesn’t get the ideas for his stories. Instead, he grows them. “Every thought is a seed for an idea,” Willems told TFK. “I think of my notebooks and sketchbooks as gardens.”
Willems is an author and illustrator. He has created more than 50 picture books for kids. Most of his characters are animals, like Elephant, Piggie, and Pigeon. Each character starts out as a little idea. Then it grows into something bigger.
How does an idea grow? Willems keeps track of his thoughts as they come. “I draw things over and over again,” he says. “And I come back to ideas over time.” Sharing his ideas also helps. Willems gets feedback on his work. He shows it to people he trusts. An editor, an agent, and his wife weigh in.
After developing a character, Willems plays around with how it will look. He uses many tools for his illustrations. He tries out different types of pencils, brushes, crayons, and paper. First, he makes his drawings. Then he traces over them in ink or charcoal. Finally, he uses a computer to add color.
The Making of Funny
Willems always knew that he wanted to draw and be funny. As a kid, he sketched Charlie Brown and Snoopy. They are two characters from the Peanuts comics. He even wrote a letter to Peanuts artist Charles Schulz. He asked Schulz if he could one day have his job.
Now Willems gets letters of his own. Each month, thousands of readers send him their drawings and stories. Kids re-create his characters. They place them in their stories.
The author has advice for young fans. “Write and draw,” he says. “If you are writing and drawing, then you are already an author and illustrator.”