bard-smallFor as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a writer and illustrator. In fact, I wanted to create children’s books and I wanted them to be fun, colorful, and have animals in them. That’s why I was so excited to do this interview with Bard Hole Standal, author of the interactive kids’ book Jack and Joe, which was built for the iPhone and the iPad. I was given the chance the read the book and play around with it and let me tell you, I loved it! Personally, I think this is HUGE, especially for the iPad. Interactive kids’ books aren’t exactly new, but I feel that with Bard’s style he could pave the way for many books like his. And iPads are a great size for kids to use.

Here’s a few things that really jumped out at me and made me love Jack and Joe:

  • I loved the illustrations! Bright, colorful, good movement! Very cute and great style for kids. The illustrations were really engaging and I felt the artwork went along perfectly with the story.
  • The interactions build into the book are fantastic. The hide and seek page was one of my favorite parts! There are also pages you can shake and some where you can pet Jack! In talking to Bard, I learned that in a future version of the story there will be even more interactive pages.
  • Jack and Joe very much felt like characters that could be on Disney or Nickelodeon – the voices were good too and there was a good pace to the book and the reading.

On with the Interview!

Let’s start from the beginning. Where did the idea to create an interactive children’s book for the iPad/iPhone come from?

I think all illustrators dream of publishing their own children’s book. For me, it felt like the right time to give it a go. I had focused all my time and energy in being involved in vinyl toys and endless projects with toy companies that seldom went anywhere. I was tired of both toys and spending a great deal of time on things that never came to fruition. With the iPad and the iPhone’s App Store, that would not be a problem. You are in control of what’s published, no second or third parties involved. So I talked to my brother who’s a computer engineer, and we decided to combine our talents to make this book happen. We originally intended on programming it using Adobe’s Flash CS5 iPhone module, but Apple pulled the plug on that. Plus the tech was incredibly slow, nearly useless.
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How did you begin each page? Walk us through your process of completing an illustration for the book.

I started the process by writing a simple outline. The initial idea about a boy and his best friend, his husky puppy. I thought of the fun things they could do together while keeping in mind what sort of interactive tasks would work with that. In the outline I wrote some ideas down for a story arc and how the boy would end up being jealous of the husky. The boy wanted to be a husky too because, let’s face it, there is nothing more awesome to be in the world than a husky puppy!

I never really set out to make a literary masterpiece, I wanted a sort of random character-focused story without morals or life lessons. I just wanted to make it a peek into the world of two best friends.

After the outline was written, I wrote a proper manuscript and drew a very crude storyboard of each page. Then I used Illustrator to draw up the final images, and adjusted the script and drawings as I went along. I also had to come up with what sort of interactive things we could add to the pages. I had a bunch of ideas, but we had to cut back to make it possible to produce. Coding for the iOS devices is very time consuming. Compared to technologies like Flash, this is much more demanding.
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Was creating an illustration for mobile devices different from simply creating an illustration for print or the web?

I always had to keep in mind that everything I drew would have to be cut up into smaller pieces for it to be animated or made into an interactive page. So working with vectors in Illustrator made that very easy, it’s part of my style and it’s how I like to work already. I’m an interactive art director in my fulltime job, so this is part of my everyday life. If you’re a traditional illustrator, I’m sure it would be a little harder to wrap your head around than producing things for print. Also, you have the issue of resolution differences on the devices. The iPhone 1 and the iPhone 4 have different resolutions, and the iPad even has a different format! So you end up exporting everything three times and you have to make sure that the illustrations for the iPad work even though you’re cutting the sides off to make it fit within the format. It’s easy to slip into madness with all of these things to think of 😉

What do you hope kids will take from Jack and Joe? Where do you see this book going?

My biggest wish is that kids get sucked into the world of Jack and Joe and just end up having a really FUN time. That was my goal all along, to make a super fun book kids can play with for hours. And maybe they’ll all convince their parents to get huskies! That would be cool. The world needs more huskies. I see a world in the future where everyone has a husky. I’d like that world!

I hope the book makes it up the App Store charts and that it gets some attention. It’s proven quite difficult to get it out there, there’s no automatic success by having a book in the App Store. You’ll have to tell people about it before it moves anywhere. I was hoping that wasn’t the case, that we wouldn’t need the PR machines of giant publishing corporations. We’ll see how it goes. I think we just need to tell people that it’s out there and that they should check it out. Maybe make a free preview version too.
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Who would you say has influenced your art style?

My art style is definitively influenced by a bunch of Japanese artists. I grew up with a keen interest in manga, so people like Akira Toriyama and Katsuhiro Otomo have been huge to me. In terms of vector style, Furi Furi Company, Buro Destruct and Maniackers Design were a major influence on me when I was starting out. Then of course there’s the video games of my childhood from Nintendo and Sega that were probably the reason for why I was drawn to illustration in the first place.

You say on your website that you love drawing animals. Any hope for a children’s book about pigs in the future?

