'Picture books fill holes. They calm people down'
He currently shares a studio with Max Premo, an artist he first met during those early trips. He also loves the picture-book genre and praises the works of Shel Silverstein, Quentin Blake and Tomi Ungerer.
“There’s something fantastic about this physical object that you can tell a story in. You can have control over the viewer by the speed at which you get them to turn the page or get them to linger on a double-page spread . . . Picture books fill holes. They calm people down. They excite people. Each one is different. They’re very, very important.”
He believes the art-world snobbery about mass-produced art is disappearing. “Fine art as we know it is a relatively new concept,” he says. “Go back 200 years and the people we consider to be the great fine artists of those times were considered to be little more than craftspeople. But the attitudes are changing and becoming more liberal and less defined by the boundaries . . . I made a decision a long time ago that I wasn’t going to hide behind a pseudonym [with his picture books].
“My work changes because I’m fascinated by the world around me, and as I question and explore that the means by which I make art changes too, because I’m a curious person.
“I always enjoyed drawing, but for me the big breakthrough was when I stopped trying to make my drawings look like someone else’s.”
Oliver Jeffers’s work is not like anyone else’s.
Picture this: The best of Jeffers
* How to Catch a Star, Lost and Found, The Way Back Home and Up and Down
A quartet of magical stories about a boy who tries to possess a star, return a penguin, travel to the moon and teach his penguin to fly.
* This Moose Belongs to Me
A boy chases an obstinate moose called Marcel across a series of found landscape paintings.
* The Heart and the Bottle
A young girl loses an older relative and puts her heart in a bottle. Beautiful and sad.
The Incredible Book Eating Boy Jeffers uses painting and collage to tell the story of a youngster with a voracious appetite for literature.
* The Incredible Book Eating Boy is at the Mac, Belfast, until January 1st; themaclive.com; oliverjeffers.com