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Matthew Cordell

As a child

I was born in a small town in the southeastern United States. It was a pretty sleepy rural area. On rainy days, my brother and I would practice drawing at the dining room table. It was a lot of fun, but I didn’t make much of it. My parents were not interested in art, so it was basically left at that. But one day, for some reason, my brother took one of my drawings to his class to share and his teacher was over the moon about it. I think this was when I first felt good about art—that it could be something good to do in life

As an adult

I went to school at a small liberal arts school, Winthrop University, focusing on art and graphic design. When I finished school, I wanted to be successful in both fine art and design, and moved to Chicago to do so. I started to achieve what I set out to do, but sadly, ended up disenchanted with both. It was then that my girlfriend at the time (now my wife!), a school librarian and writer, turned me on to children’s book illustration. And I was vastly impressed by how much talent and history there was. I started playing around with some illustration styles and found a look that I enjoyed and was comfortable with. By a huge stroke of good luck, and after much rejection, my wife, Julie Halpern, and I had our first picture book published, Toby and the Snowflakes. This was an incredible step forward for me. And I’ve never looked back.

As an artist

I’m very inspired by the work of pen and ink artists like Jean-Jacques Sempe, Saul Steinberg, and William Steig. And modern cartoonists/artists like Simon James, Michel Rabagliati, and Chester Brown. In pen and ink, I try to keep the line as loose as possible. But still keep it kid-friendly. Too arsty, I think, would just be self-indulgent in the end. The same going with the watercolor. In the end, drawing somewhat sparsely or minimally with very subtle tweaks and bumps for expression. Previous picture books are TOBY AND THE SNOWFLAKES, RIGHTY AND LEFTY, THE MOON IS LA LUNA, MIGHTY CASEY, and TOOT TOOT ZOOM!. I’m trying my hand at writing now, and my first author/illustrator book TROUBLE GUM, came out in September 2009.

Things you didn't know about Matthew Cordell

  1. I was a vegetarian for 15 years. Now I eat an occasional turkey sandwich.
  2. Along with being a full-time illustrator, I’m also a stay-at-home dad to our 6 month old daughter.
  3. My wife, Julie Halpern, is an author. She writes picture books and young adult novels.
  4. I prefer spicy and salty foods over sweet ones.
  5. My personal hero is Fred Rogers, creator and star of the American children’s program, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.
  6. I have worn glasses, and contact lenses, since I was 7 years old.
  7. I’m a big Bob Dylan fan.
  8. I have an older brother, Eric. He has bright red hair (my hair’s light brown).
  9. Fish tend to gross me out.
  10. I love pigs.

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