Haha, yeah now that would be something! I would love to just sit down and draw pigs for a 6 month stretch. That would be a amazing!

I am actually working on a CGI short about a pig that wants to go to the north pole. It’s a side-burner project, so it’ll take a while to complete. I get my monthly dose of pigs that way though, keeps me sane and far, far away from bacon.

I eat a lot of sausages though, so technically I’m a hypocrit!

And finally… what “fuels” your illustration?

Giant exploding mega ultra death pigs! with LASER EYES!

At least the dream of one day giving such a vision a proper rendition as an illustration.
Until the day I do that, I will relentlessly be working on my skills until they can achieve such awesome awesomeness.
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Find more about Bard here:

My Educational Philosophy.

This is my Credo.

I have a number of memories of my experiences outside. I have seen wolves in the wild, I have been close enough to a wild black bear to touch, I have slept on a beach under the stars and let the waves lull me to sleep. I know what it’s like to dance in a cornfield and howl at wolves and have them howl back. I have played with wild fawns while their mother watched with no worry, and I remember what it’s like to hold a spider in the palm of my hand for the first time without fear. Most of my twenty-one years of living has been spent out of doors, and I can only hope to pass down what I have learned and experienced with others.

It wasn’t until I came to Northland that I discovered you could actually major in something called Outdoor Education. To me, outdoor education is experienced-based education. It is a field of education that is very hands-on about the natural world. L.B. Sharp said, “That which ought and can best be learned inside the classroom should be learned there; and that which can best be learned through direct experience outside the classroom, dealing directly with native materials and life situations, should there be learned.” That is outdoor education. It is a combination of this experiential learning, adventure education, and environmental concerns. It’s not all about canoeing, hiking, or mountain climbing. Outdoor education is about finding a connection with nature, a deeper relationship, and working with others to see the beauty in the world around us and to protect it. It combines such skills as leadership and teamwork, survival skills and problem solving, and uses this to create a sense of spirituality and growth within a person. It is up to that person to take that and share with others.

I believe that an effective educator is able to do this, to learn all this and create that connection, and than successfully share that knowledge with the world. My own style works best with children. I find that the most beautiful things are the simplest. Jim Henson said, “Life is simple,” and I agree with that. Children, I find, respond to this philosophy well. The life cycle of a monarch butterfly may seem complex, but put in the correct terms, to a child it can be the simplest idea. Watching even a small insect grow and live is beautiful – and the people that I have experienced to understand this best have been the kids I’ve worked with, not the adults. Kids can teach kids as well. Maria Montessori was a firm believer that older children should teach younger children and that kids should learn at their own pace. Her philosophy has helped shape my own: watch kids! They know a lot more than we think they do. I hope to help this by instilling this sense of wonder within children at such an early age that, as they grow, they will want to share it with others and the cycle will continue and spread. It is their role to learn and live and share. It is as simple as that.

By sharing knowledge and spreading awareness, the broader community will want to take part. I was talking to Sarah Lerohl, the school-programming director at the Hartley Nature Center, and she said that the reason they had adults come to the Center, was because their children wanted to come. The adults usually ended up coming back because they became as interested as their children. So by teaching kids, it will not only get passed down generations, but passed up them as well. And the more people who know and learn, the more the community will become involved. I have heard of communities who have gotten together, and through active contributions and development, created more parks and more green spaces for kids to play in. The amount of power a community has is often grossly underestimated.

I am very much a naturalist. I find pleasure in places, in learning about the features of the landscape and what creatures and plants reside in that area. I was drawn very much to Northern Wisconsin. When I was younger, we would take trips up here and I decided at an early age that I wanted to live up here. But it isn’t just this area; I find wonder in nature wherever I go, and I think too many people pass by something beautiful and never see it. I see my role as an educator as being someone who can point out this beauty to people and to show them how to see it every day and care for it. I want to create a deeper connection between people and the earth. I think too often people forget the feeling of dirt between their toes or the sound of the wind through the trees. I think schoolteachers forget that there is much more outside the classroom and that children need to touch and interact with their environment to really learn. Not all kids are the same and each learns in a different way and I feel that in this field, it is easier to see the personalities of children come out when given a more active role.

I believe in the power of nature. I believe that given a nudge, children will find a relationship with this great big world that’s much deeper than the one many share with their video games. Children need nature; this thought is amplified in Richard Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods, a book that reflects my own thoughts on nature in detail. Children are not getting into the woods enough; they need it. And by getting them outside, they will want to spend more time there.

I believe I can make this world better by simply showing off all its wonderful details: its smallest spiders to its biggest trees. I believe that children have something within their minds that allow them to easily understand things that adults have problems figuring out. I think that’s what makes them so important: we aren’t just teaching them, they are teaching us as well. I want to work with children on showing the rest of humanity that the world around is full of awe and wonder. Everyone and everything is connected; we just have to recognize this and realize that we really are apart of something beautiful.