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Tony DiTerlizzi, Artist and Author

Tony DiTerlizzi is a New York Times best-selling author and illustrator who has been creating richly illustrated, imaginative stories for over ten years.  From his debut picture book, “Jimmy Zangwow’s Out of This World Moon Pie Adventure“, to the inspired and Caldecott Medal winning “The Spider and the Fly“, Tony has continued to delight and entertain children and adults alike. Here, the visionary mind of “The Spiderwick Chronicles” with Holly Black and the creator of “The Search for Wondla” series, has graciously offered his insights on creativity as part of the CHLA fundraising series, “Interview with Artists.” His answers not only inspire the artist within us all, but also express a most positive outlook on the importance of struggle, support, and interestingly enough, boredom! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did, and I hope you will help spread a similar sense of joy and creativity by donating to CHLA.

Em: “Why, to you, is art and creativity essential?

Tony DiTerlizzi: “It is essential that I have an outlet to express myself.  Sometimes I need to express a simple mood or emotion, or I want to share a complicated idea, or even a surreal dream that I’ve had. In finding a way to share my ideas with others, I am creating a pathway to understand myself at a deeper level. The effort that goes into my art and creativity – whether I am painting a picture or writing a story- helps me process the many ideas and notions swirling about my conscience.  It aids me in seeing a clearer picture of the world around me.”

Em: “Describe your own, unique process for creating art”

TD: “I am a big proponent for imagination.  Therefore, much of where I begin is through imaginative play.  I sketch and doodle characters and then scenes in which they can act.  While doing so, a narrative begins to form around the image I am sketching.  This can become the beginning of a book.  I also allow myself to get bored.  Boredom forces me to become creative in surprising ways.  One of my biggest accomplishments in publishing The Spiderwick Chronicles book series came from being bored during a summer break from school, back when I was twelve.  Every day over that break, I created a natural history for fantastic creatures like dragons, trolls, and giants along with other weird creatures that I conjured. By summer’s end, I’d filled an entire notebook with my drawings and writing.  Spiderwick went on to become a New York Times bestselling series that sold millions of copies, was adapted into a feature film, video games and toys – and it all started from being a bored kid one summer.”

Em: “Do you have a moment of struggle or triumph in producing your art that stands out in your mind?”

TD: “Every piece of art that I paint or story that I write has many unexpected turns that occur during the process.  It is the nature of creating. Sometimes these surprises can become a struggle, other times a “happy accident” or triumph in the end. But my biggest struggle is the balance of time in a busy schedule.  I am a father, husband, artist, and author so it is hard to be all those things at once.  Sometimes I miss some of the fun that my daughter experiences.  Sometimes a wedding anniversary must be postponed until after a deadline is met. But sometimes I am far away on vacation with my family while my books sell on and on around the world.”

Em: “What first inspired you to become an artist?”

TD: ” Many artists have inspired me over the years, but the first one that had the biggest impact on me was my mom.  She was self-taught and loved to paint, draw, sculpt, and draft.  She stayed at home and raised all three of us DiTerlizzi kids, encouraging each of us to follow our artistic dreams. I owe much of the confident dream-chasing of my youth to the support I received from my mom. ”

Em: “Is there a life lesson you could share with a young person struggling to reach their dream?”

TD: “I am the product of adults in my life encouraging me.  I grew up in a little house in south Florida, went to a public school and received a two-year degree from art school.  Along the way there were adults in my life who reinforced my desire to be an artist and helped me when I was struggling. As a kid, I entered many art shows and applied for many scholarships. Sometimes I would take the prize at an art show or receive a scholarship, but many times I did not.  That is the same pattern of my professional life today. I pitch ideas to whoever will listen. Sometimes these ideas materialize into a reality and sometimes they do not. Regardless, I keep on dreaming, and I keep on drawing.

Em: “What has most sustained your creativity?”

TD:  “Understanding that there is always more to learn is my key to continue creating. I don’t believe one ever truly dubs themselves a master in their mind.  There is always room for improvement. That chase of becoming a better painter or writer will sustain me for a lifetime.”

Em: “Lastly is there an ‘art secret’ you would be willing to share?”

TD:  “Keep drawing and keep dreaming. Don’t let anyone stop you because you never know what might come of it.”


In the spirit of the generous interview, please donate to help patients at CHLA continue to chase their dreams and heal through the creative process

Learn more about Tony DiTerlizzi

Follow Tony on Twitter @TonyDiTerlizzi


Emerson Tenney

Emerson Tenney

Emerson is a junior in high school. She loves literature and is passionate about writing, poetry in particular. When she is not playing the drums, participating in school musical theater, or training for marathons, you can find her with her friends checking out vintage records and used book stores in Hollywood.

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